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We have made many visits to the small mountainous kingdom of Lesotho in the last year – we try to visit every six weeks. The people of Lesotho are overwhelmingly grateful for our assistance, and welcome our staff at each clinic. We have made a difference.
Over the last two years, we have refined our outreach work to formally encompass the education of owners and drivers/handlers, as well as giving the necessary medical attention required by the thousands of working equine that we help. It is the only way that we can sustain equine welfare.
It is difficult to believe that in some areas of our world, horse owners have never heard of deworming, vaccination, selective breeding….. all of the knowledge that we take for granted. But it is a fact. We have had feedback from owners who have been astounded at the improvement in the condition of their horses and donkeys after they have been dewormed… and a visit by our dentist reduces most rural owners to open-mouthed astonishment! Sadly, many of the community do not have access to dental services for their families.
We love working in Lesotho.
We are yet to secure Minimum Standards for the Welfare of Equines with the Government to ensure the care of animals kept in government owned pounds, but we are in touch with role-players, and are hopeful that once the situation has settled after recent elections, we will be able to achieve this.
Here are some recent photographs of our work – if you look back on the pictures of when we first started working in Lesotho, you will see a huge improvement in condition of the equines. We have achieved a large part of our goal 🙂
Solly and Bev spent two (hectic) days in Lesotho in order to meet Government Ministers who were in a position to help us change the dire situation for the impounded and government-owned animals. Our application to the Government was well-received, and we were assured of full co operation from Governmental departments. After the meeting, we were asked to go to the Royal Palace to meet King Letsie III – a charming and gracious man who told us that he appreciated our offer of assistance to the Government and that he would support our welfare initiatives.
We are now writing protocol and procedure documents for the welfare of animals being kept by the Government, which will be put forward shortly to the Government for acceptance.
A wonderful boost to the whole Lesotho Project came from the Lesotho Pound Rescue Project, who are supporting the work that HHCU/WHW is doing in Lesotho, by obtaining a commitment of sponsorship from Pfizer Animal Health South Africa! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
“This was my first trip to Lesotho, and although I have always fully supported the importance of our outreach work, it was only when I saw the conditions that the animals were subjected to first-hand that I truly appreciated the stress that our clinic inspectors are under. It was a humbling experience.
Whilst there, we made the most of the opportunity of being in Lesotho by networking with various police officials and district administrators, as well as visiting Leribe and Tiyataneng Pounds and providing feed and medical treatment for those animals that required it. We tried our best, but were unable to persuade either the police officials or the district administrators to permit us to humanely euthanase a cow that was close to death in Tiyataneng Pound. We hope that once welfare protocols are accepted by the Government, this will be a thing of the past.
We also inspected individually-owned horses whenever we could, and assisted with de-worming and the replacement of donated tack/harnessing. The Lesotho people in the villages were so interested in the work that we are doing, and very appreciative. We even had the offer from one of the villagers volunteering for HHCU when we are out of the country!
We feel, for the first time, that there is HOPE for our Lesotho Project welfare protocols to be accepted and become sustainable. ”
As winter closes in, the Unit’s inspectorate prepare for their ‘busy season’. This year, there are going to be major problems because we had so little rain in the summer, and grazing and fodder is scarce. The cost of living for the man in the street has soared by much more than the official government figures, resulting in many horses being donated to the Unit.
Bobbie, our Senior Inspector, is taking some long-deserved leave…. Ashley is doing her best to cope with keeping up with the calls.
Trevor is catching up on ‘local’ township working horse and donkey welfare, as both he and Solly have been away on Outreach Clinics for a large part of the last few months. (Local means Gauteng Province nowadays!)
Solly and Samson spent a week in Northern Free State and Lesotho. We were invited by local horse owners from Botshabelo near Thaba Nchu to attend an annual horse festival and horse racing. Most of the 65 horses seen were in a reasonable condition, 4 of the horses were not permitted to join in the races by our inspectors due to either condition or unsoundness. Being a ‘bush race’ there were no officials or rules to monitor the event, so our inspectors stepped in. Solly gave a talk to the owners of the horses, and we distributed second hand tack. Apparently, there were no arrangements at the stadium for water for the horses, so this was hastily organised. At the end of the day, all horses were de-wormed, and a few ‘prizes’ handed out for the best horse, winner of the ‘trippling’ race, etc. We are pleased that we were invited by the owners – often these events are held in secret, for fear of intervention by welfare organisations – and we will try to improve conditions at future festivals, and some sponsored prizes. Our attitude is that we would rather be there to assist and monitor than be the ‘bad guy’ and have to intervene with legal action when things go wrong. (It took me a long time to learn that lesson! ) We will follow this inspection up through liaison with the organisers with recommendations for improving certain areas.
Whilst in the area, Solly and Samson visited the horses that we monitor regularly, and generally all was well. Rooifontein, Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo are areas where we have been working hard, and the results are clear to see in them much -improved condition.
Then on to Lesotho! Once again, our sincere thanks to World Horse Welfare for the loan of their vehicle to make this trip a possibility for us – without it, we would not have had a chance of carrying out these inspections.
It was apparently freezing cold, with snow and rain, so the staff were advised by authorities not to travel over the mountains due to rockfalls in the road. Leribe Pound and Police Horses were inspected, and a great improvement noted in the grey horse that we had previously treated for abscesses in his foot. Not only now sound, the horse had gained weight. A general improvement was observed in all of the police horses. The police in Leribe are now more co operative, and we were pleased to see that a supply of winter fodder had arrived for the police horses.
On our last trip to Leribe, a gentleman called Japan, who owned a black stallion had touched our hearts. He had so little money, yet had tied a child’s blanket around his horse to keep out the cold. On this trip, and thanks to our supporters, we were able to distribute donated second-hand blankets to many needy horses. Japan was given a new one for his horse, and his reaction to this was to burst into tears. (I have a sneaky suspicion that Solly shed a few tears too – he’s a real softy! ) Special thanks to ‘For Horse and Country’ for the donation of beautiful new blankets, of which Japan was one of the recipients, as well as every person who cared enough to donate their horse blankets to the Unit – we can’t tell you how much this was appreciated by the owners and the horses.
Besides visiting Leribe pound and police station, Solly and Samson inspected Qholoqhole Pound and Pitseng. After their inspections, they made a point of meeting the villagers from outlying area, and encouraging them to bring their horses and donkeys to the police stations in the villages for check-ups, de-worming, and where possible, a donation of more suitable second-hand tack.
All in all, it was a successful trip:
Two of the police stations have feed in for their horses for the winter, and the others are expecting a delivery at any time.
Good working relationships are being forged with the police and the people of Lesotho.
Many horses and donkeys will benefit this winter from being de-wormed by HHCU – the meagre feed available to them will at least help them maintain condition now that we have rid them of heavy worm infestations.
Many horses and donkeys will be warmer this winter.
CASE STUDY: A HOSPITAL PATIENT
About 4 weeks ago, I reported on a Residensia township mare that had been involved in a motor vehicle accident. Whilst working, the loaded cart she was pulling was hit from behind by a taxi. The driver of the cart was injured, and she sustained serious injuries to her front and back legs from the impact. The owner didn’t want her to come in to the Unit,(we had recently had to euthanase his donkey for metastasized cancer) so Solly started treatment on the mare at his home in Residensia. Although her wounds improved, they were so serious that Solly insisted that she came in for hospitalisation. She was examined by our vet, and extensive treatment was given.
She wasn’t easy to handle at all, she was quite aggressive – rearing up and chopping out, kicking and biting whenever we cleaned her wounds every morning and evening. We understand – she was in pain, and hasn’t had an easy life….. we tried to get round her with gentleness, but she wouldn’t have any of it. It got to the point where treating her was really traumatic – she absolutely hated it and fought us every inch of the way. Sedation worked for a while, but we didn’t want to have to do that every day. Twitching her worked, but we couldn’t twitch her twice a day, it was just not right. We finally had a breakthrough when she accepted being fed carrots by her handler (have to shovel them in quickly and watch you don’t get bitten!) and only then would she permit one person to clean the wounds without attacking. Big relief all round….
When a small puncture wound on her shoulder didn’t heal well, we suspected a foreign body and scanned the shoulder. Yesterday, our vet Dale Wheeler removed a piece of wood which had embedded itself deeply in the shoulder area. She should be more comfortable now, and hopefully, if we can just get the foreleg to heal, she will eventually go home to her owner and have the foal that she is carrying. When she is discharged, a decision will be made as to whether or not she can work again.
We have carried out two in the last week or so – Solly in Rustenburg and areas, and Trevor is in Brits with 5th year veterinary students who are assisting with clinics as a part of their practicals. Ten stallion donkeys are going to be gelded on this clinic, which is great!
Until we started doing outreach work in townships and rural areas, we never realised just how large the donkey population is in South Africa, and the myriad problems associated with their welfare. Our clinics are very basic – treating minor wounds, re-fitting/replacing harnessing, de-worming, and educating owners. Seeing their improved condition after being de-wormed gives us great joy!
We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we can stabilize our funding so that we can continue to do this work – the general public are not all that sympathetic towards these lowly lovable creatures, who really are a ‘beast of burden’. Keep fingers crossed for us – we have put forward motivations to overseas organisations to try to get assistance with this project.
Solly and Samson, the two HHCU staff that deal with Lesotho, have been invited by horse owners in the area to attend a meeting this coming weekend in Rooifontein, near the Lesotho border. Horse owners are going to start having an annual ‘horse festival’ and it is important that we are there to show the work that we do, and the assistance that we can offer. The festival itself will be at the end of July/beginning of October, and we will incorporate that into another trip to Lesotho. Our help is so badly needed there……
SENTIENT BEINGS – HELPING HHCU
Many years ago, Fiona Markham adopted a horse from HHCU called Nakuru. She still has him! Fiona, a devoted animal lover, approached us a while back and said that she had purchased some ‘sms’ donation lines, and would like to donate one to HHCU. The response from our supporters has been overwhelming, with almost 2,500 sms’s being received since the line opened. We would like to thank each and every one of our supporters that contributes to us, and we would like to specially thank Fiona, for her generosity. Please try to support her by googling ‘Sentient Beings’ .
Five very special people who do not wish to be mentioned, but who have donated to our organisation this year in special and generous ways.
I would like to acknowledge the fabulous committee that we have at HHCU – what special people they are! Supportive, giving, always ready to help… we are lucky! When spirits flag, they are always there to help.
and finally……… (pshew, this sounds like a wedding speech) YOU our supporters and friends for taking the time to read this…. THANK YOU!
On this occasion, our staff spent just under two weeks in Lesotho, and managed to visit more pounds than before. Solly and Samson took literally hundreds of photos whilst they were working, and to be quite honest, it is going to take some time for me to sort them all out into correct areas and dates -admin is not Solly’s best attribute! I need 2 hours of his time, but he is busy assisting with the relocation of Soweto carthorses to Orange Farms and surrounding areas.
The photo’s that you will see below are from various pounds and police stations next to the pounds- we visited nine pounds in all.
There were some highlights in that water troughs have been installed as a result of our visits in some of the pounds, and fodder has been purchased. Some meaningful and useful relationships are being forged with individuals in Lesotho that are going to benefit the horses and the conditions under which they are being kept. Many of the police horses have improved in condition since we de-wormed them a number of weeks ago.
On the negative side, there were some injured and emaciated police horses that had not received any treatment or attention, and we were refused permission point blank to euthanase an old police horse on humane grounds. We found out last week that she had died ‘of natural causes’. We have a long way to go, but we have made some improvements.
Where are we going with Lesotho?
At times, we feel like we are getting nowhere fast – apart from the sheer numbers of animals involved, the whole issue is complicated by our not having any authority in Lesotho, and the negative attitudes of some of the people there. We remain hopeful that if we persevere, we WILL make the difference that is so desperately needed there. We keep seeing small glimmers of light, and hope that it will lead us to improving the lives of the animals kept in the pounds in Lesotho. We really want to succeed in this – for the animals’ sake.
How much is this costing HHCU?
The last trip cost us in the region of R25,000. We have more than enough equine welfare problems in SA – from a business/financial point of view, working in Lesotho is not a clever move for an organisation that already battles to keep it’s head above water. We need help to maintain what we are doing in Lesotho, and are very hopeful that WORLD HORSE WELFARE will come onboard and assist us. They have already generously allowed us to use their 4×4 vehicle which has made it possible for us to travel to outlying areas cut off from civilisation.
If you can help us in any way at all, please contact the office on 016 3609900/1
LESOTHO UPDATE: We have finally managed to obtain the loan of a 4×4 vehicle to help us get through the mountainous areas of Lesotho. Our very special thanks to World Horse Welfare for their support and concern, and N Natal farmers who have offered their assistance. We are leaving early on Monday morning, and this time, we SHOULD be able to get to all of the Government Pounds. We have still had no response from the Government officials in Lesotho regarding the plight of these poor animals, but hopefully, after our next visit, we will have some positive news to report. Our main aim on this trip is to carry out a full assessment of the problem at all of the Pounds, try to organise a water facility in the encampments, and give medical treatment to those animals that require it. We will also be delivering fodder, and trying to arrange for the animals to be let out to graze under supervision during the day. It’s very difficult to implement a plan of action when you have no legal authorisation in that country, and you are not guaranteed co operation from the parties involved. We remain positive that we WILL make a difference.
HACKNEY STUD FARM UPDATE:
This week a recheck inspection was carried out at the stud farm in Kimberley, where so many problems were found on a previous inspection. Our Inspectors were pleased to find that the horses were no longer ‘tied’ with baling twine, nor were there any ‘training chains’ attached to legs…. but the bedding was still sparse and the little that there was available was dirty. The pregnant mare had had improvements made to her camp, and she now has a shelter. One horse had injuries to her mouth corner from being manhandled with a bit in her mouth – a further three bridles with, in our opinion, cruel and very harsh bits were confiscated. We were appalled at the feet of some of these horses – this MUST be taken up with not only the owners, but the breed society that permits this atrocity.
The charges in this case have been laid, but we will continue to monitor the establishment to ensure that the animal’s welfare is being addressed until the outcome of the court case.
Urgent e mails have been sent to the various governmental departments in Lesotho urging urgent action from the Lesotho Government and offering our assistance and co operation – we now waiting for a response. We are committed to helping these animals.
We are going to try to raise awareness for the plight of horses not only in Lesotho, but South Africa too, by getting some sort of attachment/sponsorship from the recently released film War Horse – that would be great!
The welfare of equines is a huge problem in the southern hemisphere, and we need all of the help that we can get!
You CAN help… we are setting up an emergency fund for the Lesotho crisis.
Please mark your donation, with your name and contact details, “LESOTHO FUND”
A/C No: 53010034238
Branch Code 250137