A place of safety for abused horses
The Cart Horse Protection Association is improving the lives of hundreds of animals
WHAT DOES a fourlegged fella or filly do when he or she is overworked, underfed and in pitiful shape Well, if the fella or filly is a cart horse, they have to hope like crazy that a guardian angel from the Cart Horse Protection Association (CHPA) spots them or that a concer ned bystander reports their plight.
The association is a group of dedicated people committed to improving the lives of hundreds of hard-working cart horses from the Cape Flats, and to educate and empower the “carties” who rely on their horses for a livelihood.
Of course, horses are their number one concern and for this purpose they have adopted a zerotolerance policy toward cart horse abuse. When this occurs, they turn an unfortunate situation into a fortunate one by removing the horse to a beautiful sanctuary in Somerset West.
Known as the Firlands Rest and Rehabilitation Centre, it is a place of healing for horses. Lovingly nursed and restored to good health, they turn out so handsome that they are scarcely recognisable as the poor beasts that were brought in. Sometimes it is necessary to permanently remove them from their owners who are considered unfit to own a horse. They will then be put up for adoption, and a new home found.
While Firlands serves as the hospital wing of the association, (with maternity care for foaling mares and a place of safety for those repeatedly abused and neglected) the main hub is the clinic and training centre in Epping.
Here, staff get to meet and interact with carties who come to buy food at special prices and to have their horses shod by trained farriers. There’s a harness shop, treatment stalls, a veterinary surgeon, paddocks, an education and training room that offers skills training for carties in farriery and harness-making, and a feed storage barn. This is also the place where the cart is registered.
All this activity gets you thinking about the important relationship between horses and humans. Horses have always been a part of everyday life, pulling everything from carts to canal boats, making deliveries, ploughing fields, working on the railways or coal mines, and of course, transporting people around the land. Humans and horses have been a driving force in warfare, but they’ve also relaxed together, galloping along stretches of beach or country roads. They’ve teamed up in competitions of all kinds. Horses have inspired books, poems, plays and films, both real and imaginary. Today horses are even used in therapy.
A little bit of horsey research reveals that they are built for power, are agile, quick, and as they only eat grass they can go almost anywhere that humans can, eating as they go.
How did our Cape cart horse industry originate? According to the association, the horse and cart have provided a livelihood for previously disadvantaged communities of Cape Town for over 100 years. The carting industry has been passed down through the generations, and today the collection of scrap metal has become increasingly important as the only means of income for many.
This increase in horse and cart operators has led to the development of a second form of income: the renting out of horses and carts.
“Unfortunately,” says the association, “in most cases these people are untrained, with no experience of working with horses. A gradual increase in horses being overworked, overloaded and often incredibly abused resulted in a need to create a sustainable solution to the carthorse problem.”
Enter the CHPA – and the rest, of course, is history.
Anyone who spots a distressed cart horse should notify the association immediately.
“There is never an inconvenient time to respond to a cart horse emergency,” they say, “We’ve seen meetings interrupted, admin work stopped, lunch times cut short, staff training sessions missed – all to attend to a cart horse needing tender love and attention.”
Contact numbers are patrol inspector (all areas) Karin Bothma 082 656 6599; chief inspector (Veterinary) Diana Truter 082 659 9599 or clinic inspector Karin Knobel 082 326 1972