Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere and in recent years has been severely hit by natural disasters and political instability. 80% of Haiti’s population lives below the international poverty line of $2 a day, and 54% are defined as living in abject poverty surviving on just $1.25.
The working equine population is made up of roughly equal proportions of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, taking on a range of roles that are vitally important in Haitian communities. They are used to transport goods to market and to transport building materials as the work of rebuilding property and roads continues. Working horses play a direct role in the welfare of many families who rely on them to make a living.
A large proportion of working equids have a poor diet and do not have access to enough water that is fit to drink. As a result, many are malnourished and have a poor body condition. They work long hours carrying poorly made pack saddles that are often overloaded, causing pressure sores and wounds on the withers and back which are unable to heal and are prone to infection. Pack saddles are made from materials that are ill-suited to the job and to the health of the working animal.
There is little veterinary care available for working horses in Haiti, most work focuses on farm or livestock animals. General knowledge of proper veterinary care for horses is severely lacking and owners receive little to no instruction on how to care for their animals.
As a result of these factors working horses continue to work in pain caused by wounds, long term muscular-skeletal conditions and damaged feet. Their quality of life is poor and life-expectancy is reduced.
World Horse Welfare plans to work in partnership with Humane Society International (HSI) to establish community based projects to improve the welfare of working horses in Haiti. Find out more about our partnership with HSI here.
A team from World Horse Welfare will identify the horses that need help and people in a community to be the initial focus of the project. During the development phase a project manager and regional co-ordinator will select students who will become Community Based Equine Advisors (CBEAs), Farriers or Saddlers. Over a course of weeks, these individuals are given the knowledge and training they require to provide services to the working horses and owners in their community.
The group comprised of Advisors, Assistants and members of the community who will be trained spend three months assessing the health and condition of working horses in the community. A team of vets address the immediate needs of each horse such as treating wounds or infections. The information gathered at this stage forms the base line against which each horse’s health is gauged over time.