In Soweto, South Africa's largest township, working horses and carts are used for transport. They are the vehicles of scrap metal collectors, furniture movers and, despite recent electrification, coal vendors, who sell coal to those who cannot afford electricity.
In response to a request for help from the Soweto Equestrian Foundation and Johannesburg City Council, World Horse Welfare undertook research to evaluate the condition of the working horses.
It became apparent that the living environments of many horses were unsuitable, and it was clear that their basic needs were not being met.
Common injuries were those caused by ill-fitting harness, carts bearing weight incorrectly and poor shoeing. Old mattress springs, wire and smashed glass were also found at the coal yards, where the horses resided, giving further cause for concern.
In September 2008, we initiated a programme to train local people in farriery and saddlery. Working in conjunction with our affiliated partner, the Soweto Equestrian Foundation, the primary aim of supplying these skills is to improve the condition of working horses, which will benefit their owners in the long term.
To date, we have trained 39 farriers and 35 saddlers from the Soweto region and further afield from across South Africa.