Developing an equine welfare network in Guatemala

Guatemala is a mostly mountainous country in Central America. More than half of its 13.5 million people live in extreme poverty.


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Approximately 50% of Guatemala’s population live rurally, with just over 70% of the rural population living below the national poverty line. Many of these communities are dependent on livestock and other animals as a way of either making or sustaining a living.  Equids (including horses, donkeys and mules) not only provide transportation for people, but also transport goods and materials to market, as well as feed and fodder for other economically important livestock.  Working hard to transport materials and crops through dense forests and over rugged terrain, these horses often have high physical demands placed upon them.

Our current programme

World Horse Welfare has been working in Guatemala since 2012, delivering a community-based training project across the Zaragoza, San Andres Itzapa and more recently the Santa Maria de Jesus regions. Run in collaboration with local organisation Servicios de Apoyo en Bienestar Equino (SABE), the project empowers owners and safeguards their livelihoods by increasing their knowledge of, and access to, proper equid care.

The project focuses on creating a support network for working equid owners by building capacity within their communities through the training of selected local Community Based Equine Advisers (CBEAs), farriers or saddlers. CBEAs are central to this network, supporting equid owners by providing advice and help on how best to care for their most important asset.

Lameness, caused by poor hoof care, and injuries, caused by ill-fitting equipment, are the two main factors that restrict an equid’s ability to work, and ultimately contribute to the earning of a family’s income.  Through the training of local saddlers and farriers, in addition to CBEAs, the project is able to provide access to vital services that otherwise would not be available. This is so important as it enables working equids to continue to perform an essential transportation role for the community.

It is important to understand that the majority of working equid owners do care for their horses, but lack the necessary skills and knowledge to look after them properly. This coupled with the fact that skilled, locally-available farriers and affordable saddlers are not accessible, means that horses working in across Guatemala are enduring a life of unnecessary suffering.

The training of skilled service providers has been supported by sharing horse care knowledge and advice with the working horses’ owners. The combination of training and capacity building means that the owners are both more aware of their responsibilities to their horses and also more capable of looking after them correctly. The owners now have the support of skilled service providers – farriers and saddlers – to ensure that the horses of the region will receive the best care possible for generations to come.


About the project

The aim of the project is to achieve a significant improvement in welfare of all working equines in our project and surrounding area.  It is important that this is achieved in a sustainable way and we have developed the project with this very much in mind.  We aim to ensure that every working horse owner registered to the project has the knowledge and the support network - through local service provision - available to enable them to best care for their horse.

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About the region
Zaragoza is located approximately 60km west of Guatemala City in the Chimaltenango region. The terrain is extremely undulating, formed by steep valleys and gullies, with dirt track roads connecting the surrounding villages.  Many of the villages and communities are only accessible on foot or by horse, during the wet season (May-October) as the tracks become extremely muddy and treacherous for vehicles.

Past projects in Guatemala
In 2006, we initiated a training programme in Guatemala and to begin with four courses were successfully completed in Jalapa, training more than 40 local farriers and 40 local saddlers.
To ensure that we reached working horses across the breadth of the country, our training teams then relocated to Chimaltenango, a town located 35 miles west of Guatemala City, for another phase of training courses.

Our nutrition programme has become well established throughout the Jalapa region. With numerous plantations of Swazi grass, forage sorghum, morera and alfalfa, local farmers have shown considerable interest and commitment, and their working horses have directly benefited from the programme.