26 January 2015 | Online since 2003



Royals speak out on working horses


The Princess Royal attended yesterday this year’s colloquium on working horses to discuss the impact these animals have on humans in developing countries.

Through presentations and discussions across two days in London, including a third practical day at a real life rescue and rehoming centre in Somerset, countless experts and representatives from 27 countries are discussing how British charities and other organisations are improving the welfare of working equines overseas.

“The hope is that we identify how much more these equines could contribute to poor communities, who rely on these working animals every day to survive, if their welfare needs were better understood,” says chief executive of the hosting charity, Roly Owers.

As an expert on the challenges of international human development as well as equestrian sport, Princess Haya will speak on the role that national sport has to play in the unlikely comparison between elite sport horses and ‘invisible’ working horses.

She says: “I have seen how elite sport horses are greatly valued, while the working horse is almost invisible, despite their value to the livelihoods of many poorer countries.

“In most cases the people who depend on working equines do not have a voice and generally do not receive any assistance apart from that provided through development organisations. To these people, their horse, donkey, or mule may be the single most important thing in ensuring their livelihoods. It therefore seems natural that those working in human development and those in animal welfare should be working together to the same end.”

“For example, a man in Phnom Penh uses his pony for collecting building materials and the income from that to feed his family. This pony is as important to him as a competition horse is to a rider competing in the Olympics. However, in equestrian sport, we recognise that for a horse to compete well its health, fitness and well-being is of paramount importance. To ensure this, in many countries we have access to a whole industry of skilled farriers, saddlers and vets. Working horses, ponies, donkeys and mules also need this care – but their needs are often unmet because of a lack of awareness of what their horses need, and a lack of skilled people to provide these services.”

HRH The Princess Royal, joined the from-around-the-world experts in this dynamic event yesterday, housed in our very own country, for horses and their owners across many seas.

The British royal spoke on the need for strong communication and collaboration between equine charities and the human development sector, in line with The Princess’ work with animal charities and human – The Princess is president of both World Horse Welfare and Save the Children.

She said: “Animal welfare is just as important as child welfare [in the context of human welfare in developing countries depending upon the welfare of their horse - the horse's welfare is paramount because it is the horse who carries the child to his place of education or fetches the water for the family in place of the child which enables the child to go to school. The horse carries the child to medical attention should he need it, carries the mother to hospital while in labour and carries the vital food supplies so that mother can carry baby on her back instead of leaving baby alone at home].

“There is a real scope for animal welfare organisations to work together with human development organisations if we can work out how to get across to the more sceptical audience the value of the working animal to communities in the long-term, which I’m sure you will thrash out during the course of this event. I very much look forward to seeing the results of all your hard work.”

This event provides an exceptional opportunity, where people have travelled for thousands of miles and come from 27 different countries with their research and findings, to discuss the barriers to fundamental changes in attitudes and practices towards working horses and the families they provide and care for.

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