The country where a horse halter is a luxury

A horse hobbled in Senegal.
A horse hobbled in Senegal.

It seems amazing that something as basic as a halter is virtually inaccessible to horse owners anywhere, but that is the case in Senegal.

It means that to secure their horses, donkeys or mules, equine owners would hobble their animals by the legs, leading to wounds and injuries. This is because head collars can be difficult to acquire and expensive for poor owners to purchase, and therefore unsustainable.

A happy horse and owner with a new rope halter.
A happy horse and owner with a new rope halter.

That’s when international working equine charity Brooke stepped in, with Brooke USA donors helping Brooke and partner UGAN (Union des Groupements Associés du Niombato) to design a head collar that can be made easily out of a single piece of fluorescent rope; something which is readily available and cheap to buy in Senegal.

As a results, injuries and wounds caused by hobbling and tethering equines are no longer as common in the impoverished country.

Now around Sokone, through this project, many animals can be seen wearing these head collars of Brooke’s design.

There are nearly one million horses and donkeys across Senegal, transporting people and goods in towns and rural areas, ploughing fields and helping with the harvest. The welfare of these working animals is poor and many suffer from sickness and disease from working for prolonged periods in a challenging climate.

Apart from the far south, Senegal lies in the drought-prone Sahel area with poor soil and erratic rainfall. One-third of the Senegalese population rely on livestock for a portion of their income, and roughly 75 percent depends on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Brooke has also introduced community engagement sessions for equine owners to learn the skills to ensure their animals are being well looked after. Brooke West Africa and their partner UGPM (a union of villager groups) have developed a traffic light system to help villagers evaluate the welfare of their equines.

The process involves villagers getting together and assessing each other’s animals through a checklist of animal welfare issues, which includes hoof quality, response when a person approaches the animal, and body lesions.

Brooke and UGAN have also been working hard to train owners on the importance of hoof care.

Brooke has been giving horse owners lessons on caring for their horses' feet.
Brooke has been giving horse owners lessons on caring for their horses’ feet.

Badoudou Village horse owner Ablaye Cor explains how he first came to realise the importance of Brooke’s message on hoof care.

“Whenever I went into my shelter there was a foul smell, almost like a dead body. One day I realised it was coming from my horse’s foot. The smell was so bad that I didn’t know what else to do so I took him to the farrier. He trimmed the hooves and cleaned the frog area, which had pus coming out of it. When I took my horse home, there was no smell again.

“I could see a real difference. I now make sure my horse’s feet are trimmed every month and I clean the hoof daily. My animal walks better and day by day I am all the more convinced that this is a necessity and what Brooke is saying is true.”

Since Brooke began working in Badoudou Village, Ablaye has observed that “people are paying more attention to equine animals now. My animal is part of my life today.”

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