Three leading international animal welfare charities have joined forces to develop a new website to share the best practice for owners of working equids — and they’ve consulted with Amish communities in the USA.
The Equid Power Network, created by The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare and FECTU (the European Draught Horse Federation), received vital guidance from Amish communities, which are well known for their use of equine power over petrol horsepower.
The site includes a comprehensive database, where manufacturers from all over the world are listed, to help to promote the use of professional animal-friendly equipment,
By providing effective affordable harnessing, welfare education and vet care, owners can be empowered to keep their working equids healthy and ensure their continued productive benefit.
The vast majority of the world’s 100 million working equids are essential to some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Equids are traditionally labelled as a beast of burden and their hard-working traits are often taken advantage of, and their socio-economic value taken for granted. But working donkeys, mules and horses improve the lives of countless numbers of people, especially in rural or disadvantaged areas.
Dr Joao Rodrigues, Senior Lead – Welfare Assessment at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Working equids provide invaluable help to millions of people worldwide, having a central role in their lives. The improvement of the working conditions of these animals, through the use of correct harness and implements, is fundamental to improve animal welfare.”
The European Draught Horse Federation (FECTU) is an international umbrella-organisation, aiming to encourage cooperation between those European organisations involved in the promotion and advancement of working heavy horses and other draught animals.
The association also participates in the preservation of the common European draught animal heritage, and in the promotion of both working and leisure use of these animals, paying particular attention to sound working practices with regard to animals and the humans involved, and the environment.
FECTU’s Pit Schlechter said the new network was “a big step forward for people who continue or start to rely on the energy of more than one hundred million working horses, donkeys and mules”.
“Moreover, providing information about the most modern equipment available for animal traction is only one of the assets of this project. It also will be a huge source of knowledge and inspiration for those who will discover that a new generation of manufacturers succeeds in developing equipment that combines efficiency, user-friendliness and high standards of animal welfare. In this way, the Equid Power Network will continue to raise the profile of animal traction,” Schlechter said.
World Horse Welfare’s Senior International Programme Officer Vicki Newton said that WHW was pleased to share what it had learned from working with harness-makers, service providers and owners over many years. “We look forward to the continued development of scientific research and understanding in this area to develop practical solutions which make tangible and long-lasting benefits to the welfare of working equids and their owners.”
The project also received assistance from Erhard Schroll and Dale Stolzfus. Erhard Schroll is a professional organic farmer who uses draft horses, and a professional horse-logger, breeder and trainer. He is the editor of the Journal Starke Pferde, fully dedicated to animal traction. Erhard is also one of the organisers of the PferdeStark, the biggest event dedicated to animal traction and draft animals.
Dale Stolzfus is a Belgian Draft Horse Breeder living in Pennsylvania. His involvement with, and exposure to the North American horse farming communities began in 1988 when he purchased a pair of Belgian mares. For the past 20 years, he has been deeply involved with a North American event called Horse Progress Days, first as a charter member of the board of directors and then as Marketing Director.
The World Organisation for Animal Health’s (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code contains a specific chapter focused on working equids. The chapter emphasises the importance of good handling and management practices to ensure that farriery and harnessing are done responsibly, thereby promoting good animal welfare for working equids. Representative Dr Leopoldo Stuardo said: “The Equid Power Network provides a mechanism which helps those responsible for the care of working equids to implement provisions.”
Healthy working equids play a key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as defined by the United Nations. The Equid Power Network is aiming to raise the profile of working equids by promoting their potential and in turn, protect their welfare by highlighting the contributions they make to communities around the world.