by Latoya Burnham
The island’s chief animal protection agency is calling on families not to give horses as gifts to children.
Manager of the Barbados RSPCA, Charmaine Hatcher, said there was a new trend in the island of children and young adults wanting to own horses without full knowledge or capability for care.
So, almost every week, the RSPCA, police, fire service and other agencies, now including the latest charity for the protection of such animals, HORSE, are being called on to rescue the “pets”.
Hatcher, who along with RSPCA Chief Inspector Wayne Norville have been increasingly vocal about the plight, especially now of former race horses in the island, quickly dispelled any myth that the recession might be playing a role in the inability to care for the large animals.
“It is just the sheer volume of horses now. This is not new at all. It has been happening in the last three, four, five years, but it has reached a climax to the point where now the children are really abusing them,” Hatcher said.
“Before, yes the horses were given away, yes they were given to probably the grooms and more adults, but now the trend is changing a bit and they are going now more towards the children and the children they like to get on a horse and ride a horse.”
In addition to the usual rescue of cats, dogs, even cows, the RSPCA’s Facebook site has been inundated in recent months with pictures of emaciated horses, some with sores, tick-infested, cuts and bruises, and even some dead.
Similarly, some Barbadians have even taken to posting pictures on the Barbados TODAY Facebook forum, pleading for help for the animals.
Hatcher, in a personal note to FB fans stated: “The RSPCA has had long standing relationships with equestrian societies and organisations in Barbados. Several of the owners are personal friends.
“While we cannot dictate the terms of a transaction between the owner and buyer, the RSPCA insists that all owners, be it first, second or third, have a moral responsibility to have the adequate facilities and knowledge to maintain a horse. These animals can live for 30 years and cost as much as $1,000 a month to feed.”
It was this cost, she told Barbados TODAY, that new owners at the end of the horses’ racing careers were either unaware or unable to handle. Instead, she opined that the animals were being ridden up and down some neighbourhoods, often without food or water, the latter of which a horse can consume about five buckets a day.
The RSPCA commented via Facebook: “An average of 100 horses leave racing every year and the ones that don’t go for breeding are given to whoever wants a horse! Keeping horses is very expensive and time consuming and cannot be taken on lightly…
“Most of the owners at the track rent a stall there to keep their horses but once the horse retires they have nowhere to put them. Stop giving horses to Kids.”
“It is yes, they don’t have the finances to feed it, they can only tie it our in a pasture which we are always in a severe drought, but it is the general harassment and riding of them…
“Children used to have smaller animals in their backyard, even goats, pig, sheep, but now the ‘in thing’ is a horse and everybody thinks they must have a horse. Even a cat costs a lot to feed without what’s involved with looking after a horse,” she said.
Part of the challenge before, she explained, was that there just was nowhere to put the horses after they were rescued by the RSPCA, which was why she highlighted and was thankful for the recent establishment of the HORSE charity.
According to their Facebook page, among the main aims of the charity which runs a now two-month old horse sanctuary, are “to enhance and improve the quality of life for all of the equine species in Barbados and to promote their well-being through a holistic approach”.
This includes, but is not limited to, improving the quality of life for abused and neglected horses. Hatcher said the charity had given them somewhere now to take the horses and where they could be cared for.
“Now because of the horse charity, we have somewhere to take them to. In the past we would collect them and take them to the animal pound in the Pine, but they really do not have facilities either to look after horses and then it would be the sheer volume of them,” she noted.
“We are now more aware and reporting. Before the average Barbadian would drive by make a comment and go on. Now they are more into reporting it. It used to happen with cows and you don’t see as many tied up, but the horses cannot tolerate being tied up like that,” she said, urging the public to continue reporting instances of abuse.