Whether it’s donkeys aiding the survival of babies, mules carrying metals to provide the income that feeds whole families or horses carrying children to school so they can get an education, international communities could not live without their vital aides.
Today, after three years of planning by hosting charity, World Horse Welfare, the 7th International Colloquium on Working Equids, kicks off at Royal Holloway, University of London with a powerful opening address to experts from 27 countries across the world, by charity chief executive, Roly Owers. [Image, above, shows Roly opening the event]
He sets the scene by highlighting the strong link between working equine welfare and human development. He explains how working equines provide whole communities with the income to feed their families every single day and how, if better care was taken for these animals, they would perform better – and live longer for their owners. This is why World Horse Welfare believes that human development organisations and working equid organisations should collaborate, but that the link between improved equine welfare and improved human livelihoods needs to be more widely recognised before the partners can move forward with this effective model.
“It is imperative that we start at this basic level,” says Roly. “I hope that by improving our understanding of this link we will be able to develop a road map for how we engage with our partners going forward.
“Of course the real tragedy is that working equids seem to be largely invisible in many of the countries where they are relied on the most – too many governments, universities, NGOs and human development organisations do not recognise their contribution.
“The role of livestock like cattle or goats is immediately accepted by the outside world as key to people’s survival. But the equid does not even register. We also know that some governments even feel ashamed that their country still relies on horsepower. We have to seek to convince them to embrace the fact that the working equid is here to stay and, let’s face it, is a lot more sustainable and environmentally friendly than a transit van. We must have hard evidence to make this case persuasively and I hope this week we will make great progress.”
Roly explains how scientific research and theory need to be brought together with real-world practical experience on the ground when helping horses and the communities that depend on them, hence the colloquium’s two-days of theoretical sessions in London and one day of ‘whole horse’ practicality at hosting charity, World Horse Welfare’s Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Somerset.
The 150+ delegates at this high-profile event will later be joined by two princesses, HRH The Princess Royal and HRH Princess Haya, but for now Roly asks those present to consider three challenges throughout the three days and beyond.
“Please pledge to take what you learn at this colloquium and put it into practice. Strive to redouble your efforts to work together to build a case that is compelling to other organisations – especially governments, human development NGOs and universities – of the key role of working equids in economies. We must gather the firm evidence which will help make the greatest impact. And the last challenge is to throw your heart and soul into this event. If we do not do all this to help working equines, who will?”
With the three challenges, and three questions: What role do working equids play in human livelihoods – and how well is this currently recognised? Does a holistic approach to improving equine welfare produce better outcomes? And what is the role of veterinary science? - There is only one aim, to improve the lives of working equids and the communities that rely on them.