Creating a better future for Guatemala’s working horse communities


Guatemala. A mountainous country, steeped
in history and tradition with jostling towns and cities and stunning remote communities, hidden in vast rainforests set amongst rugged terrain but as one of Latin America’s poorest countries working horses are still totally relied upon by families that live in some of the world’s
most underprivileged communities Most of the people from those villages, they live in poor condition, their income is so, so low Sadly, all too often the hard-working
horses show the signs of the heavy workload they undertake on a daily basis Most of problems are seen because
of bad husbandry techniques also there’s a problem because of malnutrition Today, World Horse Welfare in partnership
with SABE, a local welfare organisation is running a project to help the horses of Guatemala We need a lot of help here in Guatemala
and in Central America, we need a lot of help so I think World Horse Welfare’s
work is really important here Guatemala is a land built on the
volcanic ring of fire, and today an International charity is using
that fire to help horses and the families that depend on them,
for their very existence The working equine population
here in Guatemala is quite important we have over 250,000 working equines
according to the Ministry of Agriculture and will find them in most of the
rural areas here in the country most of the families have one or two working equines and they use them to transport themselves and as
the main transport tool for agriculture products for firewood and also for food
to and from the markets Many people make a living by delivering firewood cut from the hillside rainforest into the town communities journeys that can take many hours,
over difficult terrain where a horse is essential Here, if you want to purchase a horse
you need to have about $300 – $350 which is basically a year’s wage for a normal family and it’s very important for them to
maintain them as much as possible These hard-working horses are the
most valuable asset for each family but sadly, all too often they lack
the adequate knowledge and the professional support to care for them correctly Many show signs of the hard lives they live The main problems that you will see here
are back lesions, hoof problems especially fungal problems
during the rainy season you find also Colic’s and overall poor body condition score
because of poor nutrition And in one area of Guatemala in particular,
the horse is a fundamental part of daily life Zaragoza is located right in the
middle of the Central Highlands here in Guatemala, it’s an area
that has a very difficult topography mountains, deep ravines a lot of forest, so
basically there’s no motor transport that can easily access most of the
communities here in Zaragoza so, horses here are basically a necessity for people
just to just to go from one place to another World Horse Welfare recognise the need
to train local people with the skills so desperately needed
in the Zaragoza region but also understood the cultural
challenges of working in these communities The people in the communities they don’t believe you or pay attention to you if they don’t know you you cannot come over and just
say “hey, you should do this or that” or “treat your horse like this” they’re not
even going to pay attention to you but if you are family of your friends they are
going to start paying attention to you At a training center in the center of Zaragoza local community members are
invited to take part in a training course in saddlery, farriery and also to become a
community-based equine advisor who is the go-to person for each community
when they have any horse welfare issues For us it was very important to
engage local owners effectively and we identified that by
training fellow community members they can engage more sustainably and these are people that live and work in the communities so we know that they’re going to be involved for a long time in providing those services to their communities, so it was
very important for us to train them train them also in a sustainable manner
which involves them learning how to use local materials that are readily
available here in the region and also how to make their own tools which is
something that is very important for them to maintain their service provision Some of the worst injuries seen on horses, are caused by poorly designed and fitted pack saddles which are laden with heavy goods and then transported from the hills down to the local markets We are doing a farriery clinic
and we’ve got this case of this horse this is what happens when
they use they old pack saddle you can see this lesion right here is really bad The World Horse Welfare saddlery team
designed a new pack saddle which means that the loads are better balanced and lifted off the back of the horses So this is the pack saddle, the one we did in Guatemala and this pack saddle really helps the horses now this horse is free of lesions his owner, he feels happy too, he can see
the difference now with his horse And some of the students have now set up
saddlery shops in their local communities like Victor Manuel Guerra who now serves the
community of Las Lomas making and repairing tack
for the region’s working horses In a mountainous region with rough
unmaintained tracks and roads looking after the horses feet is essential The way how they have been
shoeing their horses the horses are have problems with their feet and it’s a bunch of different problems we’re finding you should see the roads it’s no way to
a horse can walk in there without shoes World Horse Welfare has been training
farriers such as the father-and-son team of Jimmy and Paco who live
in a remote village in the hills So the father-and-son they are working together
now and in that area there are the only two professional farriers
and they are doing a great job Paco, which is the father he’s making
the shoes and Jimmy is the one who is in charge to put the shoes on,
so they are working they have their own shop now and they are getting more customers which is the most important get the people into their shops
and shoe their horses it’s not just for Jimmy and Paco it’s for the rest of the people living in the community because that community is located in the difficult terrain it’s up in the mountains so it’s very important to have
farriers and saddlers in the community also to keep the horses feet in well
condition it’s really, really important But the Zaragoza centre also looks after the veterinary needs of horses that come in to be treated Veterinary student Stephanie has
identified one area of concern when looking at the body condition
of the working horses of Guatemala Parasites I think that’s the
first problem at the communities parasites, and it’s because
they don’t have a place to feed the horses they feed them directly on the ground
so i think that there is a reinfestation of parasites, so i think that
that’s why this is the first problem But the team and communities are looking
into ways of creating a natural dewormer using ingredients grown in a garden by
community-based equine advisor, Alvaro Figueroa and it’s resourcefulness like this,
in learning new ways of helping horses that demonstrate the success of
World Horse Welfare’s project in Guatemala We know the project is working because
first of all we have seen positive impact we have seen people engaging our local farriers
and our local saddlers more and more we see that owners are thinking more about welfare they are thinking more about taking care
of their hooves, taking care of their pack saddles, they’re thinking more of ways
of you know, how to I can provide better nutrition better feed for my working equines and when you go to a community and see
the changes that you have made, the impact the positive impact, for me it’s very fulfilling horses are always there for us and you know we should be also there for our horses so it is important to maintain that relationship to make it better, and to make
it long lasting and sustainable


28 Responses

  1. D Petty

    September 9, 2016 5:54 pm

    This is fantastic work you are doing. Thank you! I hope that poor blue roan near the end of the video is okay.

  2. Michelle Despres

    September 11, 2016 5:12 pm

    They need to create sleds or wagons for the horses to pull instead of putting the load on the poor horses backs. They are too skinny and unconditioned to be carrying loads like that.

  3. Fieswurm's Videoblog

    September 20, 2016 3:20 pm

    Great work. Please dont stop it. I think, both, help and knowledge for the horsepeople in guatemala are very important. The packsaddle is great constructionate and easy for the people without many ressources.

  4. no name

    October 24, 2016 6:11 pm

    I know theses ppl depend on the horses … but they should still hv common sense to look after them feed them and rest them Evan how poor they are couse if the horse gets sick it will die then they will be no horse … all animals deserve respect

  5. dinkdink2001

    November 17, 2016 8:34 pm

    You guys are great! I'm wondering if introducing some drafts or draft crosses would be a value to the community as far as work loads being increased and making trips less often. Maybe even showing designs of small light carts for moving more and causeing less physical issues for the horses.

  6. jan wells

    January 4, 2017 1:51 pm

    Wow why don't they use a wagon instead of the horses back???? They could even have more wood if they used a wagon. Poor horses.

  7. epiphany 1.618

    February 11, 2017 9:04 am

    Thanks so much for the work u do. how can they be so cruel
    turning a blind eye to the injuries and suffering of their horses. It's it's beyond me. I have seen poor people treat their animals very well. that's no excuse. FFS

  8. MAkM

    June 1, 2017 12:36 am

    I feel so sorry for working horses and donkeys in 3rd world or poor countries… The working animals have a really hard life, and the people there don`t look after them enough besides just giving them food and water. Its rare the animals will have medical attention. The horses and donkeys are over worked – and rarely loved.

  9. Fraya Kenny

    August 18, 2017 4:28 am

    THIS is such fantastic work for all those poor horses that work so hard, and under such horrific conditions.

  10. Mary Fisher

    July 26, 2018 4:43 am

    If our money is worth so much compared to theirs why hasn’t someone stepped up and donated enough money to feed and get vets their to care for the wounded? I wish I had the money I would do it in a heartbeat! Fixing these horses feet is great but how does that help when the horse is starving to death?!? We need to get food for the people and the horses. This is so sad.

  11. Eva

    October 19, 2018 10:26 pm

    Wonderful project, no belittling people for the conditions there but actively trying to improve them through education and creative projects. Keep up the good work!


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