In 2013 I assisited World Horse Welfare with a research trip to the Guymai Indigenous Reserve in southern Costa Rica. Visiting two communities in the reserve, Progreso and Alto Mira.
Progeso is a small community of permanent dwellings located in a deep valley around one hours drive from our base in Pavones. The drive to Progreso was as exhilarating as it was challenging. Following the dirt road we passed through a succession of deep valleys down precipitous descents towards fording points along languid rivers. Steadily picking our route across before powering out, tyres kicking and spitting rocks behind us as we scrambled out towards the next summit.
Upon the way we came across a member of the Progreso Community transporting wood for sale in the communities beyond the reserve. The horse was dragging two rough hewn hardwood planks, one tied to each side of the saddle, the ends dragging along the ground, pulled by the deep mud, caught upon rocks and fallen branches as the horse climbed up the side of the valley. The owner perched on top directing and encouraging the steady progress welcomed us with a quiet smile and waved us along our journey towards Progreso.
In many ways this first encounter spoke a great deal about the visit to come. The members of the Progreso Community are welcoming. There is a stillness in their manner, a quiet warmth. Like so many Indigenous Communities in the world they face some of the greatest pressures in this increasingly global economy in which we all live. That global economy waits at the gates to that reserve, hungry for the land and resources with in. Inside that community is finding it’s way forward through these pressures. Finding a way to hold on to their culture their language, their land, their voice as our world calls to them at their gates.
“The horses that share their lives, share their working lives are subject to the self same pressures and their welfare suffers as a result.”
The horses that share their lives, share their working lives are subject to the self same pressures and their welfare suffers as a result. Not through malice, indeed the horse we visited that day seemed to be infused with the same stillness we found in their owners. Clearly there was a relationship there. But they do face pressures to their welfare, saddle sores, chronically long distorted feet, malnutrition, dehydration, external and internal parasites. Pressures brought about by the environment , the community they share and the nature of their working lives.
When I see those working horse I ask myself how I can help. No one person can change the world and take those pressures away. But maybe in a small way through education we can start to lessen the effect of those pressures and tip the balance back so those working horses don’t face the same daily welfare pressures.
World Horse Welfare run Community Based Sustainable Development Projects throughout the world aimed at helping people do just that. Through education we look to help people improve their lives and the lives of their working horses in a way that is relevant and durable. Relevant because the solutions are born out of that project community, durable because they are sustained by the very people in those communities.
Maybe we can even roll back the world waiting at their door. Through it’s education programme in this country and through modern media like this Facebook page World Horse Welfare looks to inform people about the important work it is doing both in this country and overseas. If we understand how the decisions we make as consumers in this country impact upon the lives of people living in those communities, how they impact upon the lives of those working horses in those communities, maybe we can start to make choices that are not only right for us but right for those communities, communities like Progreso and Alto Mira, as well.