Helping Horses in Ghana
There’s a racetrack, a polo field, there are military-owned horses, and there are horses that take tourists and children for rides on the beach in Accra. Most are not well cared for and very few people in the country actually know how to adequately care for horses.
Ghana’s Forgotten Horses
By Miriam Imrie
Horses are expensive, delicate creatures. They need expert care and attention and can make big dents in even the fullest of wallets. It’s not hard to see why looking after these noble animals in West Africa, home to some of the world’s poorest countries, is an almost insurmountable task.
When they are not being ridden up and down the sand, they can be seen walking the streets searching for food or tied in the middle of major roads to take advantage of tiny patches of grass on traffic islands. Many of the horses offered for rides at La Pleasure are dehydrated and with no decent water source nearby, they can be ridden up and down the sand all day without so much as a gulp of water. The young boys who ride the horses and tout for business from beach-goers are not capable of caring for these complex creatures and do it only to scrape a living. They too are in danger from injury as they ride the horses along a busy highway to reach the beach. Once there, they walk up and down for hours, trying to get people to ride the horses. Adults are allowed to ride small, weak ponies and some are hired out to be ridden up and down again and again by people who know little about horses, and tug painfully at their sensitive mouths.
Not only are the horses poorly cared for, they are forced to wear unsuitable tack, from ill-fitting saddles to crude metal mouthpieces. While some beach-goers shun the horse rides, most people are unconcerned. When asked if she was worried about the condition of the horses, one woman retorted: "They look fine to me. I don't see what the fuss is about. They are strong animals, they are fine."
It's true that on the surface some of the horses don't look as bad as others, but as they get older and are ridden constantly, the neglect will start to show. It's clear that more needs to be done to regulate the practice of beach rides. Skinny horses with visible rib and hip bones, dull eyes, and dirty lacklustre coats cannot be allowed to be dragged up and down the beach in the scorching sun. Beach-goers must be enlightened about the damage beach rides cause the horses, and the horse's owners must be educated on how to keep their animals healthy.
One child told me that his 'boss' makes him ride all weekend for a pittance and if he doesn't get enough rides he will be in 'big trouble'. This puts pressure on the children, some of whom are as young as 12, to offer the horses for rides over and over again. The boy says he cares about his horse, but all he wants to do is go to school.
More about one of the Ghana's Horses
Ghana SPCA volunteer, Aluizah Amasaba Abdul-Yakeen helped 21 horses (pictures below) that were left in the open with no shelter, tied up so they could barely move. At least two of them were so skinny, some were sick. Their stable and race track were sold to a hotelier by the previous government, and the site is now a huge hotel.
Luckily, Aluizah spotted these horses and together with Miriam, they got the attention they craved and the help they needed. Since they had been abandoned, and no one came forward to care for them, Aluizah and Miriam provided food and veterinary care. Eventually, the remaining abandoned horses were moved to another open space area where they could roam freely.
Some of the groomers and jockeys remained by the 21 horses that were kicked out of their stables, even though they were shut out of the race track and could no longer race the horses. These pictures were taken during one of the meetings with the GSPCA, groomers, and jockeys.