The Six Freedoms-Ghana: AKI's grant is helping neglected horses
The Six Freedoms (previously known as HorseSafety) was awarded an AKI grant (for the 2nd year in a row) to improve the "welfare for neglected horses in Accra and beyond, raising awareness and providing education for grooms and horse owners."
Most horses in Ghana suffer from mental and physical abuse, due to the lack of financial means and professional care and also the lack of knowledge of horse owners and grooms. Animals are mostly treated with dominance and violence and therefore face constant mental and physical abuse.
For the owners and caretakers, the main sources of income are racing, beach rides, and religious festivals. All these events are known for horse abuse.
Mostly, caretakers live a life without dignity, too, in wooden shucks or horse rooms, from hand-to-mouth. The horse owners only see their horses for special events and shy away from the responsibilities that come along as an animal owner.
Using a holistic approach based on One Health principles, the Six Freedoms aims to raise awareness of the violence link (the interconnections of animal cruelty and social violence) leading to a future with less violence and more kindness. Their current goal --with the grant from AKI--is to keep their 10 rescued horses in a healthy condition (Kingdomstable in Aplaku, Weija, Accra - 7 horses and Ranch Eva Lydeking in Akim Asafo - 3 rescued horses), to continue helping two rescued horses recover from ill health and trauma, and to stay in contact with grooms, caretakers, and owners of 80 horses from other stables by sharing hands-on knowledge and training opportunities for the welfare of their horses.
In October, Ulla (Founder of The Six Freedoms) had an offer that she couldn't refuse, an Art Event sponsored by the German Embassy scheduled for December 10 (it's part of Ulla's PhD program). What does this have to do with horse rescue, care, and welfare? A LOT!
The event will focus on the connection between Germany and Ghana, and more general, on ideas of connection, unity and community, for which Ulla will present some of her recent research on the human-horse interconnection. The event will include a performance with 2 horses, 2 jockeys, and 3 dancers. Eva Ippendorf, who is based in Accra but was a professional horse trainer in Germany (natural horsemanship), will work with the jockeys and the horses and train them.
As part of this, The Six Freedoms had a challenge: finding healthy horses that could participate in the event. They visited one stable recommended by the jockeys. It was a true tragedy. The horses were in bad condition, lacking good nutrition and vitamins (underfed and dull coat), as well as being mentally stressed and in pain due to being tied tightly with heads up on short ropes (shown below).
"A very sad picture overall. In talking to the caretakers, it was obvious that the people caring for the horses simply don’t have knowledge on horse welfare and that the owners are not paying the grooms. It was especially sad to hear that the young jockey Alex, who works with these horses, (and will be part of the performance at the Embassy) does not get any salary and survives by washing cars at the roadside," said Ulla.
Eventually Ulla was able to find horses in good shape at the Ghana police stables, which is very open for a collaboration. Three horses were selected and training has begun:
This event isn't only for the expat community--all the grooms, animal caretakers, and horse owners are aware of it. They all know that Alex -one of their own-is involved. This event is showing them that there's another way to treat horses and to view the human-horse relationship. It aims to normalize a love and respect for our fellow creatures.
The Six Freedoms sees events like this as part of a multi-faceted approach, bringing together the horse community, artists, theater professionals, the veterinary community-including students, and interested members of the public, to work together to improve the lives of horses and their caretakers in Ghana.
Apart from this event, The Six Freedoms continues to care for their rescued horses, including Sharon's foal, Sunrise, born on June 18 (pictured below). Despite the loss of her mom Sharon, Sunrise is doing very well. Sharon had been rescued in December 2021 and had chronic leg injuries that never completely healed. She died just after she delivered Sunrise. When The Six Freedoms rescued her, she was already pregnant.
Sunrise's diet, developed by Six Freedom's nutritionist Eva Lydeking, includes a small bucket every morning with:
200 gram soya
200 gram maize
200 gram coconut (she likes that)
200 gram Energy Fiber Mash
50-60 gram Peak Performance
15 gram calcium
10 gram salt
It's not easy raising an orphaned foal!
The Six Freedoms has also visited the Accra Turf Club to network with the jockey community and observe the races. The races draw many visitors and vendors selling food and drinks. But even as more visitors attend and more money is raised from the races, the conditions for the horses haven't improved. Also, the horses continue to be transported using risky and stressful methods, being brought to the race course in big trucks, not appropriate for horses. The Six Freedoms has a lot of work ahead of them at this location!
Mr. Key was rescued from the race course last year and had a long recovery period--actually his recovering is ongoing. Here he is training with groom Emmanuel at Ranch Eva Lydeking:
This is giving Emmanuel new skills and is crucial for Mr. Key's recovery.
Overall, The Six Freedoms feels that, thanks to the AKI grant, their collaborations and visibility are improving. "The highly professional work at Ranch Eva Lydeking provides us great references for the future and allows us to show positive effect in the local horse communities, especially because of the known horses that we rescued. More and more grooms and jockeys get to know us, trust us and approach us for advice," Ulla told us.