Did you know that world-wide, an estimated 100 million equids help 600 million people to earn a living?
All around the world, mules, donkeys and horses help farm, move goods, work in the tourist industry and otherwise assist their humans to survive.
To live and work so intimately with one’s animals, relying on their strength and skill for our very survival, is not something that many of us who live in more prosperous areas can easily relate to. I don’t think it’s something contemplated much outside of a historical context. But it is a daily reality for huge numbers of people.
While the horses, mules and donkeys are critical to the welfare of the families who own them, people with limited resources can struggle to properly care for them. It is these families that the Brooke works to assist.
Based in the UK, the Brooke provides support to these families, their animals and their communities in the form of physical resources and education.
When a family can access appropriate veterinary care, farrier care, feed, training and better fitting equipment for their animals, the families and the communities have a better opportunity to prosper. And the horses, mules and donkeys can have a better quality of life.
The Brooke was originally started in the 1930’s by Dorothy Brooke as a way to address the issue of ex-military horses left behind by allied forces in Cairo, Egypt after World War I. Now eighty years later, The Brooke has helped working equids the world over.
In 2008, Brooke USA (originally American Friends of the Brooke) became an affiliate of The Brooke, supporting the Great British organization’s work as well as branching out to manage their own Brooke USA projects.
While many of the stories of working-equids and their families are sad and disturbing, even more so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic impact, there are also stories of hope and resilience.
Every time I think about The Brooke, I am reminded of a trip to Egypt that I took with my grandmother in the 1980’s. She lived and worked overseas for many years and loved to travel. I grew up with a very different lifestyle than the one I live now and was fortunate to be my grandmother’s traveling companion for more than one overseas adventure. Our trip to Egypt was my favorite.
We saw lots of working donkeys during our trip. I often wondered about the quality of their lives and the people that cared for them. At that time in my life, I wasn’t aware of the work of The Brooke (or that it started its work in the very country where I was vacationing). But without that trip to Egypt, perhaps the issue of working equids would not have ever made my radar.
My grandmother was not an equestrian. I don’t recall her being a particularly staunch animal advocate. But I do remember that she was selective about which horse and carriage team we picked for a ride one afternoon. We avoided the horses that looked super thin, seemed exhausted or looked too small for the size of the carriage.
For example, the picture below is a horse we passed over. We were pleased to see the horse parked in a spot of much needed shade. His tack incorporated quite a bit of padding and seemed in good condition. But we were concerned that he appeared old and thin. We also noted how swollen his legs appeared.
I admit it is difficult to make snap judgments about situations you know little about. Sometimes things are not as they appear. But in the moment, we made a decision and went with our gut reaction to not hire this particular horse for a drive.
It made a big impact on me that my grandmother would consider such things. Any of us who travel and incorporate equids in our vacation can in fact help those working animals by thoughtfully choosing vacation destinations and businesses.
The Horse website has a detailed article on this subject that is definitely worth the read at https://thehorse.com/185798/how-to-book-a-vacation-ride-tour-thats-kind-to-horses/. Among other things, the article references The Brook’s “Happy Horses Holiday Code” (otherwise known as a “vacation code” for those of us who speak American-type English).
The code makes suggestions for how tourists can assess animal welfare when faced with a decision similar to the one my grandmother made. You can read the code at https://www.thebrooke.org/get-involved/responsible-use-animals-tourism/happy-horses-holiday-code. I think my grandmother would have liked what it has to say.
If you would like to read further about working horses, mules and donkeys, please visit The Brooke and Brook USA on their websites. You can also donate money to their cause and inquire about other ways to get involved in their mission.
On a related note, would you like to shop and have twenty percent of the proceeds donated to The Brook USA? Buy Beauty For Real’s tinted lip balm. Cruelty fee, vegan and paraben free, the lip balm is available in nine tints. Beauty For Real has a big Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale every year, and I usually stock up on my favorite shade at that time. I like knowing a portion of my money is going to help support a cause that is important to me. Go to http://www.beautyforreal.com to learn more.