Experts at Writtle University College have joined up with an African university and global charity to improve equine welfare.
Staff from the University College have visited the National University of Lesotho (NUL) with members of international charity World Horse Welfare to help improve and develop the curriculum in the southern African country.
World Horse Welfare involved the University College's staff in order to draw on Writtle's 30-year experience of delivering Equine courses as well as its experience rehabilitating World Horse Welfare rescue horses. It is part of the charity's project to improve the welfare of working horses in the country, which also involves the training of field officers for its clinics there.
There are 180,000 horses and donkeys in the Kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa. The country has a hugely proud horse heritage and, whilst most are working animals, there is a growing interest in rural racing. Animal welfare is becoming increasingly important and NUL staff are providing input to the Minister of Agriculture on potentially introducing welfare legislation.
NUL are currently delivering only one Equine module, which is grouped together with rabbit production. Writtle Equine specialists met university staff in Lesotho to discuss how they could support the development and expansion of the curriculum, and spent a day in a field clinic witnessing the World Horse Welfare team at work.
Caroline Flanagan, who manages the Equine courses at WUC, said: “Visiting Lesotho was an exceptional opportunity for WUC staff to gain first-hand experience and insight into the welfare issues facing working horses and donkeys in this environment and the current offering of the country's only university.
“Horses are vital to the economy, which is based on the production of wool and mohair, as they provide a means of transport for the herdsmen responsible for the welfare of the sheep and goats.
“Whilst it was hard to witness some of the individual welfare issues presenting at the World Horse Welfare clinic, it was also a fascinating experience in terms of understanding the balance that has to be found by charities such as World Horse Welfare in terms of support and intervention. Seeing how positive the team were on the ground, and witnessing the obvious progress being made to help so many animals, made it a very worthwhile trip.
“Anything we can do to strengthen our links with both World Horse Welfare and the NUL will be beneficial for all. Addressing the knowledge deficit at source, by working closely with NUL to improve the equine curriculum content, will ultimately benefit so many more equids that WUC will be able to feel justly proud that, in the long term, we will positively influence welfare of the large numbers of animals in this country.
“Our link with NUL and World Horse Welfare will open many doors for both staff and students to continue to contribute to this improvement in the future.”
Vicki Newton, International Programme Officer from World Horse Welfare, said: “We are so grateful to the University College for their interest in supporting the welfare of the working horses of Lesotho. Horses and donkeys play a central role in supporting the livelihoods of communities across the country but so often their welfare is compromised due to a lack of knowledge or access to the services that we tend to take for granted here in the UK. Our project aims to address these issues and it is such a boost to be able to draw upon the vast knowledge and experience of WUC staff in delivering high-quality equine curricula that will benefit both the students and the horses they help.”
• To find out more about the Equine courses at Writtle University College, please visit writtle.ac.uk