The ILPH has responded to the recent report in The Times about Lipizzaner horses dying of starvation at the Vucijak Stud, in Prnjavor, Bosnia, unless urgent funds are received.

Jonny McIrvine, ILPH Acting chief executive, said: “This news, ifsubstantiated, is indeed worrying – we are using our contacts in Bosnia to establish the exact picture.”

In 1998, the ILPH, believing that the only way forward for the stud was to be self-financing, raised funds and ran a project to develop a sustainable solution to the problems.

Horse care and management were revised, a practical dietary and exercise regime were put in place, a tractor, hay making and cultivation equipment were purchased and a business plan put together, however it seems that these measures have now failed.

According to ILPH consultant Jeremy James, a nutritionist who was part of the working party sent out to help the stud in 1998, it appears that staff has lost heart in making the project work and the best solution would now be for the horses to be sold.

“It’s very sad news, but if I’m honest, it’s not unexpected,” said Mr James. “In 1998, we raised £80,000 for the project and went over there with the idea of helping to make them self-sufficient. Not only did wehelp put up fences, supply tractors and advise on land management, but we also helped them to develop other moneymaking uses for the land, such as snail farming, planting herbs and developing tourism. It would appear that none of these measures have been maintained.

“There is 350 hectares of good land there and it is easily worked but at the moment the mares are just running wild while the stallions are shut away in stables.”I know of one very sad case – a 20-year-old black Lipizzaner stallion called Sidnica who hasn’t been allowed out of his black shed for seven years. His muscles are so wasted, he’s barely standing on three legs.”I believe that the best thing that can happen now is for the stud to be closed down and these horses to be sold as this would offer them a better life.”Sending more money is not the solution, this would only prolong the agony for these horses.”

Jonny McIrvine agreed: “Although the ILPH believes in granting practical aid to projects abroad, it also believes that those requesting it must demonstrate realistic commitment and show at least some degree of self help.

“The ILPH considers further investment in the stud may be an inappropriate use of donated funds. Without new or improved staffing, management and working capital investment, we believe that it would only be a matter of time before the same situation would arise again.”

However the ILPH say that what becomes of the horses however, is of great concern.

It believes that that the only long-term solution, in the absence of a change of management and staff, would be for the horses to be dispersed. “Unless this happens the stud will lurch from crisis to crisis living on hand outs from well intentioned but ill-informed people in the west.”

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