Former racehorses left wandering India’s streets

  • A veterinary charity is helping save the lives of racehorses abandoned on the streets of India with the help of a donation from the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust.

    Once their lives on the track are over, many of the thoroughbreds are sold for pennies, left to fend for themselves or given away for tourism in the town, which lies in the state of Tamil Nadu.

    As well as suffering from general neglect; fatal colic from ingesting plastic is a common peril for the horses, who have no dedicated grazing areas. Traffic accidents are also a hazard, leaving foals orphaned when their mothers are killed.

    The Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), who have had a base in the town since 2010, said that the horses’ new owners often lacked the tools or experience to look after them.

    Horses are regularly found with parasitic infestations, pneumonia and exhaustion or are left tied up in the hot sun without adequate food and water.

    But a funding boost from the non-for-profit Welttierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) and the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust — the legacy of the legendary racing commentator – has meant the WVS has been able to launch regular outreach clinics for the animals, which are staffed by Indian and international vets.

    They perform everything from health checks to life-saving colic surgeries at field hospitals.

    “Surgery such as this has only been possible thanks to the permission granted by authorities to use a designated space for the field clinics, offering the team the space and time to run thorough checks on each animal and provide surgical treatment where necessary,” a spokesman for the WVS said. “Without these field clinics, many of the horses would go untreated, and animal welfare in the region would not see as much improvement.”

    Equines that are treated by the organisation recover at shelters run by its supported partner charity India Project for Animals and Nature, which is also based in the town.

    Alongside the clinics, the WVS is also working with local government to create a safe grazing ground for the horses, which could potentially be inside a racecourse itself.

    “The course is only open in May and June, which leaves a huge space empty for 10 months,” the spokesman added. “We have also championed the municipality to push owners to get licences for their horses — at the moment they have been granted to 60 horses.”

    WVS vets launched their initial outreach programme in the region in 2010, conducting street clinics for working donkeys.

    Clinical director of WVS ITC India, Ilona Otter said: “These animals are now much healthier and we also give them monthly check-ups, which are free of charge to the owners.

    “Young vets also benefit from attending these clinics. They get more experience and understanding about working equines, which has a positive knock-on effect for horses and animals in their own communities.”

    Dr Aswin Alis has been driving forward WVS work in the donkey outreach clinics, combining his love for travel and exploring new places with his skills as a vet.

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    “As vets, we support those who can’t express themselves through words, we understand their emotions and help them out when they have no one else. A good example of this is the many wound cases we see in domestic or stray animals, and at our equine outreach clinics,” he said.

    “We do bandaging and flushing and it’s really nice to see how the wound closes in a few days and the drastic improvement we can see after a few weeks. When the final result is a well healed wound, I feel really satisfied, and I know I have made a real difference to the horses’ wellbeing.”

    WVS was founded by vet Luke Gamble in 2002 and sends out teams of volunteer vets and veterinary nurses, as well as free medical supplies, to projects and charities around the world.

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