“The more I’ve learnt about the lives of Egyptians, the more questions and fewer answers I have about what we can do to help their working horses and honestly, I’m currently feeling a bit overwhelmed and at a loss. One thing I do know, though, is that we have to do something!”
Eventing grooms are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, some of the hardest-working people out there. For every six minute dressage test, or moment of glory over the final fence, there have been countless hours of conscientious care behind the scenes to ensure that the sport’s equine heroes are feeling and looking their absolute best. When the season wraps up and the horses’ shoes are pulled for a well-earned break, their #supergrooms finally get a chance to enjoy a much-needed rest (and an alarm that sounds later than 5 a.m. — what a concept!). But one top groom has chosen to spend her time off in a slightly different way this year.
Meet 24-year-old Jess Wilson, head girl and travelling groom for the legendary Sir Mark Todd. It’s no small task looking after Mark’s formidable string of top-level talent, and she’s on the road almost constantly throughout the season fulfilling her duties as the lynchpin of the team. But her love for horses extends well beyond the four-star competitors she tends to. She’s on a mission to improve the lives of working equids in some of the most underserved communities in the world — and this winter, she’s bringing us with her.
We’re so excited to have Jess on board the EN team, as she shares with us her experiences in Egypt and gives us a first-hand look at what Animal Care Egypt and Egypt Equine Aid are doing to help working horses, ponies and donkeys abroad. Fancy getting involved? Take a look at her JustGiving page, where she’s busy raising vital funds for both charities, and follow her on Instagram, too, for live updates from the field.
My heart also aches though for the young boys with no shoes and tattered clothes bringing their faithful but weary farm horses and donkeys to be treated, for the children in the street begging for money or food from taxi windows and for the men in the markets desperately trying to sell their produce.
Whilst poverty, tradition and lack of knowledge undoubtedly play a part in the suffering of working horses, I will not, and cannot, defend cruelty and neglect! Many owners don’t have the funds or resources to give their horses the level of care that we, in Europe and the USA, would find acceptable, and we have to appreciate that our way of life and level of wealth is actually only obtainable to the minority of the world’s population. However, there’s so much needless suffering caused by pure carelessness and people having no empathy for their animals. Being poor is not an excuse for whipping a horse until it bleeds, shredding a horse’s tongue to pieces with a sharp bit or not untacking it for days on end. Of course, better education and training for vets and farriers would help improve things hugely, but for the horses to benefit, their owners need to change their attitudes and take the welfare of their animals seriously.