Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding

Today we recognize Horses of Gili.

Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today we recognize Horses of Gili, dedicated to improving the health and well-being of working animals on the Gili Islands off the coast of Indonesia.

All images courtesy of Tori Taylor, used with permission.

Tori Taylor is the founder of Horses of Gili, an organization dedicated to improving the lives, health and safety of the working horses of the Gili Islands. This island chain is off the coast of Indonesia and no motorized vehicles are allowed, meaning that horse-drawn carts are the primary form of transportation.

The horses of Gili were featured in this mini-doc video by Marko Randelovic:

Tori kindly took time out of her busy day to tell us Horses of Gili’s story.

HN: How did you get started with Horses of Gili?

I moved to the island July 2014 to manage a dive center. I am also a veterinary technician, and word quickly got around and people began bringing me injured animals. I got immediately involved with Cats of Gili and helped create a cat “hospital” here at the dive center I manage. I observed the horses, witnessed issues and helped with a horse clinic. It was quickly becoming apparent that the horses were an issue especially in the minds of the tourists visiting the island.

We already had many people who wanted to help but no real structure. We also had a lot of misinformation and inaccurate information out there. In November 2015 I spoke with Delphine Robbe who is head of the NGO Gili Eco Trust. I asked if we could form Horses of Gili with the goal of organizing current volunteers, improving working conditions of the horses, and most importantly providing education and accurate information to the locals and public.

Many myths still persist such as the horses are captured from the wild: they are not; they are purpose-bred for generations. Another myth is that they all drink salty water: they did up until two to three years ago, but now we have a desalination plant on Gili Trawangan, the largest island, so fresh water is now more readily available. The Internet is a very powerful medium and negative information is much more readily shared then positive information.

One of my biggest goals is to educate the general public — many people who come here have never even seen a horse or they think they are donkeys. The general public needs to understand what is normal versus abnormal, what they should be concerned about, how to make educated and informed decisions, and so on.

This poster is shared with visitors to the islands.

This poster is shared with visitors to the islands.

The Gili Eco Trust is a non-governmental organization founded with the original goal of helping the marine environment and other parts of the island. Then out of necessity, the GET became more involved in the horses and the cats and the rubbish. I hope Horses of Gili will take some of the workload off of the GET and get it distributed more evenly amongst the island residents.

HN: Can you describe working conditions for the horses when you started? How are conditions improving?

There are 3 types of horses working on the islands:

The Cidomo horse, which is policed by Janur Indah: these are the horses that pull tourists around the island. There are quite a few rules in place for these horses and they are pretty well adhered to. Most of these horses are in good body condition and work four to six hours per day. Most drivers have at least two horses so they do not work all day. Some drivers will have four or five horses for one cart.  Carts must be licensed and there is a limit on the number of cart licenses issued.


Dongol horses can be privately owned but the carts are supposed to be licensed. These horses carry all supplies, stone, food, drinks, sand bags, building materials, furniture and other freight. In general they carry heavier loads and work more hours. There are load limits in place but they are poorly enforced. Most of these cart drivers have three to five horses per cart.


The third type of horse is the rubbish horse. These horses belong to a government company and move all rubbish on the island.  This can be as much as 20 tons per day. There are currently 10 or 11 of these horses and they work at least eight hours per day.  These horses are in the worst condition of all on the island.

All horses live in simple hand-built stalls, the majority with dirt floors (a few are concrete). The stalls are maybe two by two meters and are made of generally scrap materials. They provide shade and usually a breeze. Rules were put into place regarding housing so all horses are now in some sort of stall — previously many were simply tied to trees.


The horses eat grass gay soaked in water and rice bran mixed with water. Most only get their water mixed in their feed; a small percentage also get a buckets of water. Some, whose owners can afford it, get vitamin and mineral additives or even proper pelleted horse feed. Most also get a tablespoon of salt in aid for salt loss through sweat. Most of the thin horses simply cannot get enough quality feed for the amount of energy expended. The food quality is VERY poor. This was a huge problem for the rubbish horses.

Tack is hard to get and bits are hand made. Tack is often repaired with nails which then cause wounds. The hand-made bits fit poorly and tend to pinch.

In the past few years, fresh water has become readily available and used which nearly immediately improved body condition and life span. Previously the horses had very short life spans, presumably due to kidney failure. Most went to market to be sold for meat by three to six years of age as they were thin and ill. Now the average age is at least eight but at the clinics we see lots of horses in their early teens so they are living longer. From years ago compared to now the horses are generally not as thin as previous years. Some especially on the island of Gili Air are actually fat.

Early horse clinics would have 20 horses come voluntarily and then people would trek all over the islands essentially forcing care upon the owners of the horses. The last clinic in March we saw 90% of the horses on Gili Trawangan, and all known horses on Gili Air and Gili Meno. They all came to clinics voluntarily.

For the rubbish horses we now have added pelleted high energy food, coconut oil and access to pasture. The feed is subsidized by Animal Aid Abroad. We also added more horses and an electric cart to help ease the load. All of this was done through donations. We have purchased a second cart but have not yet successfully got it to the island.

We also provide every horse seen at a clinic with any needed harness padding, new donated bits, a vitamin injection (due to poor feed), dewormer and any necessary medical care. Now about 50% of the horses are still using the proper bits. Presumably some are not used because of lack of control as they are gentler and I assume many end up being resold.

HN: What’s a day in the life like for your organization?

A normal day will be answering emails, perhaps organizing donations for upcoming clinic or just for general use, and social media of course takes some time. Four days a week I ride around and chat with drivers and look at horses; around four horses a week come by for care such as a runny eye, a girth gall or equipment repair.


Other days several of us may spend hours treating a colicking or injured horse: all of us have stayed overnight with sick horses. During clinics they are 10 to 12 hour days for at least seven days and we all take time off to do these.

We all have full time regular jobs by which we earn our living. Each of us does spends hours and days away from our jobs to deal with the horses.

HN: Where does your funding come from?

Some comes from Gili Eco Trust which is funded by collecting donations from divers visiting the island. The rest comes from donations or from our pockets.

HN: What are your next goals?

We have discussed lots of ideas and goals. Many people want horses eliminated completely from the islands but realistically the other island problems including basic infrastructure make that a very long term goal. One thought was to get centralized stables and staff employed by us to care for the horses and make them part of the reason to visit the island. We do know that no matter what the horses will be here for the foreseeable future and that we need to provide the best care and living conditions possible for them. They are at this point absolutely essential to the island infrastructure: the entire economy of all three islands is tourism dependent so we need positive images in order to keep making changes. In all honesty the government probably doesn’t care.


Horses are still used in Jakarta (the capitol of Indonesia), Bali and Mataram for transportation and in those areas they are not technically “needed” at all in a motorized world. On all three Gili islands, currently motor vehicles are not allowed so we must have either horses or bicycles. The current roads do not work for golf carts, scooters or solar vehicles and we want the Gilis to be a green destination.

Our most immediate goal is getting subsidized feed to sell to the owners of the horses here on the island. We also are actively looking for a qualified farrier who might come and provide training (and ultimately long-term employment) for locals from each island to provide correct hoof care (it is very lacking here). For a farrier we could provide housing at no charge or very discounted. We also need help with the website and social media.


To learn more about Horses of Gili, please visit the organization’s website and “like” them on Facebook for plenty of updates.

If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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