Turning off a dusty road, following the sign to Coastal Horse Care Unit, there’s no denying this environment is perfect horse country. Lush, open green spaces make this rescue, education and rehabilitation centre a place to turn into reality dreams of a world where equines are used and not abused.
“This idyllic farm became our new home in June 2008,” says unit manager Gill Olmesdahl, who has been involved with KZN equine rehabilitation therapy for more than six years. “We service the whole province including the Wild Coast. You can just imagine some of the daunting challenges we face on a daily basis.”
It’s not uncommon for staff to be called out at night to road accidents involving horses, or to follow up on abuse cases in very remote rural areas.
“My team will swing into action and deal with any emergency,” says Gill who is full of praise for the unit’s dedicated staff and volunteers whose one mission is to promote the partnership between horse and man.
“Our ethos at the unit is not only to patch up and rescue sick horses and donkeys. Admittedly it’s a huge part of our work, but we believe the most effective way to bring about long-term positive change is to educate people on how to treat their animals properly.
Through regular rural clinics run by the unit, horse and donkey owners are advised on basic equine care and management by a vet, vet technician, farrier and volunteers. For instance, a common and major problem is ad hoc string bridles, and the horrific injuries and disfigurement they cause.
“The string cuts into the horse’s lip and stops circulation to the tongue causing severe suffering for the animal,” Gill says. “By giving horse owners proper fitting tack, donated by the public, we hope to reduce the numbers of these cases.” The unit is also monitors and advises on bush racing, which is rife in outlying areas.
While walking across the paddock to meet some of the grazing rescued residents, like Super C, Shazan and tiny tot Todd, Gill tells how four-month-old Todd came to be rescued. “Passing motorists found Todd wandering alone on the side of road in the Baynesfield area. He was about three weeks old, severely underweight, suffering from dehydration and exposure.”
In the hands of the expert and caring staff at the unit, Todd has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few months. “He’s just blossomed and has a new lease on life,” says stable supervisor Candice Davidson. “Because of his friendly and gentle nature, I’ve become very attached to the little fellow.”
The unit has plans in place to expand and build more shelters to house the horses, a donkey sanctuary, round yards, a tea garden and picnic area. One vital piece of equipment topping their priority list is a horse box.
“We have to rely solely on the kindness of our local horse owners to help us out when a rescue call comes through, ” says Gill. Without the ongoing support and commitment from Gold Circle Racing, the National Horse Trust, local business and private donors, the services offered by the unit would not be possible.
Useful info: Open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9am-4pm. For directions or contact Gill or Candice at 031 782 1434 or 073 550 3061.