Recently I headed out with the ARCH (Andalucian Rescue Centre for Horses) team as they went to pick up 3 mares in bad condition in Granada Province.
We were to meet the vet who would record the condition of the horses and the Police who would arrest the owner to ensure our safety when we picked up the horses.
After waiting around for at least an hour for the paperwork to be completed and the police to arrest the owner, word filtered through that the horses were on a huge piece of waste land with a river running across it. As there had been so much rain recently the river was in flood and it was possible that the horses were on the opposite side. This meant we would have to wade across it somehow to collect the horses!
Sometime later the police arrived back, but they hadn’t arrested the owner. They said we were to follow them and collect the horses. So off to the horse box and cars we went, but the box wouldn’t start! Thanks to a kind Spanish man lending us his jump leads we could get it started again and set off in convoy to fetch the horses. Thankfully when we arrived they were on the side of the river nearest to us so no wading/swimming required.
As we looked around we could see a herd of 4 mares in very poor condition and a pony stallion. The vet informed us that they were the horses to be taken away to safety – not 3, but 5!
The police gave us the go ahead to start catching the horses and load them onto the box. It was at this point that the owner started chasing the horses and beating them with a plastic pipe so that we couldn’t get near them. Each time we got near one he would threaten us too, the man was very angry and the situation felt dangerous. We retreated out of harm's way so that the police could arrest him.
The owner continued to hit and chase the traumatised horses as far away as possible with the police following, after some minutes the police stopped following and we wondered why. They went back to their cars and put on bullet proof vests, we could see in the distance that the man was armed with a knife. Finally, 2 out of the 6 officers present jumped on the man arrested him and took him away to the police station.
At last we could get on with the job of catching and loading the horses to take them to safety. One of the mares had a head collar on and lead very well, we followed gently behind across the waste ground herding the rest behind her them towards the horsebox and away from the un-fenced busy road.
The pony loaded easily and the first 3 mares were ok even though they had had a very traumatic, adrenaline filled couple of hours. The last one however shut down very quickly and couldn’t move, it took an awful lot of food, encouragement and lifting her feet one by one she was loaded safely and we set off to the safety of ARCH Rescue Centre.
ARCH’s brilliant volunteers were waiting for us to help unload the horses and settle them into a paddock with lots of hay for them to eat.
It was an exhausting day, not so much physically, but mentally and emotionally. The horses had been left without food for a long time and had serious un treated wounds too but feeling their fear of people was heart breaking. Adding in the threat of violence it was a day like no other I have experienced.
For me though it was just one day, but for the ARCH Team like many other rescue centres all over the world this is their reality. There are many highs and lows of rescuing it is an emotional roller coaster. I have the most utmost respect for the dedication that the ARCH Team have, surviving and doing the amazing job they do relying on donations and sponsorship.
This is one of the mares - Ankara.
The awful open wound on her face needs urgent surgery before the summer flies arrive. The cost is around 1000 euros. A.R.C.H relies soley on public donations
If you would like to make a donation to A.R.C.H to help the many other equines in their care and find out more please click here