Recently, a horse owned by San Pheap who lived in Svay Meas commune of Kandal province suffered serious injuries to its head and legs when it became tangled in some barbed wire fencing.
Pheap was very worried about the safety of his horse, which is a major source of income for him, so he contacted Cambodia Pony Welfare Organization (CPWO) staff who immediately took action to save the horse by cleaning and stitching the wounds.
“I am very happy! I can’t stop smiling because if the [CPWO] did not come, I would have had to sell the horse to the slaughterhouse at a cheap price and I would lose my horse and the future income it would earn,” Pheap said.
The Cambodia Pony Welfare Organization (CPWO) was established with the aim of improving the welfare of all horses in the country although the number of horses, especially those bred by families, has declined significantly.
The CPWO was founded in 2007 as a non-profit organisation by Dr Siriya Chunnekamarai, chair of the Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation in Thailand, along with Van Porleng, owner of the Cambodian Country Club (CCC).
Their motto from the start has always been: “Putting ponies first is proof of our principles.”
“The establishment of the Cambodia Pony Welfare Organization is very important in a world where human well-being is achieved through the humane treatment of animals, respecting animal welfare, empowering communities through responsible animal ownership and spreading knowledge about the situation horses face in Cambodia,” said Porleng.
“In the past, horses have often lived in difficult conditions with a lack of owner attention to their well-being. But now their lives have improved while the number of horses has now dropped by about 50 per cent,” she told The Post.
Hoy Sopha Rith, managing director of the CCC, has more than 20 horses in its stables. He said that for entertainment or sporting rides the club offers a choice of small and large varieties of horse with a cost of $38 per hour to ride them.
“The club has been cooperating with the CPWO since 2006, one year before the organization registered with the Ministry of Interior. We work with organizations on pony welfare. For example, if a horse is injured, we know what we should do. The organization comes to the place to advise how to care for and protect,” he said.
He said the benefits of collaborating with the organization were that they were in contact with experts who know about the development of diseases which are not usually recognised by the horse owners. Horse breeders can consult with an expert at the organization before deciding to use one or another drug to treat their horses.
He said that in the past, when a horse was seriously ill, the club had to invite a specialist from Thailand. But after collaborating with the organization and building up some local resources within the Kingdom, the rescue and care of horses is now relatively quick and effective.
Over the past 15 years, CPWO has worked with 1,337 horse owners to assist 1,814 horses in 72 communities on 2,434 problems.
Porleng, director of the CPWO, said that the main purpose of the project is to provide care and livestock services for horses which are working in the fields in Cambodia, adding that according to her organisation’s records and government statistics, there are around 6,000 horses in the Kingdom today.
The CPWO operates under the umbrella of the Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation in Thailand and with the help of the World Society for the Protection of Animals to fulfil its mission to care for Cambodia’s remaining horses.
Porleng said the organisation now needs additional assistance to support the welfare of horses across the country. On December 13, the organization signed a memorandum of understanding with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Royal University of Agriculture.
She said that the organization trains Cambodian veterinarians on the skills and knowledge needed to care for and treat horses professionally. Additionally, the organization also provides education and training to horse owners in order for them to properly care for their horses.
In the community, the organization still sees the use of horsepower sometimes to pull carts along the Mekong River to support daily life, but this is becoming more and more rare as the years pass by.
Due to the declining demand for the use of horses for transportation, most community and family-owned horses are only used as a means to provide a supplemental income by providing recreational rides or breeding them.
Sat Savy, 41, is a resident of Botsantra village in Kampong Popil commune of Pearang district in Prey Veng province. He has been raising horses as a family business and has continued the tradition passed down to him from his father.
“In my village, there are still very few horse breeders. Our farmers have nothing to do with horses because we have a lot of machinery,” he said.
Today, Savy is working as a farrier – someone who makes, repairs and fits shoes onto horses – and has been cooperating with the CPWO since 2011, putting shoes on horses that lack them for organisation.
“I am a farrier at various sports clubs where I work with the organization and I also have a farm at home,” he told The Post.
“The organization specializes in treating horses and I specialize in making horse shoes and nails for maintaining their hooves health. When they go down to the provinces they need me to go with them, because there is a shortage of farriers in most rural communities,” Savy continued.
“In some remote provinces, many horses will break their shoes, which requires treatment and special equipment for the horse owners,” he added.
In addition to fitting horses with horse shoes, vaccinations are also provided. Services that some veterinarians are unable to provide when horses become ill at night can be taken care of if the owner can contact the organization, which will assist them with an expert to do a health check-up right away.
Savy admits that raising horses is still a good business as the horses can be sold at a high price, but he also faces many problems with their health that can require intensive care.
He said that, according to the market, horses today are more valuable than cattle and the prices on them are growing faster than cattle. A mother horse can give birth to one foal a year and it can be sold easier than a cow as it is bought, raised and exported to neighbouring countries.
“Horse prices are going up today because traders from neighbouring countries are buying. Families in the village are no longer as rich in horses as they were 20-30 years ago, but the horses are abundant on farms and in clubs,” he said.
As for the horse trade, he said that customers from farms like buying adult horses whereas if villagers want to buy and raise them then foals are their choice because they are cheaper than big horses, and that he sells four or five horses on average each year.