Aid needed for working horses and their owners

Anthony Sanger Of Bonteheuwel bought Sarah for his brother. Picture: KAREN WATKINS
The Cart Horse Association in Epping was open for the first time on Monday May 1 for food and re-shoeing of working horses. Video: KAREN WATKINS
Senior inspector Diana Truter of Gordon’s Bay. Video: KAREN WATKINS

Cart horses lined up outside the Cart Horse Protection Association in Epping last week as their owners took advantage of the more relaxed lockdown regulations to get feed for their animals and have them reshod.

Most of the organisation’s admin staff have been working from home during lockdown, with the exception of some field staff and a few inspectors on duty for emergency call outs.Senior inspector Diana Truter, of Gordon’s Bay, said that if a horse brought to the Epping clinic was found fit for work it would be shod. 

Watching his horse, Survivor, tuck into a sack of oat hay, Rashaan Anderson, of Delft, said it was hunger, not Covid-19 his community feared the most. “Our people are dying of hunger, not corona.”

Combing Muneefa’s mane, Theo Julies of Elsies River, said he had gone eight weeks without work. “How can I feed my four children and wife?”.

According to CHPA’s Marike Kotzé, the carties have a proud heritage rooted in District Six. Horses and carts were used to “smouse” (hawk) fish, fruit, vegetables, bottles and bones. Horses were kept in community stables and travelled short distances with light loads. Business was lucrative for the cart horse owner. However, with the forced removals to the Cape Flats, the lives of the cartie and his family and the horses took a turn for the worse. Far from their markets, hawking was no longer an option and the horses and carts were used to collect scrap to earn a living. Horses and carts were rented to people who didn’t know how to care for them and soon badly shod, thin, overloaded, overworked and abused working cart horses became a common sight on Cape Town’s roads.

In 1995, the CHPA was established to provide services and education to the carties. Initially working from two rusty shipping containers, its goal was to reverse the appalling conditions in which the horses lived and worked.

Today, it has a farrier agency, harness shop, treatment stalls and paddocks, cart repair workshop, education and training room, administrative offices and a feed storage barn. The association can offer services to more than 400 working cart horses and their owners.

Nasrodien Ockards, of Bonteheuwel, plies his trade in Salt River and Observatory, just as his father and grandfather once did. He proudly showed the tack on six-year old Billie, who, he said, had been very thin when he had bought her. He made all the tack and harnesses, and his dad built the wagon before he died.  

Marike said each cart driver had to be at least 18 and have a licence, like a vehicle driver. According to City by-laws, animal-drawn vehicles are legal and have right of way on the road. 

“So please be patient and take into consideration that horses, especially with load on the cart, cannot stop or move away as fast as a car,” she said. “Beware that a horse that gets a fright can move sideways at great speed.”

When not under lockdown, the CHPA runs mobile clinics and animal inspectors check stables are clean, dry and airy and horses have enough food and water.

The association relies on donations and gets funding through its Be A Cart Horse Angel campaign. It is also running a Covid-19 fund-raiser as it needs R100 000 over the next two months to carry on subsidising oat hay. You can also sponsor a stable at the CHPA’s recovery and rehabilitation centre in Gordon’s Bay. 

The public can report the abuse of a cart horse to 082 6599 599 at all hours. It helps if you can provide the name of the horse and any distinguishing qualities of the horse or driver. Visit for more information.

Those seeking more information on the Western Cape government’s food-relief programme can phone 0800 220 250 for the Department of Social Development general queries, and 0860 142 142 for donation requests and offers, between 7am and 4pm. You can also send a Please Call Me to 079 769 1207, or email Call the South African Social Security Agency toll free 0800 60 10 11 to find out how to apply for a Social Relief of Distress grant.