Reining in animal abuse starts with a helping hand
Think of a horse. It’s difficult to imagine anything but shiny manes and swishing tails that conjure images of beauty and grace. Revered for their strength and speed, and sought out for their companionship, horses are cherished by their owners. At least, some of them are. Annerie Graham was shocked when she encountered ill-treated horses while assisting at an animal welfare society. “We came across a lot of illegitimate horse traders faced with horses in dire circumstances, very unloved, very neglected,” she says. The sight of once majestic stallions, now emaciated and neglected, played on Graham’s mind. She had to do something.
Together with her husband, Graham began tending to horses in a private capacity. It gave her the opportunity to work closely with an animal she deeply respects. “What I love most about horses is their willingness to return our affection and their expressive nature,” Grahams says. It wasn’t long before her reputation of compassion and care spread to the community. People started bringing in horses in need of medical attention, and reporting incidences of abuse and neglect. Within five years, Graham had saved more than 100 horses, and Happy Hooves was founded. “The work we do is to ensure that all horses that are neglected, abandoned, and unwanted get happy lives,” Graham says. The non-profit company now operates in Graham’s hometown of Knysna, where she has extended her welfare to horses and donkeys in the surrounding towns. “We visit rural communities as often as we are able to and teach them horsemanship skills,” Graham says.
Since she started in 2009, Graham has faced her fair share of setbacks. In addition to the devastating Knysna fires that drove away horses from their property, leaving some dead and others still missing, Graham faces heartbreak every time she meets another wounded or abused horse. But it won’t deter her. Each animal that survives reminds her of her purpose. “When you realise you have pulled a horse back from knocking on death’s door, that’s where I get all my reward,” she says. Graham relies solely on volunteers and sponsors to keep the project running. Even with limited resources, she shows that we all have the potential to make a difference. “I believe that by lending a helping hand, we can find a way to make sure every horse is happy,” she says.