Vets Ride For Horses

by Gabrielle Ozynski
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In life you never know where the open road will take you but a group of motor biking senior level vets taking part in this year’s sixth Vets With Horsepower charity endurance event are hoping they’ll land up at the designated finish line in The Mother City! Along the way the team consisting of 12 senior academic and practicing specialist vets will be raising money for three very worthy South African charities – Ethelbert Children’s Home, The Highveld Horsecare Unit and The Bizana Project.

vets2Ethelbert Children’s Home is a residential place of refuge and safety that at any one time cares for up to 65 children who have been removed from their parents because of abuse, neglect, abandonment and those orphaned because of HIV/AIDS. The charity has an enviable success rate in restoring family values and rehabilitation. They badly need a new building to provide schooling and recreation facilities; this will bring both positive effects and boost morale significantly.

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The Highveld Horsecare Unit provides care, rehoming and assistance for owners of working horses across South Africa. They provide emergency treatment for up to 2000 horses and donkeys per day and educational support for their owners; at present they are particularly involved in improving the welfare of working and abandoned horses in Lesotho – one of the poorest countries in the world. They need to build stabling and pasture facilities at their centres.

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The Bizana Project is a centre that provides veterinary support for local working horses in a very remote part of Kwazulu Natal where there is currently no veterinary provision for the horse population of 10 000 working ponies apart from that provided by this project. Mortality (most significantly from African Horse Sickness which regularly devastates the population) and other morbidity means that they urgently need a clinic building so that proper veterinary care and vaccination programs can be provided. Children usually ride horses to school and the loss of a horse inevitably means that the children cannot get to school at all; the health of the horses is therefore fundamental to their economic, academic and social development. The Bizana Project has found that when paddock /holding facilities are provided at schools far more children go to school on a regular basis. The Project provides both a clinic facility and paddock facilities.

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The original concept of vets going on bike tours to raise money for charity was put together by Derek Knottenbelt, a senior vet at the Equine Hospital in Liverpool and a biking enthusiast, along with other senior vets to save the Riding For Disabled Centre in Mali – one of the poorest countries in the world. The Centre was being run by The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (a voluntary
British organisation with the objective and purpose of providing veterinary care to working
animals in communities around the world) with another partner but due to the financial situation worldwide, the partner was looking to pull their support. Derek and the team raised enough to secure the future of the centre.

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For the last five years Vets With Horsepower have made a substantial and meaningful difference to working horse and donkey welfare and to the lives and aspirations of people in some of the poorest countries with previous events having raised over R8-million as a result of generous responses from supporters,” says Derek C Knottenbelt. “This year’s marks the sixth event and involves a tough journey of around 2 500 kilometres over 14 days on some difficult roads. Along the way we will provide five one-day education events for horse owners and five events for equine veterinarians. We will also undertake an outreach day on the Bizana Project where we will provide veterinary care and advice for working horses and donkeys in conjunction with other South African veterinarians. We have set ourselves an overall target of R1-million through this we will bring really meaningful benefit to countless thousands of vulnerable and underprivileged children and horses/donkeys. We want to make a real difference to some of the poorest and most forgotten people and horses The benefits will be tangible, long term and sustainable.”

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This tour promises to be one of the hardest the riders have undertaken and includes stops in Johannesburg, Durban, Port St Johns, Port Alfred, Port Elizabeth, Plettenburg Bay, Wellington and Cape Town. Most of the team members are based overseas, so they’ll be arriving in South Africa on 13 August. The team includes veterinarians Professor Josh Slater (RVC), Professor Derek Knottenbelt (University of Glasgow), Dr Jessica Kidd (Private specialist surgical referral practice UK), Dr Caroline Hahn (University of Edinburgh), Dr John Burford (University of Nottingham), David Bardell (University of Liverpool), Jenny Croft (Private practice, Scotland), Dr Mike Hewetson (University of Pretoria, Ondesterpoort, South Africa) and Dr Dietrich von Schweinitz (Private specialist referral practice, UK).

Update:
After finishing the race on August 24, the vets had this to say on their Facebook page: “… The last day of the tour is done. The team have gone their separate ways. Many tears were shed saying goodbyes. The most phenomenal team that could be put together ❤️ We are very privileged to have finished our mission. Oodles of money raised for our chosen charities.” ?

To read more about the Bizana horse project go to: Bizana horse project

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