Sick horses across Cambodia are being treated for free by a mobile team from Cambodia Pony Welfare Organisation.
Since the group was established in 2007 to improve horse welfare, it has treated 181 sick animals across eight provinces, according to Hang Piseth, the group’s head of animal science and veterinary medicine.
Common problems seen by his team include skin problems caused by ill-fitting harnesses, hoof problems, eye injuries and colic, which is an intestinal disease that can kill horses within hours.
Bad treatment by their owners was the cause of many problems, said Hang Piseth. “Horses can only carry twice their body weight. For example, this horse is 200 kilogrammes, so it can carry about 400 kilogrammes, but some owners load their carts with up to a ton and a half of weight. They just can’t take it,” he said.
However, he pointed out that most owners took good care of their horses, even bathing them three times a day while they themselves would only bathe twice.
The Cambodia Pony Welfare Organisation is funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The group has sent all farriers in Cambodia for professional training in how to make and fit horseshoes.
Volunteer vet Amber Batson has come from England to help pass on her skills to Cambodian horse owners and professionals.
Horses, being a prey animal, could get spooked easily and they could undergo severe stress from being tethered, she said.
“Aggressive horses can also suffer stomach problems. Like humans, when they are under stress for a long time, they can get sick,” said Batson.
She said that many Cambodian horses became aggressive with each other because they were not sufficiently socialised with other horses. Normally, horses like to interact with each other. And, she pointed out, they need to eat grass for at least 16 hours a day.
Chheang Choeun was one owner who brought his animals for treatment by the mobile clinic at Snary Pul village, Prey Veng province.
He said he used his two ponies to deliver goods in the village, using a one-horse cart to carry up to 400 kilogrammes.
He brought a new horse to the mobile clinic for treatment after he bought it for US$130 and then it became ill. “My pony lies on the ground and struggles badly sometimes. I think it’s because it is now eating different foods. His previous owner said he fed it with bran, while I give it grass, banana trunks, or polished bran,” said Chheang Choeun.
According to 2009 statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, there are 14,775 ponies in Cambodia, with the most being in Kampong Cham province.