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Feb 27, 2004

Buggy horses welfare monitored

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Horse and buggies are a picturesque sight around Belize City. But while they may be a quaint and slow paced way of seeing the town, they rely on the energy of horsepower… and there are some who are worried about the welfare of the animals.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

The horse and carriage rides have become one of the most popular activities for cruise ship passengers.

Eddy Zeringue, Cruise ship Tourist

“I thought it would be nicer than the taxi or the bus just to get a little more of the environment, the climate. And also, we will be able to lookout and see and hear and just see the people. When you are in a van, you can look out the windows but you can’t really hear or see as good as with the buggy ride.”

Ian Jones of Gidiyap Tours owns one of two tour companies offering rides to tourists.

Ian Jones, Co-owner, Gidiyap Tours

“I have three carriages. I started in September and I now have three carriages. Next week I will be having another carriage operating. And every month I plan to bring out a carriage or two until I reached a limit.”

Yes, the business has certainly been good to the tour owners, but have they been good to the horses? After all, the animals are the ones making the money for them.

Ian Jones

“I try to take proper care of my horses because actually the horses are the ones doing the job and are helping me to make the money… What I try to do, if the day is too hot, if you noticed I have a tent or some large umbrellas that I put over the horses. Because like yesterday it was extremely hot and the horses started sweating even before they started to run. So we have to always pay keen attention to the horses to make sure that they are in proper health.”

Jones, who owns six horses, says his animals are medically checked every two weeks to see if they are well enough to pull the carriages.

Prince, who just returned from his first city run, was given water and feed to help him get ready for another trip.

Eddy Zeringue

“Well I think the horse had the toughest part of the tour today. But I think the horse, from what I see, they are treated okay. They are resting right now, I am sure it was a hard work out for him. I hope they don’t put him right out back on the road, that they give him at least a little break.”

Ian Jones

“What you see is we give them food and water. They get about ten or fifteen minutes break and we usually tell the tourists, the horse needs to get a little rest. This was his first trip for the day, so he’s not as tired and will get a short rest. If more tourists come then we will take him. But if it is like his third of fourth trip, they get longer rests. After the fourth trip, about twelve, one in the afternoon, we usually go home. If we see the need for more trips, we will send for another horse and switch or rotate.”

Since the rides started, a number of persons have expressed their concerns about the care and safety of the horses. The Belize Humane Society and the Belize City Council are working together to see how the business can be better regulated.

Darlene Gentle, President, Belize Humane Society

“We are concerned that the horses are working too long hours, probably not being given the adequate amount of water and food, things of that nature. The streets are very hot and the humidity in Belize is high.”

We asked Jones how Prince, who is not a large animal, manages to pull the weight.

Ian Jones

“The hardest part of the horse is to get the carriage moving. As long as the carriage is moving, the weight is not as much on the horse, as long as he keeps running. But when the horse has to stop every minute and then moves off back, that’s when it takes a large toll on the horse’s energy. It’s all a little bit of physics behind these mechanisms here.”

Jones says one of his horses did collapse while on a run, but it was not because of heat exhaustion or being overworked.

Ian Jones

“What happens sometimes, because of the paved streets some of the streets are smoother and the horses would slip. What happened to me once, it was raining and we used to cross the Swing Bridge, and it was raining and because of the shoes, because right as you’re coming on top of the Swing Bridge it has some metal, one of the horse’s foot slip between there and the horse fell. My horse got hurt that day and I had to rest him for about three weeks and I haven’t ever crossed the Swing Bridge with any of my horses ever again.”

B.H.S. board member Kathy Saraura-Sidall has been working with horses for the past nine months. Today, she is actively involved in the process to update the Belize Horse, Mule and Carriage by-laws. The changes, which are under review, will address issues like licensing and proper maintenance of the animals. Saraura-Sidall says because the horse’s metal hooves cannot handle the city’s Swing Bridge she recommends that tour operators do not include that as part of their route.

Kathy Saraura-Sidall, Board Member, B.H.S.

“The metal on the bridge causes them to slip, and also, the rise up to the bridge is really quite steep and it’s quite hard for the horse to pull up there.”

Saraura-Sidall says she is encouraged by the efforts Jones’ Gidiyap tours has taken to protect their animals, but there are still room for improvement

Kathy Saraura

“I would like to see a permanent place allotted to the horse carriages in the shade.”

Presently there are four horse and carriages operating, but with the boom in cruise ship tourist arrivals, it won’t be long before there will be an equal number of buggies to taxis lined up outside the tourism village.







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