CHRISTMAS is a time for thinking of others; it’s also a time for giving – to humans, yes, but also to animals. We turn our minds to those who most need our help. We think of charities whose cause broadly includes our equestrian communities – cancer care and suicide prevention to name but two; and we think, in particular, of Injured Jockeys directly funding our people, supporting with the fall-out from physical injury but also with issues like weight-control, depression, gambling addiction and substance abuse.

Perhaps the ‘human-horse bond’ and the learnings that flow from horse to human are your thing: Riding for the Disabled (RDA) or St Joseph’s (Charleville) might appeal. Like a punter picking winners based on name, you might have a grá for one in Irish (Treo Eile), Indian (Sathya Sai) or Latin (Festina Lente)!

Coming up to Christmas close to the bleak mid-winter, we think directly of our horses. Winter is a tough time for the most vulnerable – foals born out of season, elderly abandoned equines, donkeys barely surviving out in the driving rain, horses transported long distances to slaughter. We can picture horses fallen on hard times, those whose welfare is compromised, whose basic needs for feed, shelter, companionship and comfort are not being met.

The equine welfare organisations that assist them have in their names words such as ‘Protection’, ‘Hungry … Outside’ and ‘Prevention of Cruelty’, reminding us of the trials some equines endure. Or the charity name might focus more on moving them to a better place – ‘Horse Rescue’, ‘Donkey Sanctuary’ and ‘Horse Haven’. These offer a safe space where horses can recuperate, recover and maybe go again, getting a second chance.

We have charities very specific in their remit – rehoming ex-racehorses for example, and others whose scope includes all animals. Some, such as SPCAs, most decidedly have a local range; others, like the ISPCA and IHWT, have a national reach, operating nationwide. Others again are truly global in scope supporting working equids and as a consequence the livelihoods of those who depend on horse power – to collect water, plough fields and transport goods to market.

We have organisations active in training others – in urban horse projects or prison programmes, in schools and in the Pony Club – aiming to educate and thus improve conditions for many more equines in future times. We have NGOs focused on campaigns and advocacy for equines – I think in particular of the donkey skin trade involving the needless slaughter of millions of donkeys worldwide to feed consumer appetite for ejiao (donkey hide glue) – look up The Donkey Sanctuary or Brooke.

Charity income has generally suffered greatly in the pandemic and this at a time when the need for charitable services has increased – a double whammy some organisations won’t survive. If you have it to give, then give it to an organisation that supports horses and horsey people:

  • Take an interest in your charity of choice: have you time or skills to offer their board (trustee or treasurer anyone?) or operations in the field (horse transport, volunteer grooming?).
  • Encourage the discouraged: can you mentor or coach?
  • Can you give equipment (rugs?), supplies (feed?) or a loving home (foster care?) that directly help horses?
  • A donation to their Christmas appeal, an item for their charity auction, a regular subscription to support their work?
  • Wherever your interests and your heart lie I would say only as per elections – be sure to vote, whoever you vote for. We can all give in some way, big or small, each to their means. Some may be loud or visible in their offering; some donations are undoubtedly costly; but the quietly spoken word of support is giving too and equally valuable in its own way.