Improving the lives of Colombia’s working horses

A working horse leaves a free clinic run by a WSPA member society, Colombia

In the slums of Colombia’s capital, up to 3,000 horses work transporting goods, food and waste. Around 18,000 people in the city depend on working horses for their income.

The horses are often overloaded, overworked and mistreated. Without the adequate food, clean water and health care they need, the horses’ working lives are miserable and cut short.

WSPA has worked with local partner organisation Fundación El Refugio Animal since 2006, alongside San Martín University and Bogota’s police to improve the lives of the horses and their owners.

Building welfare knowledge and skills

WSPA believes the solution to the problem of poorly treated horses is to work closely with the owners and teach them how to care for their animals.

This belief shapes WSPA’s work with our partners in Bogota:

  • Training Community Animal Health Workers talk to horse owners about basic nutrition and care, handling methods and treatment of common diseases.
  • Demonstrating hoof and limb care and teach the owners how to shoe their horses.
  • Training vet students and El Refugio staff in horse care.
  • Encouraging the Bogota Transit Authority to recognise laws protecting working horses and give advice on improving welfare in co-operation with owners.

By the close of 2011, we saw the following results:

  • A 78% decrease of in the number of emergencies, in a large part due to the community’s much improved awareness of effective horse care
  • The number of horses treated with preventive care (deworming, vaccinations and checkups) was 3.9 times higher than the number of horses treated with curative care (cuts, bruises, colic, lameness)
  • 93% of horses treated from Las Cruces were in good condition – owners from this area frequently visit the static clinic for preventive equine care
  • 100% of owners that took their horses to the static clinic and to vets paid for the services in 2011, meaning WSPA can begin to focus its resources elsewhere.


Alongside educational and preventive work, WSPA also recognises the need to treat existing illnesses and injuries.

Two equine clinics have been opened in Bogota to treat sick and injured horses, and a new mobile unit educates communities through outreach campaigns and acts as a horse ambulance.  

The lives of Columbia’s working horses are getting better. Your support will help WSPA do more vital work to relieve animal suffering worldwide.