We always got sick of seeing the gipsy horses pulling carts, whilst dehydrated and starving. But as is known by everyone who lives here, there is not much legal action that can be taken, as the laws to protect animals here in Portugal, only applies for cats and dogs.

Due to this problem, many people prefer to close their eyes, and go on with their lives. Besides the legal issues, we have a major problem, which is the fact that normally, someone who treats horses like this, also treats people like this, so extra concerns must be taken. Gipsies can be very dangerous, many years ago, my dad had a gun pointed to his head by gipsies, so I know what can happen.

But this year, as summer was starting, it was exactly 16th of June, a friend of mine called asking if I could give a temporary home to a starving mare. I had no doubt, and said yes. This was the start of our new mission.

We wanted to see the mare before transporting, as sometimes they are too weak to travel. We went up to the gipsy camp, where a friend and a lovely local women were waiting for me.

As soon as I got out of the car, I had around 10 children begging me for money. They wanted 100€ for “Esperança”. I had never seen a mare in that state, she was so skinny, her leg had two big wounds. On the same day we got here, she had still been pulling carts, she was too weak, and fell with a cart on her back. The gipsies had pushed her to extremes.

When she arrived at my home, she was almost too weak to stand properly and her wounds were very bad, her skin was very badly damaged. Horses in need require a special diet, and even some who have been forced so far into starvation, t sometimes will not survive the change in diet. That night, I was very afraid of losing her. I checked on her day and night.

A few days after, we were called again. We were informed by the local women that the mare was only one of the many horses suffering.

As I have only limited space and resources, and believe the government should not allow this kind of treatment of horses, I called all responsible authorities many times. On that day, the local municipal vet visited the site. He did not even dare to get out of his car. I insisted, but no action was taken for the next days, while contacting them so many times they had no chance.

As no action was taken, I posted the case on a local facebook page, everyone was angry and sad about the situation, but in fact, nobody was helping the horses. Many non-profit organisations do not dare to act if the horses are from gipsies, or they don’t want to do anything, as the government doesn’t help, and horses need to be bought.

On the same day, the local municipal vet had made a report stating there were no horses in need. I went alone, only with the local women, to the gipsy camp, with stuff to clean wounds and fly spray. I checked all of the horses. In total more than 7 were in a very poor state, covered in wounds from pulling the carts. Some very skinny and others very lame. I reported everything, but still no action was taken. I would only see the days go by, although daily authorities would go there, still no action was taken.

When I went to the gipsy camp, there were about 5 big families and they were all friendly because I was trying to help. I gave them advice on treating wounds, treating their horses, and the advantages of deworming.

We managed to close another deal with the gipsies, he was called Heroi, a small stallion with very swollen legs and deep wounds on his neck and belly. He could not stand up the day before we got him, we managed to give him medication so we could transport him.

2 days after, still no action was taken by authorities. As I had seen the state of the horses, I definitely could not close my eyes. There was another horse unable to get up, and walk. But by hitting hard enough, he was still pulling carts.

The gipsies felt the pressure and were getting scared. They decided they were moving to other cities, to avoid problems. This was one of my worse night mares, as if they left, I would not be able to help any of the horses anymore.

The problem was, some of the gipsies were going to Beja, which is 170 km from us. For sure the weak horses, would not make it.

On the night before they left, me and my friend went over to the gipsy camp at 11PM and saved a 5 day old foal and her mother, “Iona” and “Soltão”, as they wanted to take the foal on the 170km journey running after his mum, or take the foal from the mother, and sell the mother in Beja. This was a journey I fear they would never have survived. I knew I would feel guilty forever if I hadn’t saved them.

On the same night, we also rescued a ginger stallion, “Sky”. His legs were in a very bad condition. Walking in front of a cart or even walking just a few meters would have been too cruel for words.

Basically, my first rescue experience started here, and now, knowing about it, I can’t close my eyes, and I am not willing to close my eyes.

Esperança is still getting stronger at my home, but already has a forever loving home.

Heroi is getting less swollen every day, but probably he will only serve as companion horse, he is only 6 years old but will be unable to carry people  for the rest of his life. But at least, he will be able to live without pain. We have found a lovely home for him.

Iona and Soltão, are also staying at our rescue center, and Soltão is growing into an amazing stallion. Iona, the mother is very afraid, and sometimes aggressive, as she is still very scared she or her foal will be hurt. This will take a long time to get her used people again, but hopefully she will get there.

Sky, after seeing 3 different vets, and medication not freeing him from pain, we decided it would not be fair to keep him alive. His legs were too damaged. There was nothing we could do. We came late for him, but at least he had almost 3 weeks with plenty of food, water, pain killers and love. 

From then on, I knew my life was about to transform into a rollercoaster, helping horses is amazing, but it hurts a lot, I had many sleepless nights…

The government did not help us at all, not even to bury Sky.

The majority of the donation goes to buy “future” rescue horses, food and medication for the first months.