Bryce McCall, a South African Springbok horse show jumper and winner of the President’s Cup, the SA Champs, the South African Show Jumping Derby and many other top class horse shows, has urged border authorities to give special consideration to the quick passage of horse transporters when border delays are experienced so as to avoid severe consequences – even death – of the horses. And he is talking from years of experience having transported horses not only locally and cross border in southern Africa but also in Europe and America.
FleetWatch editor Patrick O’Leary contacted McCall following a recent incident where a horse transporter was caught up in a long back-up queue at Beitbridge border post. Nothing was moving due to the South African systems being down as a result of load-shedding and the generators running out of diesel.
It took the personal intervention of Mike Fitzmaurice, executive director of FESARTA (Federation of East and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations) with the border authorities on the day to prevent what could have turned into a disastrous situation.
Here, according to McCall, are the reasons why such vehicles should pass through border posts as quickly as possible.
“Heat is the killer and that is why a horsebox has a number of windows built into it to allow wind to blow into the horsebox so as to keep the horses cool when on the move. However, when the vehicle stands for many hours in the hot sun, it gets extremely hot inside the horsebox and the horses then get impatient and start pawing and kicking. It only takes one horse to get all the other horses agitated and they start becoming unmanageable.
“Such a situation is not only dangerous for the horses but also for the grooms who travel with them. The big concern, however, is that the combination of stress and overheating can lead to dehydration and colic, the latter being a killer of horses if not treated quickly in its early stages. And to get such treatment at a border post is highly unlikely,” says McCall.
McCall recalls an incident many years ago when travelling to a horse show in Harare. “There was a delay at the border post and one of the horses got colic. We managed to get him out the horsebox but he collapsed on the concrete. Luckily I managed to treat him while he was lying down but he stayed down on the road for several hours before we able to get him and back into the box.”
The name of that horse was Blue Rock on which McCall won the Derby. At the time that horse was worth R800 000 and today would be worth upwards of R5-miillion. And that is another reason why horse transporters should be given preferential treatment of passage at border posts.
“A good show horse could easily be worth over R1-million so when you have say ten show horses being transported , you’re talking anything between R10 to R15-million. It’s valuable cargo that is being carried,” says McCall.
But, he stresses, the concern should be for the health and well-being of the horses and standing in a queue at a hot border post does nothing for this. “That is why on long journeys, we travel at night as much as possible so as to keep the horses cool and calm.”
In FleetWatch’s opinion, the above should apply for all animal transporters. I recall many years ago when a union named the Turning Wheel staged a blockade at the Mooi River toll Plaza on the N3. A number of animal transporters were caught up in the queue which caused extreme distress and discomfort to the animals. Just as with humans, so too do animals have rights but they cannot speak up for themselves. So let’s speak up for them.