29.09.2021
Alejandra Garcia

Move at Equidad – A First Glimpse of Paradise

Our team has its hands full in Argentina, where the transfer of our animals from the old to the new Sanctuary Equidad is finally in full swing. Motivated by the enthusiasm and joy of seeing our animals enjoying their new freedom, our staff don’t let the difficulties drag them down. Every day brings them one step closer to the goal.

Our guiding principle
For some people, conflicts are pre-programmed during a move. Fortunately, not for us! Of course, organizing the transfer of our animals is no easy task, but our team is so happy to see their efforts pay off that it tackles each difficulty with joy and in good spirits. We are so close to our goal! The arrival of each new animal triggers the same joy, the same satisfaction in us and gives us the most beautiful reward for our daily efforts. This is what sustains us and motivates us.

We wish you could witness how these beings that have gone through hell, find out for the first time in their lives how nice it is to have enough space to graze and frolic, and how they rediscover their instinctive behaviours in this paradisiacal environment, amidst the mountains. Here, every new stimulus is an enrichment. For animals that have spent their lives in uncertainty and fear of the unknown, this is priceless. And for us, too!

Optimization of resources
So far, we have transferred 85 horses, 7 donkeys, and 8 cows to the new property. Since the pastures are of good quality, most of our animals no longer need to be fed with alfalfa: The abundant, high-quality grass is sufficient to keep them healthy. Only the oldest animals still depend on us for food. In addition to the joy that grazing gives our companions, having a piece of land that is adequate to the number of animals that live there, means a significant saving in feed for us.

Final sprint
While these horses, donkeys and cows are already enjoying their new piece of paradise, we are preparing the remaining animals that are still at the old sanctuary for the move. The first priority is to comply with the compulsory health requirements by the authorities prior to all animal transports. This means we must vaccinate and deworm all animals, as well as conduct blood tests to ensure they are healthy. After these checks, the certificates are forwarded to the authorities, who evaluate them and then, in return, issue the permits required for the transfer.

Behavioural research
Once these hurdles are cleared, we must prepare our sensitive animals for the long journey and change of environment. Of course, this change is for their own good, but they don’t know that yet. In order to do everything in our power to make the journey as stress-free as possible for them, we have brought in David Castro, an expert in equine behaviour. In addition to the help of Dr. Gretel Castillo, a veterinarian who has been caring for the health of our horses for the past eight years, the animals are now benefiting from the expertise of a former horse trainer who is none other than the representative of the renowned Nevzorow Haute École, based in Argentina.

The worldwide respected Nevzorow method relies on non-violence: It consists of learning to interact with the horse through playful techniques and educational measures that allow the animal its freedom of movement. “I study their behaviour in freedom to understand their physical and psychological needs and to establish a relationship with them not of submission and violence, but of sympathy and affection. That way they enjoy working with us free of fear.”, Castro sums it up. After an initial stay at Equidad to help the horses adjust, David Castro will visit us again before the end of the year to train our team and produce scientific material on horse behaviour.

Investment
Once these steps were completed, made easier by the fact that we divided our staff into two groups – one at the old sanctuary and the other at the new one – we were not out of the woods yet. There were still some logistical problems to solve: We had to find a transport company capable to safely drive up the steep mountain roads to the new sanctuary and cope with the winding road, made of dirt and stones, that we had to take.

When we realized that not a single transport company had the vehicles or drivers suitable for our needs, we decided to purchase our own trailer. This way we can plan the transports more flexibly and practice loading with the animals. In addition, thanks to this investment, we will no longer be dependent on others in the future and will be able to react quickly if one of our animals becomes ill and needs to be taken urgently to the nearest clinic.

Adapting to climate change
Once these issues were resolved, new challenges arose: a period of heavy rainfall, something that had not occurred in the region for 20 years, followed by an arctic cold spell during which it even snowed. This unprecedented cold froze the slopes that supply us with water and caused the pipes of the water system of the sanctuary to burst. And so we had no choice but to replace the entire piping system equip it for the temperature fluctuations that are likely to increase due to climate change.

Finally, to top it all off, we are currently experiencing an extremely dry and windy period with a high risk of bush fires. As a result, our team is forced to clear paths through the forest with our Bobcat machine to facilitate firefighter access if necessary.

Partnership for our safety
As you can see, our employees have been very busy. They work tirelessly seven days a week without a single day of rest to make the dream come true for all our four-legged companions. In order to make things easier and to stop fearing every night for our lives and those of our animals that are still at the old sanctuary – which is absolutely unbearable considering all the things we are already dealing with – we decided to delegate the management of the security to a private company. This company will help us ensure the safety of our animals and, in particular, to prevent our very coveted horses from being stolen. This measure has worked: After only three months, the security team succeeded in capturing an intruder who was trying to steal our horses, and handing him over to the local authorities.

Solidarity
Thanks to all this work, the great day is approaching when we can finally say goodbye to our old sanctuary and enjoy the new one. However, we also have plans for our old premises, whose charitable orientation we want to preserve! Therefore, we have decided to partner with the Sierra Dorada Foundation, an organization that does remarkable work to help orphans and children who are victims of sexual abuse and malnutrition. In order to help them expand their home for these children who have been through hell, we decided to donate our former property to them.

As we know that many people will continue to drop their dogs at the gates of our old sanctuary, the two foundations have developed a joint program. The children of Sierra Dorada will take in and care for these dogs. Of course, we will contribute to the costs of food and veterinary care, and we will look for families to adopt each dog. We believe these little beings, who have all experienced so much suffering and rejection, will be able to console each other – whether they are two-legged or four-legged.

FFW and the Sierra Dorada Foundation believe that violence against children and violence against animals have the same social origins. Hence, we have been working together for many years: As kindred spirits committed to a good cause, our two foundations have been fighting side by side to help the most vulnerable – whether they are two or four-legged – since the creation of Equidad.

Seeds of empathy
Our shared values and work have allowed us to launch scientific studies on empathy education under the collaboration of the Coordinadora de Profesionales para la Prevención de Abusos (CoPPA) and the Catholic University of Australia. This project is of fundamental importance because it is a direct continuation of what we want to achieve beyond Equidad: Through these children who have suffered violence and indifference firsthand, we want to educate future generations in empathy so that such homes and shelters will no longer be needed.