A heart for horses
If there was the equivalent of a “Man of the Match” award for people we’ve met on our #Journey2 road trip so far, then Georgia, Mark and I all agree that Solly Motingoe would be our man.
Horse whisperer and community builder, Highveld Horse Care Unit Inspector Solly Motingoe.
Solly is an qualified inspector for the Highveld Horse Care Unit (HHCU) based near Meyerton, a rural area outside of Jo’burg. The HHCU cares for horses and donkeys, and the motto emblazoned on their vehicle doors and staff shirts is “Committed to the wellbeing and dignity of our equine friends.”
The reason we’re visiting today is because animal welfare is one of the portfolios supported by the Old Mutual Staff Payroll Giving Programme, where employees can choose to support various social causes with voluntary contributions from their monthly salary. The Old Mutual Foundation undertakes to match these staff donations rand-for-rand, thereby doubling the impact of their giving. Currently, there’re almost 2200 employees contributing R160 000 monthly, and last year the Highveld Horse Care Unit received R98 000 from these staff donations towards gelding 100 stallions and purchasing medical supplies.
Solly Motingoe in action with a community horse owner, calming an agitated horse that had got it’s hind leg tangled in a tethering rope.
One of the major outreach projects run by the HHCU is to prevent equine neglect or abuse among the communities in this area, but more importantly to educate animal owners about good equine care. This is where Solly work his magic. A quietly-spoken patient man, Solly and the HHCU team have worked hard in the Orange Farm area for the last eight years to build trusted relationships with the many owners who use the animals to pull coal-carts.
We get to see this trust in action because as we arrive at HHCU, Solly receieves an emergency call from a community horse owner asking for help with his injured horse. Before we know it, we’re heading into the township in a van towing a horse box which gives me an opportunity to ask questions along the way. I learn that in the past the community has been extremely wary of having their animals confiscated, as for many locals hauling coal-carts is their only form of generating income. So the HHCU has done some amazing work to get to this point, where owners now reach out for help for their animals.
Later in the day, Solly takes us to a small coal yard and we meet owner Kamohelo Ramasimong (26) who lives in Small Farm. It’s taken three years for Solly to reach a place where Kamo now welcomes HHCU’s help and advice. “When I’m with them, I’m their friend,” Solly tells me, “I say to them, you and I have to work together on this horse’s health. I can access medicine but you must also meet me halfway. Together, we can do this.”
As we drive back in the afternoon, a coal-cart horse owner waves as he sees the HHCU van drive past. Everyone knows ‘Tata Solly’ in this community it seems, even the policeman waves as we drive past. Solly laughs and tells us that once he was given a R100 fine by this chap but now they’re good friends. That’s Solly for you, I thought.
Highveld Horse Care Unit, Project Manager for Outreach Nadia Saunderson. The HHCU also takes in retired thoroughbreds for adoption.(For those wondering, this horse is wearing protective gear to keep flies away from their eyes.)
And we’re off!
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