Cherry Horse Welfare International

Annie Connolly talks to us about her charity helping horses around the world

I have always had a deep love and connection with horses, ever since I was three years old. I feel they have given me so much. Given I'm a highly strung character, I found that horses and simply being around them had a profoundly calming, almost meditative effect on me. They really have been a gift in my life.

I was out in Romania on a project relating to dogs when I saw how many horses were being used as modes of transport and to farm the land. They were working in the most extreme conditions and the level of care was pretty much zero... No feed, farrier, vet care and the equipment were all makeshift, so the harnesses and bits they were wearing all day everyday didn't fit them.

That alone must have been causing them the most horrendous amount of pain. From there, I decided I had to do something; they needed us. And Cherry Horse Welfare International was founded. Collaboration is key. I would like to collaborate with charities already functioning out in Romania and have several outreach programmes working all over the country.

We work with the people in the villages, so they accept our help for the horses. We offer them better fitting equipment, food and vet care when required. They know the horses need care and that they can come to us and we will help them (at no cost to them), without judgement.

The horses are our priority and if we have a strong relationship with the owners the horses will benefit. It's mutually beneficial. Horses are not easy to care for; they are complex. I know that in order to change their lives, it requires intervention at a political, economic and social development within the country of Romania as a whole.

Although I understand these complexities, I accept I am not in a position to influence this. All I can do for now is understand the day to day suffering of the animals through no fault of their own and offer first-hand help to alleviate any immediate unnecessary suffering. Over breeding of thoroughbreds is such an issue. Where do they go?


\"Approximately 100,000 are bred world-wide each year for racing and only about 30 per cent are considered 'good enough' to enter the training phase…\"

The breeding process is so extensive, that only a few make it. Approximately 100,000 are bred worldwide each year for racing and only about 30 per cent are considered 'good enough' to enter the training phase… So, what happens to the remainder of horses? The surplus figure is astounding, and this is year on year.

Thoroughbred horses also have a difficult reputation. If some ex-racers are lucky enough to be offered as a rehoming project, not many people want them, as they can be highly strung as they are highly athletic.


It's an issue, as many of them end up in the sales and then sold for meat and end up in slaughterhouses... Aside from the cruelty of racing itself, there is a dark side to the industry that many do not want to face or admit.

Our projects have been pretty successful so far. Let's just say there is a demand for outreach, and the concept and running of the project is working well. Right now, I need better long-term funding, so I can develop Cherry Horse Welfare International and get to more areas.

In one area we are working in there is an estimated 20,000 working horses and one equine vet. It's vital we can continue funding the plan - we really are needed. I am very lucky to have lots of animal save success stories so far - not just horses, but canine, as well as equine.

Mainly, these are dogs that we have saved from the streets in Romania, whilst we were out there helping horses. I remember one we named 'Chester', who we found moments from death. We drove to the nearest town to get him blood for transfusions and he had intensive treatment for months, by Dog Rose Romania.

After months of care, he is now living happily in my hometown in the UK. One of the most successful horse rescues we have been involved with was a little foal called Emma. She was dumped at the age of about five days.

Emma had a deformed jaw, which meant she wouldn't have been able to work; therefore, she was of no use to her owners, so she was dumped alone on a roadside.

After months of fundraising we managed to help Save The Dogs And All Other Animals get an Italian vet over to Romania to perform lifesaving surgery to straighten her jaw, so when she was weaned off milk she could grind and therefore, eat food.

We helped fund the surgery and thanks to our partner Save the Dogs, Emma is alive and will live a happy life. I am super proud of that and so grateful to everyone who followed her story and contributed.


Anyone at home can help animals, simply by becoming vegan. And, if you are able to, by donating to Cherry Horse Welfare, Save The Dogs And All Other Animals or The Dog Rose Romania. If donating isn't possible, then by organising local collections of horse rugs, head collars bits and sending them to me where I will send them out - it is all very useful.

I am always looking for people to be involved, so if anyone has a spare couple of hours a week please get in touch, as I would love to have more people on board. Many hands make light work and there is so much we can be doing.

It's important to educate people about working horse mistreatment and veganism, and spread awareness of animal cruelty. This is easily done - by explaining that we can all look good, feel amazing, live and shop easily without exploitation of animals. Explaining the immense suffering that animals face each day, I find isn't a major deterrent, strangely.

I think deep down people know this happens and know that animals can't be farmed or killed without suffering and pain. As humans we are able to put this to the back of our minds (non-vegans can, I can't - I am all too aware of this every day). What I try and do is explain that products not tested on animals and that don't include animal parts are so easily found these days.


\"If anyone has spare a couple of hours a week please get in touch, as I would love to have more people on board. Many hands make light work and there is so much we can be doing. \"

People don't have to go to different shops; it doesn't have to cost them the world and it won't affect the way they look and feel. If it does, it will be a positive change.


Part of what I do is vegan life coaching. As well as running Cherry Horse, I am a personal trainer and I offer lifestyle advice. So, I help people who are in training and moving to a vegan lifestyle or people who need guidance and support to move to a fully vegan life. Please get in touch if I can help.

It's easier than you think and the difference you will be making to animals and the environment is limitless. It's the single biggest change we can make that will have a profound positive effect on the environment and the animals. Now is the time.

I would like the Cherry Horse Welfare International project to run in about five other areas of Romania. I would also like to start a UK outreach programme - a Food Bank style charity, for people who own horses and find themselves in short-term or unexpected hardship.

We can help them look after their horses until they are back on their feet. Many horses have PTS or sold on following temporary rough situations their owners may find themselves in. The current pandemic is a great example of this.

I believe that offering this type of help here, would mean less horses are destroyed unnecessarily and reduce the suffering by being passed around from home to home, which is very difficult for the horses.



For more from Annie, visit cherryhorsewelfareinternational.org or follow @cherryhorsewelfareint


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