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May 2008


I thought that as it is a Public Holiday (again!) and this month is going to be short for me as I am going on Leave, I would just continue our conversation where I left off three hours ago with the April newsletter!

Donkeys are environmental issues!  And I am into enviro problems, one of which is plastic pollution.  And when a donkey eats plastic it becomes a problem for the donkey and me too!  The Soweto on Sea donkey mare mentioned in the last newsletter, promptly produced nog 'n plastiki.  Roughage is just as important for donkeys as it is for us, and right now she is chewing her way through donated lucerne, teff, oathay chaff and looking quite bright having over the next two days produced another two plastic bags - altogether 4!!  Definitely going to go home on Saturday!
Then of course, in our water deprived country, I have a problem with water running down township roads.  No-one seems to know how to get them sorted by the Water Department, so I have taken it up myself with the NMMM Water Department, by phone and email.   So I was delighted to see that the water leak in Mjusa Street as well as a couple in Noxolo, had been repaired.   So yes, it is my pleasure when I find that the long-standing Water leaks I reported to the Municipality have been fixed, and the residents are absolutely delighted (not all Ward Councillors are diligent with their duties!), and I have the means and the contacts to get the job done.     I hate the waste of water as much as I hate plastic bags, and although the Metro is doing a great job with a poverty alleviation initiative by employing locals to pick up the detritus in the townships, we just carry on producing it.   Needless to say, I have a large assortment of linen bags to use rather than take yet another plastic bag!

I was happy to introduce Nina Robertson, who with her husband Ian, are Thoroughbred Breeders, to 'my'
donkeys on May 1st.  She volunteered to come and assist with feeding and was introduced to everyone, including Thembi's new foal.   She is hardly unused to young foals, being a breeder, but she was really blown away by the foal - they are just too cute!  She was however concerned at Thembi's milkbar equipment, but Thembi allowed her to check the equipment out whereupon Nina pronounced that she was worried for nothing, everything appeared OK.  I think it might be a slightly different model.
(PS - Once I touch a donkey in the township, it becomes mine, and you don't want to hurt my donkey, because then you hurt me, and you really, really don't want to do that!)

I remember writing this story many years ago for the Sardinia Conservancy newsletter, but it is pertinent now and so I will mention it.
I suggested to horse owners within the Conservancy that in order to prevent birds drowning in the water trough, that they put a rock or a brick or a small wooden plank in the trough.  This would mean that should a bird fall into the water (they do - it has happened with our donkey troughs), the bird is able hopefully to scramble onto the firm footing, dry off and fly away.    At the time I had a number of horses, one of which was Full Swing, who was a very self assured character.  He took one look at the floating plank in his water trough and took it in his mouth and threw it away!
So this now means that rocks are being introduced to the water troughs in the Unit camps and you know the reason why, although I am sure some would wonder at what exactly we are doing.   It will help save water too and that is an added bonus.


The ECHCU is privileged to have a regular supply of donated feed from Equi Feeds and various other sources.   I account for the incomings and outgoings to EquiFeeds on a regular basis and would like you to see the email I recently sent to them:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Equi Feeds through you on behalf of the East Cape Horse Care Unit for your continuing generous donations of feed which meet a huge need in the townships by donkey and horse owners.  You might wonder at the '2 or 4 scoop bags' or 'half CCU (International Coastal Clean Up) bags' that are delivered, but it means that wastage is kept to a minimum as townships have rat problems, in addition to the lack of storage facilities that you and I are accustomed to.   It also means that a bag of this is added to a bag of that, plus 1/2 a bag of molameal when available (makes for a good mix!), so it might appear an unbalanced feed, but the donkeys are looking good on it.    Of course the donkeys that are visiting us also are fed from this stockpile.
As far as the chaff is concerned, any lucerne leavings are fed to the donkeys in for 'repair', and it certainly helps to kick-start their appetites (I think it is called 'boeretroos' or as my mother used to say - a little bit of what you fancy does you good)!    It is also added to the donations of discarded teff, oathay and lucerne that is given by other donors.  This assists greatly in keeping donkey systems free flowing!   Someone said that lucerne is a no-no for donkeys, but when they visit with me, I will do anything to get them eating, which is where your green stuff comes into use - they love it!   In addition, what they get in the township as 'chaff' is what they get when they come in, so they are used to it, although I have only had one donk that was confused by the large selection of fodder!
Thank you so much for your support.


Kirsty Graham came and spent a morning at the Stables, helping to sort out donated tack and put together a number of bridles for handing out at the Animal Wellness Awareness Day.  These were oiled by Alfred and duly handed out.
Thank you, Kirsty, for giving so freely of your time, and although it was a dirty job for both of us, you helped big time!  

When working with township dwellers and their donkeys, although one is there for the donkeys, one cannot help getting involved with their lives, like the donkey owner who had a dual mission.  He came to find his stolen donkey, and having done that, asked to be dropped off up the road so he could go and find his son who had 'left home'.
Something I try very hard not to do is go to the townships on the weekends, the funeral dirges and traffic jams are unending and so the sound of the songs echo around township life from early in morning.


The common perception is that the donkeys are not cared about, but I have found that the owners are sometimes more in tune with their animals that some are with their horses.  They very quickly pick up when a donkey is sick and make the necessary phone call.  This led to a full house last month!
To assist with the change of scene when a donkey mare and foal (like Thembi and Buttons) leave us and go back to their owner, I took the opportunity and the idea from someone else, to arrange for 'donkey socialisation classes' with the Settler mare and foal.  During the day, the gates were opened and the foals got the chance to meet someone else other than mummy. I think the mummys also enjoyed the space with the kids amusing themselves!

I am continuing to get up close and personal with African Horse Sickness horses.  Invariably the owners are shattered when their animal sickens and dies.


I was so glad when 'the bosses' agreed to let me put a ceiling in the office to prevent all the wind blown dust from settling on everything.  It was a great experience:  Nico arrived when he said he would, gave a quote and then did the job in less than 6 hours, including two coats of paint.   When he saw what we are trying to do, he very kindly donated and brought to the Unit, a work bench to facilitate bridle and harness making.  Thank you, Nico.


Most musicians will tell you that you must always end on a high note.  Therefore, I have kept the best for last!
Last weekend was one of those 'best' weekends.   Dorrie Sham of New Turf Carriers was not to know that Animal Welfare Society and the East Cape Horse Care Unit had organised the Animal Wellness Awareness Day in Walmer and of course I did not know that she had made us co-beneficiaries of their Race weekend.
It came as a bit of a surprise when I was invited to lunch - something that I have been unable to do for a while, lately substituting chocolate and a pint of milk in place of lunch.  Then the penny dropped - Dorrie had done it all without a word to me and literally gobsmacked me!  The lunch was most pleasant and those few hours sitting and chatting with equine friends was gr8!  In a quick whip-around with my Collection Tins after the last race of the day, collected the incredible amount of R950.55.  Everyone chipped in with donations and the occasional comment - Thank you to you all for your support.
Saturday morning saw Sharon, Alfred and I all up early, feeding and mucking out prior to descending on the field at Vernon Gamanda High School.    A wonderful day was had by all as you saw in the Report I sent to you on the 12th May when I had just about recovered.   Dr Parker came along and presented Trophies, and then went off to the New Turf Carriers Golf Day, part of their planned weekend activities.   The Golf Day was followed by an Auction and Braai on the Saturday evening, but there was no way I was capable of attending.
Unfortunately I missed the best part:  I had been given a children's hobbyhorse and requested that it be put on Auction, donated by the ECHCU.  Let's face it, this particular horse does not need feeding, shoes, vaccinations, does not get African Horse Sickness or any other disease, a bargain if ever there was one.
I have only just found out that the highest bidder at R1500.00 was my friend, Nina Robertson, who had her eye on it for her grandchildren.   However, her ideas reached an abrupt halt when Kayla McGrath saw it and launched herself at it.   I am happy to know that someone special will give the hobbyhorse a good home and I just know that he will behave himself too!
On Sunday, I was present and correct when presented by Mrs Sham with her considerable donation towards the work of the ECHCU. 
And so to New Turf Carriers, I extend our thanks for their magnanimous gesture that will be spent right here, in the Eastern Cape.  Thank you, Dorrie and Mark, for your continued support - it is much appreciated by all who benefit.  I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend as much as I did!


Well, it is time to move - I have a plane to catch!  I hope to return with the battery recharged in the middle of June.  Sms' and email are suggested, should you need to contact me.


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