A UK-based charity is making an urgent appeal for bits in order to help alleviate the suffering of working horses and donkeys in The Gambia.
The local bits used in Gambia are made from poor quality metals and, due to their design, can cause horrific tongue and mouth injuries. These injuries can often be so severe that they prevent the animal from eating, leading to weakness and even death.
The Gambian Horse and Donkey Trust aim to replace these with kinder ones from the UK, and the charity is asking for anyone with any spare 4in or 5in snaffle bits to send them to Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, Bewery Arms Cottage, Stane Street, Ockley, Surrey RH5 5TH.
The charity then ships the bits from the UK to Gambia and exchange them with the dangerous ones.
"The bits that people donate make a huge difference to the lives of working equines in The Gambia. So often the bit the owner has will be cutting into the animals tongue on a daily basis, and the wounds never get the chance to heal," says Heather Armstrong, Charity Director.
"The snaffle bits donated give these animals the relief that they so desperately need, and can literally make the difference between life and death. While we are collecting bits to bring immediate relief, we are also looking into ways of providing bits in the future in a sustainable way, by either making them in The Gambia or importing them at affordable prices."
Jerry is one of the lucky donkeys who has been helped by the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust. Jerry and his young owner were spotted by the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust mobile clinic team when on their way to a village to offer veterinary treatments and advice. As the vehicle passed Jerry the team realised that a rope was being used through his mouth, instead of a bit.
When ropes are tied through horse’s and donkey’s mouths in this way it can cause serious damage to the tongue and lips. Each time the reins are pulled, the knot tightens under the animal’s chin. With no way of loosening, by the end of a hard day’s work on the cart the rope can become so tight that the blood circulation to the tongue and chin can become completely cut off, often leaving lasting damage.
It is not uncommon to see horses and donkeys with tongues almost cut in two from the bits and ropes used in their mouths. Fortunately the Gambia Horse and Donkey team reached Jerry before it got to this stage, and were able to replace the rope with a stainless steel snaffle bit.
For further information visit www.gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk