The Brooke – Qalandar

In 2013 the Elise Pilkington Charitable Trust agreed a three year grant in support of the Brooke’s work with horses, donkeys and mules in the marganised Qalander communities of Muzaffarnagar, in India. These horses are used for breeding purposes (the foals are then sold at equine fairs), and a combination of the migratory nature of the Qalandars; entrenched beliefs in traditional practices; conflicting priorities around productivity versus welfare; and extreme poverty mean that this is a priority area for the Brooke and requires long-term commitment to effect positive change.

The Brooke’s vision is of a world where working horses, donkeys and mules are free from suffering, and as a charity they deliver practical programmes, support, advice, funding and infrastructure to their global network of employees and partners. In Muzaffarnagar the Brooke set out to:
a) Provide direct veterinary intervention to 2,000 horses, donkeys and mules in need across 19 Qalandar deras (or settlements)
b) Work with the Qalandar people to teach them basic animal welfare practices
c) Develop sustainable structures and systems such as Equine Welfare Groups and Associations to encourage collective responsibility for animal welfare
d) Operate a “Sub Equine Welfare Unit” to travel to the deras, and work with local service providers ensuring better access to affordable and high quality services for working equines
e) Carry out research into the prevalence of Surra within the Qalandar deras and work with the communities to provide treatment and methods of preventing this disease.

In the second year of the project the Team reported that they reached their goal of supporting 2,000 working horses, donkeys and mules across 19 Qalandar settlements.  They have achieved this through our holistic approach of combining direct treatment of animals with training for local service providers and community engagement with equine owners, whilst continually promoting a collaborative approach and collective action amongst all equine stakeholders.

Brooke has continued to build trust and confidence in the 19 Qalandar communities to ensure sustainable animal welfare.  It can sometimes be difficult to engage with owners because of their working patterns. To overcome this they have used innovative approaches to embedding positive animal welfare message by working with the wider community. This has included art competitions for children, women only animal welfare groups and competitions for owners for the best kept animals. We also continue to work with service providers such as farriers and local healers. Recently the Brooke conducted workshops to provide practical demonstrations of how to properly trim hooves. Another important aspect of the project is to work with local Vets to ensure they have appropriate understanding of equine health. Many local vets are more familiar with livestock, rather than the specific needs of horses, donkeys and mules.

The Brooke thanks the Elise Pilkington Charitable Trust for its fantastic support.


Farriery shoeing a horse


A member of the Qalandar community offering feed to her horse