Charlotte Dujardin - a photo diary from India
In October 2015 triple Olympic gold medallist and Brooke global ambassador Charlotte Dujardin travelled to India, joined by her friend and fellow International Grand Prix dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer. This selection of pictures shows some of their experiences, the amazing animals they met along the way, and highlights just why Charlotte is such an avid supporter of our work.
Day 1 – Qalendar Community and Women’s Equine Welfare Groups
Charlotte and Alice started by visiting the Qalendar Community who breed horses and mules to sell at the equine fair.
The Qalendar Community were once a nomadic community and do still commit to living in small, close communities with little access to modern resources. They rely very much on the living earned by their horses, donkeys and mules. Charlotte met the donkey stallion they use to breed, and called him 'Bertie'.
In the afternoon they visited a women’s equine welfare group. Brooke frequently works with women in the communities because they are often the main carers of the horses, donkeys and mules. Using pictures and models, the group showed what they have learned from Brooke’s training, and how their animals support their families’ lives.
They later introduced Charlotte to one of their mules, who Charlotte named 'Eddie'.
Day 2 - Vegetable market in Delhi and Noida brick kiln
Charlotte and Alice started the day very early, 5am, at the Okla fruit and veg market in Delhi. Equine owners come here from 3-4am to buy fruit and veg at wholesale price, load it up onto carts and then go around Delhi selling it at a small profit.
Charlotte spoke with owners about how the regular visits Brooke has made in the last few years, providing treatment and advice on how to improve their animals’ welfare.
In the afternoon they visited a brick kiln in Greater Noida. The kiln was out of action at the time, being prepared ahead of the season which starts in January, but they were still making new bricks to be dried, then transported to just outside the kiln by horse and cart.
Charlotte and Alice witnessed the strain on the animals as they pull off with carts weighing up to 10 times their body weight. It’s not only hard work for the animals of course. Entire families work here during the brick season. There will be six to eight family members working side by side, with children as young as seven. They have to make over a thousand bricks to earn the equivalent of just £1.
Day 3 - The equine fair
Charlotte and Alice travelled with the Brooke team to the Dewa equine fair near Lucknow. The fair runs for around two weeks and thousands of horses, donkeys and mules are bought and sold in that time. Many of them will go on to work in brick kilns locally and throughout the state.
They first visited Brooke’s clinic, right in the middle of the fair, where they have two distinct areas - one for treatment and the other a community engagement area teaching owners and traders about how to look after their animals. They saw a number of treatments happening at the clinic – fixing of wounds, injections for infections, and advice for better saddlery, harnessing and nutrition. The staff had treated 65 animals the day before. They also witnessed animals unloading from trucks. Brooke have built a ramp to allow more space for the animals getting off. The process has been made better by this, but a lot of accidents happen.
They toured the fair seeing many animals, with varying levels of welfare, including the positive impact of Brooke’s work, meeting a healthy mule foal who Charlotte named ‘Brooke’.
They also saw some distressing scenes, including finding a very weak and young foal who Charlotte named 'Hope' (pictured below). They took her to the Brooke clinic, and the team worked hard to treat her. Things were going well at first, but unfortunately a few days later after the trip, Hope passed away. It was unclear what had caused her death, but with a foal so young and so weak, there could have been many underlying factors.
The Qualandar community is famous for breeding and training animals, traditionally they are artists and entertainers, specialising in magic shows and training their animals to do tricks. While Charlotte was walking around the fair she witnessed a man performing with his “dancing horse” and was very distressed to see the training techniques he used to make the horse dance. Brooke staff halted the performance and with Charlotte had a conversation with the man about why his technique was causing pain to the animal, and how he could work with it differently using a more humane training method.
At the end of the trip, Charlotte reflected on what she'd seen, saying:
I felt a rollercoaster of emotions. The progress I saw being made, the differences the charity is making to these animals and the people who rely on them for their daily survival, are so significant and real, it’s inspiring. But it was also devastating to see how so many horses, mules and donkeys are suffering, with infected wounds, swollen fetlocks, eye injuries, sores, ribs poking out and matted hair. There is so much more to be done, and I’d urge all horse lovers out there to give whatever they can to help Brooke keep doing what it’s doing and extend its help to more of these animals.
All photos by our photographer Freya Dowson - © Brooke/Freya Dowson