The Pushkar Camel fair is a yearly event that brings thousands of camels, horses, and cattle to be traded in the dusty fairgrounds outside of the picturesque and otherwise tranquil lakeside town. For one week Pushkar is absolutely swarming with nearly 100,000 animals for sale, entertainers, vendors, crowds of tourists, and tribal people from all over Rajasthan. From sunrise to long after sunset the town is thumping with activity. The sounds, smells, sights and crowds are overwhelming and typical India at its most extreme. Animal abuse neglect and cruelty is unavoidable. However the hordes of tourists (western and Indian) taking camel rides seem to be ok with it. I will save that story for another time. This one has a happy ending and is about one beautiful horse that I found at the fair named Patrick.
At the beginning of this month I spent a few days at the Camel Fair volunteering with Help In Suffering who had set up an emergency clinic for camels needing treatment at the fair. It was early morning and I was making my way through the campgrounds towards the HIS clinic. The traders and their families were waking up and making morning chai over fire outside of their tents. As usual my eyes were on patrol for animals in need of medical treatment. I noticed a white horse in the distance ceaselessly swaying from side to side. His movement was definitely abnormal and reminded me of the stereotypical behavior of a caged animal driven mad by his imprisonment.
With each step closer the severity of the horse’s condition became clearer. His swaying was relentless, his bones were protruding, and he had a mass on his penis that looked to me to be a tumor. He was standing in such an awkward way I feared that he had deep-rooted psychological problems or maybe he was just too weak to stand properly.
As I got close enough to touch him it was plain to see that he was terrified of people and had obviously endured a lifetime of abuse and neglect. I immediately asked his “owners” who were very poor and uneducated villagers to bring him over to the clinic for free treatment. They refused. They said that he was too dangerous to handle and repeatedly smacked him in face the to prove their point. I pleaded with them to stop hitting him and get him some help. They laughed at my poor attempt to communicate with them in Hindi, and insisted that he was a very aggressive animal and hitting him was the only answer. My blood was boiling. I walked away to get some help. But before I left I looked into the sad, and defeated eyes of this beautiful boy and promised him that I would be back and somehow get him out of this situation.
The Brook Hospital for Animals who specializes in equine care also had an emergency clinic set up beside the HIS clinic to treat horses. With a veterinarian from Brook, 2 volunteer veterinarians visiting from the UK, and a team of translators, we went back to see the horse.
The tribal family was surprised to see me back so soon and with my posse. The vets got right to examining the horse. His condition was definitely serious, and he was immediately given some vitamins and pain relief. Again the doctor from Brook asked the family to walk the horse the 200 meters over to the clinic for more treatment but they refused. Everyone took a turn explaining that the condition of the horse was serious and his life was at stake but his owners didn’t care.
I needed to figure out a way to save this horse. Since I don’t live permanently in India nor have property here, there was no way that I could personally take the horse. I had to find someone else to take him. I decided to call a nearby shelter Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA). I knew that the founder of TOLFA was temporarily in England and that she had someone managing the shelter in her absence. I had never met this woman before so I figured that calling her out of the blue and asking her to adopt a stallion was a long shot but I had to try. When I finally got Jemma on the phone I quickly explained the entire situation without letting her get a word in. As I reached the end of my story and plea for help I took a deep breath and waited for her to speak. I was ready to start thinking of a plan B when her reply brought tears to my eyes and goose bumps to my arms! Jemma’s words were “we absolutely need to save this horse, without question we will bring him to TOLFA and figure out the details later.”
My faith in humanity was restored.
It was time for me to make another visit to the white horse and his soon to be previous owners. This time I meant business. I knew that they would never surrender the horse without profiting from him, so I had to buy him. I didn’t exactly want to give my money to those people but getting him away from them was the only thing that mattered. I did manage to barter them down to a fraction of the price that they first asked. 5 hours after I first laid eyes on the swaying horse, I bought him for $50 and calmly walked with him away from his torturous past.
Once back at the HIS/Brook clinic he was flooded with attention and care. He was immediately given all of the food and water that he could handle, Brook gave him on-site medical treatment, Jemma and I gave him his new name, Patrick.
It took mere minutes for to him to shed the scared and tense posture that he had for so long. As his belly filled up he stopped swaying and he welcomed affection. Patrick never once tried to bite any of us. He had clearly been starved and abused for most of his previous life. He will never know these things again. From now on Patrick’s life will revolve around love, food, and kindness.
It was such an amazing rescue. It’s not very often in India that so many wonderful organizations get to come together to save the life of one animal. I am so thankful to the folks at Animal Aid for teaching me that every life is worth saving, Brook for providing medical treatment, HIS for transporting Patrick, and TOLFA for not even thinking twice about providing Patrick a safe and happy home. Each one of these organizations is doing outstanding work in India to help suffering animals.
You too can be apart of making Patrick’s future a bright one. If you want to help Patrick please donate to TOLFA . All funds received in his name will go directly to the food, medical treatment, and loving care required to keep him happy and comfortable for the rest of his days. Since his rescue Patrick has completely stopped swaying from side to side. He has had surgery on his penis (which was not a tumour), he has put on weight and is feeling great. TOLFA also rescued a mare named Penny on the same day as Patrick! Now they are talking of expanding!
For many people all over the world, keeping animals without financial gain is a foreign concept. After buying Patrick several confused local people came up to me and asked, “but what are you going to do with him?” My response was “love him” and the love that I feel in return is greater than anything that money could buy.