We have so much to thank horses for. Their wide range of capabilities to serve mankind and other animals is inspiring and humbling.
Former racehorses are the latest weapons on the frontline of South Africa’s war with rhino poachers, amid growing calls for the horns to be traded legally.
The horses are being used in riding patrols to track poachers, as fears grow that South African rhinos are on the brink of a catastrophic population decline.
With rhino poaching hitting a record level last year, many of those battling to save the animal say legalising the trade in rhino horn is the only option.
Ranger Tim Parker heads the anti-poaching unit on a wildlife reserve west of the world-famous Kruger National Park and says several times a week horse-riding rangers traverse the dry expanse with a single mission – to catch the poachers.
“They offer a lot more diversity than just walking,” Mr Parker said of the racehorses.
“The height advantage from tracking plays a huge factor, you can cover a lot more terrain, you can get into broken ground where vehicles can’t get to.
“They’re silent when you’re walking, and the big factor is that you don’t get tired because the horses are doing the work for you.”
Champion racehorse trainer Lisa Harris brought the horses to South Africa from Zimbabwe more than a year ago to help the Rhino Revolution organisation in its fight to protect rhinos in the area.
“I saw a gap in the market here and thought we could introduce ex-racehorses that. . . some of them don’t have other uses, for an anti-poaching campaign and it seems to be working,” she said.
Since the launch of the project, no rhino has been poached on the reserve.
“We find that the poachers are very aware that they’re here … and they’re a little bit scared of them,” Ms Harris said.
“Racehorses have a reputation as these big fearful things and so they are quite nervous about them.”
Rhino horn is more lucrative than gold and the global ban on the product is failing.