They Take Better Care of Their Cars than They do Their Horses

by Rose

My Mother says “Panamanian people treat their horses like cars.” I am not quite sure if this is true because from what I can observe, most Panamanian people take better care of their cars, than their horses.

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with this, but there is an acronym TOWBIF which stands for Tires, Oil, Windows, Brakes, Interiors and Fluids to help you remember the maintenance requirements needed for your vehicle. I don’t think the people who own horses in Panama have any such acronym to help them remember the requirements needed to care for their horses, but I think it is sorely overdue. So on that note, I have decided to make one for them, but instead of TOWBIF, I will call it HGGBWW.

  • (Tires)-Hooves: A horse needs its hooves trimmed every 4-8 weeks depending on the terrain, time of year, weather, diet and health of the horse. (Many horses here do not have proper hoof trimming and care. I will say it is hard to find a good farrier in Panama, as I said in a prior post, you have to choose the lesser of the evils among them. One of the local farriers in our community was laming horses.)
  • (Oil)-Grass/Grain: The most natural food for horses is good quality pasture. Secondly, hay is the basic food of domestic horses, supplemented with a small amount of grain along with minerals and salt. (You would think in this land of abundant grass and jungle, a horse would never be hungry, but alas there are many starving horses, at least in the community where we live. It may be partly that people, do not have enough property and the horses eat it all up or there is poor quality grass growing… There are several horses, whom I call the Red Road Horses. Their owners let them roam the lane to search for food, eating the grasses along the side of the road.)
  • (Windows)-Gear- A horse needs a well-fitting saddle to be able to move freely and, by using his back muscles correctly, he’ll develop a rounded, properly-balanced outline. A badly fitting saddle can do a lot of damage, leading to behavioral problems or lameness. (Few horses in our community have properly fitting saddles, probably do to lack of education and finances. Thus we have many horses here, plagued with open pressure sores and behavioral problems from ill-fitting saddles.)
  • (Brakes)-Bits- Proper bit fit is necessary in every riding discipline. When a bit does not fit a horse’s mouth properly, bad habits or injuries may result. If the horse has any scars or open cuts or rubs on his lips or tongue, this means he has had bit abuse. Many times this happens when a unknowledgeable rider has used a bit that does not fit properly or comfortably in the horse’s mouth. (We have seen horses here with ill-fitting bits. One horse at the end of a road has a spade bit. The spade bit has a bar, and behind it is a mouthpiece that rests on the tongue. When used on a horse by an undisciplined rider, this can cause great pain to the horse–to his tongue, the bars, and the roof of his mouth.)
  • (Interiors)-Wormer- You should “de-worm” your horse 4-5 times per year, but the frequency depends on many factors such as age of the horse, type of pasture, how many other horses are on the same pasture, whether droppings are collected from the pasture, any history of wormer resistance and results of any worm egg counts. (Many horses are not properly wormed due to lack of finances here.)
  • (Fluids)-Water- Fresh water is a vital part of a horse’s diet. Horses drink from 5-10 gallons a day. Clean water should be available at all times. (Many horses do have fresh water provided to them, as there are many fresh creeks and springs throughout this land, but the horses described below do not have water for hours to days at a time.)

Many horses in Panama have a very tough life, I speak specifically in regards to the horses in our community. These horses are ridden for miles over rough terrain, sometimes with up to four people on them, often being constantly hit with a little whip or stick. The horses are then deposited at the end of a dirt road and tied for hours, to all day (and I hate to report-sometimes for days-The horse in the first picture below was tied up for three days recently), as their owners hop a bus to a job, to school, etc… These horses are exposed to sizzling summer temperatures to pouring down torrential rains without benefit of shelter, on a short lead without food and water, as they wait patiently for their owners to return. It is enough to break your heart.

My parents offered to pay for and build a shelter at the end of the road where are all the horses are tethered, but the their workers told them, the community would not use it and if they did, they would not keep it cleaned out.

Here is one of the local horses tied to the fence at the end of our road

Look at her ribs; She is very underweight-Not uncommon in this poor community


This horse has to stand in the mud all day

 Here is another horse patiently waiting

Tarps cover their saddles to keep their gear dry during the heavy rains

This horse waits for its riders-two young schoolboys to finish school for the day

This past week however, we were in David and to the side of the busy Pan-Am Highway a man was working his horse in dressage, just like the world-famous Lipizzaner stallions (All I could think was, only in Panama!). The time and dedication it takes of both trainer and horse is incredible to perform these skills and such horses have been likened to a highly tuned gymnast or ballerina. Though I believe there is a large percentage of native Panamanians who do not genuinely care for their horses well, there are a handful who do.

Here is a YouTube video, if you have never seen the Lipizzaner stallions before!

I want to thank all the dedicated horse lovers in Panama, who are taking time and money, educating people on how to properly care for and treat a horse.

I also hope everyone had a great weekend and a Happy Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by family and friends. We all have so much to be thankful for. May we not forget to give thanks to the One from whom all blessing flow!

 “Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 106:1

Love you all my dear family,  friends and readers, Rose

This post is dedicated to all the long-suffering horses of Panama.