Skollie finds salvation at Sarda

Dr John Charles makes a promise to rescue Skollies friends.

His name is Skollie and he has found refuge at an equine-therapy centre in Constantia, which, just like the horse it is helping, finds itself relying on the goodwill of others.

Skollie is not the first rescue horse to join the 12, plus the miniature horse Hobbit, living at South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA). In the neighbouring stall, Target was rescued from a horse meat truck for R200.

Speaking from Skollie’s stall Dr John Charles of Peninsula Equine Hout Bay, said Skollie was one of 41 malnourished horses confiscated from a Philippi farm last month after they were abandoned.

The other animals are at the SPCA’s Horse Care Unit in Grassy Park. It’s hoped that once Skollie is back on his hooves, he will be able to join the other Sarda horses in the therapy programme.

“Skollie is named because he was owned by gangsters on the Cape Flats and was used as their getaway horse, pulling a cart,” said Dr Charles.

“When apprehended, he ended up in the pound and had a criminal record. He’s been in and out of the SPCA.”

As we talked, volunteers visited Skollie as he chomped on hay, ears twitching, his long fringe covering soft brown eyes. He has deep scars on his chest and back.

Sarda has 120 volunteers on its books, many have been there for decades, most are retired and living in surrounding suburbs.

They assist with lessons, mainly leading the horses and side walking physically and intellectually challenged adults and children ranging from seven to 76 years of age.

The association helps children from 13 special-needs schools and many of the youngsters are from disadvantaged homes.

Sarda is still caught in a struggle for its survival after its Brommersvlei Road grounds, which it has occupied for more 30 years, were awarded to a family by the Land Claims Court in 2013 as restitution for land the family had lost under apartheid.

Sarda is appealing the decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal and is seeking compensation in the form of land and not money. (“Boost in support of SARDA,” Bulletin, March 23).

Earlier this year, Sarda CEO Belinda Thom described their search for suitable land as “searching for a needle in a haystack”.

Skollie and the other rescued horses were malnourished and emaciated when they were confiscated. They had been eating bark from trees and had burn marks from their tight halters. “Others had skin hanging from their coat because their wounds had not healed properly,” said Dr Charles, who called in a farrier to fix the horses’ hooves.

The SPCA has been getting donations of food to feed the horses and they are looking for homes for the animals.

Sarda’s stable manager and senior instructor, Teri Smith, said it would take some effort to restore Skollie to his former glory.

“He needs to put on weight before we can use him in lessons. He’s had a traumatic life. It’s amazing he is like he is,” she said.

Sarda spokesperson, Bee Lukey, said the need for Sarda’s therapeutic lessons was growing among children and adults living with both physical and intellectual disabilities and the association had received applications from all over the country.

“We get very desperate parents wanting their children to come here, especially those who have been turned down by special needs schools.”

Dr Charles said donations – including loose fern, dewormers, time, expertise, money, medical equipment and feed – were needed for the rescued horses. If you can help, call him on 082 851 2811.