The Recovery and Rehabilitation Centre

23rd Oct, 2018

Written by Rebecca Howard (CHPA Volunteer) and Marike Kotzé – Public Relations Officer, Cart Horse Animal Protection Association

Professional photography  

The cart horses of the Cape Flats are hard-working animals. The Cart Horse Protection Association ( aims to work with their owners to improve their lives as part of the community, but every so often some of these determined horses need more. Sometimes they require some R&R.

When working horses are confiscated from or signed over by owners, they need a safe haven. Enter the Recovery and Rehabilitation Centre – or R&R, as it’s commonly referred to – which plays an integral role within The Cart Horse Protection Association.

Caring for cart horses

The Cart Horse Protection Association was established in 1995 to support owners and address the welfare issues inherent in the cart horse “industry”. Although enormous strides have been made to improve the knowledge of owners and the care of these horses, there are still cases of neglect or abuse, sometimes severe; which has led to an increase in horses needing help.

CHPA aims to rehabilitate these horses and donkeys in order to give them a chance at a better life.

The Recovery and Rehabilitation Centre was established on the Firlands Equestrian Estate to provide a place to allow abused and neglected equines to recover from their mistreatment and be rehabilitated.

Caring for equines in need

When a new equine arrives at the R&R, it’s first given a thorough veterinary examination. The equine’s welfare is paramount, and for legal reasons it’s imperative to record, in detail, their physical condition upon arrival.

At R&R, grooms are assigned to specific equines, as this is the best way to teach them to bond and trust. Once the veterinary exam has been completed, a suitable match is made between pony and groom, who can start to rebuild their trust in humankind.

Sadly, most of the incoming ponies are “shut down”. This is a psychological term referring to the process of the animal which has shut down emotionally and mentally, to protect and preserve themselves from external and environmental influence. Fortunately, shut-down horses can recover with the right care and plenty of patience.

The majority of the ponies that come in are not only suffering mentally but they’re also often malnourished and even emaciated, whilst some are sick. A tailored feeding plan is established and they’re closely monitored at all times. The main goal is to increase the quality of life for these equines.

In their own time

Each pony is given the respect and dignity it deserves. They’re allowed to grow and progress in their own time; no one is ever rushed or forced. Over the years this approach has proven to be successful time and time again.

R&R yard manager Vicki Strydom and her team of volunteers only step up the training when the time is right, using an array of natural horsemanship techniques. Once the groundwork is solidly established, ponies that are physically in condition to be ridden will progress to work under saddle.

The association has certain rules in place to safeguard the animals’ health and well-being. Incoming stallions are gelded at the earliest opportunity; breeding is not supported in any capacity at the centre. However, foals are born to mares who have been confiscated/surrendered when pregnant, such as in the case of Annabel and Applejack (

The end goal is to find each pony a loving forever home, whether they’re a happy hacker or companion pet, or if they go on to compete; they all deserve the very best. The Cart Horse Protection Association’s R&R Centre makes sure they get it.


Bonnie was born in 2005. Through the years he’s been from pillar to post and back again. In his working life he changed owners six times; he’s been with good owners and he’s been with bad owners. He’s had injuries, been lame and has been booked off work for being too thin. For over four years CHPA tried to get him out of the misery that was his life

New shoes

On 24 January 2018, Bonnie was brought into the Epping clinic for shoes, but he was sore on both front feet. He was so sore, in fact, that the moment he was unhitched from his cart and placed into our treatment stall, he immediately went to lie down. This gentle horse was clearly in pain.

The vet diagnosed him with laminitis, a condition in which the laminae (soft tissue within the foot connecting foot bone to hoof wall) become inflamed, causing extreme pain, damage and lameness. Laminitis is progressive and can even lead to horses having to be put to sleep due to long-term damage and pain.

Bonnie was booked off work for three months and taken to the R&R centre. The owners were expected to pay for his stay there, but, on 15 May 2018, they decided that they would rather sign him over to CHPA. Finally we could find him the life he deserved.

Sweet and gentle

Despite his rough life, Bonnie still had a very gentle nature. His confidence, along with his waistline, quickly increased with the gentle care he received at the R&R.

Once recovered he was started under saddle and did very well. When adopters Sheree Power and her daughter Becca came to the R&R with the intention to adopt, they fell in love with Bonnie’s sweet nature.

They describe him as very forgiving and eager to please. He’s been absolutely amazing with his new family and is very patient with nine-year-old Becca while she’s learning the basics of horse care.

Because he’s so confident now and not easily spooked at all, he’s not only giving confidence to Becca but also to his young thoroughbred paddock mates. They’re amazed at his ability to eat an apple in a single bite!

Adopt an equine like Bonnie

The Cart Horse Protection Association’s Recovery & Rehabilitation Centre offers potential adopters a wide selection of ponies and horses in all shapes, sizes and colours, with varying levels of experience and of different ages.

If any of the adoptable ponies shown on the website resonate with you but you can’t adopt, you can also opt to join the Sponsor a Stable Programme and donate towards the care of the horses at the R&R.

To find out more about how you can get involved, volunteer or adopt, contact Vicki on 082 612 6966 or email