Looking out for Cape Town’s cart horses

The Cart Horse Protection Association relies solely on donations to oversee 450 horses

Photo of a cart and horse

Colin Jacobs and Mornay Marinus have had Cindy, their cart horse, for seven years. Photo: Masixole Feni

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

25 October 2019

On a sunny Friday in Epping, Colin Jacobs and Mornay Marinus from Uitsig look on as Cindy, their cart horse, feeds. Jacobs has been a cart horse owner for 30 years. With Marinus, who is 19, they clean people’s yards, dispose of rubbish and collect scrap.

“We got Cindy at a stable in Kuilsriver when she was still a foal and when we got her she was so thin … I’ve had her now for seven years,” says Jacobs.

“I love horses and they are clever animals,” says Marinus. “They have very good eyesight and a very strong sense of smell. Sometimes I will put an apple in my back pocket and Cindy will find it.”

Marinus says he wants to be a policeman one day. “I want to ride those big horses that they have,” he says.

“Not every day is a good day,” says Jacobs. “Some days you make money to put food on the table, other days you don’t. We work seven days a week, but the horses rest; they don’t work a full week.”

Cindy is one of around 450 cart horses the Cart Horse Protection Association (CHPA) oversees. A non-profit association, it has been going for 24 years, relying solely on donations from the public.

The CHPA educates and provides services to cart horse owners and operators. Located in Epping, it has a farrier agency, harness shop, treatment stalls, cart repair workshops and a feed storage barn. In Gordon’s Bay the CHPA currently has 40 horses recovering or being rehabilitated. Some are in an adoption programme. It runs horse clinics from 8am to 12:30pm.

CHPA online fundraiser Marike Kotze says, “We have three farriers … to put shoes on the horses. We also have our three inspectors and one trainee inspector … If a horse has sore feet, no shoes are put on. Owners are then instructed not to work the horses and to let them rest. The inspectors also check the harness and they check the carts. If all is good, the horses go out and work.”

Bonani Mangali is one of the farriers. He learnt his skills through a six-month education programme at the CHPA. “The bottom part of the horse’s hoof is soft and it is sensitive, so you have to make sure that the horseshoe keeps it safe for the travelling the horse will be doing,” he says.

“Just like a car, the horse uses the bottom of the hoof as brakes. So depending on how often the horse works and how it is worked, we change the horse shoes or repair them every week or every three weeks,” says Mangali.

“We also have a law enforcement officer who makes sure that cart horses and owners are complying,” said Kotze. “Cart horse owners actually have licence cards … In order to get one, owners must come in and write a test and when they get their licence, they get a number plate as well. And if they are caught on the road without these things, they can get fined.”

She says cart horses are legal in Cape Town and they have right of way on the road.

A cart horse operator has to be 18, trained how to feed the horse, harness it and to set up the cart, and complete a written and practical test at the CHPA.

Kotze says the association has very “loyal donors”, but it has been unable to expand its outreach and youth development programme because of a lack of funds. The programme includes driving workshops for the youth of the Cape Flats and animal welfare services for working horses and donkeys.

“Except for being unable to expand our programmes, there is nothing that I can say we can’t do workwise in the organisation when it comes to the horses,” says Kotze.

Siyabonga Mfanta was a tailor before he started fixing harnesses. “I enjoy this job because it gives me the chance to do what I am good at,” he says. Photo: Masixole Feni