Neigh-more suffering

By Alex Brennan

A hundred horses have been liberated from a life of suffering due to the admirable efforts of local horse charity Algarve Horse Alarm. Since 2017, three local horse lovers and friends – Femke Irik, Hope Wallace and Olaf Linke – have been committed to rescuing and rehabilitating the Algarve’s mistreated horses.

In 2017, a citizen in Lagos grew concerned over a horse attached to a cart in town. Femke, who also manages SeaBookings in Lagos, is well-known for her passion for horses and was contacted to see whether she could help. Without hesitation, she checked on the horse, which was dehydrated and badly injured. Using her initiative, she negotiated with the owners and managed to rescue and treat her at her home.

Sadly, a common misconception within some communities is that car oil heals wounds and she noticed that this horse’s wounds had been covered in it. After extensive treatment (paid for out of their own pocket) the charity nursed the mare back to full health and named her Esperança, which is Portuguese for ‘hope’. Today, Esperança is “living her best life” with Hope (the human) just outside of Portimão.

Word spread after their first rescue and they were called on a few more times before they decided “they needed to make a change”. They introduced Olaf, a fellow horse lover who had previously helped with transport and was keen to help the girls with their quest.

Algarve Horse Alarm currently looks after 22 horses. When a horse is first rescued, they are taken to ‘intensive care’ which is based at Femke’s house. Here, they will be thoroughly examined and treated appropriately. At present, they do not have premises to host all their horses. So, after their examination and treatment, they call on local landowners to see if they are willing to accommodate a horse or even a few. The charity will assign a volunteer to a location where they will visit daily to muck out, feed and water, help with fencing, medical assistance and generally tend to the horses (with affection being one of their main priorities).

A core part of their operation is their relationship with the Romani community. Frequently, they visit camps across the Algarve and trade medical care, equipment or (as a last resort) money, in exchange for a horse they are concerned about. Femke has even taken their equipment home and reupholstered it herself, to trade with a horse.

In times of despair, specifically with fires, Femke, Hope and Olaf also help arrange transport for horses in high-risk areas and temporarily rehome them until they can return to safety.

Although their efforts are unmatched, they wouldn’t be able to pursue their mission without the help of the volunteers and partners. Jane Kemp is one of the charity’s most valuable volunteers and organises all their fundraising events. They’ve also teamed up with some great local vets who generously offer their services for reduced fees. This includes a team of Swiss vets who fly over to Portugal from another charity and will often carry out larger procedures, such as castrations, free of charge.

The end goal is for every horse to find their forever home. Thus, finding appropriate adopters is one of their main priorities. Rightly so, they have a strict contract and adoption procedure and only ever send horses outside of Portugal when they are sure the horse is recovered and healthy.

Algarve Horse Alarm is striving to be recognised as a registered charity with financial support from the câmara. If successful, they would have no limit to the horses they could save and could potentially create one premises where they could care for all their horses. Until then, Femke, Hope, Olaf and the rest of the volunteers continue to graft by spreading awareness and taking care of their equine friends.



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