Despite the news footage we see every day, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to really imagine what life is like in the middle of the War in Ukraine.
How can one carry on when shelling, loss, cold, and fear are the currency of everyday life? What is it like to know that one’s survival from day to day is, in many ways, an open question?
For members of the international equestrian community based in Ukraine there are added pressures. Namely, safeguarding beloved horses, while also providing the food and shelter they need every day to survive—a monumental task in the midst of so much devastation.
One year ago, Mykhaylo Parkhomchuk, CEO of the Ukrainian Equestrian Charity Foundation (UECF), issued a desperate plea to fellow horsemen and women around the world. “Help us to stand for our country and for our values! Being an equestrian means a unique bond between horse and human built on trust,” he said. “Our commitment to the welfare of our horses is strong at all times and without compromising.”
Fortunately, one year later, the global community has rallied, helping to develop UECF into the largest equine humanitarian organization in Ukraine and allowing them to concentrate their efforts in a number of key ways. Among them: distributing humanitarian aid, including hay and bedding supplies, to the regions most affected by conflict; providing on-demand, emergency relocation of horses in conflict areas to safer regions with better supplies; distributing blankets and other essential supplies to horses in need; and providing free shelter and care to horses relocated from dangerous and/or supply-deprived areas.
One year on, the organization is pausing to reflect on their progress. “We started with a group of volunteers from 15 different countries and Ukraine. What we have accomplished together is unbelievable,” said Parkhomchuk, who also credits major international organizations including the FEI, The British Horse Society, US Equestrian, Brook USA, and others with stepping up to provide support.
“During the first months of war, we arranged the relocation, evacuation, and shelter for more than 500 horses. We have organized logistics for 1,200 tons of humanitarian aid for horses. Another 500 tons of hay and feed have been sourced locally.
“We have helped to supply stables with rugs and blankets for the winter period, and Ukrainian equine vets with the essential medicines and equipment. Almost 5,000 horses from 300 stables benefited in one or another way from the help of our team and our partners. The most important is that our work has brought hope and strength to the Ukrainian equestrians to recover and adapt and to win together.”
Despite the many successes of UECF, however, the War in Ukraine continues. And, as you might expect, the need is still great. Topping the organization’s current wish-list: funding for hay, haylage, and compound feed supplies; vitamins, minerals, and supplements for horses with chronic conditions; and riding equipment, including saddles, for riding schools.
If you’re interesting in supporting UECF, donations can be made via the organization’s PayPal link, here. Follow the Ukrainian Equestrian Charity Foundation on Facebook and Instagram for updates.