A slightly different Mule Tale this week – the Brooke have kindly allowed me to reproduce this story of Muhammad and his mule Moti, who live in Pakistan. Life there is very different from how our mules in the UK live, and it is hard for the people, too; I am so thankful for charities such as The Brooke who work tirelessly to improve the life of working animals and the people who own them!
Muhammad Arshad is 35. He earns 500 – 700 rupees (approximately £4 – £5) a day transporting bricks by cart at Hamza Brick Kiln, on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan. He owns Moti, a 15-year-old mule, who he uses to transport the bricks.
Muhammad is a Brooke Community Change agent, meaning the Brooke team identified him as being particularly passionate about animal welfare and have trained him up to spread Brooke’s message to other owners in the brick kiln. He also leads community engagement sessions and is often the first point of contact if another owner has a question or problem.
Before Muhammad attended Brooke’s meetings, he believed in traditional myths and practices, much like many of the other owners in the brick kiln. For example, when treating wounds, Muhammad would rub salt and break oil into them; if a horse, donkey or mule showed signs of colic, he would feed it tobacco and molasses; and if an equine was lame, he would fire the joint.
Muhammad and his fellow owners now have the knowledge to correctly manage these symptoms. Muhammad says: “Since attending Brooke’s Community Engagement meetings, I now think my mule’s life is just as important as mine. Brooke taught me that there is so much I can do with my own hands to make a positive change to my mule’s life, such as grooming, feeding and foot cleaning. I want to spread that message as far as I can.”
One of Brooke’s lessons that has resonated particularly deeply with Muhammad is that of grooming; “Just like me and my wife need clean, ironed clothes, so does Moti need grooming. Grooming brings us closer together and our love increases, we feel like he is a family member.”
Not long ago, Muhammad noticed that the nails from Moti’s shoes were sticking out, causing bleeding as they brushed against the opposite leg. As the farrier was not based at Hamza brick kiln, it was expensive and inconvenient to keep returning to the farrier to have him rasp the nails down. Muhammad thought that he would be able to manage this himself if he had the right tools: “I was worried, and thinking what can I do?”
Muhammad went to the market and found a rasp used in construction and adapted it by adding a wooden handle. His homemade rasp, made from readily available local resources, allows Muhammad to file down the nails himself to prevent injury to his mule. It has been so successful that he has made two more rasps for fellow owners. Furthermore, he is on hand to show other owners how to file down a nail if he spots a horse with brushing wounds.
Brooke’s community engagement work has empowered owners like Muhammad in the Hamza brick kiln. For Muhammad, the most significant change has been the knowledge and ability to prevent common injuries and ailments; “Prevention is better than cure and it is our responsibility.”
Brooke is an international charity that protects and improves the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules which give people in the developing world the opportunity to work their way out of poverty. Over 100 million of these animals are the backbone of developing communities and their best means of making a living. Without healthy working horses, donkeys and mules, around 600 million people wouldn’t be able to put food on their tables, send their children to school or build better futures for themselves and their families.
Brooke delivers significant and lasting change, even in some of the world’s most challenging areas. We use our expertise to work with owners, communities, service providers, governments and international organisations. Operating in 11 different countries, and funding projects in four others, Brooke now reaches over two million working horses, donkeys and mules each year.
Brooke was set up in 1934 by Dorothy Brooke, the wife of a British cavalry officer, who travelled to Cairo in Egypt in 1930 to seek out the abandoned war horses of the First World War. She set up the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital, which later became Brooke.