The Happy Horse holiday code

Here at Responsible Travel we care about animals, especially those involved in tourism and we want to make sure that as travellers, we know what we can do to help working animals in tourism. So our friends at The Brooke have provided us with a code of conduct that ensures fair and humane treatment of horses in tourism and the travel industry.

A happy looking donkeyDo you think your suitcase is heavy? Imagine carrying something five times the weight...all day, every day! Overloading horses and animals and undercutting prices from owners endangers the wellbeing and safety of horses and other animals .

The issues: Horses and donkeys carry heavy loads all day as they taxi tourists across tricky terrain at bargain prices in the blazing heat. Exhausted animals suffer heat stress, injuries, dehydration, beatings and wounds as part of this ‘holiday experience’ as their owners struggle to make a living. But if overwork and bad practices are avoided, these animals can work happily and provide valuable income for local people and enjoyment for tourists.

What you can do: Every person has the power to prevent animals' suffering. The Brooke is calling on all tourists to take action by following our simple ‘Happy Horses Holiday Code’. Below is a list of guidelines and issues for awareness from The Brooke.
The Brooke’s Happy Horses Holiday Code
1. Match sizes. Donkeys and horses in developing countries are not always as strong as you might think, so always match your size to that of the animal and ensure that your weight is evenly balanced when riding.

Happy Horse Code, © The Brooke2. Pay a fair price for the ride. Encouraging owners to undercut each other devalues the work of the horse or donkey and means both owner and animal must work even harder to earn a living wage.

3. One person per animal. No horse or donkey should carry more than one rider. The animal must accept your weight without discomfort and be able to start, stop and move easily. If it stumbles, staggers or appears to be struggling in any way, please get off.

Happy Horse Code, © The Brooke4. One wheel per person when riding in a carriage. Two people in a two-wheeled cart and so on. Carriages should be driven at a walking pace only or it can run into the animal when it stops.

5. Take a closer look. It is important to look past the decoration or carriage and choose an animal that is fit and healthy – with a good covering of flesh, rather than prominent hip bones, backbones or pelvis.

6. Avoid using animals with sores and wounds. Check places where equipment could rub such as the mouth, shoulders, spine and belly. Wounds might be hidden under a saddle or harness, so if you are concerned, ask to check.
Happy Horse Code, © The Brooke
7. Read the comfort signs. A healthy animal will have a high head position, with eyes open and ears forward. It will also stand evenly, so look at all four legs for signs of pain or injury and check for cracked or misshapen hooves.

8. Speak out. If you see an owner mistreating his or her animal, by riding it hard or whipping it, we urge you not to use their services – and tell them why.

9. Offer praise. If an animal seems well looked after, please praise the owner and explain why you have chosen to give him or her your trade.

10. Report mistreatment. If you see an animal being severely mistreated, consider making a formal complaint to your tour operator, tourist police or the local authorities.

About The Brooke
The Brooke is an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules through direct veterinary treatment and community programmes around animal health and well-being.

Happy Horse Code, © The BrookeWe work with individuals, groups and organisations to ensure working equine animals get the living and working conditions they deserve. With over 800 staff in the field we currently work in 11 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Brooke’s work also benefits poor people who rely on these animals for their livelihoods. The majority of working horses and donkeys are owned by individuals who use them to support their primary means of income to sustain often large and extended families. These animals are becoming ever more important in developing countries to alleviate poverty, assure food security and promote self-reliance.

Pledge your support for the Brooke's Responsible Tourism for Animals campaign

For more details and information please go to
Written by Justin Francis