Of all the species struggling for survival in the twenty-first century, imperilled by pandemics and ecological crises, a certain sense of inevitable precarity pervades the lives of retired racehorses in India. Raised in an economy of competitive profits, these horses are kept for breeding or trained for participation in professional horse-racing events. Once 7 years old, these animals who can survive up to 25 years otherwise are left to their own devices – abandoned and neglected for roughly two decades of their remaining existence. The lucky ones among these populations are taken to stud farms, adopted by the Indian Army, or placed in facilities.
However, most retired racehorses have to live akin to nomads – foraging on the ruthless streets and they are abandoned by owners who struggle to manage the high expenditures of their upkeep and care. Wounded in traffic accidents, and malnourished due to the scraps they feed on, their lives are under constant threat. As the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged human populations, there was little hope for these urban wanderers since the occasional kindness they received had been paused due to national lockdowns.
With the scarcity of equestrian veterinarians in India and the general desensitisation of the public towards their plight, Nayra Kohli, a grade 11 student of Wellington College, United Kingdom, witnessed an urgent need to step in and make a difference. Her empathy for these struggling horses is embodied by her social project, Stable Homes, which she founded in September 2021. Its genesis was based on the goal to provide comfortable houses for retired racehorses in India that have outgrown their breeding span. For this, she collaborated with Central Park, Gurgaon to find residences for these animals in new stables. Generating awareness and capital for their regular upkeep via her initiative, she hoped to bridge gaps in living conditions once their horse racing careers had come to an end.
By finding a safe space in Gurgaon’s housing society, Central Park, Nayra’s efforts have taken multifaceted shapes. Chief among them is the Adopt a Horse Program which she established in September 2021 to incentivize the rehabilitation of these retired equestrian beauties in conducive environments. What began with 4 horses in December 2021 consequently increased in scale as the months passed.
To materialise their successful transfer to loving homes, she diligently coordinated with Central Park to fulfil the various logistical needs necessary for the implementation of the project. These tasks included confirming the number of empty stables available, and estimating an efficient budget based on the number of horses that could be accommodated. Furthermore, she utilised the sanctioned funds to purchase horses from breeders as well as tracked available monetary resources for maintenance. In a bid to find caretakers, she liaised with potential grooms. Finally, meticulously streamlining the safe transportation of these horses to the facility, she maintained records of monthly requirements to ensure their harmonious dwelling.
The month of June 2022 was crucial for the implementation of two more sub-initiatives under the Stable Homes platform. The first was Stable Table, a curated database of resources on 110 equine veterinarians in India, places to find equine management equipment, and animal welfare NGOs that specifically work with horses in India. To increase accessibility, she made this document available to the newly set-up stable as well as proliferated it as a public resource. Channelling the power of language to pursue pragmatic solutions, she launched “Colt Following,” a yearly newsletter that tracks the progress and health of the adopted horses. Offering information about key achievements, goals, and requirements, it served as an engagement platform for relevant stakeholders. As an additional feature, she crafted a reading list for equestrian lovers under the initiative. Each of these horses has a story, and Nayra is currently working towards bringing the intricacies of equestrian existence to the forefront by producing, and directing a docu-series on Youtube. Naming it “Instability,” the online series is to be released in the upcoming months, follows the dynamic, and often devastating lives of racehorses after their displacement from racecourses and breeding homes.
Over the course of two years, via the suturing of hands-on strategies and knowledge-based action Nayra has successfully moulded Stable Homes into a diverse platform unrelentingly focused on saving the lives of majestic horses.