Prospects for the working horse

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio, Gerard Vincent Francisco and Zena V. Magto USJ-R Interns August 19,2018 - 08:41 PM

BEAST OF BURDEN. Once a reliable source of transportation, the horse drawn carriage is a living reminder of Cebu’s past.


Boyo is a four year old horse that trots daily along Leon Kilat Street, Duljo-Fatima and Pasil, Cebu City.

He is easily recognized by many coachmen and avid passengers of horse-drawn carriages called tartanilla for his brown mane and a white spot that spans across his face.

Boyo is one of the hardworking horses that pull the last few remaining tartanillas of Cebu City.

His coachman, Andy Raagas, 48, guides him through the streets and maintains his general grooming.

Boyo is one of two horses used by Raagas daily for his tartanilla operations.

Since Boyo can only work for five straight hours, the other horse takes over his place to cover the rest of the day.

Cebu City Veterinarian Dr. Alice Utlang said that horses like Boyo should only work at most five hours daily to ensure that the animals remain strong and healthy.

Utlang said that just like other animals, working horses are entitled to the five basic animal freedoms: the freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom from fear or distress; and freedom to express normal behavior.

Ensuring that the rights of working horses are protected is among the tasks of Utlang’s Department of Veterenary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF) so that the likes of Boyo will never be starved, abused, nor overworked.

Boyo is considered lucky because in the two years that he has been working for Raagas, all his needs had been met.

The horse is washed and fed properly and regularly; while stable owners also provide him with all his medical needs.

But not all horses are as fortunate.

Many are abused by their drivers on the road.

Raagas said that some kutseros (coachmen) overwork their horses by whipping them too often and forcing them to run even when they are tired.

Some kutseros also do not give the horses time to drink water in the middle of their shift.

It is no wonder for DVMF that the horses die as early as 10 years old when they ought to live for about 25 years.

The horses’ environment while working on the streets can also be dangerous to their health, said Utlang citing lung problems which may result from the horse’s constant exposure to fumes from motorized vehicles.

The weather also plays a huge part in the health of the horses.

According to Utlang, the horses’ immune system can deteriorate when they work under the rain.

“Kung mag-uwan, ligo-on gyod na nako si Boyo (If it rains, I give Boyo a wash after working),” said Raagas.

“Subawan man gud og dili (The horse will get sick if I don’t),” he added.

Utlang explained that horses need to be washed at least once a week and be submerged in water.

“Ang kabayo at least once a week ligo-on gyud na unya dapat sa ila, i-lubog gyod (The horse should be bathed at least once a week and they should be placed in a tub of water),” said Utlang.

Aside from external factors, horses also face internal health threats right at their common stable with many other horses.

Since a stable is shared by up to seven horses, the rate of infection increases, noted Utlang.

To protect them from diseases picked up from their dirty quarters, DVMF has started to offer free deworming for horses.

“If the horse is still young, the deworming is done every three months. If the horse is older, it’s done every six months,” said Utlang.

Horses, according to Utlang, can contract diseases such as Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a type of ailment comparable with that of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in humans.

The disease is usually transmitted by bloodsucking insects such as mosquitoes.

Utlang said that while Cebu City has been cleared of EIA, the DVMF continues to exhaust all means to prevent a possible return of the disease.
It is difficult to identify infected horses since EIA is asymptomatic in nature, said Utlang.

Tourism approach

So that working horses are fully taken care of, Utlang said that kutseros must first be educated.

A group of coachmen has organized themselves to draft a set of guidelines that will include the needed qualifications to become a coachman and the number of hours a horse can be allowed to work.

“I also do not want tartanillas to be phased out because it will displace people, so we need to educate the horse owners and our kutseros,” said Utlang.

Since the early 1900’s, tartanillas or paradas served as a popular mode of transportation for many Cebuanos.

However, transport modernization has relegated the horse-drawn carriages to cover only a few routes within Cebu City’s San Nicolas district.

While tartanillas could once take you anywhere in Cebu, today only about a hundred ply limited roads along Magallanes Street, Duljo-Fatima, and Pasil away from the city’s major thoroughfares.

The Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) plans to develop tartanillas into a viable tourism activity especially now that they are only used as a cheap transportation alternative in Cebu City’s downtown area.

“Can they be considered as an attraction? Yes they can because they are part of our history by depicting our mode of transportation before,” said DOT-7 director Shalimar Tamano.

Tamano noted that an area conducive for tourists and tartanilla operations — without inconveniencing the rest of the public — must first be identified.

Tamano suggested Plaza Independencia and its nearby Fort San Pedro as ideal for this kind of activity because it is already a tourism site that is considered safe.

Proper coordination with the Cebu City government has to be made, said Tamano, as the plan may involve closing down some streets to give tartanillas a better route.

“Of course, we need to educate our tartanilla drivers about the benefits and importance of tourism, including customer service and good grooming,” Tamano said.

Tour operators in Cebu also find the promotion of tartanillas for tourism as a “great and authentic idea.”

“Maybe around the Fort San Pedro area only. Or during weekends in some areas in the downtown,” said Cebu Association of Tour Operation Specialists (CATOS) President Alice Queblatin.

“While we want to be creative, we have to be aware of the public convenience,” she added as tartanillas can become a traffic hazard if they are allowed to operate in busy streets.

Meanwhile, at the inroads of Barangay Duljo-Fatima, “Boyo” trudges along against the backdrop of the city’s downtown district.

His partner, coachman Raagas, carefully maneuvers the horse’s reins so as not to hurt him.

Boyo and Raagas’ relationship is founded on their need for each other.

And so while Boyo pulls the heavy weight of the rig daily, Raagas also makes sure that the horse remains healthy and strong doing what Boyo was destined to do: help a human being with his living. /with reports from Reporter Jose Santino Bunachita

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: horse, prospects, tartanilla, Working

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.