Abdeljalil Belghouate, a horse carriage owner, waits for customers in July 2020. Coronavirus rules are keeping most visitors away from Marrakech. (AP)

Abdeljalil Belghouate, a horse carriage owner, waits for customers in July 2020. Coronavirus rules are keeping most visitors away from Marrakech. (AP)

A doctor inspects a sick horse at the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) shelter in Marrakech. Some owners struggle to feed their animals because of a lack of work. (AP)

A doctor inspects a sick horse at the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) shelter in Marrakech. Some owners struggle to feed their animals because of a lack of work. (AP)

Horses rest in a stable. SPANA wants to help carriage owners. So it delivers feed to almost 600 horses in Marrakech. (AP)

Horses rest in a stable. SPANA wants to help carriage owners. So it delivers feed to almost 600 horses in Marrakech. (AP)

A man holds his sick horse at the SPANA animal shelter. (AP)

A man holds his sick horse at the SPANA animal shelter. (AP)

People gather outside the SPANA shelter to have their animals inspected. (AP)

People gather outside the SPANA shelter to have their animals inspected. (AP)

Morocco’s Horses Need Help

Posted: November 1, 2020

Abdenabi Nouidi sold his favorite horse. He needed money to feed his other work horses. His team pulls tourists in carriages through the busy streets of Marrakech, Morocco. The city usually buzzes with visitors. But most have vanished. Coronavirus rules are keeping them away from Morocco. That means no work for the horses and no income for their owners. What will happen to the carriage horses?

The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) says hundreds of Morocco’s carriage horses and donkeys are in danger. The North African country’s tourism industry is collapsing. The country closed its borders after the first virus case hit Morocco. It also banned travel to eight cities. One of those is Marrakech. The rules were made to protect people from disease.

But thousands of people depend on the carriage horses for income. One horse carriage provides for four to five families. That includes owners, drivers, and stable boys. Abdeljalil Belghaoute is a carriage driver. He waits in line hoping that someone wants a ride. “If you have a shop, you can close it. If you sell goods, you store them. But imagine having . . . horses who need to eat, drink, and get medical care,” he says. “Only tourism can save us from this catastrophe we’re facing.”

Mr. Nouidi has three brothers. They have been forced to sell seven of their horses. The remaining horses grow nervous. Without carriage work, the horses’ routine is interrupted. Feed runs low.

SPANA helps carriage owners provide for their horses. It delivered three months’ worth of feed to almost 600 horses in Marrakech. “It became very clear to us when the lockdown was first imposed that many of Marrakech’s working animals would need our help or face a dire outcome,” says the head veterinarian at SPANA’s Marrakech center.

“They give so much to their owners. There is so little that we can give back,” says Boujamaa Ninich. The longer the pandemic goes on, the harder it will be on Morocco’s horses and the families they work for.