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The horse whisperer

Kabelo Dipholo
ON BENDED KNEE: de Villiers with Jackie Chan

Animal rights activist breeds Europe’s oldest miniature horses

A renowned animal rights activist in Mathangwane, Angelique de Villers has taken her love for animals to another level.

Besides living with 39 dogs in her modest animal rescue and rehabilitation farm, De Villers also keeps a little hairy secret in her stable.

Best remembered for saving a suspected petty thief from an angry mob (Dog trainer and her dogs keep angry mob at bay-The Voice), De Villers at the time had about 150 dogs, which were contracted to security, companies and was always in the company of her canine buddies.

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“I happened to be at the right place at the right time. My dogs literally put on a show, ready to attack anyone who dared to swing at the suspected thief who at the time was bleeding profusely. The dogs saved him from the mob,” recalled De Villers.

Her animal rescue and rehabilitation efforts have however not been without challenges. “I’ve found myself facing charges of stock theft because I just can’t stand to see an animal in pain,” she said.

She had attempted to assist dogs or goats hit by cars but found it difficult because taking such animals to her farm borders of stock theft.

“I usually report them to the kgosi and then the process of tracing the owner will begin. In most cases its an exercise in futility and most of the time the animals succumb to their injuries and die horrible deaths,” she said with a heavy sigh.

Right now however she is engrossed in breeding a couple of miniature Mediterranean horses. “This breed is quite big in the United States and Europe,” she said.

Miniature horses are found in many nations, particularly in Europe and the Americas. The designation of a miniature horse is determined by the height of the animal. Depending on the particular breed registry involved, it is usually less than 86–97 cm as measured at the last hairs of the mane, which are found at the withers.

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They were first developed in Europe in the 1600s, and by 1765 they were seen frequently as the pets of nobility.

Others were used in coalmines in England and continental Europe.

The English began using small ponies in their mines after the Mines and Collieries Act 1842 prohibited the use of young children as mine workers.

De Villiers has a couple of these tiny horses measuring between 72cm and 76cm.

With names such as Jackie Chan and Tiny Tiara, De Villers must be the owner of the smallest horse in Botswana.

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“Four year old Tiny Tiara is only 72cm. It doesn’t get smaller than that,” De Villers said proudly. The miniature horse can fetch between P10 000 and P50 000 and according to De Villers, they make the best pets.
“They are trainable and usually used to perform in trade shows,” she explained.

Nevertheless being a dedicated activist, De Villers has always found a way to help ailing animals.

In fact the well-read animal lover who has been in Botswana for 18 years’ s long-term vision revolves around running a permanent animal rescue service.

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