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Horses are one of the most abandoned animals in Italy

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Abandoned horses in rural northern Italy near the town of Ferrara. Many of these horses died; Others entered a Horse Angels recovery program that put them forward for approval. (Cinzya Cannery)


Italian photojournalist Cinzia Canneri documented an unlikely class of stray animals in his home country: horses. His research shows that since 2018, following an economic crisis, around 8,000 of the creatures have been abandoned, making horses the fourth most abandoned animal in Italy after dogs, cats and turtles.

Canneri corresponded with In Sight in a Q&A session about the project.

What made you want to cover this topic?

In 2018, a herd of abandoned horses was found in northern Italy following the bankruptcy of an equestrian center. At the same time, I was also made aware of semi-abandoned horses that were left in a sorry state on the side of a road in Rome, where they were malnourished and kept in small, restrictive paddocks. These two events marked me deeply, because the horse is an animal which, once abandoned, is likely to die without any other possibility of being with other people who can take care of it.

I started reading about it to try to understand what makes people behave this way. However, I couldn’t find much information on this issue, so I did some research by speaking directly to the people at the centers responsible for relocating abandoned horses. I also interviewed individuals who had been forced to abandon their horses.

Abandonment is a phenomenon that can go through exploitation, in the sense that when a horse no longer produces money, like a racehorse, it is only a cost and is therefore abandoned. However, very frequently, abandonment occurs because the owners of a horse are experiencing financial difficulties and are unable to meet the considerable expenses involved in maintaining it.

The separation from the horse can also occur by seizure following a bankruptcy, because the horse is considered in Italy as movable property and not as a domestic animal.

The horse in mythology is linked to strength and freedom, but in reality it is an animal that is reduced to its financial value – a concept that continues to be supported by our own laws which recognize the horse as property. commercial.

The analysis of the relationship between man and horse, as a deepening of a social question linked to the economy, seemed to me very interesting.

You covered this topic from 2018 to 2020. Did you continue to follow the story in 2021-2022? If so, have you seen it get better or worse during the pandemic?

I continue to follow this story and I also analyze it from other points of view, such as clandestine slaughter, which unfortunately is very widespread. During the confinement period, there were many problems related to riding. As many of these facilities were closed, the revenue generated was not sufficient to support the horses. In this situation, however, more than the increase in illegal abandonments, there have been acts of cooperation and solidarity. This was particularly demonstrated in Padua, one of Italy’s cities hardest hit by covid deaths, where horses were allowed to feed in city parks. Paradoxically, during one of the worst crises experienced in the world, responses of solidarity and support made it possible to limit the phenomenon of horse abandonment.

What was the hardest part of covering this story?

I had never photographed animals, and for me it was a project as beautiful as it was very stimulating, especially when I found myself photographing the abandoned horses in the Po Valley. I watched them from afar and gradually looked for a relationship that would allow me to get closer to them. I really tried to build a relationship as I do with all the subjects I photograph, but with horses the relationship was built from non-verbal language, from the search for an encounter between different species, listening to deep sensations that were not related to consciousness. It’s an experience that allowed me to enter into a different relationship with the report that I was doing. My photos are always characterized by an intimacy that is created between me and the person who offers me his story; my challenge was to photograph horses with the same intimacy.

Are there ways our readers can help these horses in Italy?

Absolutely. There are two important associations in Italy with which I have collaborated and which do important work in recovering horses that live in a situation of abandonment and neglect.

Horse Angels, ODV It is an association that deals with the rehousing of abandoned horses, takes legal action, and promotes a culture linked to the protection of horses and the environment.

IHP (Italian Horse Protection) Directly welcomes horses and other equidae seized for mistreatment. It is an association that fights for legislative and cultural change that leads to the recognition of the rights of horses, also through awareness campaigns based on scientific knowledge.

Helping these associations, which rely solely on volunteers and do very important work, is essential.

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