Leading Malta’s Working Horses to Water

Written by World Animal Protection UK

There are around 100 million working equines in the world. Ideally, every animal should be treated with respect and compassion, have the chance to live a good life, free from pain.

One of the most basic needs for any animal is access to clean drinking water. Sadly, tourist carriage horses in Malta are thirsty, overheated and dehydrated. And that’s why their owners came to World Animal Protection for help.

Working under the scorching Mediterranean sun, Malta’s carriage horses need water, and frequent access to it. But currently there is just one dedicated water point for working horses in the whole of Malta’s capital, Valletta. There were more in the past, but for various reasons, only one tap is now working. The owners want to give their thirsty horses water, but right now they don’t have easy access to water points.

Over the summer, the temperatures in Malta shot up to over 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Local animal welfare groups in Malta and the horse owners became even more concerned about the situation and asked us to help. Our veterinary assessment found that the horses were in generally good condition and free from the sort of painful injuries that many working equines suffer from, like lameness or saddle sores. Their harnessing was good, and they were well shod. For every day they worked, they had the next off and could rest. But they were thirsty.

We met with the authorities again to raise our concerns. “Why should it be our responsibility?” they argued. “Why should we have to provide water points for these horses? They are a business. The owners can bring jerry cans full of water every morning. It’s their job to do that. Not ours.”

The problem is that carrying a sufficient amount of water isn’t practical. Horses need to drink a little and often during the working day, but those small amounts add up to a lot. By having water points or taps at different locations, the owners can allow their horses to rest often in some shade with a cooling drink of water.

There are also simple and easy ways city authorities could help the situation.

In Valletta is a large water tower, built in 1615 and named after the Grand Master of Malta, Alof de Wignacourt who paid for it and the aqueduct that supplied Valletta with clean, fresh water for the benefit of the local population. At the bottom of the tower is a bath-sized horse trough. Wignacourt didn’t forget that working horses also needed water. It’s rather a pity that the water which still splashes into it and which passing horses instinctively reach out towards, is undrinkable – it’s treated with chlorine to stop anyone doing so, for fear they might catch something. But this stale, recirculated water could be replaced if instead it was connected up to a fresh, clean supply.

It’s true that 400 years after it was built, there are far fewer working horses on the streets of Valletta. But those that remain have the same needs, and the authorities still have duties toward them. It was no more the responsibility of the authorities in 1615 to build a water trough to benefit thirsty horses either. But they still did it because they recognized a need – to make it that much easier for thirsty horses to drink.

Our recommendations are simple – reconnect or re-establish the water points so working horses have access to safe drinking water. We’ve made suggestions that are inexpensive or won’t cost anything (including restoring Alof de Wignacourt’s 400 year old horse trough to its original purpose). And now we need your help. Let’s send that message to the authorities in Malta and ask them to “Turn the Taps On.”


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Past Member 2 years ago

Some good news:

Water dispensers for karozzin horses to be installed after petition goes viral

Transport Malta says water dispensers will be installed at Valletta karozzin shelters, after 25,000 people sign online petition

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

It's tough on working animals.

Julia Cabrera-Woscek

The World needs to treat all creatures with dignity.

Ana Luisa Luque M.

Petition signed. These horses are like working like the men, they arre work force. They need water, rest, play time and food, every day.

Deborah W.
Deborah W2 years ago

The veterinary assessment found the horses in generally good condition, free from the sort of painful injuries that many working equines suffer from, saddle sores, etc. Harnessing was good, they were well shod and, for every day they worked they had the next off and can rest ... except they're overheated, thirsty and dehydrated.

Stateside horses would kill for this type of arrangement (1 day of work, 1 day of rest. We let 'em work till they drop from exhaustion and/or die in between the gas fumes of cars on the crowded streets.

Authorities, as usual, question why this should their responsibility. How 'bout it's the right thing to do. If it's a business, I'm sure authorities get their share through licensing, tourist revenue at hotels, restaurants, gift shops, etc. and so share the convenience afforded them through carriage transportation.

Wonder how they'd react if the carriage drivers all struck at the same time, leaving tourists stranded and looking to authorities for alternate means of transport? Wouldn't that be just grand?

Lori A.
Lori A2 years ago

Thank you, SJ A for the status on Malta's hunting lobby. It's sad, but at least voices are being raised in opposition. Hopefully one day (sooner rather than later), the opposition will win.

Monica Riedler
Monica R2 years ago

Petition signed. It's outrageous the city is not providing water. But the best would be to stop this carriage business in the first place - all over the world!

Rike Wesendahl
Rike Wesendahl2 years ago

:( Poor horses..

Susie Reynolds
Susie Reynolds2 years ago

I cannot bear to see horses working like this in extreme heat. It just isn't right in my book. It must be unbearable for them and, if they have no access to cool, clean water, it must be pure hell for them. I so hope common sense and decency prevail.