In 2011, I traveled to Cuba for the first time with my sister. As a horse trainer, and my sister a horse owner, we took a special interest in the horses that we saw with their carriages. It was hard not to notice that many of these horses were not in prime condition. Quite a few of them were underweight and had sores where their harnesses had rubbed.
After speaking to many of the cocheros about their horses it was easy to understand that they wanted the best for their animals but simply had limited resources. They expressed that they have extremely limited access to quality feed, proper equipment, and medicines. Their horses lacking was only due to unavailability and not lack of desire to do what was best for their animals. They desired to take excellent care of their equines, but with the difficulty of obtaining supplies, (especially with the US embargo), they needed assistance.
Over the years I have returned to Cuba many times. Those early conversations which have instilled in me a desire to want to help the horses. I have always brought whatever supplies I could to help the Cuban people with their animals, but it was only a drop in the bucket. Their needs are much greater than one person can manage. As a result, I started a non-government organization (NGO) in the United States.
After receiving our non-profit status 501 (3)(c) in August of 2016, we began to work in a slightly new direction. We wanted to work directly with the cooperatives, (organizations that the individual coach drivers belong to) and provide not only necessary equipment but also education to horse owners as well as farriers and veterinarians. Of course, this requires much paperwork with the Cuban government and the government of the United States. In January of this year, we received a Convenio de Collaboracion, (an agreement to work in partnership) with ANIPLANT, the official animal protection NGO in Cuba.
Betsy, Kelcie, Rusco, Jose and Rambo
A Rainy Day in Centro Havana
President: Betsy Gosling: Betsy Gosling has trained horses for almost 50 years. She is a licensed dressage judge of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and formerly a licensed judge of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). She has competed through Grand Prix in dressage, preliminary in eventing and shown in the hunters and in the jumpers. She managed dressage shows for 20 years. During times of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the BP Oil Spill and the Louisiana floods of August of 2016, she has volunteered by doing animal rescue work. She has also worked at a veterinarian clinic. She started Cuba’s Horses in November of 2014 by bringing items with her for the care of the horses on one of her trips to Cuba and in August of 2016 applied and received 501 (3)(c) non-profit status for the IRS. She has traveled to Cuba more times than she can count.
Secretary: Lydia Gray, DVM, MA: Dr. Lydia Gray is the staff veterinarian/medical director for SmartPak. She also serves on the board of the Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners. was president of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, and has served on many committees, task forces, and councils for the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Dr. Gray is an active competitor in dressage and combined driving; a member of the United States Dressage Federation, US Equestrian Federation, American Driving Society (ADS), and American Trakehner Association; and president of The HUB Club driving organization in Illinois and Wisconsin. The former Executive Director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society, she brings animal welfare, fundraising, and legislative talents to Cuba’s Horses.
At Large: John Freiburger: John Freiburger was born into a family with a long equine background. His grandfather and great uncle were breeders of Percherons on his mother’s side and his father’s family built carriages, wagon, farm, and lumbering equipment into the 1920s. His mother drove and his father restored carriages and was a skilled carriage upholsterer. He and his wife Betsy compete with singles and pairs in pleasure and Combined Driving Events (CDE) competitions. They have been involved in the ADS for more than two decades, John serving as President, regional director and until the end of 2016, as Chair of the Development Committee. He has also served on the USEF Board, the International Disciplines Committee, the Tech Committee, and the Pleasure Driving Committee. He is on the Board of US Driving for the Disabled and the Hickory Knoll Fund. Betsy and John helped organize the 2012 ADS Annual Meeting and hosted it at their home, Hickory Knoll Farm, where they also host an annual CDE, many clinics, and dressage shows. He has been an ADS judge since 2001 and also officiates at State fairs with light horse, breed and draft classes. John and Betsy have also traveled to Cuba as part of the Minneapolis-Cuba artist exchange.
At Large: Robert Hewlett, DVM: Bobby grew up in Louisiana and attended veterinary school at Texas A & M. He had the desire to specialize in horses from the beginning and has over 35 years working as an equine veterinarian specialized in sport horse medicine as well as breeding. In addition, he owns a small animal practice with three other veterinarians. He has been the team veterinarian for the Area V Young Rider Championship teams for several years. He has worked with rodeo stock and race horses as well as some exotic species. Bobby along with his wife Tracy own Holly Hill Farm in Benton, Louisiana and together they organize and manage horse trials. Formerly, he competed at the preliminary level in eventing but now prefers trail riding. In his spare time, he has volunteered in Panama building orphanages.