An interview with Lisa, from Costa Rica Equine Welfare

An interview with Lisa, from Costa Rica Equine Welfare

Animal Welfare 0
We interviewed Lisa Ortuno, who works as executive director of Costa Rica Equine Welfare (C.R.E.W.). CREW is a local NGO that was launched by World Horse Welfare, and works closely with the International Federation of Equestrian sports (FEI).

Could you tell us a bit more about C.R.E.W.?

Costa Rica Equine Welfare is a non-profit association registered in Costa Rica since 2014. Our mission is to improve working equine welfare in Costa Rica through education and training in the different communities that use equines to generate income to improve their livelihoods. We work hand in hand with stakeholders, some government and non-government institutions like other NGO’s, to generate working protocols and regulations to guarantee equine welfare. We also work with local schools to promote animal welfare values and pro-social education for our future generations.

How do you work with the communities and what is your relationship with them?

Alongside our stakeholders we look into different locations in the country where communities have working equines. We visit the community and meet with the development associations or community leaders and explain our program to them. We want to make sure they understand we are not against them using the animals for work, instead our goal is to create a program that helps them improve the welfare of their animals. Once there is a working agreement in place, we organise a general welfare inspection to assess what exactly needs to be improved. At this point we start with community trainings and workshops to enhance their equine practices.

Our relationship with the different communities is based on trust and open communication channels. We need to make sure all parties understand the different goals and how things are going to unfold. From the start, it's really important that they understand animals are sensitive beings that have basic needs that need to be fulfilled. This must be done through a change in human behaviour which is not an easy task. Some of the community members are eager to learn and some aren’t, that’s why we must approach them with caution and respect. It’s all about the process, with time they will notice the differences between the animals which are well looked after and the ones that aren't, and end up realising that this actually makes a huge difference.
Woman assessing horse's condition
Woman assessing horse's condition

What is your main challenge?

I would say our main challenge is to make the owners aware of the poor conditions their animals are living in and make them realise how this impacts the animal. Something that for us is so obvious, like providing shade and water to the horses while they are resting is something that many owners don't put into practice. We at CREW work towards spreading awareness. We are hopeful and positive we will be able to educate more people on this and have a positive impact.
Local with its horse
Local with its horse

What makes your actions more efficient?

It's very important to have a solid team of professionals that share the same vision and look forward to improve the equine welfare worldwide. We believe in creating alliances to strengthen actions and better accomplish objectives.

How do you think CREW could help with horse riding tourism?

Costa Rica is a highly touristic country and offers many horse-riding tours around the country, unfortunately not every tour operator is aware of their horses’ welfare. We have seen horses in very poor conditions. That is why this year we have been working a little more in this scenario. We created a couple of pilot projects with private tourism organisations and are looking for opportunities to work with the independent workers that offer the rides, especially at the beach. Our intentions are to create community projects and try to implement some changes in this sector.
Inspection to the horse's teeth
Inspection to the horse's teeth

How did you start working with C.R.E.W. and what do you most enjoy about your job?

Horses have always been a great passion of mine and ever since I finished my degree in Animal Science I've been working with them. I actually started to work at this NGO 7 years ago, I started off as a consultant 7 years ago, and became executive director 2 years later. I enjoy working with different communities and their people, leading workshops and teaching about equine welfare. CREW has given me the opportunity to work towards creating a better world for the horses. We have also started to align our goals with SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) to work towards the concept of One Welfare (humans-animals-environment), which is very exciting.

What advice would you give Equus Journeys riders to better help local communities?

No matter where you are going, I believe it's important to learn about the community and culture of the region to which the rider is travelling.
It’s also very important that they try to understand if the ground handler is taking good care of its horses - they are being fed, have no discomfort, aren't overworked, and have freedom to express their natural behaviour – we should always encourage and support local businesses that value and respect the animals they are working with.

More information

Read about C.R.E.W's work in Costa Rica on their website:
To find out more about our rides, please visit our website. You can also contact us directly at or give us a call on +44 (0)1905 388 977

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