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The Horses of Gili T – What is the Situation & Treatment like NOW?

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I first visited Gili Trawangan island in Indonesia in 2014. When researching things to do on Gili T, I found my way to some posts about the horses and ponies on Gili T that pull the carts around the island because Gili T is a car-free and moped-free island.

I remember reading about how badly they were treated, how skinny they were and that they die much earlier than they should…

As a horse lover and as someone who grew up with horses, I took these negative comments with me to the island in 2014. In all honesty, I can’t remember what the horses actually looked like but I know the situation wasn’t as good as it should have been and I got pretty angry at the drivers because of what I had read.

Fast forward 5.5 years to the end of 2019 and I’m back on Gili Trawangan staying here for the best part of 2 months to catch up with the work I need to do on this travel blog. Update – I then came back during the Pandemic and stayed on Gili T for 5 months during 2020! So in this blog I’m going to tell you about what I saw in this time and what the situation of the Horses in Gili T is like now!

Gili T Horses

Gili T Horses
Keep Reading for how the Gili T Horses are treated now!

During my first few days back on Gili T, I was looking around and I was surprised because I couldn’t see the extremely skinny horses that I remember reading about. Yes, I saw some ribs, I saw them being pulled about by the drivers back and forth, in tight circles, and I saw them having their carts pilled up high at the pier.

But I also saw them waiting in the shade, not directly in the sunshine. I saw that their feet were in fairly good condition, not like horses feet in many other countries. I saw them in stables as I cycled around in the inland part of the island showing that they do get a break from work, and within my first week on the island, I found out about Horses of Gili!

Gili T Horses
This is a typical passenger Cidomo on Gili T with the yellow cart and decorations on the horse’s bridge.

Horses of Gili

Horses of Gili is a not for profit organisation for the horses of all 3 islands – Gili T, Gili Air and Gili Meno. They operate beneath Gili Eco Trust an NGO that was initially set up back in 2000 for marine conservation but has now expanded to waste management and the sustainable eco-tourism of the island.

(There’s also a third organisation called Cats of Gili as there are lots of cats on the island that need looking after too.)

The mission of Horses of Gili is to provide a long term project to help improve welfare and provide the best living conditions and standards of care for the horses on all 3 islands.

Horses of Gili Facebook page. Horses of Gili Instagram page. Horses of Gili Paypal donation page.

Gili T Horses
The Stables at Horses of Gili looking after rescued ponies.

How do Horses of Gili look after the Horses?

Horses of Gili are working alongside the locals. The biggest thing that tourists to the Gili islands must remember is that this is Indonesia, not their home country. This is an Asian country and there are many cultural differences and differences in education that surround the care and welfare of animals in this country, and not just the horses.

Horses of Gili know that they cannot simply tell the locals that what they are doing is wrong, they need to work with them by teaching them, educating them and leading by example.

The people, and ex-pats in particular, that know a lot about the horses that work on the Gili Islands say that a lot has changed in the last few years, proving that the articles that were written in 2010 may have been correct but are no longer correct. The same goes for the ones I have seen written in 2014, 2015 and even 2017.

On this note, if you have read old articles and heard past stories I really urge you to think about when that was, how much that person knows about horse care and if they spoke to the local organisations or not.

The ways that Horses of Gili are supporting and teaching the locals is by arranging for donated equipment like bits, bridles and boots from around the world to be brought to Gili T so the horses have new equipment that fits them well and will, therefore, cause fewer cuts on their face and body from ill-fitting equipment rubbing them.

They are teaching the locals the basics in terms of diet, for example, that the horses should be drinking freshwater, not saltwater from the sea which can dehydrate them. The reason for them drinking saltwater previously is because freshwater is expensive for the owners to buy and provide. The same goes for their food, many are fed imported fresh grass hay and rice bran mixed with water which is not the best diet for them. To overcome this Horses of Gili are importing pelleted horse feed and a vitamin and mineral supplement which they sell at a low cost to the owners.

Horses need their feet trimming and they need good quality shoes put on regularly. There is a farrier on the island and slowly he is being taught new ways to do this.

In some cases, Horses of Gili will buy a pony that has been mistreated and is in a bad condition off of a driver. They will look after it in their stables and then sell it, in most cases to be a riding pony on East Java to give it a better life.


And then we come onto… 

Animal Aid Abroad

When I went to meet Horses of Gili, Tori, who heads up the organisation, told me that next week there will be the twice-annual horse clinic and that they always need extra hands. Keen to be surrounded by horses once again, I turned up not knowing what to expect and what I saw surprised me!

Animal Aid Abroad is a charity that supports the horse clinics in conjunction with Gili Eco Trust.

About 20 veterinary students from Australia were there along with 4-5 Indonesian vets. The drivers and horse owners could bring their horses to the clinic for free to be checked over by the vets, have new equipment provided, have cuts checked and treated, have their teeth looked at, have their feet trimmed, be shoed, be wormed and given vitamins.

They spent 3 days on Gili T doing this, 2 days on Lombok and 1 day on Gili Air and Gili Meno.

Gili T Horses
All of the horses got checked over.
Gili T Horses
They got their feet done.
Gili T Horses
They got their teeth checked.
Gili T Horses
They got their Injuries treated.
Gili T Horses
And they got new tack made to help reduce ill-fitting equipment which causes cuts and sores.


I lived on Gili Trawangan island for 6 months so I know it well! Here are my top posts to help you plan your trip:

30 TOP Things to do on Gili Trawangan!

3 Day Gili Trawangan Itinerary!

2 Week Gili Islands, Bali and Lombok itinerary!

How to get around Gili T, Gili Air and Gili Meno by Boat!

Where to stay in Gili Trawangan – Best Hotels, Hostels & Villas!


There is only one way to get from Bali to the Gili Islands and that’s my fast boat from Padang Bay.

You can wait until you arrive to book your boat or be organised and book it in advance here. Booking in advance is especially good during the summer and Christmas months!

BUY HERE: From Bali: 1-Way Boat Transfer to Gili Trawangan/Gili Air/Lombok

BUY HERE: From all Gili Islands: 1-Way Boat Transfer to Bali

It was also here that I got to really see the horses.

When the horses are working, whether it’s pulling the carts or standing waiting for work, they have blinkers on so they can only see in front of them (which is common practice all over the world) and they are in work mode. They’re not like horses many of us grew up with or have had experiences with at home. They are not used to human affection and attention and from what I have observed I really recommend tourists do not pet the horses when they are working as it seems to irritate them, which is understandable.

But at the clinic, the horses were coming in with just a halter, they were alert looking around at all of the people and other horses in the area. One of the questions on the form that every horse was recorded on, was whether the horse was alert, responsive and aware. Although some of the horses in the carts on the street appear unresponsive based on what I have said above, I can assure you they all were all responsive when they were at the clinic and out of ‘work mode’.

I also have to commend the drivers, many were there for up to 2 hours waiting for their horse to be fully looked at. This took time out of their day and most likely their working day. Although talking to the drivers was hard due to the language barrier, I got the sense that they do care for their horses. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been there. No one was forcing them.

Gili T Horses
An owner with this horse whilst it’s being checked over.
Gili T Horses
This owner waited a long time too.

Other questions that were asked were how many days off do they have and how long do they work? From the answers we got back, most are given one day off and work for a few hours a day.

And here comes another thing that we tourists must remember, these are working horses! They are bred to work and they are bred in the Indonesian heat to work. 

If you brought a Welsh Mountain Pony over here to work, that would be cruel, they wouldn’t be used to the heat and the dryness of the island. But these horses were born in Indonesia on the islands on Lombok and Sumba and brought to the Gili islands to work.

If you want to support in a positive way, you can donate money to Animal Aid Abroad here and donate money to Horses of Gili Paypal here.

Is it all good??

No. No, it’s not.

There is still a long way to go.

Not all of the drivers took their horses to the clinic because there doesn’t seem to be a body that says that they have to.

Many of the horses brought in did have cuts on them due to ill-fitting equipment.

From what I saw, some owners didn’t seem to know how to handle the horse in a sensitive manner when they started messing about and quickly went to hit them. 

Every day I see the horses waiting around in their carts, often in the heat and sometimes it seems unnecessary. 

It is also known that the horses that carry the building materials around are often pulling more weight than they should. However, instead of that being purely down to the driver, issues like this can stem from the business owners saying that they will only pay for X amount of runs from the pier to the new resort that they’re building for example, which requires the driver and their horse to carry more than they should.

In my opinion, this shows that there is a need for a body to protect these horses more than what there currently is to regulate the businesses on the island using the horses, not just the drivers.

Gili T Horses
This isn’t a passenger horse and cart, this is one of the horses that carry building materials, food, water etc around the island.
Gili T Horses
You see a lot of them waiting and having their carts filled by the passenger pier with items that are shipped from Lombok to power the island.

Is Horse Riding on Gili Trawangan ethical?

Let’s touch on the other way horses are used on Gili Trawanfan.

When you visit the sunset side of Gili T you’ll notice tourists horse riding as the sun sets and locals offering horse rides.

The locals that are out on the beach offering horse rides are generally offering a quick ride and a chance to take a few photos of you on the horse and it’s quite unofficial. If this is what you want to do, then that’s ok.

If you want to go out on a sunset horse ride which will last longer, where you’ll start in the stables and you will be provided with a hat and chaps to make it safe and more comfortable, you can go with one of the horse riding stables on Gili Trawangan.

I recommend STUD Horse Riding Adventures. I have spoken to their owners and they are very passionate about providing a responsible and ethical service and the money that they earn goes back into the horses so I can confidently recommend them.

You can book to go on a sunset ride with STUD as I did via their Facebook page and Instagram page.

So, how can we help the Gili T Horses??

Firstly, animal activists coming to the island insulting the locals is not going to help.

Neither are the negative, misinformed, old blog posts about the horses that cause tourists to arrive on Gili T with a negative and judgemental mindset.

When tourists arrive on the island with negative thoughts towards the drivers, this causes issues. From the driver’s point of view, they have Westerns be rude to them about the horses because of what they have read online, but it is also Westerns that are trying to help educate them and provide better facilities for their horses. The drivers need to feel supported, not insulted.

If you want to directly help improve the welfare of the horses, donating money is the best way. You can donate money to Animal Aid Abroad here and visit the Horses of Gili Paypal donation page here, or you can visit the Horses of Gili Shop on Gili T.

Gili T Horses
It was so nice seeing these 2 local boys so interested in what the farrier from Animal Aid Abroad was doing. Teaching the younger generation is what it’s all about!

I also say that the way to help is to use the horse and carts.

Many people will say that tourists do not need to take a horse and cart around Gili T, Gili Air and Gili Meno, and if you’re staying close to the pier, slightly inland or along beach road then no, you do not need to take a horse and cart to your accommodation if you are fit and able, and can carry your luggage. And if you are fit and able to ride a bike around the island you can hire a bike and see the island this way.

But, there are more and more hotels and resorts being built around the Western side of the island. From Gili T pier, the walk to the opposite side of the island is easily 40-60 minutes, I don’t see many tourists doing this with their luggage.

If you need or want to take a horse and cart around the island, in my opinion, you should. And I say this for the simple reason that in order for the horses to become more healthy and strong, for them to be given higher quality water and food, for them to have their feet checked regularly and have correctly fitting equipment, their owners need to be earning an income!!

The Cidomo drivers have families to feed, bills to pay and their horses come at an expense on top of this. If everyone boycotted the horse and carts on Gili T, well, the horses are the ones that are going to suffer first and they are going to suffer much more than they currently are.

An example of this is that horse meat is eaten in many islands in Indonesia, and as it stands, it is still common for drivers to sell their horses to a slaughterhouse when they need money.

Gili T Horses
I spotted this cart being filled with 4 mattresses at the pier as there is no other way to transport them.

Finally, tourists are the reason for the horses. All of the building supplies to build these huge hotels that tourists want, all of the food and drink to feed all of the tourists that come here, is all taken and deposited around the island by these horses. Even if you take the Cidomo’s away, which some people suggest, materials still need to get around this 3km x 2km island.

So if you really have an issue with how the horses are treated on Gili T or that they are used and you want to make a stand against it, honestly, I would tell you that you shouldn’t come to the Gili Islands and contribute to tourism because as soon as you step foot on the island you are contributing to the horses being used whether you use a horse and cart or not. There are plenty of other places in Indonesia you can visit.

If you want to support in a positive way, you can donate money to Animal Aid Abroad here and donate money via PayPal to Horses of Gili here.

Daphne Maia

Monday 23rd of October 2023

I am currently on the fast boat from Bali to Gili Air and I was still contemplating whether or not to take a horse carriage to our accommodation, which is 25min away by foot. Reading this gives me some hope and insight. I know it's not gonna be perfect yet but I agree the horse owners need an income to keep the horse well. People don't realize animal welfare comes at a price and boycotting might not be the best solution. I'll update again after I reach my accommodation, on whether or not I took a carriage and how the horses were!

Thank you for this article. I did read a lot about the treatment of the horses before this, until I landed on your article. Hopefully I can see some well-kept horses on Gili Air.


Monday 23rd of October 2023

Thank you for your message. Exactly, the owners need an income to keep them fed and using the correct equipment like the right boots and bridal for them. Please let me know how it goes and enjoy Gili Air!

Amanda Allan

Wednesday 18th of October 2023

Thank you! I’m heading to Lombok and Gili Air in December reading this and watching Roxanne Taylor Media on YouTube with a very similar story she filmed the veterinary students from Western Australia and university of Melbourne helping the ponies and it was Heartwarming. I will support them and get a cart ride. I’m happy to donate to Gili horses and will offer to volunteer. We all can make a difference for a positive change.


Wednesday 18th of October 2023

So lovely to hear Amanda! Yes, things could be better of course but to make it better they need help and money so it's good to support them. Enjoy your trip!

Sarah McAuliffe

Wednesday 9th of August 2023

I am currently on GILI T and this has given me a HUGE sense of relief, as I literally cried last night watching the horses work. I am staying on this beautiful island for 5 nights and I couldn’t see a way of enjoying it when these horses are everywhere I look and it instantly brings my mood down and upsets me deeply as I’m such an animal person! So thank you so much for easing my mind and answering all my questions. I really enjoyed your blog on this topic, I look forward to reading more.


Tuesday 9th of May 2023

This article shines light to the positive side on the horses at Gilli T, however, it does not show the neglect and lack of horse care apparent in Gilli T.

I was just there in May 2023 and a solid 80% of the horses pulling the carts were severely underweight. There was no shelter or fresh water provided for these horses while they were made to wait under the hot sun everyday. A few of them were even too ill to be working. Some were drooling uncontrollably, with their head swinging low.

I am incredibly thankful for the work Horses of Gilli has done, however there is still SO MUCH MORE that can be done. I have some ideas and would love to get in touch to help out rather than just making monetary contributions.


Wednesday 10th of May 2023

I agree there are still issues but you have to understand how the local's livelihoods have been affected by covid and many other issues with their incomes dropping which unfortunately impacts how they can look after their animals. I'm not the person to contact about ideas as I don't live there anymore.The best people to contact are Horses of Gilli :)


Monday 28th of November 2022

I found this very interesting and agree the drivers need to make money to take care of the horses also as in the UK with caridge horses. The horses are the drivers primary source of income and they take care as best they can with the knowledge and education they have as without a healthy horse to pull the cart they would have no income. I am donating to the charity taking care of the horses and will use a horse cart on Gili Air when I need to 🙏💫❤️