ANGRY horse owners in Blaenymaes have insisted many of them take great care of their pets — and that God had made the animals "waterproof and wind- proof".
They said they wanted the public to know that many urban horses were properly cared for after several stories in the media - including this newspaper - reporting horse welfare concerns.
Richard Warwick, 21, looks after two horses, one of which is tethered.
He reckons he spends 20 hours per week making sure they are fed, exercised and wormed.
"A horse's love is unconditional," he said
Mr Warwick said there was a horse-owning culture in the area which was unlikely to change any time soon.
He and his horse-owning pal Jonathan Williams, 22, backed the efforts of reformed drug dealer Carl Pearce to build stables and spread the animal welfare message.
They reckoned at least five people locally kept horses in their garden.
Mr Warwick said some people wrongly assumed horses were neglected if they were tethered, or if they didn't have food at that particular moment.
And he claimed that putting a jacket on a horse could adversely affect the growth of its winter coat.
"When God made horses, he made them waterproof and wind-proof," he said.
Youth worker Mr Williams said there was a problem with young people not realising the costs involved in owning a horse.
He said he used to be "bored senseless" in Blaenymaes and that learning about the animals was a useful way of spending his time.
"There are more people who look after their horses than neglect them," he said. "I would say there are more dogs that get neglected in Swansea than horses." He said he might check on his horse — kept at a nearby farm — at 11.45pm, which didn't always go down well with his girlfriend.
"It is motivation — it keeps you from being lazy," he said.
He added that he knew of one person locally who only went to school because he could ride his horse there.
Mr Williams said people in horse-owning circles locally acknowledged the work done by Mr Pearce, who grew up in Blaenymaes and looks after six horses at a field in Felindre.
Mr Pearce, 42, said he bought his first horse, Star, for £12 when he was eight years old and already involved in drugs.
Asked why he had been drawn to horses, he said: "I came from a loving family, but it was not the love I wanted at the time."
He said he hid Star for three days when the animal suffered a broken leg after being run over. He said the animal was later carted away by the authorities.
"It was tough mentally and emotionally," he said.
Mr Pearce, now a family man, said he once broke into the council's animal pound, and recalled bonfires in Blaenymaes with horses congregating around the fringes for warmth.
Mr Pearce said he learned about animal welfare as he got older.
"I realised you have got to get a vet out," he said. "My horses come first."
Mr Pearce admitted he had "wrecked this community" when involved in drugs but later had cleared land and built stables, caring for one horse that had been almost "ridden to death".
He said it broke his heart when Swansea Council took down the stables because they didn't have planning permission.
Mr Pearce said he backed homeless charity Cyrenians Cymru's bid to build an equine centre in the area — with Woodford Road touted as a possibility — as part of a £795,000 Chaps (Community Horse and Pony Scheme) project. People on rehabilitation programmes could help out at the equine centre, and young people would learn about animal welfare.
Mr Williams said: "You've got nothing to lose."