Equine Field Trip Report

Here is the report on yesterday’s ‘Field Trip’ to investigate for ourselves the situation, take pictures (nearly 200), interview locals, and most importantly distribute food  regarding reports of ‘starving and malnourished horses in Egypt’ due to the recent turmoil:

Our volunteer group (group of seven), met up with Beth Sartain at the stables she works at (Beth is a British Riding Instructor and U.K. trained Veterinary Nurse (with many years of experience treating equines).  The food that we had ordered on Beth’s recommendation (suitable for the condition of the malnourished horses), arrived at 11 a.m.  The stable hands mixed all the various components together – grain/bran/maize and chaff.

The horse and cart ‘owners’ had already started to arrive ‘thick and fast’.  We had informed them (through the Stable owner) that we would be offering minimal amounts of food for ‘malnourished horses’.  We had already decided to set up a system of :

-Horse is inspected, if malnourished would be given the ration of one bucket of mixed food per horse.  Unfortunately we had to turn away a few as they were deemed to be ‘in reasonable condition’.
-Owner signs up for food, per horse, name is recorded and ID number registered.
-Owner is then handed over the minimum amount to keep the horse alive for two days.

We did not (on Beth’s advice, give the serious cases plant base feed as Beth advised it will ‘worsen their condition’, and play havoc with their already highly sensitive digestive system in the condition they are in.

When the system of food distribution was well under way, (which we left in the hands of the stable owner), we moved on to investigate the ‘touristic area where most of the horses and carts are concentrated.  There was not one single tourist in sight, in fact it looked like a ‘ghost town’.  Beth was leading us to the ‘graveyard’ where she had seen a few days ago, the sight of the dead and dying horses.

Just before we got there we stopped as we saw a stable facility carting out a dead horse (amongst the pictures attached).  We asked if we could go inside and see the condition of the rest of the horses.  We explained that we were from an Animal Welfare Society and they gladly let us in to see the conditions oursleves.  The scene was devastating….most of the horses were extremely malnourished and some were obviously sick.  The owner told us he had no money to feed or treat them.  We told the owner to go to the distribution point and collect rations for his horses.

WE then moved on to ‘The graveyard’.  The scene was extremely depressing, some of our volunteers could not control their tears.

There were at least 50 carcasses, most of them in ‘the bloated stage’ and Beth informed me those were the ones that had died most recently.  We also found the carcasses of 3 camels, which we knew later from the owners had ‘starved to death’.  The most distressing of all the dead animals were the dead foals lying next to their mothers…

It was here that we had the conversations with the local horse and cart owners.

Below are some parts of the conversations with them :

  • The horses in normal conditions would usually be fed a combination of maize/bran/chaff and barseem (clover).
  • Horse owners believe the horse population in this area to be around 3000, they estimate about 500 camels.
  • Most could no longer feed their animals or even their families, their source of income has completely dried up…..
  • They could also no longer send their children to nursery schools
  • ‘Their statements’ – “Brooke are only stationed in one area, and apparently are there only on a Sunday….they do not mobilise themselves in most of the areas.  The horse owners have to go to them.  For the last two days they have had ‘no syringes’ (we heard this from many horse owners).  All said The Brooke are more inclined to treat donkeys and mules rather than horses.  When they do take the horses for treatment at the main hospital premises , the usual decision is to eauthanise them.  They claimed that is why they do not like taking them there as they do not believe this drastic decision is neccessary in most cases, just an ‘easier’ solution for them”.

They claimed that the ‘Government assigned Vet’ was corrupt.  They also claimed the ‘Government assigned Vet’ is only supposed to be assigned to any one area for a one year period.  The current vet has been in the area for nearly 20 years…..They informed us that he should treat the horses for free, but always asks for money.  The same applied for medications; he would sell them medications at exorbitant prices.

Another horse owner told us how he had lost five of his horses to starvation this week alone.  They usually feed their horses three times per day in normal circumstances.  None of the owners interviewed objected to giving out their names and numbers, and were in fact very eager to vent their frustrations….

Other notes/observations  :

  • When the horses were waiting in line for their rations, some of them were ‘so hungry’ they ate the trees.
  • The stable owner who kindly helped us organise this ‘feeding’, also has had 55 horses ‘dumped’ on him.  40 of them were due to go to the Military and Police forces but were never collected.  The others he decided to take them back yesterday (previously sold by him) as he could not bear to see the pitiful condition they were in.  He can only give these ‘orphaned horses’ the bare minimum to keep them alive as he himself has no income, since most of the ‘wealthy horse owners’ and expats had left Egypt  at the beginning of the crisis and not left him  funds to cover their expenses, (bear in mind all the Banks were at that time, shut).

My comments/opinion :

  • The problem is ‘enormous’ and completely unsustainable unless a big organisation/organisations steps in to save them.
  • The estimated number of horses and camels that I quoted earlier do not include any other areas of Cairo/Giza or other areas nationwide!
  • This will be an ongoing crises until tourism starts up again (not likely in the coming months).  The horses will deteriorate further and further if someone does not step in to save them.
  • We, as a small organisation with almost zero knowledge of equines, and very limited resources are unable to help these horses in the long term.  People are donating but it will never be enough to sustain the numbers and quantity of food needed.
  • Yesterday with the grateful donations received locally we  were able to feed around 450 horses.  People have started to donate internationally but obviously their donations dedicated to this appeal  will take time to come through.  We had to turn many away and were informed by the stable owner that many more turned up after we left around 4pm and they had no more food to give them.  It was a pitiful sight, but I have to say that the horse owners retained their dignity throughout this and understood that the worst cases had to be given priority.

Facts on feeding according to Beth/Stable owner’s recommendations :

An average working horse needs the following in normal conditions, but can survive on much less if not working.

Per day :

6kg of ‘hard’ food – consists of a mixture of maize/bran/chaff

In addition (for healthy horses only) 25kg per day of Barseem (local clover)

Current market prices from wholesalers (feed prices have tripled since the crisis began) :

One ton of Barseem = LE250
”           ” chaff        = LE1000
140kg of maize        = LE  310

Hay and barley are expensive so people do not usually buy them.

Tomorrow, again due to generous donations from mostly local donors (and  a couple of international donors) we will make our ‘second feeding’. We hope to be ale to increase the number of horses/camels that we fed yesterday.

For everyone’s information this report is not exclusively intended for any particular individual or organisation.  it is a general report and findings of the conditions as ESMA witnessed yesterday.  ESMA allows this report to be passed on to any third party to generate as much awareness and support as possible to aid these starving animals.

Thank you for your time,

Susie Nassar
ESMA Founding Member

PS. Just before sending this report, ESMA has been informed by Beth Sartain that 500 horse and camel owners turned up at the stables hoping that there would be food for their animals today (the minimum that each horse owner has is 2 horses, ie. 1000 animals).

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