My name is Beth Sartain. I am a riding instructor here in Cairo. I trained in the UK and also spent many years working as a veterinary nurse. I have lived in Cairo for 5 years and in this time have always owned horses here so know many people in local stables. I stayed in Cairo during the Revolution and as soon as it was safe for me to get to my stables I did so. What I found horrified me. The tourists had all left Egypt leaving the local stable owners with no income and therefore no feed for their animals. Many were in desperate need of feed and sadly, many animals had already died. Many of the horses used for tourists here are not in good condition anyway. Many are malnourished, have overgrown hooves, sores and infections etc. The owners need help and education.
I started to ask friends on Facebook, both here in Egypt and Internationally, for help so I could maybe start a fund to buy feed for these animals. When I rode around the local area and realised the scale of the situation I then asked ESMA for help and they said yes straight away.
We started to raise funds with donations being collected by ESMA. We collected enough money to order a truck load of bran, chaff and maize which we had delivered to the IEC stables. We all met there and distributed the food to approx 450 horses that day. The owners brought the horses, we checked their condition, checked the owners ID and they signed for 2 days food per animal. The owners were so grateful.
On the 15th February we received our second load of feed. This time we had ordered 2 loads of feed so decided to distribute from 2 points, to reach as many starving horses as we possibly could. Our first feed of the day was given to 12 horses, which had actually been abandoned by their owners at our feed donation point, as they simply had nothing left to feed them. These horses were in very bad condition and we were told they had not been fed for several days. We also gave feed to 40 horses that the military were supposed to collect from the IEC stables but because of the Revolution they never came for them. These horses are now being fed by ESMA.
We then loaded up an open backed truck with 40 sacks of already mixed feed. We drove into the village of Nazlet El Saman, the truck in front of several cars of volunteers from ESMA. I was in the car directly behind the truck with Susie Nassar, one of the founding members of ESMA, and my two daughters who had come along to help. People from the village on horseback had recognised us and had already started to follow the truck. When the truck slowed down to negotiate a speed bump the local people were so desperate to get feed for their animals they mobbed the truck. There were dozens of men grabbing sacks of food and trying to ride off with it. I told my children to stay in the car with Susie and ran over to the truck. I shouted at the men to stop taking the food as we were trying to help them. Some did stop but many didn’t. I noticed one man had loaded 3 sacks of food into his carriage. I was so angry I jumped into the carriage and sat on the food and told him if he wanted the food he would have to take me too. He set off at a gallop down the road with me pleading with him to stop and trying to explain to him we wanted to offer long term help but couldn’t if this was how we were treated. He listened and stopped his horse, he shouted to many of his friends who were riding past with the stolen food to stop and they did. They crowded around and listened to me as I explained that we were doing our best to help but we needed them to co-operate. The man I was with turned the carriage around and drove back to the place where the truck had been mobbed.
Word started to go around the village about what had happened. I and all the ESMA volunteers spent hours talking to people and visiting stables to explain our situation. The owners were desperate for help and saw that if they wanted long term help the food had to be returned to us. While we were waiting for the food to be returned we all kept busy by treating wounds as best we could with limited medical supplies. We also arranged for a local farrier to attend one stable whose horses hooves were desperately in need of attention. The owner simply had no cash to pay the farrier. He trimmed 10 horses feet while we were there. One of the ESMA volunteers is a homeopathic practitioner who administered as many remedies as she could to horses in need.
All the volunteers then returned to a central point in the village where people had been returning the feed too. 40 sacks were stolen from the truck in the morning. We received 28 sacks back by the afternoon and the stable owners, who did actually have enough food for their horses, then donated to us a further 26 sacks of food. They were also confident we will get more sacks returned as they now know we aim to help long term.
We set up a collection point and once again owners brought their horses, we checked owners ID, checked the horses and gave as much feed as we considered appropriate considering the condition of the horse. Out of all the ESMA volunteers present yesterday I am the only one with any equine experience so I treated any wounds I saw as best I could. When I saw horses that needed medical attention I told the owners to go The Brooke help station. Many owners told me they already had been to Brooke only to be turned away. MANY owners told me this and we have taken owners names who said they will be very willing to voice their concerns to anyone who will listen. I reported my findings to Mona Khalil, another founding member of ESMA, who telephoned Dr. Nasser Hossni who is the Director of Brooke Egypt. Mona gave me the phone and I asked why Brooke was not helping. Dr Nasser replied that Brooke were helping but not with feed only medical attention. I told Dr Nasser that I was not at all happy with this as many horses needed attention and food and Brooke should be helping so much more. I told Dr Nasser that I would be looking into this as soon as I have time. Many people donate to Brooke, I myself have in the past. I want to know where the money is being spent in Egypt.
Many of the ESMA volunteers stayed until late at night at our donation point. We have the backing of all the stable owners in the village and they know we will do all we can to help them. Many came and personally apologised to me for the chaos of earlier in the day and the whole village is coming together to help us help them. We now have a very good relationship with many owners there and we plan to continue our work after this crisis. We plan to help with education and it would be wonderful if we could introduce ESMA approved riding stables were all horses are well cared for, fed and are ridden in well fitting tack etc. This obviously is in the long term but we have set great foundations for ESMA and the horses of Egypt.
Beth Sartain, 16th February 2011 – Member and volunteer at ESMA