Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tails from Tascha

Hi everyone, welcome to my corner of the Born of the Pyramids' blog. I'm sorry that it's taken me a little while to post, but I've been so busy getting healthy and filling my face that I haven't really had time to stop and hoof away at the keyboard.

You probably all know me as Tascha. At least, I guess that's what my name is now. The blond lady that fusses over me calls me that, and was so excited the other day when I looked over at her when she called out "Tascha!" Course, I wouldn't ever tell her, but I've figured out that when I respond I get treats and scratches. Let's keep that between us though neigh?

I want to tell you a little bit about my back story, but it's quite a long one. Instead, let me just tell you about my life over the past few weeks. As winter in Cairo approached, there wasn't much work for people in the Pyramids area. Many of us were hungry, but when there were guests my old owner would make sure that he got a piece of the pie. I would spend hours running up and down a paved road by the Pyramids carrying one person after the next. It's all a blur really.

My life changed one day, when a man with a big bottle of something very smelly, I think I heard someone call it Vodka, climbed onto my back. I had a horrible sore that just wouldn't heal, and oh how he bounced on it. Up and down, swinging side to side. I was so tired and in so much pain, but all he wanted to do was push me to gallop up the sand hills.

I guess this is when the Born of the Pyramids team spotted me, at least that's what I hear! They've told me they hadn't ever planned to rescue any horses, and that I am a special pony. Who am I to argue with that! They set about making a deal with my old owner to try and buy me away from him.

Next thing I know, I'm in a stable with a lot of unfamiliar faces around me. By the next morning, I was waiting to be saddled up to go out into the desert. But it never came! Instead I was taken out of my box and washed down with soft hands. When I went back into my box, my trough was filled with these funny orange vegetables, I guess they are called sweet potatoes, and more hay than I've ever seen. The blond lady just stood and quietly watched me eat, occasionally speaking to me softly.

I know you all want to hear more of my story, but I don't want to bore you just yet! I'll put my typing hooves away for now, and let you all come back for the next Tail from Tascha. Until then, neigh neigh! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Chestnut and the Grey Part 3

For part 2 click here

This is what makes euthanising Egyptian horses very difficult. Their heart and body are so used to being put under huge amounts of strain and torment that even what would be considered an overdose of a pharmaceutical may not kill them as it would a horse from a Western country. This grey was no exception. Even in his condition, he took a ridiculous dose before he began to fade.

The cart to take him into the desert arrived as he passed away. We waited until we were sure he was gone before turning the cart over sideways and strapping him to it. The large shining bay pulling the carriage turned to look at the grey before meandering his way down the road between the puddles of rank water.

Watching the cart go, the man looked down the street. We talked with him for some time afterwards, and he told us all about the sale of the chestnut in exchange for the grey. He shook his head as he muttered something about being unlikely to get his money. It was hoped that his friend who had taken the grey away would not charge him, but everyone is desperate for money at this time. Our only hope was that he found some work soon so that this whole story was not repeated.

It is easy to criticise the horse owners of Egypt, even whilst living in the same country as them. It is just as easy to forget that they have a family to feed and need to earn money to do so. They do not get benefits from their Government when out of work or disabled. Most live hand to mouth in this area. Sometimes the trade they are in is all they know, and they have not received a high standard of education.

It is easy to suggest that they should give up and sell their animals if they cannot afford to care for them, but in reality it is much harder to do so. The horse market around the Pyramids of Giza is sky-rocketing, with broken down horses available to buy for a pretty penny, and no buyers for them. All the time the price of feed is being inflamed and the medications, tack and stable rent is going up. Very few are earning enough money to sustain and business and sustain themselves.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Chestnut and the Grey Part 2

For Part One click here

We found him in the middle of the road; tuk tuks and taxis stealing around him in an attempt to avoid his broken body and the puddles of sewerage rising up from the drains. He weakly thrashed his legs as we approached, and we soothed him with our voices and touch. For sometime he was calm, but the close by traffic unnerved him. As gently as possible we pulled him to the side of the road and laid some straw beneath his battered head.

Ramadan came down the street when we phoned him. We checked over the horse and found a large injury on the right side of his head and oedema on the left. We tested his reflexes by waving our hands close to his eyes; they were troubled, and darted about without seeing.

People stopped by in cars and microbuses to ask us what had happened. A man came past in a carriage, being pulled by a thick necked, stocky horse, and stopped to talk to us. Behind the carriage an Arabian stallion was being towed to give him some exercise. He trumpeted his call at every horse and donkey that passed, curling his swan-like neck and prancing on the spot, nostrils flaring. He was a far cry from the bleak situation spread out on the street beside him.

The man finally came with the boy on his horses. His sullen face and tired eyes told us how he was faring. He asked if there was anything to be done. Ramadan explained what we had found and that the kindest thing to do would be to euthanise the grey.

In the Muslim culture, many believe it is God's will whether an animal dies or not, and so many will refuse to euthanise their horse, even if it will surely suffer and die. This man was different. He is one of a minority who can see when an animal is in pain and will not make it. Gently stroking the grey's neck, he agreed that to put him to sleep would be a kindness.

He had no money. Not a piastre. He could not pay for the euthanasia drugs, and he couldn't afford to have the grey's body taken away into the desert. He could not even afford food for his other horses that day. Thankfully, Ramadan had a drug that would quickly put the horse to sleep, and we managed to put together some money for the horse to be taken away.

Egyptian horses are incredibly strong. They are galloped out in the desert, flat out with a novice rider on their back, and rarely stumble or fall. They work so hard and can be in a skeletal condition. Even when tack that is poorly fitted and rubs them raw is put on their back and their faces, they often go without complaint. Some do not have the energy to complain, and some have learnt that complaints get you hurt. 

Stay tuned for Part 3!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Chestnut and the Grey Part 1

Part 1 of The Chestnut and the Grey. Stay tuned for Part 2!

There are many animals in Cairo who are well looked after despite the poor situation in Egypt that has made earning a living there so difficult. Unfortunately, even though there are owners who would do anything for their animals, some situations are taken entirely out of their hands.

We met a man in the desert whose horse had fallen and was not in the best shape; the chestnut was underweight, dehydrated and exhausted. The boy who had taken the horse out had called the owner, and he had come as quickly as possible. The blood-red chestnut was down and would not get up. The man pulled out a handful of small notes. He sent the boy off to the pharmacy to get saline and needles, whilst cursing that now he would not have enough to give all of his animals a good feed.

Shortly, the boy returned with the much needed saline. The man asked Ramadan for help, who obliged and carefully inserted the needle into the horses neck. Within a few minutes, the horse was standing, if somewhat precariously. We stayed with the man and his horse until it was clear that he could tentatively walk home.

Over the next coming weeks the horse was spotted a few more times, looking rounder and better fed. He had more energy and was able to work better, however there were few tourists at this time. The man was making little money, and had no notes in his pocket to buy feed for the animals. He decided that now this horse was stronger he would sell it, but his dilemma was that he would not have enough horses for groups of people to ride out in the desert.

He made a deal with another stable owner – his horse would be exchanged for one in worse condition, and he would be given some money in return. The man did not think far ahead; it would cost more to feed up an emaciated and ill horse than it would to feed a normal horse, but he went through with the deal regardless.

The chestnut who not a few weeks before had fallen in the desert was taken to his new home, and the man returned to his stables with a sickly grey horse. He was blind in one eye and had every rib showing. This would be the skinniest horse the man had. The old owner did not have cash on him, and promised he would give him it tomorrow. For the time being, the man borrowed a little money to buy a small amount of feed.

Tomorrow turned out to be a bad day. The boy took the grey out for a walk, leading him from the back of another horse. Whilst out on the road, the grey collapsed in front of where we lived. The boy shot off to find the man, and left the horse in the street.

The grey was scared. His legs were weakly flailing, shoes scraping against the coarse tarmac. His good eye stared outwards to the sky, his blind eye hidden under blood and torn flesh. In coming down, he had hit his head on the road, and there was a great disunity to his movements. His breath rasped in and out of his dilated nostrils, teeth chomping in pain...

Stay tuned for Part 2. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Welcome to Born of the Pyramids!

Hey guys! Welcome to the Born of the Pyramids blog. Let me first introduce you to Born of the Pyramids, how it came about, and what it is that we aim to do.

Born of the Pyramids is a book about working equines in Egypt. It is based on a true story, on true horses, with their stories drawn directly from personal experiences of working with equines in Egypt. It has one simple goal: to help raise awareness of the situation that working equines in Egypt face.

Meet Rocky

Rocky is the star of Born of the Pyramids, and the main foundation for the entire book itself. His story touched many people through the power of social media, and his legacy lives on through the book and the lasting impact we hope it will have.

Since its inception, Born of the Pyramids has always been a dynamic thing. As more copies of the book were sold, more horses were helped. Each month, Born of the Pyramids donates towards equine and animal charities in Egypt, with over a few hundred pounds donated thus far! It's a staggering feat to imagine the story of a few horses has had this impact, and it's an impact we want to continue to nurture and grow.

Born of the Pyramids is really spreading its wings at the moment. With plans for the book to be printed in hard copy, it has also taken on a life of its own.

Meet Sabatasha, or Tascha for short. 

Tascha is Born of the Pyramids sponsor pony. He was spotted being ridden in the desert (yes, being ridden looking like a walking skeleton!) and it was immediately clear that he needed help. While Born of the Pyramids is not a charity, we plan for the book to be edited into a kid's version and subsequently translated into Arabic. With the help of locals on the ground in Egypt, this version of Born of the Pyramids will be handed out to the younger generations to help teach them empathy from an early age. And as any teacher worth their salt will tell you, seeing something with your eyes, touching it, feeling it, will always help drive any lesson home. This is the role that Tascha will now fill, in being our living, breathing representation of Born of the Pyramids and what kind of impact kindness can have on one horse.

We'll update this blog with Tails from Tascha, first hand accounts of life on the ground in Egypt, and any host of other articles.

We hope you enjoy following us on this journey. Please get in touch if you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you.

You can also follow Born of the Pyramids on Facebook, or check out our Twitter account @BornofPyramids.