Yemen’s racehorses battle famine as war continues


SANAA, December 1 (Reuters) – In its heyday, Out Time was one of Yemen’s fastest horses, winning the annual championship race in the capital Sana’a in 2018 and placing second in 2019.

Now, with increasingly scarce feed after seven years of war, the gray mare’s coat is dull and her rib cage protrudes, and her 16-year-old jockey has stopped running with her because she is too weak to compete.

“I consider her to be my friend. I cannot see her starving like this,” Hussain al-Qummali told the town’s equestrian club run by her father Mohamad.

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In the paddock, Out Time, born in 2014 at the start of the war, fed as much as she could on a few small bundles of grass shared with dozens of other horses, much leaner than she, before. to be taken for a gallop around a dusty, makeshift track.

Out of 97 horses maintained last year by the club – one of the many horses in the capital of a country with a thousand-year-old tradition of breeding and horse racing – only about 50 remain.

“A large group of horses died from starvation and deteriorating health, and we had to sell some of them to feed the others,” Mohamad al-Qummali told Reuters.

The Yemen war, which pits a Saudi-led coalition against Iran-aligned Houthi forces, has come to a brutal stalemate that has killed more than 100,000 people and also pushed what remains of its human population to the edge of famine.

“We don’t know what to do anymore. There is no income. We sold personal cars, weapons, everything to save these horses,” Mohamad al-Qummali added.

“Unfortunately, it’s as if the problem isn’t with anyone.”

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Written by Aziz El Yaakoubi; edited by John Stonestreet

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