Sanaa's top race horses battle starvation as animal feed grows increasingly scarce due to seven years of war.

Of 97 horses maintained last year by one of Sanaa's equestrian clubs, only around 50 remain.
Of 97 horses maintained last year by one of Sanaa's equestrian clubs, only around 50 remain. (Reuters)

In her prime, Out Time was one of Yemen's fastest horses, winning the capital Sanaa's annual championship race in 2018 and placing second in 2019.

Now, with animal feed increasingly scarce after seven years of war, the grey mare's coat is dull and her rib-cage protrudes. 

Her 16-year-old jockey has stopped racing her because she is too weak to compete.

"I consider her my friend. I cannot see her starving like this," Hussain al Qummali said at the equestrian club that his father Mohamad runs.

In the paddock, Out Time, born at the start of the war in 2014, took what nourishment she could from a few small bundles of grass shared with dozens of other horses, many thinner than her, before being taken for a gentle gallop around a dusty, makeshift track.

The equestrian club is one of several in the capital city of a country with a millennia-long tradition of breeding horses.

War consequences

Of 97 horses maintained last year by the club, only around 50 remain.

"A large group of horses died due to starvation and health deterioration, and we had to sell some of them in order to feed the others," Mohamad al Qummali said.

Yemen's war, which pits a Saudi-led coalition against Iran-aligned Houthi forces, has descended into a brutal stalemate that has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed what remains of its human population to the verge of starvation.

"We don't know what to do anymore. There is no income. We sold personal cars, weapons, everything to save these horses," Qummali added.

"Unfortunately, it's like the issue doesn't concern anyone."

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Source: Reuters