Meet The Aussies In Egypt Looking After Forgotten War Horse Descendants
At the end of World War One, an estimated 10,000 Australian war horses who helped in the campaign in Egypt were left behind to the British army.
Two years later, the British army would hand over the horses to Egyptian locals, who took them on as work animals to pull carts and help plough fields.
More than a century later, countless working horses, many of which are now used for tourism in Cairo, carry the blood of their Australian equine ancestors.
Many of them end up injured or sick and with insufficient veterinary help in the area, for years they have had nowhere to go.
Six years ago, Perth couple Jill and Warren Barton visited Cairo when they made a decision that would change their lives.
"When we saw the state of the horses and the lack of help for them, we just felt we had to come back and do something," Jill told 10 daily.
The following year the couple packed up their house and moved to Cairo, opening a free horse hospital to help the struggling animals in the area.
Now their charity Egyptian Equine Aid looks after horses, donkeys and mules suffering anything from wounds and often leg injuries, to colic, tetanus, heat stroke, dehydration and local diseases.
Their hospital -- a registered Australian charity -- usually has about 65 in-patients and will see as many as 20 out-patients come through its doors every day, Jill said.
While the couple initially faced some distrust from locals, many of whom could not believe their service was being offered for free, Jill said the demand for help was evident from day one.
"They're not actually 'horsey' people," Jill said of the locals.
"At home people with horses, would be a horsey person, they would know about horses."
"But here it's like a working animal -- it's like buying a car, some people know about cars while some people don't and here it's the same with horses."
'IT'S ALL DESERT AND SUN'
Jill's husband returned back to Australia just a few months after their move, he set up the hospital as a charity but since then Jill, a former pathology nurse, has been on her own in Cairo.
"Everything is a challenge, to be honest," Jill said.
"Living with the conditions is really challenging and the weather is really challenging, the summer's here are very long and very hot," she added.
"We have regular power outages and when there is no power there's no water."
But Jill said seeing the amount of support from their 15,000 followers online really helps.
"It's so great, every day I have so many messages from our supporters who follow our page," she said.
Jill's team at the hospital includes local veterinarians and the charity has even set up a training program for recent graduates.
"They come out of vet school and most have never even touched a horse, they have no understanding of them," Jill said.
"Most of them don't even know how to hear for a heartbeat, they've only learnt theory and nothing practical."
Jill said the team were always looking for vets and donations. Their ultimate goal is to build a working hospital in the area.
Asked what the biggest reward has been Jill said it was the animals.
"Seeing the difference we are making to the animals, that's what's keeping us going."
Featured Image: Jeff Robson
For more information and details on how to donate visit Egyptian Equine Aid.
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