Feature: Indigenous Arabian horses lose race to hunger in war-torn Yemen

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SANAA, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Hassan Mahdi, a keeper at an equestrian club in Yemen's Sanaa, covered one of his horses with a piece of faded and rugged plastic cloth.

"This horse died Wednesday at dawn," Mahdi said. "Hunger and illness killed it."

The boney animal drew its last breath with Mahdi watching by its side. But there was nothing Mahdi could do.

Horses in the equestrian club are the Yemeni Arabian horses, one of the world's finest and oldest breeds. They are well-known for their good temper, intelligence and can endure long-range traveling. But now, they cannot outrun starvation.

The six-year-old war has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced 4 million, and pushed Yemen to the brink of starvation. The prized indigenous horses are just one of its victims.

"All horses are hungry here, and in an extreme need of food and health care," Mahdi said.

All of the 135 horses in the equestrian club face various degrees of malnutrition and shortage of medicines. They look as thin as a rake and can easily get sick. And when they do, usually there is only one end that awaits.

Mohammed Abdullah Al-Taweel, a horseman at the club, said that at least 50 horses have died so far since the war and blockade started. Some of the horses died from air raids, some others of the diseases.

Al-Taweel worried the ongoing catastrophe will lead to "the extinction of the famous Yemeni horses."

Every day, the horses and foals wander on the field of the equestrian club and try to find anything to eat among gravels and sand. But they always return to their stable with an empty stomach. All the horses can get now is a small amount of dry alfalfa.

"Before the war, the horses used to get three meals a day. But now, every horse gets only one meal daily," Al-Taweel said, adding that the regular medical examinations by vets also completely stopped.

Staffers at the club called on charitable groups to help the prized Yemen Arabian horses, stressing that the indigenous horses are a great legacy of the country's history.

"We beseech the concerned authorities, international organizations, and charity groups to lend a hand and help the horses, which are a national pride and heritage of the country," Al-Taweel said.

To make things worse, the equestrian club itself now faces the danger of closure because it has depleted its fund and cannot pay the rent.

Mohammad Al-Qumali, the manager of the club, told Xinhua that the club has been given two months to pay the rent or excavate.

"One day, the horses could be found in the streets," said Al-Qumali. Enditem

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