Jenny

Jenny

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

When Worlds Collide



I feel privileged to have been asked to immortalise this beautiful horse, this incredible athlete who, in the company of so many others, had been spectacularly thrown from grace, discarded into the downward spiral suffered by horses in the UAE once their spirit and bodies are broken.

Meceva is now in the lap of luxury thanks to Suzanne fighting tooth and nail to remove him from Dubai. His registered FEI name is GORAN. He was bred in New Zealand then sold by Chris King, of Canterbury, as a 10yo in 2010 to Sheikh Mohammed, the founder of Godolphin. He was 'trained' in the AL AASFA complex - follow the link for comment by Greg Wood of the Guardian.

Suzanne had already managed to acquire another reject from Al Aasfa, Yogi. His registered FEI name was MAGIC GLENN SOVEREIGN, although he arrived without a passport. He was considered ‘too wild’ to be of any use and was for sale for about £1,000. He was bought from a horrible stable yard where a lot of the Sheik Mohammed horses end up. Because of the poor stable management, and the abusive riding, notwithstanding the lack of aircon in those extremes of heat, she made the decision to send Yogi back to the UK as soon as possible, fearing for his well-being given his recent medial splint bone fractures (both back legs) and previous pelvic fracture. Before shipping him out, she moved him to another more suitable yard, run by an Australian woman.

Knowing she was sending Yogi to safety, Suzanne thought to rescue another endurance horse and if possible one she could ride. She asked at the yard, and was told another nine had arrived the night before. There she found Goran - a big, grey horse, very thin, with a sunken chest and a drooping neck with what seemed an enormous head. Closer inspection revealed a network of whip marks across his quarters, and blistering on a leg. Suzanne fell for him immediately, as despite all the abuse he’d suffered, he was still sweet and gentle.

 
When he arrived back in the UK.


As happens across the world with big racing/equestrian outfits, passports often disappear, and the big owners don’t want abuses traced back to them (and how well do I know about that at the moment). He had no value, he was a difficult ride, and eventually the then 'owner' gifted him to Suzanne. However, as he'd originally been in Sheik Mohammed's ownership, it took Suzanne a long time and a great deal of difficulty to get the letter of ownership that would allow her to move him back to the UK when she left. By sheer luck, she also managed to acquire his passport when the Australian woman was sacked, and the new manager took over. This was still not enough, and the UAE NF tried to prevent Suzanne moving him out of Dubai (no wonder). After discussions at FEI and EU level, a lot of help from the international transporters and a fortuitous timescale of a UAE official going on holiday, Suzanne finally managed to get him out of the hellhole.

Here he is, in his new UK home.


So, to bring this story up to date, I went to photograph Goran in August.

The scars across his quarters are still visible, the mental scars manifest in his behaviour and reactions, but for all that, he is still a very beautiful horse. He fills the eye with quality and class, he has exceptional movement, and such presence and generosity of spirit.

I'm no stranger to being asked to portray top-level horses, or sticking my head above the parapet for equine welfare wherever I can. It's not often both worlds collide, however. 
Recently, much of my welfare focus has been highlighting the sickening abuse suffered by Endurance horses in the Middle East. I’ll spare readers the stomach churning details here, but for those interested, the more palatable reports are documented on the WRITING WRONGS page.

Goran could have done anything - dressage, eventing, showing. Instead, he was just more cannon fodder for Sheik Mohammed, run into the ground. I know that those who read this blog don’t necessarily read the welfare stuff, but sharing this might help highlight what really happens to horses in Dubai. 

Mostly, I’d like it to persuade those with even a smidgeon of conscience not to sell any more horses to the UAE.