THE WAY OF HORSES
By Eleanor Blazer
Copyright @ 2009
What's your dream?
Do you want to win a world championship? Breed a Kentucky Derby
winner? All is possible!
Rasha dreams of training
and riding her filly along the Mediterranean Sea. But her dream
has some complications most of us will never know.
I met Rasha when she enrolled in an online course: "Responsible
Horse Ownership". During our correspondence I was delighted
to find horse crazy girls are the same everywhere even though
circumstances can be much different—Rasha lives in Gaza
City (Gaza Strip is between Israel and Egypt) and her city is
frequently under bombing and gun fire attack.
Rasha loves horses. As a child she took riding lessons. Her first
dream, to own a horse, became a reality just a short time ago.
She bought Ward, which is Arabic for "Rose".
Ward was a 10 month old filly when Rasha brought her home from
the breeder's. Ward is of Arabian heritage and like all youngsters
can be a handful at times.
Rasha's day is similar to every horse owner's.
In the morning she checks Ward for injuries or signs of illness
as she does chores.
Once she is sure Ward and the other horses in the stable are fine,
she gives them hay.
Rasha's family grows grapes, hay and grain. The hay is stored
loose. Automatic balers are rare and fuel to operate tractors
is in short supply. Rasha described the hay as wheat-like grass
that is native to the area.
The water supply is checked for amount and cleanliness. Rasha
was able to locate an automatic waterer for Ward's paddock. The
other horses use water troughs made of stone.
Water is a very valuable resource in the Gaza Strip. Electricity
cannot be relied upon, as frequent outages occur, sometimes lasting
for days. Fuel to run the generator is also in short supply. Water
is stored in containers for emergencies.
Corn is grown on the farm and is ground for horse feed. A black
bean, which I could not identify, is also fed to Ward and the
other horses at the stable.
Grain and hay can be purchased in the city of Gaza. Much of it
is imported from Egypt and Israel, as not enough can be produced
locally to meet the demand. During sporadic attacks of bombing
and sniping, supply can become short. Ward is fortunate that Rasha
has access to a fairly secure source of feed.
As Ward eats her breakfast, Rasha cleans the manure out of her
paddock. The manure is spread on the fields by hand, using a wagon
pulled by a horse.
Ward is then groomed and taken out for exercise. She is lunging
and understands voice commands for the basic gaits of walk, jog,
lope and stop. Rasha has a trainer, Sa'ad, who will help her start
Ward under saddle this fall.
Rasha is fortunate Ward learned the command for whoa in early
training. A bomb exploded nearby as Rasha was leading Ward; with
luck they made it back to the stable safely.
There is very little pasture, as tillable ground is used for farm
crops. Ward is kept in a large dry lot. The shelter is made of
concrete blocks with a steel roof. The ground is very sandy.
I asked Rasha about vaccinating and deworming the horses. She
explained vaccines are hard to get, but paste dewormers are available.
Horse owners use human tetanus vaccine for the horses - when they
can get it.
Ward's farrier was taught how to trim and shoe horses in Saudi
Arabia. He in turn taught his sons.
The farrier's main clients are the Palestinian police horses used
to control the flow of traffic in Gaza City. Many streets are
closed because of rubble from bombed buildings; creating congestion
in the streets that are passable.
Stable supplies need to be brought in from Israel or Egypt. Rasha's
sister lives in Jerusalem and is able to get into Gaza on work
related business. Rasha tells her sister what she needs and her
sister is sometimes able to get it. If the borders are closed
it might be months before her sister can get in to Gaza with the
items. A limited amount of tack is available at the market, but
it is usually old and of poor quality.
Some items can come through the tunnels that run between Egypt
and Gaza. But these things are mostly for human needs; such as
flour, sugar, other food items, toiletries and fuel.
Rasha sent me an email last week with the exciting news that her
sister was able to come for five days. She brought an English
saddle, bridle, some grooming tools and a bag of horse treats
By next summer Rasha hopes she will be able to take her first
ride along the Mediterranean Sea.