The Lost War Horses of Cairo: a moving tribute to Dorothy Brooke’s passion

  • Author Grant Hayter-Manzies’ moving tribute highlights the remarkable life of Dorothy Brooke, founder of international welfare charity, Brooke.

    The Lost War Horses of Cairo: The Passion of Dorothy Brooke chronicles Dorothy’s travels to Cairo where she discovered thousands of suffering former British war horses.

    Dorothy established the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital, where respite was provided for these exhausted animals.

    The story provides an in-depth exploration of historical events, human-horse relationships and Dorothy’s tireless work to make a difference.

    The legacy of the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital and its founder lives on through Brooke’s continued efforts to improve the lives of working equines throughout the world.

    Two old friends

    Credit: Searight Collection

    One particularly moving anecdote involves a pair of gharry (carriage) horses (pictured above), who arrived at the hospital together.

    One of the horses was in a particularly poor condition and Dorothy decided the kindest thing to do was to put him to sleep.

    “No sooner had the incapacitated horse limped to the shed than Dorothy heard the piebald [companion] whinnying as if in pain. She hurried into the stables, where she found him “in a terrible state of mind,” she recalled, “pawing desperately at his straw with his battered old legs and deformed feet. . . . Moreover he was shaking all over and, as he was blind in one eye, he had his head turned over his shoulder on the side he could see,” stabled as he was in the Egyptian way, with his face toward the wall. Still unsure what to do, Dorothy had bran mash brought to distract him, but the piebald wanted something else and was so desperate for it that this treat, something that in his long life of Egyptian labor he can never have hoped to taste again, meant nothing to him. This is when Dorothy realized that he was looking for his old friend.

    The stables at Brooke Hospital, Cairo. Credit: Searight Collection

    “Dorothy had a syce bring over from the “condemned” yard a horse the groom thought might be the piebald’s mate. But it was not. He led several over, each in their turn. None were the mate the piebald was seeking; and it was terrible to watch as he continued to strain to see over his shoulder, stamping and whinnying in agitation. Desperate to fix her mistake, Dorothy asked the stableman to lead the piebald himself over to the condemned yard, to see if he could find his friend himself.

    This photograph is one of many that Dorothy took to show the level of degradation of the former war horses and army mules her charity took in. This horse would have been worked in this condition. Credit: Richard Searight Collection

    ““Anxiously, the old boy shambled across the yard,” Dorothy wrote, “and along two rows of waiting horses . . . until, coming to a miserable old crock, he stopped and nickered softly.”

    The piebald and his mate, noses bobbing against the other, had been reunited.

    Both horses were taken back to the stable. They were given bran mash, which they ate happily, heads together, tails twitching. Then they were taken out again and euthanized simultaneously.”

    Continued below…

    Jordan, one of the handful of former war horses, rescued in Egypt from near death, whom Dorothy was able to heal sufficiently to be returned to England. Credit: Searight Collection

    The Lost War Horses of Cairo: The Passion of Dorothy Brooke was published by Allen & Unwin UK on 1 February, 2018.

    Buy from Waterstones at £16.99 (hardback)

    Buy from Amazon from £12.32 (hardback) or £6.99 (kindle)

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday

    You may like...