There is now a month to go before I head off to London for a bit of a run round a park to raise funds for the Brooke. Fundraising has been pretty good and we are now at about the 200 quid mark, with £150 to go to hit target, so I am chuffed with that (and obviously if you want to add a few pennies to it, you can do so here:
Even a tiny amount helps, especially if you can GiftAid it, and it can make a heck of a difference to the lives and working animals and their humans in the Third World). I’d like to say that JJ and I have been tearing round the lanes at a rate of knots doing lots of training, but the poor little chap has been awfully ill again.
He does have Cushings, and at this time of year it inevitably gets worse–and I don’t think I increased his meds soon enough. At any rate he dropped weight, developed sore feet and then another mega-abscess in his right hind hoof. For anybody out there who is a normal, and sensibly horseless, human bean, you might at this point want to imagine a very large tooth abscess in a very small space, a kind of organic bomb really. They usually brew up for a week or so then explode vile goo everywhere, after you have spent about fifty quid on animalintex, epsom salts, vetwrap, and treats to keep the wretched creature still while you soak, poke, and wrap flailing limbs, and then phone other horsey people to discuss the imminent and glorious explosion of vile frogscented ooze, usually into your eye. Poor JJ was on three legs and could barely walk, let alone do any running (although to be honest he still managed to go faster than I could when he realised the garden gate was open and there was a reasonable chance he could get out and into the haybarn). Still, he is fully recovered and much improved on a higher dose of Dried Pink Frog Pills (that’s Prascend to those of you who are not alumni of Unseen University) to the point that he is out and about on the grass tracks, being ridden a little bit, and is now walking out every other day. Yesterday, in fact, he even managed to do some running, after we met a very large lorry on a very small lane, and I decided discretion was the better part of valour and legged it. I will say at this point that neither JJ nor the delightfully kind and cheerful lorry driver were the slightest bit concerned, but both tolerated my quarter of a mile spook–one by resignedly running alongside me. and the other by crawling along at a careful distance, grinning, presumably at the sight of some mad fat pink-haired bird attempting to sprint whilst wearing high heeled cowboy boots. JJ appears to be fine, anyway. I’m not so sure about myself!
Running on your own is rather easier than with a horse, since I don’t have to concentrate on not diving into the hedge for snacks or spooking at horse-eating sheep. It does give you time to think though. I probably wouldn’t admit to most of what I think about (nor remember it), but there have been a couple of recurrent things I’ve been pondering recently. The first, suppose, is how bizarre fundraising is nowadays. Merely running a half-marathon isn’t enough to get folks digging into their pockets–or heading to PayPal–any more. I mean all of my people are being remarkably generous, even if they can’t afford to be, but just looking round at what other people are doing, they are having to hold bingo nights and garden parties and set up cupcake stalls or raffle their children’s kidneys and God only knows what else, AS WELL AS running for fifty miles a week in training for whatever race it was they are supposed to be doing to raise funds. Running is clearly a bit old hat, although perhaps not when you’re doing it with a horse. The main reason I was thinking about this though, of course, is the ALS icebucket challenge, in which otherwise perfectly normal people felt obliged to empty buckets of very cold water over themselves and donate money for medical research for a disease most of them had never heard of up until that point. I considered filming myself getting back from a long run in horizontal rain, uphill, freezing cold, soaked through, to see if that would work as well, but my mate pointed out that it would probably raise more if I emptied a bucket of ice over JJ’s head.
Whoa. Hang on right there.
I know there were plenty of people stupid and mean enough to do that–I saw at least four on facebook, who clearly had no regard for their equines whatsoever–but if anybody tries emptying a bucket over mine, there will be a pair of a second hand skewered kidneys up for auction, assuming the horse doesn’t get you first (in which case your kidneys are going to be the least of your problems). I understand that people often expect some element of entertainment or return on a charitable donation–but there are ethical limits. I’m quite sure JJ doesn’t mind trotting round the lanes, and the exercise is good for him. He probably doesn’t have much of a concept that his trotting about is helping donkeys in brick kilns in India, mind you, and I bet he’d be absolutely horrified if he met a donkey (he is not a fan of cows either, especially the mooing, and the small ponies down the road are apparently dangerous minions of the Anti-Christ and are plotting to roast him for lunch).
I draw the line, however, at causing discomfort to one (already frail) animal to help another, however needy. And I think, on the whole, that everyone I know is in agreement with me on that. The British value the welfare of non-edible animals very much: I did see earlier on today that folks had rallied round and raised a vast amount overnight to help the Manchester Dogs’ Home, which was the victim of an arson attack that caused massive canine fatalities. People are astonishing–they were queueing up with bedding, food, offers of foster homes, and while as species go I tend to like horses and parrots rather more than humans (and, I’m afraid, dogs), I am with TH White on this one. The one redeeming feature–possibly the only one actually–is that people WILL do without themselves to help other species when they have fallen on hard times. Maybe only some species–I doubt there would have been front page news if the Pont Y Clwyd Tarantula Sanctuary had been razed to the ground–but all the same.
And this, of course, is why organisations such as The Brooke exist. Have you seen or read Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse? I confess I haven’t–I was traumatised by Black Beauty and I met Joey the War Horse puppet at BETA earlier in the year and that was enough to
set me off. But war horses are the reason The Brooke exists–they were founded in 1934 to treat, rescue, and humanely destroy those British Army horses that had survived the First World War in Egypt, and had been abandoned to live out the rest of their lives as working animals on the streets of Cairo. This is what Dorothy Brooke has to say about them:
Out here, in Egypt, there are still many hundreds of old Army Horses sold of necessity at the cessation of the War. They are all over twenty years of age by now, and to say that the majority of them have fallen on hard times is to express it very mildly. Those sold at the end of the war have sunk to a very low rate of value indeed: they are past ‘good work’ and the majority of them drag out wretched days of toil in the ownership of masters too poor to feed them – too inured to hardship themselves to appreciate, in the faintest degree, the sufferings of animals in their hands.These old horses were, many of them, born and bred in the green fields of England – how many years since they have seen a field, heard a stream of water, or a kind word in English?
Many are blind – all are skeletons.
Her first letter to the English newspapers raised the equivalent of 20k, and this rescued five thousand old horses. Many of them were in such a state that they had to be put down. 80 years on, and The Brooke’s charitable spend last year was 12 million pounds, helping over a million horses, donkeys and mules. And, of course, medical knowledge is rather better now than it was in 1934, so we’re in a much better position to prevent all those working animals, across three continents, from becoming the often blind and always skeletal wretches that Dorothy Brooke originally saw.
It is of course 2014, and the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One and the hostilities that killed 8 million equines, and left an incalculable number to live lives of hard labour. Unfortunately, for every person willing to do something to improve the lot of other critturs, there are others who are determined to create the problem in the first place. I have never much liked that damnable animal war memorial in Hyde Park, because to me that two million quid could have been spent more wisely elsewhere. It does the job at reminding people exactly how many blameless creatures were destroyed in conflicts not of their making, though, and I suppose as a long term investment it is probably going to raise more awareness and probably indirectly, even more aid than it cost. On race day, though, I think we have to run past it, or very near it, which given the origins of The Brooke seems entirely fitting, particularly in the Centenary, though all that is no doubt going to be far to solemn for somebody with pink hair wearing even pinker donkey ears.
You can read more about the history of The Brooke at http://www.thebrooke.org/ and about the Animals in War Memorial here at http://www.animalsinwar.org.uk/
If you can, please sponsor my run on 12th October. You can donate here:
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