Fighting isn’t over for the Old War Horse

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1992:

LONDON, U.K. The late Dorothy
Brooke founded the Brooke Hospital for
Animals as the Old War Horse Memorial
Hospital. Brooke specified that her primary
purpose was to protect retired military horses
and donkeys. Military organization wasn’t nec-
essarily part of her plan–but after assuming the
top post at the Old War Horse approximately
one year ago, following his retirement from the
Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Col. Brian
Thompson quickly moved to establish military
order—including institution of a rigid chain-of-
command, increased paperwork to track activ-
ities, a lid on information released to the press,
and an apparent ban on cooperation with per-
ceived rivals.

Backed by Hospital Committee head
David Jones, former director of the nearly
bankrupt London Zoo, Thompson first raised
eyebrows by demoting committee member
Richard Seabright, Brooke’s grandson.
Thompson then raised international ire by fir-
ing Chris Larter, the longtime Old War Horse
liaison to Jordan, as part of a sweeping series
of moves to consolidate control over the
Princess Alia Clinic at Petra, Jordan. An Old
War Horse subsidiary, the Princess Alia Clinic
provides free care to equines used in the
Jordanian tourist trade, or did; there are now

reports of horse owners being charged.
By all accounts, Larter is a maverick,
whose spontaneous actions on behalf of abused
horses and donkeys have sometimes nearly
provoked riots, and who has never been afraid
to step outside normal channels to get things
done. She particularly ired Thompson during
the Persian Gulf War, when she appealed
directly to other international animal protection
groups for funds with which to feed equines in
Petra; disruption of transport had made hay
scarce, and had driven the price beyond the
means of many owners of working horses.
Since the Jordanians were primarily aligned
with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, in opposi-
tion to the British position, Larter’s action
may have doubly irritated Thompson’s military
But such courage and independence
have won Larter immense popularity among
the Bedu (Bedouin Arabs), who remain
prominent in the Middle Eastern horse trade
long after the absorption of their horse-based
nomadic culture into modern ways of life.
Explains Sharon Cregier of the Canadian
Wild Horse Society, who flew to Jordan last
April to investigate Larter’s then-rumored
impending dismissal, “Larter was able to
maintain a much more personal relationship
with the horse boys and men than is possible
under a purely professional organization. She
had studied every man, boy, or family’s case
separately, rather than lumping them together
in a bottom-line approach. Her summary dis-
missal has offended the Bedu, who have noth-
ing but contempt for a European officer-class
type of direction.”
While Cregier praised the medical staff at
the Princess Alia Clinic, she noted that,
“They do not feel comfortable in all situations
involving animal rescue and owner education.
In this latter, Larter excells.” For instance,
“On entering Wadi Moussa while Larter and I
were en route to Petra, Larter stopped to
investigate a donkey foal standing suspiciously
quiet with an inward look in his dulling eye.
We found the foal with his forelegs so tightly
bound that they were swollen, cut and bloody.
Interesting enough, two of the Princess Alia
Clinic staff had passed the scene daily and not
noticed. We freed the foal, applied first aid to
the wound, located the family he belonged to,
instructed the family on feeding, care, and
tethering, and were treated as honored guests
by the grateful parents and children.” Follow-
up visits established that the family was follow-
ing the instructions.
As well as firing Larter, Thompson
broke off a joint supply acquisition arrange-
ment that Larter had established with the
Society for the Protection of Animals in North
Africa—which had saved money for both orga-
nizations. “When I asked Col. Thompson for
clarification of the reasons for Larter’s dis-
missal,” Cregier told ANIMAL PEOPLE,
“he could give none.” However, “He suggest-
ed that any future contributions and support
from her friends and supporters should be
given to SPANA,” where Larter continues her
Letters of inquiry may be directed to
Thompson c/o the Brooke Hospital, British
Columbia House, 1 Regent Street, London.
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