In the small town of Sheno, Ethiopia, local farrier David Debelle works tirelessly to provide working horses with a better quality of life. Read about how he started a career helping horses and his neighbours in the process.

When David first bought Kinde, which means “Kindness” in Amharic, the horse was in a terrible state. Kinde’s legs were covered in deep cuts and he was struggling to walk – all a result of bad farriery. David examined the young horse and discovered that his feet were hobbled by poorly fitted shoes studded with sharp nails. He immediately brought Kinde to SPANA vets who gently treated his wounds, removed the uncomfortable shoes and showed David how to better care for his newly rescued horse.

As there weren’t any trained farriers in the region, David learned that Kinde’s previous owner would shoe the horse himself – hammering up to 15 nails in to Kinde’s hooves while leaving the nails sticking through the top of the hoof. As Kinde walked, the sharp tips of these nails cut in to the sensitive skin of his legs. But Kinde was one of the lucky horses of Sheno, rescued just in time. For other working horses, such farriery practices would regularly cause terrible lameness.

When the horses could no longer work, they were abandoned by the side of the road and left to die. David recalls a time when dozens of emaciated ownerless owners roamed the streets, without care, desperate for food and water. But the enterprising young man realised that he could save other horses like Kinde from such a terrible fate with a simple solution.

Grateful for SPANA’s previous help, David was one of the first men in Sheno to sign up for SPANA’s free farriery training. Over several weeks, staff trained David how to trim and file horses’ hooves and attach comfortable shoes which protected their feet from rocky terrain.

To begin with, David’s farrier services were free for all local owners. As word spread about the benefits of better farriery, more and more owners attended David’s regular clinics.

A year and a half later, David is now charging a small sum of roughly six pence per shoe for his services. This allows David to continue his vital services as well as encouraging owners to value and care for the shoes. What’s more, the farriery service has provided an entry point for SPANA staff to get local animal owners more involved in regular community training.

At these informal workshops, attendees learn about husbandry issues like EZL and can receive veterinary care. It’s helped this community to value their working animals even more and ensure that their working lives are happier and healthier.

The difference in the welfare of the horses of Sheno compared to neighbouring villages is enormous. Owners are proud of the shoes that David provides for their horses and after seeing the benefits of a small investment, now take even better care of their animal’s general health. Today, all of the horses of Sheno look healthy and no longer are horses abandoned by the side of the road, left to die.

David is enormously proud of his work and the skills he has acquired through SPANA training. He is well respected by his community and make a comfortable income to care for his family and look after Kinde. This sustainable programme is great for communities, great for horses and shows the next generation of Sheno’s animal owners proper equine care.

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