A young horse owner being shown how to properly use a padded harness

Negus came to the SPANA team with health problems ranging from laboured breathing to painful harness sores. Read about how the SPANA team not only eased the horse’s immediate discomfort but also made sure that he won’t suffer needlessly in future.

Ethiopian farmer Bekelle Abebe had travelled more than two hours to reach the SPANA centre in a peaceful, green neighbourhood of Bishoftu, Ethiopia. In the back of a pickup truck was his 13-year-old horse Negus, so weak from a respiratory infection that he was struggling to take full breaths.

Barely able to pull himself up, Negus was gently helped off the back of the truck by SPANA vets who were worried by the sound of his deep, chesty cough. In addition to his chest infection, vets noticed that Negus was covered in chest and leg wounds. Although Bekelle does everything he can to look after Negus, he couldn’t afford new materials with which to make the horse’s harness and, as a result, had used plastic straps which were slowly cutting in to the sensitive skin of the animal’s chest and back.

Negus being treated by a SPANA vetThe vets knew that in order for Negus to recover and enjoy a better quality of life, he needed immediate veterinary attention, while Bekelle needed some basic husbandry and harness making training.

First, the vets soothed Negus’s open wounds by cleaning them and applying topical antibiotics to speed up healing and ward off secondary infections. Simultaneously, the vets prescribed a one-week course of antibiotics to address Negus’s chest infection and ease his laboured breathing. They admitted Negus for the week in to the SPANA stables, a haven of peace and quiet where the exhausted horse could recover.

Bekelle was more than happy to give Negus the week off to heal and agreed to come back that same afternoon for some intensive community training. True to his word, Bekelle arrived later that day to speak with a SPANA community trainer about how to prevent future harness wounds. The staff showed Bekelle and other horse owners how to use simple cloth and foam to make comfortable chest pads for Negus and how to use cushions along the animal’s withers to cushion the skin.

A young horse owner being shown how to properly use a padded harnessThe vet learnt from Bekelle that two of his horses had died the previous year from African horse sickness, a highly infectious disease spread by infected insects. This had been a serious economic blow to Bekelle and his family and Bekelle was barely able to afford to support his children, let alone buy a new halter for Negus. To prevent Negus from succumbing to the same fate as the other horses, our vets decided to vaccinate him against African horse sickness as well and told Bekelle how to identify the early warning symptoms of the disease.

Bekelle expressed his gratitude for both the immediate veterinary help and the lifelong skills he had acquired as a result of the community training. He wouldn’t have been able to give Negus the comprehensive care the animal so badly needed and promised to bring Negus in for regular check-ups in future. Thanks to the SPANA Ethiopia team’s hard work, Negus can enjoy a full and healthy life.

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