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TAWS Farriery Course, Khartoum 2003

 
TAWS FARRIERY COURSE, KHARTOUM 2003: A SPANA OUTREACH PROGRAMME

Introduction

A Swiss consultant farrier (Mr Bernard Duvernay), was engaged for this course, on personal recommendation, as no British farrier could be found at shortish notice who would give a minimum of two weeks instruction. It was considered desirable to organise the project during the cooler weather in Sudan (January/February), and to have postponed it for 12 months would have risked losing momentum in the scheme for improving equine foot care, and possibly also valuable local contacts. Extensive briefing was sent to the consultant farrier (subsequently referred to as the trainer) by e-mail before the course, about types of horses, farriery methods and a list of equipment which would be made available. This was largely based on ILPH recommendation. He also met Dr Ayman Nahas, the local Khartoum organiser acting for the Sudan Equestrian Federation, in Dubai about 10 days before the course began. He should not have been short of information before arriving in Sudan for the first time.

On the trainer’s first full day in Khartoum a familiarisation tour was arranged so that the proposed facilities for the course could be visited, and some assessment made of the management systems for various classes of horses and the standard of farriery practised. Around Khartoum there are draught horses, police horses and sports horses. The former two categories consist mainly of Sudanese native breeds while the latter class contains both Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred-x-local-breeds. The trainer was strongly of the opinion that the major welfare problem lay with the sports horses as many of the cases of poor conformation could be attributed to poor management as well as the lack of competent farriers. Almost without exception farriers trim and shoe both sports and draught horses so concentrating on one sector would also help in the other. The Sudanese breeds have fewer orthopaedic problems resulting from more natural husbandry and greater adaptation to the local conditions. Consequently the formal part of the course with visual aids was held at the Equestrian School and the practical work was usually done on a shaded concrete area nearby.

Farriery Training

The trainer is obviously a highly competent farrier who presented well-prepared educational material. He worked long hours and was a strict taskmaster. His first language, being French, caused a few difficulties as instruction was given in English, then translated to Arabic. Some problems were terminological in nature but his dogmatic style tended to accentuate these.

The trainees found the new (to them) methods of trimming balancing and fitting shoes, where applicable, a revelation, as did many of the owners. Most of the horses worked on in the practical classes benefited significantly from proper balancing procedures and as a result moved more freely. Cases of lameness were often improved or, at least, a precise diagnosis of the position and cause of an injury could then be given.

The course gave the opportunity for three young farriers to improve their skills in fitting and nailing, while five others also extended their knowledge of farriery from a basic level and had practical training in trimming and balancing. Ayman Nahas and Ramsay Hovell worked closely with some of the trainees for 4 weeks following the end of the course. Unfortunately, three of the most experienced farriers in Khartoum did not attend throughout the course. With one of them, there was a personality clash with the trainer but another did come to work with the most proficient trainees after the main course was over. In additional, the No 1 police farrier was injured just before the course started and could not be present as anticipated. One of the trainees was based at an equine rescue centre.

Administration

The starting date of the course was altered by the trainer three or four times at short notice and even a 'final decision' was revoked. Similarly, the length as in number of working days was changed and re-changed without consultation, making it difficult for local arrangements to be put in place satisfactorily. This affected the reservation of accommodation, notifying the trainees and a host of other details. About halfway through the course, which it was understood would cover around 13 working days, the trainer announced he would be leaving after 10 working days (9 with the farriers), although this was not confirmed, until about 48 hours from departure, due to difficulties with travel agents which the trainer insisted on handling himself. It was evident that planning both in the medium terms and on a day-to-day basis was not a strong point. This was not only unacceptable but also totally unprofessional, especially considering the level of fees negotiated.

Conclusion

A welfare problem has been recognised and is being addressed. All are agreed that training in this case is best directed from the top down as the Sudan Equestrian Federation's influence will assist; the other way round would make little progress. It is safe to say, even at this stage, that certain management practices are receiving attention and that the slide in foot care is being reversed. A number of these issues had been raised previously in an ad hoc manner, but the trainers’s report will serve to confirm these recommendations. However, more advanced tuition is still required and as yet the cadre of professionally orientated farriers is small. Due to the curtailment in working days and the concentration of activities at the Equestrian School, it did not prove possible to include practical sessions at a police stables or at one of the forges in the suq area. These are items for the follow-up programme.

For the sake of continuity, it would normally be an advantage to have the same farrier instructor of the next course. However, in general, the Sudanese did not take to the trainer and the difficulties experienced with regard to starting date, the abrupt end to the course, and financial uncertainties with the trainer, indicate that this choice is by no means automatic. In the opinion of the writer of this report, an alternative should be found who is more used to working with apprentices and who is more patient. In fact, the School of Farriery at Hereford has undertaken provisionally for a staff member to be available if required, for two weeks late in 2003 or early in 2004 (dates to be mutually convenient) when requested formally. This arrangement in all probability would be welcomed in Khartoum.

Meanwhile, it is hoped to establish a central forge there to act as a focus for further training and which would provide the equipment for visiting instructors to use in demonstrations. It was suggested that this could usefully be sited at the Khartoum Veterinary Hospital, which also has a teaching role. Moves have started with a view to locating resources for such a development.

G.J.R. Hovell, April 2003.

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