In 2014 I worked with World Horse Welfare at the Centro de Capicitacion in Zaragoza, Guatemala with the Farrier Students and their In Country Trainier to help develop a sustainable and relevant Farriery Solution for the working horses of the Project communities.
Zaragoza is a small agricultural town consisting of low rise, rendered breeze block buildings with either corrugated tin of tile roofing. Towards the centre of town the tight dusty streets open up to a small square with grander municipal buildings in the spanish colonial style with arched windows and columned verandas.
This high plains town is framed by the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Their steep sides are heavily forested and the small isolated communities that cling to the sides break the expanse of forest in a patchwork of houses and terraced fields. The people within those communities follow lives as isolated as their location. They are subsistence farmers, growing mostly corn and black beans. They supplement their living by selling their surplus, providing fire wood from their land for the local towns and by providing agricultural labour for the larger more prosperous farms.
" The working horses in these communities are predominantly pack and riding horses . As late afternoon arrives and the light starts to burn amber and defuse in dust stirred by afternoon winds these pack horse start to appear in the streets of Zaragoza."
From the dirt side tracks leading down from the mountain communities these horses and their owners move onto the paved streets of Zaragoza . Carrying up to five hay bale sized packs of firewood these horses make steady progress. I was struck how disproportionate the loads were to the pony sized horses carrying them. Like the shells on a strange equine snail. They wear shoes made from the reinforcing bar used in the construction industry. These staple like shoes have crudely turned heel calkens to bite into the steep sides of the mountain sides. On the flat of the paved streets of Zaragoza these calkens cause wild imbalances to the horses movement. Each foot fall causes the foot to screw and pivot as it catches on the deepest heel. Their fetlocks then drop, nearly hitting the floor, hyper flexing due to the excessively high heels. This coupled with the length of the toes creates a massively amount of pressure on the suspensory apparatus of the front limbs, and I saw one horse bilaterally lame with tendon injuries struggling under the load as it’s partner walked behind, it’s month old foal tied to it’s tail .
At the Centro de Capicitacion in Zaragoza they are working on Farriery Solutions to address these issues. Central to this solution is the production of a balanced shoe with smaller and even calkins. The Farriery students learn to make these shoes using locally sorced materials and locally made tools. The shoes themselves are made from locally sourced metal bar. The forges are made from steel wheel hubs and blower is driven by hand using a modified bicycle. Their anvils are made using car axels and heavy duty steel plate and their forging tools made by modifying locally sourced chisels and punches.
By providing cheap, good quality, locally produced horse shoes the local communities will be able to afford to use these shoes and afford to employ the services of the students trained at the Centro de Capicitacion. Creating a Farriery Solution that is relevant, sustainable and durable.