What does the three-day eventer leaping over car-sized hurdles in Virginia have in common with the donkey hauling goods to market in Ethiopia? They both need hoof care to stay sound and productive in their respective jobs.

The donkey’s cargo, however, might be his owner’s sole source of income, so soundness becomes especially crucial to a family’s livelihood. But owners of working equids in poor communities don’t have access to the quality farriery (if they can find any at all) that owners of horses in developed countries do. And the challenges in trying to provide them with hoof care and education are many.

“The approach to improving hoof care is difficult, as it not only involves care for the animals while there, but instruction of the local populace in the importance of good farriery, and also how to implement it in a very basic manner,” explained Stephen O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS, of Virginia Therapeutic Farriery, in Keswick.

O’Grady, who has been involved with equitarian projects all over the world, described ways to teach proper hoof trimming and shoeing to owners of working equids in a presentation at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

First, he listed some of the inherent challenges associated with these efforts:

  • The language barrier Even with the help of an interpreter, many of these owners must learn by observation.
  • Limited supplies Farrier tools typically aren’t available in these rural communities. So visiting farriers must teach hoof care in a