February is International Hoof Care Month! CCF’s farrier Manfred visits us every six weeks to trim the hooves of our seven horses. This month we wanted to share him in action.
Dr. Marker grew up riding horses in US and has continued riding in Namibia. CCF’s horses are mainly used for recreational purposes but also help us monitor predator movement around CCF’s campus by following spoor (tracks) and scat. When we find scat we pass on the location details to the scat dog team for further collection and analysis in the genetics lab. Often the scat is found deep in the bush not on the roads, so the scat dog team is needed to help. We record spoor and wildlife locations in our stable records book.
Horseback riding is a great way to view the wildlife around the Centre as the game animals aren’t as scared of the horses compared to vehicles or people walking on foot. In August 2018, Dr. Marker was able to see a leopard while out riding. If interns/working guests come to CCF with horse riding experience, we take them on rides with us. This opportunity gives the intern/working guest a one-on-one chance to discuss their projects with Dr. Marker and learn more about CCF.
In addition, the horses help teach Namibian interns about proper care. Some have been around horses on their family’s farms but don’t know how to correctly care for them, like checking their feet for injuries or foreign particles (rock, sticks, thorns etc.) that could cause lameness. Helping hoofed livestock and farm animals stay healthy and on their feet is critical in preventing predation.
We also teach interns how to treat minor wounds or injuries, and the interns learn from our veterinarian, Dr. Robin Gieling, by watching or assisting. Many of our international veterinary interns come from cities where they may not have the ability to work with larger farm animals. The hands-on experience for these students is highly beneficial.
Not all of the horses at CCF are ridden. CCF’s oldest horse Tango is over 40 years old! Tango was an anti-poaching horse from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism which was given a retirement home at CCF as a reward for his service to Namibia in protecting our wildlife.