Through the centuries, the villagers of Debrazeit have been taught never to water their working horses in an eight hour day. With temperatures as high as 90 degrees, many horses were falling down from dehydration, damaging their knees and legs. Unable to get up they were left for dead.


The benefits of watering horses at regular intervals was demonstrated by Wenduwesun, a local interpreter and veterinary student. He was invaluable at communicating to the villagers the reason behind watering horses. This and using the brightly-colored buckets drew a crowd of curious villagers.


After witnessing the restorative powers of putting molasses and sugar in the water, the villagers started to apply the same concept to reviving collapsed horses. The results were instant, and the message that a well-nourished horse was a strong working horse was communicated.

refusing water

Advanced dehydration results in a physical inability to consume water. When offered water the horses refused to drink leading the owners to the understandable conclusion that their horses were not thirsty.

boy giving water

This inspired a program to have local children sell brightly-colored buckets of water to the village horse handlers, which was eventually adopted with much enthusiasm. This program turned out to be so successful that the villagers of the neighboring town of Nazaret asked for the program to be started there.

filling water buckets

Village participation and AAEL funds helped insure the servicing of 600 working horses daily. When the owners purchased water for their horses they also received free veterinary care from Wenduwesun. The water station volunteers under his tutelage proudly formed the Animal Care and Management League (ACML). Wenduwesun was instrumental in the communication and acceptance of this new approach to horses.

moon blindness

Moon blindness is a disease caused by flies feeding on eye secretions and laying eggs inside the eyefolds. This was routinely dealt with by cutting out the infected eye without the benefit of anesthesia. When treated with penicillin the problem was eliminated.

eye ointment

In 1997, the AAEL brought a veterinarian from Cornell University named Jarra Jagne (born in Gambia). She introduced an eye ointment to be applied daily by the horse owners. This would keep infection down and the horses genuinely seemed to enjoy the gentle touch. Wenduwesun and Jarra were very effective in teaching the villagers to wash the eyes daily with water.


At that time lymphangitis was the most rampant problem plaguing the horses. It attacks the lymphatic system and is transmitted mostly by flies and lake drinking water. It shows itself in open sores, lesions and extreme lethargy. It was treated with injections of sodium iodide, which has proven to be a cure, not just a palliative. The horses receiving this regimen never had a recurrence of lymphangitis.


An abundance of automotive materials in Ethiopia dictated their use in many aspects of harnessing, cart design and wound management. Tire rubber used in harnessing, while durable, was rubbing the animals' skin raw and creating lesions. These sores were often covered in motor oil in the belief that it would cauterize the wound. The AAEL introduced the use of herbal linaments and organic fly spray in the hopes of duplicating such remedies with local resources. However, the problem was remedied by antibiotic fly ointment that was donated by KV Vet Supply of Nebraska.


Some of the designated routes that the working horses take daily are dangerous. The steep and severely rutted roads caused many horses to fall. It was the commitment of the Animal Care and Management Team to intervene when any cart accident occurs to ensure that the horse's injury is immediately and properly attended to.

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