As many people are working through the recovery phase of Cyclone Gabrielle, we’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of farriers like Liam James who have worked tirelessly to maintain horse welfare since the flood.  Liam has been travelling by land, river and air to get to work since the Cyclone hit the East Coast of the North Island.  He has been treating hoof injuries sustained by horses, many injured while swimming and catching themselves on floating debris in the flood-ravaged region. And the majority of his work he has done for free.

Much of Liam’s work has required draining and treating horses hooves then giving follow-up treatments for those affected when bacteria from the dirty water got inside the wounds. He says he has spent a “massive” amount of time in rescue mode, with abscessation the most common ailment, caused from having hooves submerged in water for a long time.  

“This has meant lacerations to bulbs and other soft tissue, and more abscesses than I could count,” he says. “I kind of stopped counting as it wasn’t really something I wanted to remember.  But I’d say it was around 40-odd horses, many I saw more than once.”

“All it takes is for the horse to stand on anything hard, and they have bleeding, and can lose massive amounts of blood.   When horses hooves have needed trimming back beyond normal, they are especially vulnerable.”

Liam James using fibreglass on an injured horse.

In some cases he attached fibreglass casts to hooves that were falling apart from being submerged in water for so long. 

Liam has been a farrier for five years.  He had farmed most of his working career and always had an interest in hoof care.  He learned to shoe his own horses and loved it.

He covers the Hawke’s Bay region where his work has taken him to more isolated places either by helicopter or, in the case of Dartmoor, by dinghy.  A number of the horses were treated at other people’s properties after being rescued.  He says travelling within the region wasn’t always easy.

 “I had a few dodgy times,  I almost lost my ute in the flooded rivers so I put a snorkel on it so I could get through.”

Liam lives in Mableton, south west of Hastings on a 60 acre farm. After a full day’s work he comes home every night to his wife Shannon James and 18-month-old son Spencer.  

Liam, Shannon and Spencer.