Gabriel, Grills & Associates

The caring compassionate Veterinary practice serving the South Hams

The Gambia Experience

David Cruz with the team in Gambia, Autumn 2005

See below for description of his trip and photographs

Click here for the official Gambia web site
or here for a map and the BBC profile on Gambia

This was my third volunteer trip abroad, but this time instead of going to Greece or the Mediterranean I opted for something a little different, ‘The Gambia’.

This small country is situated on the West Coast of Africa, sandwiched in the middle of Senegal .

The main purpose of this trip was to run veterinary clinics at local markets and villages and tutor Gambian students, who were studying to become veterinary nurses.

This was on behalf of The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust.

The volunteer team consisted of 3 veterinary professionals, 1 veterinary surgeon from Devon , and a nurse from Switzerland and myself.

A six hour flight from Gatwick and we had landed at ‘ Banjul airport’ (the capital).

Work started pretty much straight after stepping off the plane, we visited an army barracks to examine some of the sergeants new horses.

After a two day break at the tourist resort areas, we loaded the two 4x4 vans and headed off for Sambel Kunda (this is a village up river where the charity is based).

The trip consisted of a 30-minute ferry ride, 5-hour road trip and a 45-minute boat trip.

We were well looked after during our stay at the camp, by Heather Armstrong (Co-founder of GHDT), Stella Marsdon (her sister) and all the staff at the yard.

We spent 10 days there running clinics, treating patients at the yard and picking up new patients in between.

The injuries and illnesses we saw out there were, horses and a few donkeys with ‘Trypanosoma’ (diagnosed by blood smearing), harness wounds, badly fitted bits, bad teeth, overgrown feet, lameness problems, lots and lots of tick infestations, worms, fistula withers, malnutrition and dehydration.

Bad teeth Donkey with fistula withers Wound from harness
Very sick horse And a very sick donkey Typical harness setup - hence the problem


There is one case that sticks in my mind the most, a horse, which was hospitalised at the yard. He had been tied up in his stable, which had caught fire, the poor horse had no means of escape and was seriously burnt down his left side.

Burns wound day 1 Close up Burns wound - day 10 close up of healing after 10 days


This was my personal nursing case, which I treated during my time at the yard and as you can see from the photos the wounds had decreased in size and looked a lot healthier by the end of my stay.

I had a fantastic time in The Gambia, it is a beautiful country and the people are very welcoming. For a country, which has only had horses for the past 40 years, I think they are doing very well. The GHDT continue to do much needed work and successfully train farriers, nurses, tack makers and yard assistants. I felt that common sense was not lacking here, but general equine knowledge was.

David R Cruz VN

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