PATRICK Finnegan (better known as Paddy) from Newtownards, Co. Down may have retired from his day job, but he is a long way off from putting his feet up! While most people would be starting to wind down and take life a bit easier, Paddy has been designing and developing a range of equine tools and equipment that could greatly enhance the welfare of working equines throughout the world and, as a result, have a positive effect on the people working with them. He does so in memory of his mother and father and his younger brother, who have all passed away in the last few years.
Paddy has been using and making tools for as long as he can remember. As a teenager, he served his time in the Harland and Wolf shipyard, as one of the last blacksmith apprentices. He ended up working in the drawing office there.
Paddy’s family were into horses in a big way and, over the years, he has been involved in show jumping, eventing, driving and breeding. Many years ago, a friend of the family taught Paddy how to hand-make shoes and to shoe horses, which led him to design and make a machine to make horseshoes!
While working as a tooling engineer in the aircraft industry in California in 1990, Paddy got a patent published for his horseshoe machine. The following year, he was contacted by a steel rolling mill in Mexico, inviting him to come and set up a factory there, as they didn’t have horseshoe machines there at that time. Paddy accepted and set up the first horseshoe factory in Mexico City 30 years ago… And, while there, he met his wife!
When they returned to Northern Ireland some 25 years ago, Paddy began working as an engineering lecturer in the technical college, from which he has only recently retired. He gained a wide range of experience of making things – having made everything from guitar-making jigs to horse-drawn carriages!
In recent years, Paddy has developed an innovative hoofstand (under the banner of Finnegan Tools), that is not only designed for farriers, but also for assisting horse and pony owners (or their grooms!). Queen’s University carried out research on his hoofstand, which showed that it can be used to help put in studs etc.
The Queen’s Head Groom read the research and was so impressed that he invited Paddy over to Windsor to demonstrate how to use the hoofstand effectively and train the private grooms in its use. This visit was somewhat ironic, as 50 years earlier, Paddy’s father had beaten the Duke of Edinburgh at Flying 15s in the 1958 UK National Championships (sailboat racing)!
During lockdown, Paddy has further refined the hoofstand design and it is now completely made of stainless steel and weighs in at less than 2kg, so it can be shipped anywhere. The cradle height can be adjusted, so that it can be used on donkeys and horses.
Paddy is very aware that there are 100 million working equines around the world – many of them in under-developed countries, where welfare can be an issue. He has learned that this can be due to harsh weather conditions and a lack of money, but not due to cruelty – contrary to what many people might think. In fact, in many cases, these equines (primarily donkeys) are valuable assets to their owners and are basically part of the family – when the donkeys are fit and able to work, the family can earn money to buy food; if they are unable to work, the family income suffers. It is therefore in the owner’s best interests to keep their animal in good health.
Paddy has discovered that, while these equines are in work, their feet do not tend to cause them problems, as the terrain they cover keeps them right. It is only when the equines get injured and are out of work that their feet become problematic – perhaps the most common reason for them to be out of work is due to wounds sustained from ill-fitting harness.
Paddy decided he would like to do something to improve the welfare of these working equines. He became aware of the work of Dr Peta Jones in South Africa. Dr Jones has designed the Powerset harness system that greatly eases the strain on working donkeys and has written a book, which is available online.
Paddy set about making this lightweight humane harness. He has woven his own version using a simple loom that uses hollow PVC tubes to weave belting out of netlon cord. This new ‘Irish’ simple loom technique, along with the use of wooden toggle buttons, make this harness fully adjustable for the best fit. He hopes to supply charities (and schools) with the materials to manufacture both the looms and the harness.
His plan is to set up a ‘technology transfer programme’ with schools in under-developed countries, so that 13 and 14-year-olds can be taught to make the harness and a range of craft and welfare tools.
Paddy was hoping to get this underway here initially, with a college being set up at Cultra to show teachers how to make the harness, so that they could pass on the skills to pupils on these shores. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions forced him to put this on hold for the past year.
He has now listed the ‘Finnegan Hoofstand’ for sale on eBay and he plans to use the proceeds to support local making in under-developed countries by owners of working animals of sets of harness for their working equines. He is trying to get companies in the developed world to support the project.
Paddy’s plan goes beyond harness. He has already started gathering up waste materials from factories here, which can be used to make affordable tools. He would like to teach schoolteachers in the under-developed countries how to make their own tools locally, giving the local kids practical hand skills that will benefit animal welfare. In fact, he says his hoofstands could be made and sold cost effectively and sustainably in Africa. He has also made simple musical instruments, jigs and tools and sent them to Africa for copying.
Paddy’s main aim is to help people to present better animals. He feels that people know the value of a good animal, even if they are not educated. Paddy wants to assist the charities in these countries to help local people to improve the value of their animal and, in order to do this, he is setting up ‘Finnegan Tools’.
He already has a ‘Finnegan Tools’ agent in South Africa – Christine Pinna is a hoof trimmer and trainer of trimmers. Christine is helping Paddy by taking orders out there for the hoofstands he makes and by working with different welfare groups, like Amatrculuntu.co.za and Blindlove.co.za in teaching routine maintenance work. Paddy has recently sent four 2021 models of his new adjustable hoofstand out to Christine, along with some other new sample tools for her to field test.
Their plan is to support secondary schools out there to make local copies of all the samples that Paddy can send out from here.
Paddy has also just discovered a manufacturer here in Ireland that may be able to produce the cord he needs for harness making, out of recycled plastic. His hope is that he can organise this and ship it all over the world to provide subsidised supplies to schools and to all the non-governmental organisations working towards improved animal welfare.
Paddy has started writing a book about his project and plans to sell it online, chapter by chapter, to help to raise funds to get the project underway – if you would like to support Paddy or find out more about his project or Dr Peta Jones’ book, please contact him on email@example.com
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.