A small company in north Wales have invented an inflatable saddle that could have made Mary’s journey to Bethlehem a lot more comfortable.
SaddleAid, who are based in Tŷ Croes on Anglesey initially designed and piloted the inflatable saddle in 2012 to help transport women in labour in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan after reading a story online.
Peter Muckle of SaddleAid said: “Using our donkey ‘Queenie’, we have been adapting and improving the saddles over a long period of time so that they can be used for a range of different activities from carrying women who are in labour to the nearest medical facility to using the saddle to enable people with mobility issues to experience horse, pony or donkey riding.
“Our Hub Cymru Africa grant means we will now be able to trial the saddles through a partnership with The Simien Mountains Mobile Medical Service in northern Ethiopia to see if they are able to help more people in these mountainous rural areas get better access to medical facilities.”
The fully inflated saddle with all the attachments weighs around 8kg, and works by providing a stable, comfortable frame in which can be sat in. The frame also has a quick release mechanism with bamboo sticks at the front and back which can be pulled out to make it easy to get off the donkey.
Cat Jones, Head of Partnership at Hub Cymru Africa said: “Child mortality is a serious issue in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, where every minute counts for a woman in labour.
“The time to get to the facilities can often put both the mother and baby at risk, so a device like this can make a real difference when access to roads and vehicles is often not possible, but where many families have access to a horse, pony or donkey.”
SaddleAid’s goal is to train local people to make the saddles, in co-operatives, at home or in small workshops, at low-cost and using easily available materials, to a culturally appropriate design.
They are also working on additional support designs to carry people with broken legs, and unconscious people.
The project is supported by Hub Cymru Africa which is funded by the Welsh Government.