THE dilemma of how to carry essential supplies needed for the four-month fund-raising trek to Northern Spain has been solved thanks to Devon businessman Ian Roper.
Through his Ivybridge-based company Autotrim, Ian offered to make a set of special panniers, which could be fastened to Henry's back like a huge packsaddle.
This month (March), the company, a specialist manufacturer of interior trim for cars and boats, officially presented Henry with the panniers - two containers, each 30inch high by 28inch wide by 10inch deep.
*David and Henry thank the skilled hands from Autotrim and Welbro Engineering for the manufacture of Henry's panniers.
Ian said: "A mule's packsaddle is not something we would normally make but as David is local and we thought Operation Henry was a marvellous idea in aid of a wonderful cause that we decided to help. It's a great shame the trip has been postponed for a year but we wish David a quick recovery in the hope he is fit and well for next year."
Ian offered to help David after hearing him talk about Operation Henry at the Ivybridge Rotary Club one evening.
Using David's design, staff at Autotrim got the panniers transformed from the drawing board into a reality. Henry can only carry a maximum 200lb in weight, so each box, machine-stitched by hand, was made to contain 90lb of equipment including a tent, sleeping bag, clothing, cooking utensils, survival food and tethering bore. Individual pockets were stitched onto the outside of the pockets to house smaller items, which need to be quickly accessible to David including water bottles and maps.
Henry's precise carrying weight was calculated by the equestrian department of the British Army's Animal Defence Centre at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, where David acquired ideas for Henry's heavy-duty pack saddle. The light webbing material was donated by saddle manufacturers Thorowgoods of Birmingham.
David said: "Frames were needed to give structure and support to the panniers so Ian asked neighbouring company Welbro Engineering, on Ivybridge's Filham Moor Industrial Estate, if they could help.
"They were quick to respond. I am grateful to both these companies for supporting Operation Henry."
Alan Welsh, a co-partner of Welbro Engineering, said: "I'm not an overly charitable man but Mr Snelling seems a genuine chap who is putting himself out for a good cause so we were happy to help. It was only a small job to us but the gesture meant the world to David.
"We just hope he can get himself fit enough so he can undertake Operation Henry next year."
Autotrim can be contacted at Filham Moor Industrial Estate, Ivybridge, on 01752 893368
Welbro Engineering can be contacted at Filham Moor Industrial Estate, Ivybridge, on 01752 89250