2011 Equitarian Workshop Blog

Man on burro
Working horses and other equids in Mexico will benefit from the workshop.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

The second annual Equitarian Workshop kicked off this week with an international group of 30 veterinary professionals gathering just outside Veracruz, Mexico. The workshop is a four day exchange of ideas and concepts designed to foster equine welfare worldwide.

The workshop is sponsored by a collaboration of professional veterinary associations: the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), HSVMA,  The Donkey Sanctuary and others.

HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) veterinarian, Dr. David Turoff, is at the event and will be reporting daily on his experiences.


Read about last year's workshop»


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Monday, October 10, 2011

Group at opening session
Workshop participants during the opening session.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net 

Building on the strength of last year's meeting, the second annual Equitarian Workshop opened today near Veracruz, Mexico, site of the first re-introduction of horses to the new world almost 500 years ago. The workshop is under the joint sponsorship of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners), HSVMA, The Donkey Sanctuary, and several other organizations. Included among the approximately thirty attendees are several returning from last year, and three whose attendance is supported by stipends from HSVMA.

Topics discussed at the opening session included defining the Equitarian vision to comprise education of veterinarians, students and community members, and collaboration between diverse individuals and organizations on matters relating to the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules worldwide, an effort which is especially necessary in view of the fact that 90% of the world's equine population is served by a mere 1% of the world's veterinarians. Speakers stressed the interdependence of human welfare and the welfare of the approximately 100 million working equids of the world, and the need to ensure the flow of resources to raise and maintain standards of working equine veterinary care.

Dr. Turoff performs dental work
Dr. David Turoff sees to a horse's dental care.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

Some non-obvious elements of that interdependence were stressed, including the fact that many of the world's children travel to school on equines, and that democracy is only a possibility in many places due to the ability of equines to transport voters to remote polling stations.

Following the meeting, informal discussions continued as we drove 2 hours to a village high in the hills, where we provided routine and therapeutic care to approximately 120 horses, donkeys, and mules. The conference will continue for the next four days, with daily summaries to be sent from here. As always, I'm grateful to HSVMA for providing me with the opportunity attend and to be a part of this critical effort.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dr. Kelly with donkey
Dr. Larry Kelly works on an incisor reduction.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

The second day of the workshop was devoted almost entirely to field work, as the village served was four hours' drive from the UNAM extension station where the workshop is being held and there were about three hundred animals—mostly donkeys—to be treated there.

Workshop attendees treated a variety of cases, including numerous dental interventions, surgeries to relieve back sores from ill-fitting tack and excessive loads, and one case of cutaneous tuberculosis which, as a disease potentially transmissible to people, underscores the inter-relatedness of equine and human health.


Equine care class
An important part of the workshop was teaching young children about proper and compassionate equine care.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

One very significant component of the day's activities was a class conducted for about 25 village children in the 6-12 year age range about proper and compassionate care of equines. The class utilized teaching materials—a coloring book entitled “Animales Felices, Familias Satisfechas” ("Happy Animals, Satisfied Families")—which were developed with the support of HSVMA in collaboration with AAEP and the other Equitarian Workshop sponsors. Village children responded enthusiastically to the class, which lasted about two hours—long relative to the normal attention span of children that age.

Informal discussion of the philosophy and the practical logistics of Equitarian programs continued during the long drive to and from the site.


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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Horses wait for exams
Horses wait to be examined by workshop veterinarians.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

The Equitarian Workshop continued today, as yesterday, devoted primarily to clinical field work, with a mixed population of horses, some mules and a few donkeys at a village about a three hour drive from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) extension station. The caseload today was notable for the large number of severe back sores requiring surgery, and for one dental intervention in a relatively young horse to correct a life-threatening—though fully-correctable—condition. This latter case was a six-year-old horse with a single tooth overgrown (due to a missing tooth in the opposing jaw) to the point that the patient was within a month or so of not being able to close his mouth at all.

After a great deal of effort normal dental alignment was restored, but because equine teeth continue to grow throughout life, this is an animal requiring at least yearly maintenance to prevent a similar problem recurring, underscoring both for the owner of the horse and for workshop participants the importance of committing to these clinics as an ongoing, continual effort. The owner promised to bring the horse back next year, and we will definitely be there, with the support of HSVMA.

During the six hour clinic, representatives of The Donkey Sanctuary (a key sponsor of the workshop) conducted a community outreach effort to further delineate the particular animal health care needs of the area. An analysis of the information obtained will be used to refine the focus of our efforts next year. This was a major part of our discussion during the long ride back to the UNAM extension station. The workshop will continue for the next two days, with further daily updates from here.


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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sarcoid removal using liquid nitrogen
A workshop participant removes a sarcoid using liquid nitrogen.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

Day four of the workshop began with a short meeting and a long drive to the community of Ursulo Galvan where we saw approximately 200 animals, including many with sarcoids that were treated with applications of liquid nitrogen using equipment elegantly improvised by Dr. Eric Davis. Donkeys in Latin America appear to be especially prone to this common and invasive skin tumor, and it is hoped that such inexpensive treatments will help with their treatment in the future; veterinary teams from UNAM will monitor progress.

As with other sites we have visited, the dentistry station was quite busy, as was the surgery team. The educational program for the village children was especially well attended and received.

Discussions during the drive and over dinner revolved around ideas for expanding the Equtarian Workshop to potientially include more veterinary students and alternate sites that might be visited in addition to this part of Mexico. Also under consideration is the compilation of a manual, or ¨how-to¨ guide for veterinarians and organizations to initiate programs to serve the health care needs of working equids. Potential topics discussed include permits, interface with local animal health care workers, treatment protocols, cultural exchange, and many related concerns. This will be developed over the course of the next year, and presented to the Equitarian Workshop attendees at next year´s meeting.

Tomorrow will see a half-day roundup and debriefing of the week´s activities, and afternoon departure for home with renewed committment. Due to unavailability of internet access, tomorrow´s discussion will be summarized in a blog post on Saturday.


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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Workshop debriefing
Participants reflect on the week's work, and discuss ways to improve the next workshop and reach more communities.
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

Despite the undeniable importance of the clinical work we did this week for about 1100 horses, donkeys, and mules, the most important part of the second annual Equitarian Workshop was the final day of debriefing and discussion.

For example, it is becoming clear that an effort must be made better to appreciate the particular needs of each community. Variables include climate, terrain, workload, human and equine demographics, equine genetics, availability of local equine healthcare services of various levels, and others. Many ideas were presented to implement this goal, summarized by student participant Angela Gebhart as “education should go both ways”.

It is also clear that among veterinarians engaged in Equitarian work, there are multiple and significantly different approaches to instrumentation and clinical treatment protocols, and that these need to be reconciled as much as possible for the sake of consistency, while recognizing that there are many possible routes to the same goals.

UNAM participants
Workshop participants from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Marc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net

A very important additional consideration is teaching—both explicitly and by example—less coercive (and occasionally abusive) restraint and handling techniques commonly used in many communities. A related issue is education of community members about the use of inappropriately harsh tack.

The final point of summary and agreement was the importance of obtaining feedback from the communities served, and that this needs to be formalized and standardized in order to maximize its value.

The Equtarian initiative is still in its developmental stage, and workshops such as this are now—and will remain—critical to its success.

I look forward already to next year's meeting.


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Working horsesMarc Laxineta, DVM/robovet.net