Stories from the Field
2012 HSVMA-RAVS Clinics in Guatemala

Dr. David Turoff posing near a flyer announcing the upcoming HSVMA-RAVS clinic in Guatemala
Dr. David Turoff poses near a flyer announcing the upcoming HSVMA-RAVS clinic.

Trip leader David Turoff, DVM is blogging from the field about his experience in Guatemala during the 2012 HSVMA-RAVS clinics.

Be sure to check back for updates as internet connection allows while he's in the field!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 HSVMA-RAVS Guatemala team
The 2012 HSVMA-RAVS Guatemala team.

This is the fourth in the current series of HSVMA-RAVS trips to the Peten region of Guatemala. The service area consists of a string of small villages on the Rio Mopan and tributaries, along the border with Belize. Except for our teams, there are no veterinary services available at all for the horse population here. The horses are used under saddle primarily in the cattle industry, and for packing to some extent, with very few used for draft. Body condition scores and general overall health of the animals has improved noticeably over the last four years since HSVMA-RAVS starting coming here.

The team this year is notable for its diversity, consisting of six North American veterinarians, a veterinarian from Nicaragua, one from Guatemala, and a student from Switzerland. One major disappointment was the unfortunate cancellation of participation by students and faculty members from the veterinary school in Honduras, with whom the Equitarian Initiative had a very successful collaboration in February of this year. The Honduran veterinary college is only in its third year of instruction of its inaugural class and academic credit for participation this year could not be worked out, but inclusion of the Hondurans will be a major goal of next year's trip. Many of the problems in Central America are regional rather than national in nature and scope, and multinational collaboration can only be beneficial.

HSVMA-RAVS clinic in Nuevo Modelo, Guatemala
The horses in this part of Guatemala do not have access to veterinary care except for the annual visits by HSVMA-RAVS.

From a logistical standpoint, everything so far has gone very well; no one missed a flight, all needed connections were made, customs clearance was without incident, and the team arrived on site two days ago, ready for our first working day yesterday in Cruzadero, Guatemala. By the end of the day we treated 43 horses, including 4 castrations and several skin problems, including the most interesting case of the day, which looked to be some sort of autoimmune/hypersensitivity problem with secondary bacterial dermatitis, for which we prescribed steroid and antibiotic therapy.

Today we will be at Nuevo Modelo, where we expect to see between 70 and 100 horses—if we are able to get there at all; it has been raining HARD at night, and the tributaries of the Rio Mopan are full and the roads deep in mud, but with some luck and persistence we should be all right.

More tomorrow, internet connectivity permitting...

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Guatemalan working horse showing it's tack
Overload and poorly-fitted tack are two causes of the many withers lesions cases seen in the area.

Nuevo Modelo is about as isolated as you can get; a village at the end of the road, beyond which is a river crossing to the east and then horse trails into the mountainous border with Belize. We got there yesterday after a moderately challenging drive and treated about 50 horses, including four routine castrations, many dental interventions and three cases of traumatic bursitis of the whithers. Last year we saw many more than that, but many of our patients have to swim the Rio Mopan to get to the site and this year the river was too full to allow that.

These whithers lesions are an interesting staple of the case lode here in Guatemala, resulting from trauma to the withers due to overload, poor body condition and ill-fitting tack. False bursae form at the point of contact, and often drain and become purulent. They seem to heal best with ventral drainage, removal of all necrotic and bursal tissue, and primary closure dorsally of that can be achieved. Owners are advised with respect to loading practices.

Today we visit the village of Salpet, and expect a moderate case load (perhaps 30 horses)...more later.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The HSVMA-RAVS team crosses the ford over the Rio Mopan to reach El Rondon, Guatemala
The RAVS team crosses the ford over the Rio Mopan to reach their next destination.

When I wrote a couple of days ago that Nuevo Modelo was "about as isolated as you could get," we were demonstrably incorrect. Yesterday the HSVMA-RAVS team of Equitarians visited El Rondon and delivered veterinary services to the equid population there for the first time in history. Just getting there was an adventure in itself.

El Rondon is a small collection of ranches where corn is raised by hand ("con puro machete" as the local people put it), and where soil is tilled by oxen pulling hand-guided wooden plows. It is so close to the (disputed) border with Belize, that it may actually be in Belize, and many of the people are armed in anticipation of confrontations with the Belize army. It is reached by crossing a ford over the Rio Mopan which would have been impassable if it had been about six inches higher (it's been raining here a lot). In fact, it began to rain at the end of the work day, and we made it back to the ford just in time.

Volunteer HSVMA-RAVS veterinarians castrate a horse
Two HSVMA-RAVS veterinarians castrate a horse.

The population of local horses—about 80 in number—have never received veterinary care of any kind, and yesterday we treated about half of them, including many castrations, some dental interventions, and several cases of wound care. The day was cut a bit short by the difficult approach and apprehension about getting back before the river rose too much, but we were very well received by the people and there's no doubt we will return next year if possible.

Today we will visit Los Encuentros—a village to which we have been many times—and expect to see about 40 horses there.