Veterinarians interested in Equitarian work gathered at the Equitarian Outreach Table Topic during the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Meeting, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas. A spirit of generosity and sharing of both experiences and resources pervaded. The Equitarian Initiative has become a legally separate nonprofit organization focusing on educating veterinarians interested in Equitarian projects, as well as facilitating and supporting future equitarian projects. More information is available on the organization's website:

Jay Merriam, DVM, of Massachusetts Equine Clinic, in Uxbridge, provided an overview of the 2nd Equitarian Workshop in Veracruz, Mexico. Highlights included health services for 1,067 working equids in four days in four different ecosystems and the success of the new community education station. The children's coloring book with Spanish captions that was developed by San Diego State University student Angie Gebhart, with support from the Hennepin County 4-H group and local Girl Scouts, was very popular at the education station. Both the coloring book and translation into additional languages was offered to any interested equitarians. Similarly, the equitarian travel preparation guide and packing list are available to other projects by contacting Julie Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Turner Wilson Equine Consulting LLC, in Stillwater, Minn. The 3rd Equitarian Workshop will very likely take place the week of Oct. 15, 2012.

Merriam shared his equitarian presentation from the World Equine Veterinarian Association meeting in Hyderabad, India, and reported on the strong interest there in the U.S. effort. Updates were provided for groups that veterinarians can volunteer with: American Fondouk in Morocco, Project Samana in the Dominican Republic, Christian Veterinary Mission in Nicaragua, the 2nd Equitarian Project in Costa Rica, and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association work in Nicaragua and Peru.

Andy Stringer, BVSc, MRCVS, veterinary director for the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA), spoke about their programs in 12 African and Middle Eastern countries. Stringer complimented the Equitarian Initiative for its focus on education. SPANA's instructional materials for training veterinarians and owners of working equids are being put online and are generously open to use by other organizations at: SPANA welcomes veterinary participation in their projects, with a minimum commitment of two weeks. SPANA also is sponsoring a U.S. tour by Derek Knottenbelt, OBE, BVMS, Dipl. ECEIM, MRCVS, from the Philip Leverhulme Hospital at the University of Liverpool, in the United Kingdom, and a foremost equitarian, in April, with presentations scheduled in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Wilson described the deplorable state of many of the horses she observed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras' second largest city, during her November visit there with World Horse Welfare. They haul predominately garbage in the city, for very poor people who are squatting in slum dwellings on the banks of the city's rivers. Faculty from Honduras' new veterinary college visited as well and are very interested in combining clinical service for the horses with veterinary educational programs. If travel funds can be identified, Wilson and several other veterinarians might launch a project in Honduras in February.

Discussion focused on ongoing project challenges. Participants judged difficulties of bringing in supplies from the U.S., the need for appropriate governmental paperwork, and a lack of tetanus toxoid in Central America and Mexico as major problems. Cynthia MacKenzie, DVM, Senior Equine Technical Services Veterinarian for Merck Animal Health, promised to look into possible vaccine solutions. Fundraising ideas included enlisting area high school students and clients as fundraisers. The concept of having a virtual warehouse for supplies and equipment was also well supported. The equitarian website will include a page for listing available supplies in the near future. David Turoff, DVM, and Wilson are working on a "How To" manual for starting equitarian projects. Colleagues with experience in this area are welcome to join that effort and should contact Turoff or Wilson. Lastly, the AAEP is participating with the British Equine Veterinary Association to form an International Forum for Working Equids, which will serve as a central hub for directing people to resources to assist this population.

This table topic was moderated by Julie Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Turner Wilson Equine Consulting LLC, in Stillwater, Minn., and Jay Merriam, DVM, of Massachusetts Equine Clinic, in Uxbridge.

About the Author

Julie Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM

Julie Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, is with Turner Wilson Equine Consulting LLC, in Stillwater, Minn.

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