U.S. Outreach Needed

There is a growing awareness in the equine community of unwanted, neglected, and mistreated horses. At the 2004 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) meeting, an entire session was devoted to a discussion of the "Unwanted Horse."

In light of information presented there, one might be inclined to say that the challenge on the home front is enough for American horse owners and the veterinary community. Perhaps, but after a visit to Mexico, I am of the opinion that we can extend our efforts to our friends south of the border as well. After all, we are neighbors.

While most United States horses fulfill recreational needs, many horses in Mexico toil daily so their owners can earn a living. This puts them more at risk of serious injury than the recreational horse. For example, on our trip to Mexico for this month's cover story on the welfare of horses in Mexico (see page 32), we saw at a Mexico City dump a horse with a leg injury that would have earned it a month or two of rest and recuperation if it had been a recreational horse. Instead, this horse had to keep going so that its owner could put food on the table for his family.

The International League for Protection of Horses (ILPH) has done yeoman service in Mexico, as well as other countries around the world. Horse owners and veterinarians in the U.S. might consider lending a hand with ILPH programs that are being offered to our southern neighbors and perhaps expand them or even come up with new approaches. The ILPH has financed the training and operation of a couple of veterinarian-farrier teams who visit Mexico City dumps weekly, attend the San Barnabe market near Mexico City where a number of the horses sold end up at slaughter plants, and visit rural villages where the horse, donkey, and mule are used daily to till the soil and haul produce to the markets. These services are offered free of charge to owners who can't afford the basics, such as deworming and vaccinations, let alone treatment of more involved problems. With help from the U.S., might it be possible to increase the number of teams so that veterinary services can be offered to more Mexican horses?

In another effort to improve the plight of some horses, ILPH is seeking to finance equipment for a small slaughter plant at the San Barnabe market. No, ILPH does not actively promote the slaughter of horses. The group's position is very similar to that taken by AAEP--slaughter is not a desirable end, but it can provide a humane conclusion for some horses. In this case, ILPH reasons, it is better to slaughter lame and ill horses on the spot rather than force them to make a four- or five-hour trip to a slaughter plant.

Still another ILPH effort in Mexico involves the farrier training and harness/saddle making schools currently being conducted in Oaxaca. There is room for 10 students in each program. With help from the U.S., might this be expanded to other locales so more students in other areas are involved?

The mechanism for assistance is already in place; ILPH has been working in Mexico for 12 years. It isn't a matter of starting a program from scratch, it's a matter of joining forces with one that already is in place and functioning efficiently.

There is a wealth of veterinary knowledge, experience, and expertise just across Mexico's northern border. Might it not be a worthy program for U.S. veterinarians to offer specialty seminars in Mexico or just across the border in the U.S. for Mexican colleagues, especially young veterinarians? What about seminars at the University of Mexico in Mexico City, a central point in Mexico? Both students and field veterinarians in Mexico could be exposed to the latest advances in equine veterinary technology and techniques by researchers and practitioners from the U.S. who specialize in these fields. Educational cooperation already exists between U.S. and Mexican veterinary groups, so establishing dialogue is not an issue.

Perhaps there is room for a structured internship program where qualified veterinary students from Mexico can spend time at established practices in the United States, something that would broaden their educational horizons.

The ILPH has broken ground in Mexico, but there is plenty of room for horse owners and veterinarians in the United States to plant seeds. If we do, the horse will be the winner.

For more information on ILPH, go to www.ilph.org.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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