Equitarian Initiative Table Topic (AAEP 2010)

The Equitarian Initiative Table Topic session at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Annual Meeting, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md., was characterized by great enthusiasm and a spirit of collaboration among the participants and like-minded organizations. Jay Merriam, DVM, of the Massachusetts Equine Clinic in Uxbridge, started off the session with a summary of the Vera Cruz, Mexico, equitarian workshop with supporting comments from the other attendees. He presented a vision of having this workshop serve as a yearly training session for AAEP members who could then organize their own projects. Projects in formative stages from the Vera Cruz attendees include Costa Rica, Haiti, Trinidad, Guyana, Colombia, and Nicaragua. Participants, be they American, Canadian, or Mexican, lauded the educational value of the experience.

Sergio Gonzalez, DVM, from Guadalajara, Mexico, spoke about an initiative at the veterinary college that has trained a team of veterinary students to be part of the national emergency response team along with the Army and health officials. The team was deployed following the hurricane that recently struck Veracruz, an experience which allowed the students to apply their skills successfully.

Eric Davis, DVM, and Cindy McClin presented information on the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association's Field Services program and the opportunities for equitarian work both in the United States and Latin America. The challenges of projects on the reservations in the U.S. were discussed, along with the rewards of persistence and impact once trust has been gained. General discussion then focused on costs, insuring participants, and strategies to meet any medical emergencies for the participants. Educational materials for owners that circumvent low literacy rates are available through The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) in the United Kingdom and might be available for future projects.

Attendees also encouraged engaging area Peace Corps workers, as these local persons can be a tremendous asset to client education and identification of area resources. The session ended on a positive note, with plans to keep the equitarian website updated and encouragement to all to consider coming to the next Vera Cruz workshop or one of the planned projects in the near future.

This session was moderated by Jay Merriam, DVM, of Massachusetts Equine Clinic, in Uxbridge, Mass., and Julie Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Minnesota.

About the Author

Jay Merriam, DVM

Jay Merriam, DVM, is an equine practitioner at the Massachusetts Equine Clinic, in Uxbridge, Mass., specializing in sport horse lameness. He is the founder of Project Samana, a charitable health care project in the Dominican Republic for working horses and mules. Dr. Merriam's newest project is the Equitarians Initiative for Working Equids, a movement started 2 years ago with AAEP to focus on Working Equids and help them get veterinary care. The first Equitarians Workshop will be held in October in Vera Cruz, Mexico. You can find more information about Dr. Merriam's projects on his website, web.me.com/jgmerriam.

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