Equine veterinarians interested in Equitarian work had 90 minutes of active discussion at the AAEP’s Equitarian Outreach Table Topic. Forty five participants signed in. Drs. Jay Merriam and Julie Wilson served as moderators.
The formation of the Equitarian Initiative as a legally separate non-profit organization was announced. Its focus is on education for veterinarians interested in Equitarian projects, and facilitation and support of future projects. The AAEP Foundation’s reasoning for encouraging this move is to relieve the AAEP staff of the duties of organizing and registering participants for the Equitarian Workshop, without compromising future support. This shift also provides for an independent website, www.equitarianinitiative.org, that can be rapidly updated yet remain linked to the AAEP’s Equitarian page. This website also contains links to other organizations that provide opportunities for veterinarians to provide service in underserved areas. The Equitarian Initiative is officially registered in the state of Minnesota and will be filing for 501c3 status with the Internal Revenue Service shortly.
Dr. Jay Merriam announced that the 3rd Equitarian Workshop in Veracruz, Mexico would very likely take place on the week of October 15, 2012. He provided an overview of the 2nd Equitarian Workshop in Veracruz. Highlights of the Equitarian Workshop included health services for 1,067 working equids in 4 days in 4 different ecosystems, and the success of the community education station. The children’s coloring book with Spanish captions that was developed by SDSU student Angie Gebhart with support from the Hennepin County 4-H group and local Girl Scouts was very popular. The generous offer to share the coloring book with those that are interested was made, as well as the group’s willingness to translate it into additional languages. Dr. Dana Bridges Westerman, who has participated in a number of World Vet projects, cautioned that in Tanzania, the children tried to eat the provided crayons, not understanding their purpose. Dr. Wilson mentioned that a preparation guide and packing list had been created for the Equitarian Workshop and was available to other projects by contacting her.
Dr. Merriam shared his presentation from the World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA) meeting in Hyderabad, India and reported
on the strong interest in the U.S. effort among Equitarian groups at the meeting. He also spoke about the changes at the American Fondouk in Fez, Morocco. It has phased out its small animal program, and is now under the leadership of Dr. Gigi Kay. Dr. Ahmed Tibary also spoke briefly about his experiences with veterinary support for those working with both camels and horses in Morocco. Dr. Merriam concluded with an update on Project Samana in the Dominican Republic which supports veterinary work there in November and June.
Dr. Andy Stringer, from the British charity, SPANA, spoke about their current programs in 12 countries of Africa and the Middle East. This includes a project in Ethiopia which Dr. Paul Lunn will be visiting after the AAEP Convention. SPANA was founded in 1923, and was awarded the Lavin Cup by the AAEP in 2010. Dr. Stringer complimented the Equitarian Initiative for its focus on education. Dr. Stringer spoke about their instructional materials, both for training veterinarians as well as owners of working equids. This material is all being put on line, and is generously open to use by any other organization. The SPANA website is: www.spana.org. SPANA encourages veterinarians to participate in their projects, with a minimum commitment of 2 weeks. Their training program for veterinarians takes place in Morocco, and is open to U.S. based veterinarians. SPANA will be sponsoring a U.S. tour by Dr. Derek Knottenbel
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Dr. Julie Wilson provided a brief overview of her November visit to Honduras with World Horse Welfare. She explained the deplorable state of many of the horses she observed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ 2nd largest city. These horses work hauling predominately garbage in the city, and are owned by very poor people who are squatting in slum dwellings on the banks of the rivers in the city. Faculty from Honduras’ new veterinary college also visited at the same time. They are very interested in combining clinical service for the horses with lecturing opportunities at the veterinary college as well as continuing education for local veterinarians. If travel funds can be identified, Dr. Wilson and several other veterinarians may launch a project in Honduras in February.
Dr. Paul Lunn asked about projects that welcome veterinary students. Although Dr. Eric Davis was not present, several spoke about the opportunities available through R-VETS, which is focused on veterinary projects in underserved areas of the United States and Latin America. The options of joining a Christian Veterinary Mission project as well as an HSVMA project were also mentioned. The Equitarian Workshop in Veracruz will remain focused on educating veterinarians but may allow a few senior veterinary students to attend as participants. The participation of non-veterinarians was also briefly considered, both as a means of fundraising as well as recruiting people with important skill sets outside of veterinary medicine (eg. Community education).
Drs. Richard Ervin (CVM) and David Turoff (HSVMA) spoke about their ongoing work in Nicaragua. This led to a discussion about the difficulties of bringing in supplies and the need for appropriate governmental paperwork to do so. The lack of tetanus toxoid in central America and Mexico was judged to be a problem by multiple participants. Dr. Cynthia MacKenzie, of Merck Animal Health, promised to look into possible solutions. Dr. Paul Mallonee spoke on behalf of Dr. Adrienne Otto regarding the upcoming second Equitarian visit she has organized in Costa Rica. A number of veterinarians that have participated in the Equitarian Workshop in Veracruz will be joining Dr. Otto in February.
Fundraising remains a challenge for all of the organizations that are interested in assisting working equids. Dr. Dana Bridges Westerman shared that she has had great help from area high school students who take on fundraising for her World Vet trips as part of a school assignment. Dr. Paul Mallonee described his recent cocktail parties to fund raise amongst his clients and a commitment from one of them to dedicate the profits from one of the HITS horse shows on the East Coast toward the Equitarian efforts. Dr. Andy Stringer mentioned that SPANA also provides small grants. Dr. Wilson distributed a one page flyer for raising awareness in the trade show, for those that were willing to speak to vendors.
The concept of having a virtual warehouse for supplies and equipment was well supported. Dr. Wilson announced that radiographic plates were available from a practice in her area if an Equitarian project could make use of them. The Equitarian webpage will include a page for listing available supplies in the near future.
Drs. David Turoff and Julie Wilson are working on a “How To” manual for starting Equitarian projects. Colleagues that have experience in this area are welcome to join that effort and should contact one of them. The audience was reminded that the AAEP is participating with BEVA to form an International Forum for Working Equids. This will hopefully serve as a central hub for directing people to resources to assist this population. Dr. Harry Werner is leading this effort for the AAEP and will hopefully communicate the progress in the near future.