Our first working day in the hilly village of San Andres Itzapa was exciting and successful. The American Equitarians are partnering with World Horse Welfare’s farriers and saddlers, who are meeting critical needs for improved shoeing and pack saddl
e padding on the horses in this area. Their program enrolls interested young adults from the region in a 3 module course that teaches them to become farriers or saddlers. Our arrival coincided with the start of the third and final module of their training.
Our veterinary team, led by Dr. Rob Franklin, consists of 5 veterinarians, 2 veterinary students from Texas A & M, and a veterinary technician. We set up our supplies on the concrete grandstand of the village’s soccer field, adjacent to a large school. The horses that presented were small, young, thin, and primarily used for carrying cargo, particularly firewood. The most significant medical issue was saddle sores, most of which were due to a combination of prominent withers and pressure from heavy cargo loads that were were not adequately protected by the padding in use. We learned how the World Horse Welfare saddlers restuff leather saddle pads with straw to create more even weight distribution, and make felt cut -out pads to provide withers relief. Teeth were checked to see if these were a source of the low body condition scores, and the horses were dewormed. We also vaccinated each horse against rabies, tetanus and West Nile virus. Several of the horses were
lame, and further investigation
found a variety of causes including a sole puncture, heel bruise, and coronary band laceration. Teeth were floated on two of the horses, using the soccer goal post to suspend their heads after light sedation.
The proximity to the school prompted a number of the youngsters to come see what we were up to. We enjoyed passing out a number of the Equitarian coloring books that Angie Gebhart developed, as well as a soccer ball. Although only 14 horses were presented, we were pleased that we all worked well together, and are optimistic that we will have the opportunity to provide health care and owner education to more horses tomorrow.
(Reporting as part of the team of Rob Franklin, Chris Brasmer, Craig Niblett, Tammy Vretis, Cecilia Mink, Scott Fleming and Clay Whitten)