Thursday, October 25, 2012 Villareal

Blog by Dr. Adrienne Otto, Photos by Karen Kennedy, Icon Studios (One by Dr. Leslie Easterwood)

This morning’s journey took us through some of the most beautiful landscape we have had the privilege to enjoy. In the clear morning light, the majestic volcanos paraded past our windows. We traversed valleys and high plateaus, passing through several picturesque villages, including Tenexac , Guadalupe, a major sheep raising area, and El Pillanco. The villages were nestled in agricultural havens: crops included barley, corn wheat and ‘magave’, the cactus unique to these elevations of Mexico, and used to produce ‘pulga’, the local liquor smooth enough to be inadvertently consumed in excess if one is not careful! Beyond the villages, we found ourselves winding steeply uphill, and were awed with terrific views of several of the large volcanos: Popocatepetl (17,800 ft), Ixtaccihuatl, La Maliche, and Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s tallest peak. The vegetation changed to more pines and beautiful terraced fields.

The view from our work site, with farmers harvesting potatoes.

After about an hour’s drive, we arrived at our destination, San Jose de Villarreal, a beautiful village of fewer than 1000 people. At about 10,125 feet (3086.1 meters) elevation, we were greeted by clear blue skies and thin, cool air. As usual, our Mexican assembly team from UNAM had arrived before us, and was just finishing up assembly of our workstations, an incredible daily venture in itself. Our work site was, predictably, a soccer field on the periphery of the village, with terrific mountain views.

The dentists had an interesting day. They encountered many cases of necrosis of the cementum (leading to rotted infundibulums on the upper arcades and resultant broken teeth), alveolar shrinkage and the resultant bumpy recessed gums, transverse eruptions of upper molars, dentin staining and other evidence of possible fluorosis, Interestingly, these lesions were absent in mules that had recently been imported from Texas. We reviewed some interesting dental and oral differences between burros and horses, including the common occurrence of ‘collapsing palates’ seen in burros when their mouths are being rinsed. Speculums most preferred by many equine vets were not so good in the burros, as the shape of their face, much different than that of the horse, prevented the animals from visualizing the dentist, which produced some anxiety in these species when ‘floated’ without sedation.

The surgeons had a relatively quiet day, there were only 3 castrations, including one cryptorchid. Successful surgical management of a false bursa over the spine, as a result of poorly fitting tack, was achieved. Of course there were sarcoids, one of which had to be transected from the prepuce (ouch!). Interestingly, in many Latin cultures, including Mexico

and Costa Rica, it is considered inopportune/risky to perform surgery during the full moons, because it is believed that increased bleeding is likely to occur. A lovely near full moon was in the sky as the sun was setting this evening.

The podiatry team had a very busy day. Traditionally, equids in this village have had their feet done by a traveling ‘trimmer’ (now deceased), who used a machete to chop off the toes. The farriers encountered many cases of ‘wry feet’, a severe deviation and overgrowth as a result of lack of hoof care. This results in excessive hoof wall dorsally, and rolling under of either the medial or lateral wall, so that the animals were effectively walking on their heels (very destructive to the digital cushion), and in most cases, on the medial aspect of the hooves, with the overlong toes pointing up. These cases were aggressively corrected: first by identifying and isolating the frog (not always an easy process in these overgrown feet),

then determining the half way (widest) area of the hoof and finally removing about half of the toe. Although this may sound extreme, the overgrowth was so excessive that this much toe could be taken without affecting the coffin bone and other vital underlying structures. The immediate results were incredible.

The incredibly hard working farrier team

A case of similarly appearing deformities were corrected in a 4 month old filly, but these were the result of neonatal flexor tendon laxity and the resultant flexor deformity, ‘knuckling over’, of the rear fetlocks. Again, it was phenomenal to note the differences seen before and after the farriers’ interventions.

Internal medicine saw several interesting cases as well, including skin cases: one with suspected lice, and one jenny with bilaterally symmetrical crusted urticarial lesions, on which a biopsy was performed to rule out pemphigus, and hives.

Mare with suspected pemphigus foliaceous (Photo by Dr. Leslie Easterwood)

Many animals were treated for short hacking intermittent coughs, most likely resulted from dry, dusty air.

Overall, we examined and treated 162 animals, predominantly mules and burros. Generally, body condition scores were acceptable to a bit low, but few emaciated animals were seen. The hair coats were outstanding, probably due to most of the animals being routinely supplemented with corn, oats and butterbeans. The equids in this village were primarily used for agricultural purposes and transportation.

An energetic horse awaiting treatment

One of many donkeys seen today, mouthing his metal muzzle

As in the other villages we have worked, we immensely enjoyed seeing and interacting with the beguiling children.

The children of San Jose Villareal



Village senoras y senoritas provided the humans with an en enjoyable lunch of tacos and some empanada ‘playoyos’: delicacies loaded with potatoes and cheese. These were accompanied by sour cream, green salsa and bits of crunchy lettuce. As the work petered out, many of the younger team members chose to get together for an impromptu game of soccer. Then we all gathered for a photo of the entire team.



The 3rd Equitarian Workshop Team

Just before sunset we piled back into our vans for the ride home, a late dinner and a bit of time to get prepped for our last (:-< ) day’s workshop, mañana. Unfortunately, tonight we are losing several wonderful team members needing to return to their ‘regular’ lives, including saddler Matthew Payne and farrier David Garland. They will be missed, and we are very grateful for all they have taught us.


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