Dr. Julia Wilson, Co-Founder

Dr. Wilson is the co-founder of the Equitarian Initiative, and serves as its past president. Her career has focused on large animal internal medicine both in academic and private practice settings. She brings a multitude of international and leadership experiences to the Equitarian Initiative Board, including 6 years as a director of Heifer International, 3 years as a director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and 2 years with Veterinarians Without Borders.She joined the Board of Directors of Brooke USA in 2020. Bilingual in Spanish, as a child she lived in France, Spain, Thailand and the Philippines, always looking for outlets for her passion for horses. As a veterinarian, she has had the opportunity to lecture and teach in many countries and continents. She has worked as an instructor in all of the Equitarian Workshops, organized the annual Equitarian Project in Honduras in 2012 in partnership with World Horse Welfare and the country’s only veterinary college. Married to equine veterinary surgeon Tracy Turner, and mother of two sons, she lives on a small farm in Stillwater, Minnesota with a herd of horses, dogs, barn cats and birds.

I am an Equitarian because…

…”in this role I can harness my passions for horses and teaching to sustainably help the welfare of working equids and communities with my veterinary skills.”

Dr. Jay Merriam, Co-Founder

Dr. Jay Merriam had been working in Private Equine Sport Horse Practice since 1975. He has a Masters in Equine Surgery from Auburn University and has been involved with Working Equids since beginning Project Samana in the Dominican Republic in 1992. His work there and in other countries has led to his involvement as Chair of the AAEPs Equine Welfare Committee since it’s formation. He is the co-founder of the Equitarian Initiative with Dr. Julie Wilson where they initiated the first Equitarian Workshops in Mexico. He is a frequent speaker on Working Equid care and has taught in India, Morocco, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and Native American reservations in the US. Currently. Dr. Jay is on the Board of Directors for The American Fondouk and Windwalkers Therapeutic Riding Centre and an Equine Team Leader for Project Samana.
His focus is the provision of direct veterinary care, training of veterinarians and caregivers and education on the need for a healthy working equid population worldwide.

Dr. Judy Batker, Board President

Dr. Batker serves as the current Board President of the Equitarian Initiative. She attended the first EI workshop in 2010 and since then has enjoyed continuing on with projects domestically and internationally. Dr. Batker leads the Pine Ridge Reservation program in South Dakota each summer to work with members of the Lakota tribe, she manages the annual EI workshop in Costa Rica, and she coordinates and leads EI’s program in Haiti which includes work in Milot at the Citadel Fortress. Dr. Batker joined the EI board in 2014 and became board president in 2019. When she’s not planning and traveling, she is busy being an equine veterinarian and practice owner in Oregon, Wisconsin, not far from where she completed her degree at the University of Wisconsin. Most importantly, when not immersed in practice or Equitarian activities, she enjoys time with her husband and two sons.

I am an Equitarian because…

…”Being an Equitarian fulfills me in so many ways. I love connecting with and teaching people who have little opportunity for veterinary education and veterinary students who are eager to learn not only about horses but about global communities and the importance of sharing our knowledge. I definitely get more than I give when doing Equitarian work.”

Dr. Stacy Tinkler, Board Vice-President

Dr. Stacy Tinkler has been a member of the Equitarian Initiative Board of Directors since 2016, and Vice-president since 2019. She has been involved in working equid projects since she was a vet student when she went on her first trip to Northern Peru in 2003. She then went on to participate in working equid projects as a volunteer in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru with HSVMA-RAVS for many years. In 2016, she was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a locum veterinarian at the American Fondouk, a working equid hospital, in Fes, Morocco for 3 months, and again as a volunteer at the Fondouk in 2017 for several weeks. Since 2018, she has been the EI project leader in the Cusco region of Peru, and is the EI point-person for a future project in Ecuador. Stacy has a particular interest in sustainable veterinary program development for veterinary and para-veterinary students, curriculum development, and community education dedicated to working equids and their care-givers in our partner countries to improve their health and welfare. Since graduation from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2005, she has worked in both large animal internal medicine and equine ambulatory practice, and currently sees patients and teaches students at Purdue University with the Large Animal Internal Medicine service. Stacy loves to be outside, to travel and loves how animals and their care unite and bond people from all over the globe.

I am an Equitarian because…

…I think, ultimately, we are all here on this tiny, spinning orb to teach and learn from one another and to help one another. In spite of all of our cultural differences, we really are all so similar, and, we are all we’ve got, but not everybody has a piece of the proverbial pie. And so this work allows me to take a few of the skills – veterinary training, teaching and writing ability, cultural appreciation, and language fluency, for example – that I have been lucky enough to acquire in my life, and give back in areas and ways in which they can (hopefully) serve to have a long term impact for good and to (perhaps) help minimize any suffering. It’s a way for me to share my piece of pie. – Stacy Tinkler

Neil Gray

Dr. Neil Gray, Treasurer

Dr. Neil Gray has been a sport horse practitioner with an emphasis on hunters, jumpers and dressage horses in Southern California since graduating from The Ohio State University in 1987. Neil was himself an avid show jumping rider for many years until giving up due to various injuries. He got hooked on Equitarian work at an Equitarian Initiative workshop in Mexico in 2013, came home, sold his practice and has since participated in projects in Peru, Nicaragua and is currently the leader of a project with the Ngäbe indigenous tribe in Costa Rica. He is also an avid SCUBA diver and enjoys underwater photography. He has been on the board of the Equitarian Initiative since 2015.

“I became an Equitarian because of the importance of the role of horses in my life. As far back as I can remember, I found meaning in my life from horses and have been fortunate enough to have had a career working with them. To be able to utilize whatever knowledge I have gained from my years with horses and be able to give back  to both horses and horsemen in this way has given new meaning to this chapter of my career. “

Dr. David Turoff

Dr. David Turoff has been in equine-predominant ambulatory practice in Northern California since graduation from the University of California in 1983, with an emphasis on emergency medicine, disaster preparedness and response, and technical large animal rescue. He has served as the California Veterinary Medical Association’s Emergency and Disaster Response Coordinator for El Dorado County for the last 21 years, and works also with UCD’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team.  In 2001 he began doing equitarian work with HSVMA-RAVS, and has participated in or led approximately 50 trips to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico and the Philippines, and more recently Honduras and Costa Rica, and currently serves as member-at-large of the Board of Directors of the Equitarian Initiative. His area of greatest interest is dentistry for working equids, with particular emphasis on portability and versatility of instrumentation, and the development of techniques of dental intervention most appropriate for working equids. He has taught short courses in equine dentistry to veterinarians and students in Peru, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
“My work with the Equitarian Initiative, to do my part to help right the wrongs of a fundamentally unjust world, has been the most meaningful element not only of my career as a veterinarian, but of my life as well.” -Dr. Turoff

Dr. Angela Varnum

A teacher at heart, Angie has been involved with the Equitarian Initiative since 2010 and with horses since an early age. While studying at South Dakota State University, she had the opportunity to attend the first Equitarian Workshop and to extend what she learned there to partnering with tribal members and rural equine owners in South Dakota. While teaching middle and high school Spanish, she continued to volunteer in Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Nicaragua, and South Dakota, with a specific interest in community partnership through education. A growing inquisitiveness in the relatedness of animal and human well-being and a commitment to promoting both of these responsibly and with cultural sensitivity led her to begin studying global health, international development, and veterinary medicine at Colorado State University. She lives and studies in Fort Collins, CO with her husband Brooks.

Dr. McLean

Dr. McLean has had a life long passion for equids with long ears! She grew up on a donkey and mule farm in Georgia.  She has devoted her professional career to conducting donkey and mule research that focuses on improved management and well being of these animals. McLean is an Equine Lecturer in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California. She earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in the area of equine science where she studied methods to improve working donkey welfare in Mali, West Africa. She has conducted research with donkeys, mules, and hinnies in many countries with the continued focus of improving welfare of working equids with the idea that improving their welfare will only help improve the welfare of the families they work for. McLean remains active in the industry by serving as a board of director for several national mule and donkey organizations.  In her free time, she volunteers and serves as a board of director for the Equitarian Initiative who focus their efforts on working equids in Central and South America. She’s also a co chair for the Annual Donkey Welfare Symposium held on annual basis at UC Davis. She’s has been very active in showing mules across the country. She hopes the research and information she can provide to the industry will help others with this underestimated population of equids.



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