Dr. Julia Wilson, Co-Founder

Dr. Wilson is the co-founder of the Equitarian Initiative, and serves as its treasurer. Her professional 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. 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 both Equitarian Workshops, organized and led the 2012 Equitarian Project in Honduras in partnership with World Horse Welfare, and served as co-organizer for the Equitarian Project in Costa Rica in 2012. Married to 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.

Dr. Jay Merriam, Co-Founder

Dr. Jay Merriam has 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 in the AAEP and is currently the President of the Board of Directors.  With Dr. Julie Wilson and Dr. Mariano Hernandez-Gil  he began the 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 Indian reservations in the US. 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 is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She attended the first Equitarian Initiative workshop in 2010 and since then has enjoyed continuing on with projects nationally and internationally. Judy travels to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota each summer to work with members of the Lakota tribe.  One to two times per year she also travels to Haiti where she is currently working on an Equitarian project in Milot, Haiti at the Citadel Fortress. She joined the board in 2014. When not planning and traveling, she is busy being an equine veterinarian and practice owner in Oregon, WI.  Most importantly, when not immersed in practice or Equitarian activities, she enjoys time with her husband and two sons.

Dr. Stacy Tinkler, Board Vice-President

Dr. Stacy Tinkler is a new member to the Equitarian Initiative Board of Directors. 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 and from there that she caught the working equid “bug.” She has since participated in numerous trips to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru with HSVMA-RAVS and at the American Fondouk, a working equid hospital, in Fez, Morocco. She has a particular interest in sustainable veterinary program development in the developing world. Since graduation from the University of Minnesota in 2005, she has worked in 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.

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.

Dr. David Turoff

Dr. David Turoff has been in equine-predominantambulatory 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 served as the California Veterinary Medical Association’s Emergency and Disaster Response Coordinator for El Dorado County from 1999 until 2010, 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 30 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 of the AAEP. 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, and Honduras.

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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