Cutting edge veterinary treatments for horses are the norm in North America, where sport horses and racehorses are the recipients of the latest high-tech methods of care.
But further south, it is a vastly different story. Many veterinarians in developing countries in South America have little experience in treating equines, instead basing their care on work with cattle. For example, horses suffering from respiratory problems might be administered treatment for lungworm, a disease suffered by cows, even though horses do not contract the disease and their problems are likely caused by any number of other conditions which could be fatal.
With its new campaign “Vets for Horses“, International charity World Horse Welfare is pushing to improve the training of equine veterinarians in 16 developing countries, to help improve the health and welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules.
In many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, veterinary training is focused on species classified as ‘productive livestock’ – such as cattle, goats and pigs. However, this means that many veterinarians will never receive any formal training in how to handle and treat equids, despite their integral role in the daily lives of millions of people. Working equids in many of these countries are generally unrecognised or ignored by national or international policy makers rendering them effectively ‘invisible’ outside of the communities and families they support.
There is often a great reluctance from in-country vets to treat horses given their lack of experience and knowledge of handling them and this creates yet another barrier in improving their standards of welfare. World Horse Welfare’s project teams have seen many examples where a vet’s closest experiences and training to a horse or donkey is through treating conditions in cattle.
In Honduras, World Horse Welfare has been working with local organisations and institutions such as the Veterinary University of Honduras through a project where veterinary students can build their knowledge of equine care and treatment, plus the techniques and skills required in handling them. The project has also collaborated with SENASA (National Agricultural Health Service) to vaccinate against common infectious diseases and helped in the set up of Honduras’ first ever veterinary conference which was attended by more than 450 of the country’s vets.
Daniel Martinez, a student from the National university of Catacamas, Olancho, is just one of the veterinary students who has been supported by World Horse Welfare’s project. Daniel attended training to learn about the treatment of common equine diseases, horse handling and even some farriery skills and his aim is now to improve the lives of working equids not just through his own work with them but also through passing on his knowledge to other vets and future generations.
World Horse Welfare’s international director Liam Maguire, said sustainability, collaboration and driving behaviour change are at the heart of the charity’s international projects.
“A vital aspect of this is improving the equine knowledge and capacity of both veterinary students and qualified veterinarians in our programme countries.
“By working directly with veterinarians from around the world, we are confident that the knowledge and skills they learn will be passed on from teacher to student for generations, enabling us to help reach many thousands more working horses, donkeys and mules for years to come,” he said.
The costs of veterinary training are much less than it would be in Britain and just £21 can pay for a day of equine training for one student vet in Latin America. Such a small amount can have a huge impact on improving the welfare of working equids.
To support the appeal, visit: www.worldhorsewelfare.org/vetsforhorses.