Tuesday 14th October
On our first morning, we are collected by Alfredo Lopez Cabañas (veterinary surgeon), Mauro Madariaga (veterinary assistant), Pablo Torrealba (farrier), Chris Garrett, our UK based harness specialist, and Erika and Alma, two Social Service students. In Mexico, state University education is almost free, but students have to spend time doing useful work before they fully graduate. Erika and Alma are about to become vets, and the project provides a useful introduction to donkey health and welfare.
We are to visit the Santiago Tianguistenco area where on Tuesdays there is a wood market. Campesinos (farmers of a small area of land) living high in the hills around and about bring wood to the market on the backs of donkeys, horses and mules. The market provides a useful focus for providing clinical and extension services to the animals and their owners. We breakfast with other travellers at some roadside stalls in Xalatlaco. These are only there on market days and provide us with some of the best food we eat in our two week trip.
On our way to market we visit three donkeys with broken legs. This is extremely unusual. They are treated by applying lots of padding then a splint made from plastic guttering shaped with a blow torch to fit the contours and joints of the leg. One is 5 weeks into a splinting repair, so we are just checking to see how it is getting along. One is a new case, just a couple of days old, and Alfredo believes it will mend without problems.
The third, sadly, is now three weeks old. It is not clear why the owner has only now brought it to our attention. While the other two breaks resulted from legs going down holes in the ground, this one was thought to be a malicious wounding in revenge for the donkey escaping and damaging a neighbour’s crops. It is a young donkey otherwise in good health. Although the leg may be a hopeless case, the alternative is euthanasia so it is splinted in the hope of a miracle. If the break is not mending and the donkey’s suffering increases, a tough decision will have to be made.
We also visit a local craftswoman who makes pictures from fine dyed straw which she then mounts on boxes. Mal Squance, the Sanctuary's deputy chief executive, buys samples which will be considered for Donkey World Limited, the trading arm of the Sanctuary that raises funds through the sale of donkey related gifts.
When we get to the wood market we find it has been a quiet day and the only animals left are two pairings of a donkey and a mule - both in good condition. In one pairing the mule is blind but is led everywhere by the donkey.