This afternoon, after we had finished our class with the vet students, we visited a local family who Mauro has been working with twice a month for the past year. They currently have one mule called El Palomo, who is 12 years old, and one donkey called Pedro, who is nine years old, who are both used for agriculture.
The animals are owned by a lady called Maria. Maria’s father-in-law used to care for the animals but now he is too old, so when Maria and her husband took over the care of the animals they decided to attend a clinic with the DS-UNAM programme.
Mauro noticed Maria’s animals at the clinic and the handling problems they were having, especially when the animals needed to see the vet or the foot trimmer and needed to be sedated for all treatments. He spoke to Maria, who explained their family had always used punishment and hobbles to harness up El Palomo as his behaviour was so bad.
Previously Mauro had worked with groups within the community but they did not want to listen, so now he works with people on an individual basis and is getting good results this way and word is spreading. So Mauro started working with Maria and her animals one-to-one.
Mauro explained to us that he works in two phases which are:
Phase 1 – Showing owners that handling can be done through kindness .
Phase 2 – Showing the owners how to do it themselves.
Maria is now on Phase 2, and El Palomo is progressing really well. They can now harness him easily without using punishment, and he has even had his feet trimmed without sedation. In the off-season they used to leave El Palomo in his stable, but now the children take him for a walk every day, which is also helping his behaviour. El Palomo can still be difficult but he is much better than he was.
A local foot trimmer, called Gerardo, came to meet us at Maria’s house. He has been working with Mauro for the past year to improve his skills and knowledge about handling. He has been a foot trimmer for two years after learning the trade through watching others when he was a child.
Gerardo started to study as a vet and this is when he first met Mauro at the university, but he could not afford to continue to study so he asked Mauro to teach him about handling to help him with his work. He started by attending one of Mauro’s handling courses, and has continued to work closely with him.
Gerardo used to use punishment and very different techniques, but he was happy to learn. He now has a lot more work as a foot trimmer, which he believes is due to his new techniques. He told us that many of the animals that work the land are treated roughly and therefore are difficult to handle. Now the owners employ Gerardo because he is kind and patient with these animals.
He said; “I want to work kindly and not cause the animals pain or distress.”
Gerardo had walked for several miles as he was so keen to meet us and show us what he had learnt from Mauro. It was an honour to meet someone so passionate about changing techniques and attitudes. Gerardo leads by example and hopes that by raising awareness others will follow suit.
Whilst we were there Gerardo trimmed El Palomo’s feet. This is the third time he has done this without sedation. As El Palomo's feet are so twisted it is going to take a long time for them to come right. Arturo worked alongside Gerardo today to advise from a veterinary point of view how to correct the feet whilst ensuring El Palomo’s comfort. Gerardo was very quiet and patient throughout and when El Palomo started to react he stopped and allowed him time to settle.
El Palomo stood remarkably well to have all four feet trimmed – even when the local herds of sheep, goats, cattle and dogs came through and surrounded him! A massive truck also went past without El Palomo even batting an eyelid. When Mauro first started working with him he was terrified of vehicles, which proves what a long way he has come. Mauro told us that he is very proud of El Palomo’s progress and loves to see him quietly having his feet trimmed.
Gerardo has asked for the DS-UNAM programme for help to improve his knowledge and practice of hoof care, which they are happy to provide. He has also asked if he can have some certificates to show the training he has undertaken so far, which they will do for him.
Only a year ago, Gerardo was using very negative techniques to achieve his work. It made us proud to see what a positive effect Mauro’s work has had on both the owners and service providers such as Gerardo in this community. Gerardo’s change in approach shows that his dedication and passion to improve his skills has truly paid off, resulting in positive changes for both the animals and families.