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Impressions of my first visit to Mexico: Day 2

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.

Can we help, now that you have a donkey?

Owning a donkey is most rewarding, however there are several points to consider regarding these wonderful creatures.

Unless you intend to breed donkeys, you should not have a stallion. Stallions by their nature can be extremely unpredictable especially if there is a mare in season nearby. Geldings (castrated stallions) and mares both have their own behaviour traits, playful geldings may romp and fight like schoolboys, mares come into season and need more understanding handling at this time. A pair of donkeys of the same sex will be just as happy as a mare and gelding combination.

Donkey wearing fly fringe

Harnessing the strain

On the morning of Sunday 20th July, I was picked up by our team to drive to Kodaia, a small village outside Cairo in Egypt on the edge of the brick kiln area that supplies many of the workers. It was the team’s first visit, with an exceptional turnout of 220 donkeys.

Farid (SPWDME AHA and harness maker) and I worked non-stop, mostly making and altering head collars, but also repairing two saddles. After work, we went to see a family of saddlers in the next town who had been making some new harness under Farid’s guidance.

Impressions of my first visit to Mexico: Day 1

Monday 13th October

After an 11 hour flight from Heathrow, taking us over Ireland, the Atlantic, the eastern seaboard of the Unites States and past massive cumulus clouds boiling up in the hurricane zone of the Gulf of Mexico, we arrive, with the sun starting to set, onto Mexico’s high central plateau and the enormous metropolis of Mexico City. Vets Alfredo and Mauro, meet us and take us to where we will be staying. Alfredo is the team leader of one of four mobile teams in the Mexico project and Mauro is his veterinary assistant.

Venere and Holly find refuge in Italy

At 21 years of age, Venere is the oldest donkey currently being cared for at Il Rifugio Degli Asinelli, the Italian counterpart of the Sidmouth-based Donkey Sanctuary. She was rescued, along with a foal called Holly, from a donkey breeding centre in southern Italy, as both were in terrible condition and needed the Sanctuary's expert care.

Donkey-breeding centres are commonly found in Italy where there is a great demand for their meat. Venere was a donkey used solely to produce foals and it is not known how many years she was 'worked', according to staff at Il Rifugio.

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