The Donkey Sanctuary - UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) Joint Project is hosting its third Equitarian Workshop this week (22-26 October). The Equitarian initiative was founded by American vets Dr Jay Merriam and Dr Julie Wilson to encourage more US American vets to engage with working equids outside America.
The purpose of these workshops is for American vets who want to establish projects that help working equids internationally to discuss experiences and learn lessons. The DS-UNAM Joint Project was asked to host these workshops because of its excellent work and reputation. The popularity of this third workshop (which is a group of more than 60 people!) is a testament to the success of the work put into organising the previous two workshops by our Mexican team.
AMMVEE, the Mexican Equine Veterinary Association, and its charitable arm, the AMMVEE Foundation are now also part of this Mexican Equitarian Workshop collaboration. Dr Romero and Dr Antonio Esquivel, Presidents of AMMVEE and AMMVEE Foundation respectively, are attending the workshop in their capacity as veterinary specialists in internal medicine and surgery and reproduction. These organisations are putting their resources into encouraging more Mexican equine vets to engage with working animals in rural communities rather than concentrate on the more expensive ‘sports horses’ of the more wealthy. It is partly for this reason that Dr Mariano Hernandez Gil, the Manager of the DS-UNAM project was recently made Head of the UNAM Vet Faculty Equine Department - the Faculty itself wants to change equine emphasis more towards working equines.
Also part of the initiative this year are World Horse Welfare, our long standing partners in the DS-UNAM Joint Project, which this year has sent a farrier and a harness maker to join the workshop; a number of other individuals, including two British vets, who have been working with working equids in various capacities around the world; the AAEP Foundation (the charitable arm of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, whose President, Dr John Mitchell, is attending the workshop); and the Humane Society of the United States, who have provided some funding.
For all these reasons these Equitarian weeks are an important opportunity for The Donkey Sanctuary, with its vision for a worldwide network for donkey welfare, to harness the energy and enthusiasm of others interested in helping to improve donkey welfare internationally. While the emphasis for the visiting veterinary specialists in the two previous workshops has been on providing immediate health and welfare relief and learning more about the veterinary problems found in Mexico, The Donkey Sanctuary is keen this year to encourage a greater understanding of the importance of community involvement from the start if sustainable improvements in welfare and sustainable health and welfare services are to become a reality in more remote, more marginalised communities around the world.
To this end we were lucky to be able to show a fantastic movie slide show made in Egypt by the DS-SPWDME team together with Cindy McClinn and Eric Davies. Cindy and Eric, an American vet and vet technician partnership, met SPWDME’s Dr Shaban at last year’s Equitarian workshop and then visited Egypt to see the work of SPWDME earlier this year. The movie slide show explains the success of the DS-SPWDME brick kiln work - making clear how the introduction of a ‘whole community’ approach transformed the project bringing enormous benefits to the donkeys, to the other brick kiln workers and to the brick kiln owners who have found it more profitable to have well cared for donkeys working with the human workers as an efficient team.
This year Stephen Blakeway, our Director of International Operations (outside Europe) is representing The Donkey Sanctuary at the Equitarian workshop and will be providing more information over the next few days.