Being an equine veterinarian is a long journey, not always easy but definitely a passionate way of life; most of the times work becomes your hobby if you are a vet and you are reading this you know what I am talking about; However, at some point, I had a crisis, I was feeling that my job and effort weren’t enough to help horses and I didn’t find a way to also help people within my profession, what I mean is: I was losing my purpose and finding meaningless working eighteen hours per day, not having time for my friends and family, not getting paid, finding out that some owner just wanted the business to keep running but not really help their horses, and slowly losing my real purpose in that process. That moment was when this amazing opportunity came to me: THE EQUITARIAN INITIATIVE.
The equitarian initiative is a non-profit organization that helps support local communities and equine owners by providing expert veterinary care for working horses, mules and donkeys in developing countries like Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala, Peru, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. The team consists of volunteer veterinarians, veterinary technicians, animal scientists, farriers and students traveling to remote regions of the world to provide: surgery, anesthesia, internal medicine, farrier services, dentistry and education to the communities.
The first experience that literally blew my mind, was to realize and deeply understand the global impact and the strong relationship that equids have with people; there are over 650 million people world-wide that rely on at least 100 million working horses, donkeys and mules for survival, these animals are essential for trade, transportation, tourism, and subsistence agriculture.
I am from Colombia, so you would’ve thought I knew this already, and in some way, I did know but I didn’t realize until that moment that I was able to change that reality and help these societies. Hearing a mother, head of the family saying that the reason why she has food and water every day on her table and why her kids can go to school is because they have a donkey as their economical support, was very shocking to me. Of course, most of these families don’t have access to veterinary care o can’t afford it and sometimes, not always, these animals are only seen as a motorcycle and treated that way. That is why it is so important to work no only providing veterinary medicine and welfare to these horses but also teaching the communities the importance of taking good care of these animals and their needs to have a healthy, happy life.
This year, thanks to a scholarship, I attended the Equitarian Initiative Workshop based in the Osa Peninsula in the southwestern part of Costa Rica. This project allowed finding my passion again, the board members of this organization: Julie Wilson, Tracy Turner, Judy Batker, Stacy Tinkler, Cassie Torhorst, David Turoff and Annie Henderson are amazing and the bravest veterinarians I know, giving all their effort and knowledge for free, always willing to teach and help not only the communities and their horses but also a full team of unknown veterinarians, farriers, and agronomists that meet there because we all wanted to learn and help. During the week we had some lectures days and four days working in four different communities, it was amazing to see this team working as a very well oil machine, helping each other no matter what, interacting with the people, trying to communicate in Spanish and English at the same time and working on horses that were not exactly easy to handle. I can say I found more than colleagues, real human beings sharing this passion to save lives and help people in the process.
We did physical exams for all these horses including vaccinations and deworming, multiple castrations with aseptic techniques, under general anesthesia and with pain management, tons of dental floats to avoid gastrointestinal problems and weight loss and our amazing team of farriers trained the communities for shoeing so the can keep all hoofs healthy to work.
One of the most admirable members of the team is Franso Acky Fracciterne, this guy is an agronomist from Haiti and living in one of the most challenging environments and the low level of welfare of animals in his country, he had two options: leave the country looking for better opportunities or stay and do something to help and change that reality. He built from scratch “Ag horizon”, this organization educates and trains people to take care of their animals and develop basic skills on veterinary care; from young to old people, now they are assisting to Acky’s school to make the world a better place; this was so inspirational for me that now Horse Medicine and the Equitarian Initiative is looking forward for the opportunity to build a project in Colombia.
The take-home from this is for all of you to realize the global impact that our profession has in the world, always keep in mind the fact that we really can transform our reality helping animals and people. Our purpose in life goes beyond ourselves, it is about sharing our knowledge and helping others, that is what reminds us every day why we do this. This experience meant to me a change of mentality, an opening of my mind and a new challenge in my career.
If you want more information about the Equitarian Initiative volunteer or you want to visit Ag Horizon in Haiti, please send me an e-mail and I will contact you with the leaders.
CLICK HERE FOR SPANISH VERSION https://horsemedicine.org/equitarian-initiative-hispaniola/