Equitarian Initiative Trip to Honduras

Equitarian Initiative Trip to Honduras

This years Client Appreciation Day’s silent auction benefited Equitarian Initiative continued work providing health care to working equids in poor areas as well as provide education to their owners. The silent auction raised over $400 that was put towards their recent trip to Honduras in Central America.

Below are blog posts from their time in Honduras this past November. If you would like more information on the Equitarian Initative and how you can donate to their cause, you can visit the Equitarian Initiative website.

Post 1 | 11.15.13

Five Equitarian veterinarians have embarked on a 10 day project in the southern region of Honduras in Central America. The American team, led by Dr. Julie Wilson, is building on the strengths of the joint effort in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, last year. In that project, the British charity, World Horse Welfare, organized an opportunity for our team to come work with the cart horses in this large city, together with the new veterinary college of Honduras. This year, Julie is joined by Tracy Turner, David Turoff, Chelsey Miller and Marta Davis-Tetrault Powers. The World Horse Welfare coordinator, Debbie Warboys, is a British citizen living in Costa Rica. She and the World Horse Welfare team have been working in 22 communities around the city of Choluteca for the last 4 months. Their organizational model has 3 components of training for local horsemen in each community. Persons that want to learn to be farriers or harness makers are taught in modules led by World Horse Welfare staff from England and other countries where Spanish-speaking farriers and harness makers have been successfully trained. The third group is the community-based equine advisers who are undergoing training in both horsemanship and equine health topics in a parallel program. World Horse Welfare is committed to two years of training Hondurans in this city. Our veterinary group is here to teach the community-based map-hondurasequine advisers as well
as the veterinary students and local veterinarians. We will also be delivering health care in the communities and guiding the veterinary students as they learn a variety of equine veterinary skills.

With that background, our adventure began yesterday, November 14th. After little sleep the night before, the 5 gringos arrived in the airport in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. We were met in customs by Debbie Warboys, who had already spent endless hours coordinating the schedule for our time here, and admirably coped with MANY sudden changes in the
plans (5 different plans for lodging, two different plans for meals, 29 veterinary students instead of 10, and emergency surgery for our local veterinarian!). It turns out that the national elections are on Saturday, Nov. 24, and the influx of soldiers and campaign leaders has significantly impacted the availability of lodging. With her guidance and the hard won government medication permits in hand, we finally made it through customs with only the loss of a bottle of flunixin and 4 bottles of dexamethasone as these were more bottles that were listed on our permits. Phew! However, Chelsey’s two suitcases failed to make the connection in Houston, so all of our surgical supplies, ophthalmic supplies and rabies vaccine were left in limbo, but expected to arrive late morning the following day.

We loaded ourselves and ~350 pounds of suitcases into a minivan and 1398552_182258961963797_965369685_oheaded south on the highway. After the wintry weather in Minnesota, the tropical countryside was a welcome change. It is the end of the rainy season, so green was the predominant color, with many trees in flower as well as shrubs. We munched on a variety of types of plantain chips, the best of which were seasoned with chile and lime. All of us drifted off to sleep at some point during the 3 hour drive. Fortunately, we were revived by a dinner stop at a seafood restaurant with a spectacular view of mountains and the bay that harbors a major shrimp industry on the Pacific coast. The evening meal and spectacular sunset were also a great way to celebrate Marta’s birthday, which was acknowledged by loudly playing a recording of the Honduran version of the “Happy Birthday” song.

We were greeted in Choluteca by Capitan Mario Robles, who is from Choluteca and serves as the logistics coordinator for World Horse Welfare. He politely informed us that we could not stay at the intended hotel as it had been requisitioned by the “politicos” but he had found another place for us to stay. Hallelujah! We were all so grateful to be able to
finally crash and get some sleep.
– Dr. Julie Wilson

Day 2 Choluteca | 11.18.13

Today we rose bright and early, arriving at the World Horse Welfare headquarters for breakfast and our introduction to the Honduran veterinary students. Debbie introduced the program to everyone and briefly introduced our veterinary team. As Dr. Turner and I speak no Spanish, the veterinary students were divided into groups with each group containing an English-speaking student. At this point Dr. Chelsey and Debbie departed on their trip back to the airport with the hope of retrieving the rest of the luggage including vaccines and surgical equipment. The rest of us (veterinary team, veterinary students, farriers, and World Horse Welfare staff) piled like sardines into a bus and departed for El Palenque, our first village.

We arrived at the village football (soccer) field and started to set up for the day. Dr. David set up his dental station using the goal post, Dr. Wilson began intake and medical examinations, and Dr. Turner and I began setup for our first unscheduled castration. Overall, the horses arriving for medical 1398589_184010831788610_2056874271_oassessment and treatment were in good body condition, had no ectoparasites, and had healthy hooves in need of little help. Our castration was uneventful and drew quite a
large crowd for students, horse owners, and villagers. Few had seen a castration and no one had seen a Henderson castration before; both the students and locals took lots and lots of photos and videos. All horses were assessed
medically, body condition scores evaluated, vaccinated against rabies, tetanus and encephalitis, and given ivermectin dewormer. On the medical side, Dr. Wilson discovered suspicious melanoma lesions on a number of young grey horses and we examined a young mare with a shortened neck and cervical abnormalities, possibly from a congenital condition or traumatic event. As with the first day of anything, it was a little chaotic. There were treated horses standing
with untreated, unhaltered horses walking between haltered ones, and Zebu cattle walking through our work area to graze. However, I was quite impressed with the overall condition of the horses, the enthusiasm of the horse owners, the eagerness shown by the veterinary students, and the joy shown by the kids drawing on the Equitarian coloring books we had brought with us.

Chelsey and Debbie returned to our new hotel later than expected but with rabies vaccines in hand, and a night-time trip to the supermarket provided us with food, LOTS of water, and a bunch of the supplies we needed. My first day volunteering in Honduras was exhausting but well work the effort. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
– Dr. Marta Davis-Tetrault Powers

Honduras Day 3 | 11.20.13

Our first full day of onsite work began with breakfast at the World Horse Welfare center and an hour drive to the farthest work site from the center of Choluteca. The drive provided an enjoyable way to see the Honduran countryside once we left the city enter. Along the way there were small communities made up of 14 brick dwellings every few kilometers withmountains in the distance. The dirt road was flanked on either side by large pastures, which were at their greenest given that the rainy season had just ended, enclosed by barbed wire fencing with herds of cattle (purportedly a cross of Brahman, Zebu, and Jersey) in excellent condition for the most part. We arrived at a Tjunction after crossing several large areas of standing water in the road (as a result of a recent rain) to our first work site, Santa Lucia. The majority of the work site was literally in the middle of a rather muddy intersection, and we were told that there wouldn’t be any traffic coming and going along the 902019_182835585239468_182555562_oroad. Despite the fact that the intersection turned out to be quite busy with small trucks and buses requiring passage, the intersection sufficed for registration and intake, and the remaining “stations” (dentistry, castration, and vaccinations/deworming/medicine) were positioned around a nearby house. As typically goes with these types of endeavors, the setup of our second work site was less chaotic and more organized as the students, veterinarians, and others (farriers, harness makers, World Horse Welfare team) already had one day under their belts. Everyone worked diligently throughout the morning despite the lack of shade and rather impressive heat, castrating 4 horses and evaluating a total of 28. Most horses were in relatively good body condition and well behaved. While one horse was recovering from anesthesia, Dr. Julie Wilson and a group of students went ahead to the next work site to begin setup and registration, which was a short drive from the first. The remainder
of the team followed after the final castration of the morning had recovered and then began work on approximately 20 horses. By the second afternoon, the students really seemed to have gotten into a good rhythm and we worked until the daylight disappeared – resulting in a recovery from a castration by flashlight (thank goodness for Dr. Turner’s trusty Larry’s light!). All ended safely, and we were happy to pack-up the gear and head home after a long day of
satisfying and successful work.

Day 4 Choluteca | 11.21.13

After an early morning breakfast at the World Horse Welfare headquarters our group loaded onto a bus and headed to the town of La Fortunita. Our trip to the town allowed us to view beautiful pastureland populated with sleek cattle, clearly able to thrive in arid conditions. The drive became more and more interesting as the road became more and more flooded, requiring some interesting maneuvering on the part of our bus driver.

Fortunately, after we could go no further due to the breadth and depth of a road pond, a young boy riding bareback caught up to us and informed us we had already passed the village.

1474550_183287285194298_327890353_nUpon our arrival, horses were ridden, herded, and pulled into town for assessment and treatment. During physical examination and assessment, Dr. Wilson found the first vampire bat bites of the trip. After cleaning, a liberal amount of Zipol (Vicks VapoRub) was applied to the bites to discourage future feasting. One horse had what
appeared to have badly healed, once open, compound fracture of the right front cannon bone. It had healed with marked callus and an abnormally angled limb causing mechanical lameness and abnormal hoof growth. Conveniently, after the horse’s castration, Dr. Turner was able to shape the hoof to ease the mechanical lameness. Our second
castration of the morning was also an opportune time to demonstrate the packing and bandaging of a hoof abscess.

Our second village of the day, El Carrizo, greeted us with many horses and little to no shade. Our lunch was shared with extremely emaciated dog that was clearly feeding puppies. The only location suitable for castrations was directly in the middle of the village football (soccer) field. Despite repeated and emphatic requests for a little cloud cover, Mother Nature didn’t feel up to it. It was so steamy and hot our cold water became hot within the first hour. Luckily, a couple of the veterinary students were nice enough to find cold bags of water and bring them to us pre-emptively. Despite the heat, our team castrated an additional 7-8 (to be honest there were so many I lost count) horses and assessed an extremely large, chronically inflamed hock. The day was tough, but our convoy of veterinary students, veterinarians, farriers, saddlers, and World Horse Welfare staff accomplished much.

Our cold showers felt beyond amazing that night and rehydration was the top priority of the evening.
– Marta Davis-Tetrault Powers

Day 5 Las Piletas | 11.21.13

We began our day with a very strong cup of coffee delivered to our room by the saintly David. He actually went out and bought a coffee pot to give us all a caffeine fix. We had to say a sad farewell to our organizer, Debbie Warboys,
who had to return to Costa Rica for a class. She was thanked repeatedly for the magnificent job she …did getting all of the logistics organized for us, as well as for her endless patience with the zillion last minute changes.

1397444_183599555163071_1181865149_oToday was interesting in many ways. As should be expected, it did not exactly go according to “Plan A”. A gray mare with terrible festering wounds on her hind leg wandered up to the World Horse Welfare office this morning. She
clearly needed medical attention right then and there. So she was tranquilized and the wound on her caudal thigh and wound on the rear pastern were thoroughly cleaned. Pockets of malodorous, caseous pus were found deep in the tissues of both wounds. A decision was made to anesthetize her to do regional limb perfusion: a tourniquet was applied to the cannon bone just below the hock, then antibiotics were infused into a vein below the tourniquet to provide very high concentrations of antibiotic to the infected tissue. The leading hypothesis was that the mare stepped on something, creating an abscess in her foot which burst into the back of her pastern, and that someone tried to treat her with an antibiotic injection in the same leg, resulting in the second horrible wound. She will stay in the garden at the World Horse Welfare office to recuperate.

The ophthalmology session for the Community Based Equine Advisors and veterinary students was given by Dr. Chelsey Miller . It was followed by some good questions from the students, who were clearly very interested. Due to the delayed start (because of the need to treat the mare), a decision was made to just do one of the two planned presentations that morning in order to get to the village on time. Wrong! That did not work because the lunches failed to arrive. After an hour wait and still no lunches (plus multiple calls to the woman by Mario, (our local details chief), we left with the hope that the lunches might eventually catch up with us. Once we arrived, we were able pick a few shady spots were we could work, and get the horse owners organized while we waited for the truck with all of our supplies to arrive. Both lunch and the supplies eventually arrived and we were quickly joined by a number of dogs that were clearly starving. It made it hard to eat lunch seeing that they needed the food so much more than we did. Clearly we need to partner with a team of small animal veterinarians and social workers/anthropologists to work in this area and help them.

The health care and owner education in the village of Las Piletas went pretty well with more castrations than expected. There were lots of bad saddle sores, including an infected one from which Tracy extracted a piece of the spine that was necrotic. We were very grateful to have the expertise of the World Horse Welfare trained saddler, Omar Rivera, from El Salvador to create a special saddle pad for this horse as rest was not an option. The same horse was castrated as well. Several of the owners were very proud that their horses’ wither wounds had healed thanks to the special saddle pad that Omar had made for them in September.

Tracy took on two ill-behaved horses for some retraining, eventually succeeding to the point where we got them vaccinated and dewormed. David had to deal with a third one that mightily tried to stomp on him, but he persevered. A number of the horses are head shy as halters are rarity and most horses are ridden and handled with an abrasive plastic cord over their nose, and punishment is meted out much more frequently than calm persuasion. The students were fascinated and asked how they could learn his technique. I promised I would look for a good natural horsemanship video to either send them or bring next year. (Yes, we are planning to come again.)

We were joined by the lead veterinarian from SENASA , which is the Honduran equivalent of the USDA. Dr. Lardizaba seemed content with what we were doing and appreciated the efforts of the entire team. As we were packing up, we were told that there was a horse we needed to go see with a broken leg. Most of the group went to see it, but found a horse with a severe” mordida de araña” affecting her coronary band and hoof instead. While they were off doing that, another horse showed up to our work place where David and I had stayed to finish packing up. It clearly had truly broken its tibia sometime in the past.

We offered the owner euthanasia as we had nothing more to offer the owner. Euthanasia is not culturally accepted, as most horses are simply left to die. The other option was to sell the horse to the local circus to be fed to the lions, for which the horse owner is offered a pittance. He declined and headed home. Well, home happened to be where the rest of the group was looking at the first horse. The owner finally agreed to sell us the horse for 500 lempiras ($25) so that we could euthanize it. By then it was dark out, but using injectable anesthesia and then a solution with Epsom salts, the poor horse was euthanized by flashlight (the very effective Larry’s light). The local people as well as the students were impressed with the gentleness of the death.

It was late by the time we got to the office, yet the gray mare still had to be treated. A decision was made to postpone tonight’s talks for the students. Mario assured us that there were no outside veterinarians planning to attend.

To top off the day, I noticed that Tracy was not 100%. It turned out he was in atrial fibrillation, triggered by two days of working hard in weather in the high 90’s and sweating buckets. After some time to cool off and lots of Gator Ade (plus some beer), his heart returned to a normal rhythm for which we were extremely grateful. Needless to say, we are all working hard, and experiencing a very wide range of emotions!
– Dr. Julie Wilson


This is only half of the posts. If you would like to read more on the Honduras trip, the posts can be found on the Turner Wilson Consulting Facebook page. If you would like to see more of the Equitarian Initiative trips, make sure to like them on Facebook.

Thank you for your interest in the Equitarian Initiative’s continued work.