Located in North America, Mexico has a population of 109 million people and more than five million horses, donkeys and mules.
Historically we worked in Mexico in collaboration with The Donkey Sanctuary and the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) providing training programmes and veterinary services. Towards the end of 2016 we started a new programme in the state of Oaxaca, where we are partnered with Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO, Oaxaca University) and work closely with the veterinary faculty at the University.
Oaxaca is considered to be one of the three most underdeveloped states in Mexico, with low education rates and 75% of people without access to health services. The largest sector of its economy is agriculture with many small farming communities working in the rural regions. Working equids play an important role in these farming families; they are used to transport the agricultural goods to market or buyers, and also to carry feed for the livestock back from the fields. Estimates suggest there are 130,000 equids in the Oaxaca state, the majority of whom will be supporting family livelihoods through their work. The working equids suffer from low body condition scores, poor foot conditions and mechanical related injuries.
The project works with eight communities, in which we have 10 Community Based Equine Advisors (CBEAs) who are starting to train owners across their respective communities in equine behaviour and handling skills. In Mexico it has been crucial to start at this basic step as it is underpins all equid care and without this, many owners would be unable to provide better care to their equids. Later this year we will further train the CBEAs so they can progress further with educating the owners.
The project team work in two ways, sometimes holding group training sessions and other times training individual households. This helps to incorporate women and children in the training which is important because in a large proportion of families the men have travelled to work abroad, requiring all remaining family members to work with the equids.
This year we will start farrier training to local people from across the communities. Currently families will trim their horses feet themselves with little knowledge and inadequate tools. Many owners have concerns about their equids feet, especially come the wet season when the feet become really soft. Over trimming or leaving hoofs too long or in the wrong shape is a common cause of lameness. Training local people who can help with these problems will be very beneficial to the equids, and also to their owners.
Our partnership with the University of Oaxaca is really valuable; we have a good opportunity to improve the equine veterinary program through supporting practical training of the students and research studies. The Donkey Sanctuary also works alongside the Oaxaca University and we are discussing how together we can support students through their veterinary education so that in the future, veterinary services for equids is better.