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September 26, 2012

Lightening the Load: Helping Working Equines in Haiti

HSI´s veterinary team brings much needed relief to the island´s working animals

Humane Society International

Watch this video of our equine work in Haiti from earlier this year.

by Arna Cohen

Examining one emaciated horse after another in a remote Haitian village, Brooke Vrany finally came across a good-looking mule belonging to an elderly man. “You could tell from his … interaction with his mule that it was his pride and joy,” says Vrany, director of emergency services at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, Md.

During the three-day clinic in February, Vrany and a team of Humane Society International equine specialists evaluated more than 200 working horses, donkeys, mules, and burros. The health of the elderly man’s mule would stand out as the exception: In this impoverished country where veterinary care is nearly nonexistent, most of the animals suffered from malnutrition, intestinal parasites, and chronic saddle sores filled with pus and maggots.

Hard at work

From sunrise to sundown, the American team supervised and instructed 20 Haitian veterinarians as they administered treatment.

Relied on for transporting goods to market, the equines are essential to rural livelihoods, and villagers listened closely as Vrany showed how to modify and pad pack saddles to allow open wounds to heal.

Empowering local vets  

Part of the self-empowerment program HSI established after the country’s 2010 earthquake, the clinics were also an educational opportunity for the Haitian veterinarians, most of whom had never haltered a horse or lifted a hoof.

Their new skills will greatly improve the lives of people and animals in their home regions. Says Vrany, “Even if it’s just 10 horses in their locale that they’re treating once a week, imagine the number of people they can educate in one year.”

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