Published: Nov. 8, 2012

MSU professors provide 'equitarian' care to remote Mexican villages

Contact(s): Andy McGlashen Media Communications office: (517) 355-2281, Kristen Flory College of Veterinary Medicine office: (517) 355-5165

A trio of Michigan State University professors traveled to Mexico last month to provide veterinary care to working equids – horses, mules, donkeys and burros – and educate the people who depend on the animals for their livelihood.

Susan Ewart and Hal Schott of the MSU Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Camie Heleski of the Department of Animal Science were part of the third Equitarian Workshop, organized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The term equitarian combines “equine” and “humanitarian.”

Ninety percent of the world’s equids are working animals, used to haul goods to the marketplace and carry water and firewood to homes. Owning a working equid is often the single most important factor keeping people in developing countries out of abject poverty.

“There’s a growing awareness that we as veterinarians can help not only the animals we’re trained to help, but also the people who rely on them,” said Ewart. “I love helping animals. But as I get further into my career, I want to help people too.”

More than 30 veterinarians and animal scientists from across the globe spent a week traveling to remote villages in the state of Tlaxcala to provide free veterinary care to nearly 600 animals. They set up mobile clinics at community soccer fields and offered medicine, surgery, dentistry, hoof care and other services, as well as educational sessions on animal husbandry.

The group also got local veterinarians involved in the clinics, with the hope that care programs will continue after the workshop.

The MSU team now aims to establish an equitarian program of its own. In addition to organizing future clinics in the developing world, their goals include partnering with other veterinary colleges and getting students involved in the initiative.

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