Equitarian Essentials: Packing, Planning For Volunteer Trips

Trips to provide health care for working equids are beneficial but are not without unique organizational challenges.
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In recent years, the number of veterinary and equitarian groups interested in helping working equids in impoverished areas has risen. While these efforts are extremely important, an aspiring equitarian can’t necessarily just pack up his or her box of veterinary tools, head to a country’s most rural community, and get to work. There’s a copious amount of planning involved.

David Turoff, DVM, of Foothill Mobile Veterinary Service, in Placerville, California, shared his wisdom and insights from 14 years of equitarian work in Latin America. He described what supplies, equipment, and permits equitarians need at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

First, Turoff listed the minimum requirements for an equitarian program:

  • Local contacts and communication methods These contacts in the destination country—typically from a university, non-governmental organization, or other host group who has extended an invitation—are the ones that will be able to help with permits and arrange transportation, lodging, and meals. They sometimes require compensation for their assistance.
  • A team Turoff suggested veterinarians making their first pilot trip with a small group of veterinarians who can speak the country’s language. Subsequent trips can include nonveterinarian and nonbilingual members.
  • Funding Veterinary efforts in rural communities typically cost about $8-12 per patient, said Turoff. Volunteers on the trip should understand they will be paying their own way.

Then he described supplies participants should bring versus those they can acquire at their destination

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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