I wanted to use our blog to tell all of our Triangle Equine clients about my volunteer trip to Nicaragua. Next to Haiti, Nicaragua is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Most people there do not have the proper resources to care for their dogs, cats, and horses. My trip was a combination of equine work as well as spay and neuter programs for dogs and cats. I wanted to write about some of the cases that we saw and the type of work being done to improve the situation for these equines. The trip was through World Vets, a wonderful organization committed to helping animals all over the world.
Most horses in Nicaragua are used for work such as pulling carts or carriages. The owners rely on their horses for income and were devoted to their care. During our community outreach day, which happened to fall on the morning of New Year’s Day, owners were more than willing to rise early to get their horses free care. Owners were given a booklet to log the dewormings and injections for their horses given by the program. Parasites are a problem and getting basic dewormers can be a challenge. Luckily, they are not yet experiencing the parasite resistance issues that we have here in the States. I also saw horses with tick issues. I saw one horse that had ticks covering the entire inner portion of her ear. I can’t imagine how itchy that must be! The local veterinarians that we were working with said they see this commonly and that if you coat the ticks with liquid ivermectin, they will crawl away.
I saw another horse with a hernia through the abdominal wall. This means that the muscle and tissue of the belly has torn but the skin remains intact. Abdominal contents such as fat and instestines will push through this tear and can get trapped. I was fascinated as we generally only see hernias through the umbilicus (belly button) or inguinal ring (a hole in the abdomen near the groin). The Nicaraguan vets told me that he sees these regularly as a result of the horse’s hard working life. Although horses in America generally don’t “work,” they exert exquisite physical effort in sport so I was surprised that we don’t see these type of hernias regularly in the US. After discussing the cases with my colleagues, we concluded that the pressure involved in pulling a heavy load combined with dietary deficiencies was to blame. Thankfully, through charity donations the clinic was fixing these hernias surgically at no cost to the owner!
It was also inspiring to see ways that the locals were helping their animals on their own. Many horses are working on hard pavement with no shoes and I was concerned about the possibility of lameness, if not mechanical founder. However, some local horsemen were getting creative and making ‘pads’ for their hooves out of old tires much like the pads our farriers apply here in the States. What a great idea!
There is still a long way to go in improving the welfare of these horses. Most of the horses were severely underweight. They currently do not have the equipment to provide dental floats which would be a great way to help horses gain weight. I have not decided if I will return to Nicaragua specifically, but it opened my eyes to a world of need. I am certain this will not be my last volunteer trip and I am already looking in to areas of need for future volunteer trips.