How horse health clinics build trust and save animal lives

Veterinarians don’t just serve animals — they serve communities, and the individuals living and working within them. To do so, they need trust. And when trust is born, lives are saved.

The North American Amish community is a traditionalist population that abstains from many modern lifestyle conventions, like unnecessary use of electricity, phones, and cars. It’s a largely agricultural group, one that relies on horses for much of its transportation.

It’s understandable, then, how an outbreak of equine illness could debilitate much of an Amish region’s functions.

That’s why a partnership was founded between Fernanda Camargo, a University of Kentucky equine professor; Bonnie Jolly, a local 4-H agent; and Pedro de Pedro, equine veterinarian. The three started a yearly horse wellness clinic to share valuable biosecurity information, disease prevention tips and vaccinations that would help protect the Amish community’s horses.

To accomplish its goals, however, the clinic needed the support of animal health partners. Neogen has been fortunate to help, having donated equine botulism vaccines to the clinic for the past three years.

“Fernanda is extremely passionate about these wellness clinics in Kentucky,” said Neogen’s Jennifer Striplin, who works with the clinic’s volunteers to supply the doses. “This was our third year of donating and we hope to continue to do so in the future.”

The clinics serve a serious need. The rural areas helped by them often have limited access to veterinary care, especially considering how many animals are kept.

“These clinics give horse owners an opportunity to receive exams and vaccinations at discounted rates, or even for free in some cases,” said Striplin.

The true value of the clinics was illustrated between the 2017 and 2018 clinics, reported The Ag Magazine, when an equine botulism outbreak led to the deaths of animals that hadn’t been vaccinated. The next year, not a single clinic attendee turned down the botulism vaccine, showing not only that education had improved, but also that the Amish community’s trust in the clinic had tightened.

“Fernanda has done a tremendous job of reaching out to this community, making farm visits and building trust in proper equine care and management,” Striplin said. “It’s an honor to take part.”

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