February 23, 2024

Women Helping Women Helping Horses in Peru

- By Caroline (Cline) Owen with Helen Douglas

Continue reading Women Helping Women Helping Horses in Peru

Helen Douglas is an Equine Veterinarian with a big heart and a love for helping others, both human and horse.

This love has led her, most recently in December, to visit Peru and our local partner in Urubamba, Kyd Campbell.  Kyd is a Canadian horsewoman who visited Peru more than 10 years ago, intending to make her way back to Canada after a short while, but she stayed, started collecting horses (and a daughter!) and has made her home in the Sacred Valley. She has a team of dedicated humans and horses, and puts together outstanding trips, with a fabulous mix of stunning scenery and local cultural experiences (click here for details on this trip).

Because of the remoteness of her location, it’s difficult to get good veterinary care, especially on short notice. So, Kyd has rolled up her sleeves and has learned a great deal about how to take care of her horses herself, with support from Helen via phone and email. 

One area of caring for horses that can be quite complicated, and vitally important, is equine dentistry. When Helen offered to come and help Kyd learn how to take care of her horses’ teeth, she jumped at the opportunity. Kyd’s team, and other interested locals also joined in. 

Helen is an equine general practitioner with an interest in dentistry, and together with her friend Jennifer Kakhola, a qualified equine technician, they traveled to Peru to help educate Kyd and her team about taking care of their horses’ teeth. The previous year, Helen had visited Patagonia to do the same thing with one of our partners there. 

Helen armed herself with the equipment and medication that she would need, and a list of supplies for Kyd to have ready when she arrived, including an equine skull (cleaned and disinfected, of course!). 

The art of filing teeth in horses is called “floating,” and is an important practice to do regularly to keep sharp edges and broken teeth from causing issues for the horse. Just like we humans are encouraged to visit the dentist regularly, it’s as important for horses to do the same. 

Helen has traveled the world and finds that many horse owners are unaware of the importance of equine dentistry in order to prevent weight loss, malnutrition, painful mouths and a condition called “choke,” where food gets caught in the horse’s throat and creates choking, which is made worse by neglecting dental care. 

Their workshop in Peru started with anatomy and learning to age a horse by its teeth. Helen then moved on to teaching how to safely restrain the horses for treatment, then taught tooth reduction techniques needed to prevent dental abnormalities such as broken teeth, large hooks and sharp edges and generally poor dentition.

They used mild sedation to allow safe access to the horses’ mouths, then determined each horse’s dental needs, and made detailed notes. Everybody got to practice on upper and lower molars, and some even had the chance to remove a few sets of wolf teeth and address some large molar hooks and waves with power dentistry. Everyone could see the improvements right away, and Kyd and her team vowed to practice and maintain the progress made, as well as help and teach others.

Helen says, “It was truly amazing and wonderful to collaborate with a team of international horse women in order to improve the health of these wonderful horses who work SO hard for us.” 

And the reward: Kyd organized and led Helen and Jennifer on a three-day ride and cultural experience in the high Andes, a trip that they’ll never forget.

But, the bigger reward for Helen is receiving reports like this one from Kyd, who Helen says was an excellent student and quick learner:

“The mare’s whole mouth was very off balance, everything on a major slant, and one bad hook on the front of the first molar. I took down the waves and sharp outside edges, fixed the hook, took down the upper right and lower left and once we were done with the speculum we even managed to file off the small hooks on the front teeth so hopefully she can balance out much better now! I’ll go see her in a while to see if her weight is better! The owner gives his horses excellent feed but the mare wasn’t prospering. This float should help her a lot! I felt good doing the work, I had good stability with the rasps and the guys were perfect support, Silvio held onto the speculum clips so it wouldn’t close and Nilo backed me up checking on the teeth a few times. You are the best teacher!”

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