February 15, 2011


 Horse (veterinarian) roundup

Convention caps off year full of achievements for AAEP

Posted Feb. 1, 2011

From ocular ailments (see article) to the recent equine piroplasmosis outbreaks (article) to unwanted horses (article), the American Association of Equine Practitioners covered all the latest in clinical, scientific, and welfare issues concerning horses at its 56th Annual Convention, Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore.

The world's largest educational meeting for equine veterinarians drew 5,504 veterinarians, veterinary technicians, students, exhibitors, and guests, compared with the previous year's attendance of 7,611. It also marked the convention's first return to the Mid-Atlantic region since 1998.  

AAEP convention attendees
AAEP 56th Annual Convention attendees meet in the exhibit hall at the
Baltimore Convention Center. 

Strategic achievement

2010 saw the second full year of work defined by the association's revised strategic plan, which has three areas of focus: growing the profession, high-quality continuing education, and equine welfare efforts. There were successes in all categories.  

The AAEP grew to more than 10,000 members this past year for the first time. This milestone was reached in May 2010 when Jessica Zeird joined. She is a second-year veterinary student at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Business education seminars, the Veterinary Sport Horse Symposium, and 360° meetings were just some examples of the learning opportunities provided to equine practitioners, said David Foley, executive director of the AAEP. The 360° meetings, introduced in 2010, involve four days of guided, live-animal laboratories with low attendee-to-instructor ratios that help veterinarians gain competence in popular areas of equine practice, such as dentistry. In 2011, the association will hold two more 360° meetings—one on lameness and imaging and another on problem mares.

On the welfare front, the first "equitarian" meeting by the association drew 24 veterinarians this past October to Vera Cruz, Mexico, to help working horses, donkeys, and mules through veterinary service. Attendees were offered cultural knowledge and field training to assist struggling communities where working equids are used for subsistence. They gained hands-on experience with horses in need of saddle fitting, disease treatment, and castration.

The AAEP and AAEP Foundation partnered with the Autonomous National University of Mexico, the Donkey Sanctuary, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association to make the meeting possible.

Other association highlights in 2010 included the AAEP Racing Committee issuing principles and guidelines for racehorse veterinarians (see JAVMA, Dec. 15, 2010), involvement with the World Equestrian Games held in Lexington, Ky. (see JAVMA, Dec. 15, 2010), and helping unwanted horses through the Gelding Project (see JAVMA, Oct. 15, 2010).

The latter program, started by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, is designed to offer funding assistance to organizations, associations, and event sponsors who wish to conduct a public gelding clinic under the name and guidelines of Operation Gelding.

As of Nov. 17, 2010, more than 120 stallions had been gelded and approximately $6,000 in funds had been distributed. The UHC, which started the program, had estimated that 25 clinics would be completed and funded before the end of last year.  

A look at what's to come

The association has plenty more in store in 2011.   

This coming summer, the AAEP will revisit its strategic plan.

The AAEP Biologic and Therapeutic Agents Committee continues to work on content for a compounding brochure whose time line for release has not yet been set.

In addition, the Bureau of Land Management approached the AAEP this past summer about evaluating the government agency's methods for rounding up horses for adoption or sale.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 put the BLM in charge of the U.S. wild horse and burro populations' management. The act also charged the agency, which is a division of the Department of the Interior, with maintaining the natural ecologic balance in authorized uses of federal lands. To achieve this balance, the BLM takes inventory of the animals on public ranges and can remove excess animals on overpopulated ranges and relocate them to holding facilities, where some might be sold or put up for adoption.

Dr. William A. Moyer, AAEP president, said the charge from the BLM to the AAEP is to have veterinarians with equine expertise evaluate that aspect of the operation, without considering the economics or moral side of it. He is leading the task force heading up the investigation. The task force has already conducted two evaluations and is in the process of deciding how many more are needed to make a determination, Dr. Moyer said. By this summer the task force will provide a formal report that will go before the AAEP executive committee and then the BLM.

Just recently a report by the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General found that the roundups are necessary for the BLM to control population growth among wild horse herds and that neither the agency nor its contractors treated wild horses and burros inhumanely.

The report, issued Dec. 13, also called on the BLM to be more aggressive in researching and testing methods for population control to minimize the need for long-tern holding facilities and mustang preserves.

About 26,400 unadoptable feral horses reside in BLM sanctuaries, 11,400 feral horses are in the BLM adoption pipeline, and 38,400 feral horses are on the range.

Turn to this article to read about the AAEP's 2010 award recipients.