On 15th April, our Equine Outreach team returned to the Forestry Service in Chania, Crete to visit the working mules of Samaria Gorge.
The gorge is a major tourist attraction, situated in the White Mountains, with hiking trails through stunning forest and looking out onto the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 6 gelding mules were waiting for our visit, all requiring some treatment. Each of the animals has worked in the park for at least 15 years, carrying stones, metallic equipment and any other construction material, food, medicine, rubbish, injured tourists, researchers, and even the park personnel and their luggage. All were in relatively good health, with ideal Body Condition Scores, considering their old age (from age 20 up to around 35 years). This year, the Forestry Service handed over the responsibility of husbandry for the working equines to another State Service, where they had them shoed by their own farrier. Nevertheless, they didn’t object to dental checking from Alkis, our Dental Technician.
We first visited them in 2010, when they received dental checks initially by our equine vet, Elisa, and it was a pleasure to see that they now have only minor tooth problems (very small sharp edges and a few, almost insignificant, hooks) proving the value of routine annual floating! They all stayed very calm and allowed Alkis to remove build up of calculus from their canines to improve their oral health. One very elderly gelding, Makis, has had broken upper incisors since 2013, Elisa advised a special diet to prevent discomfort while he eats and to help maintain a good body condition. Nevertheless, all the mules were in good health and demonstrated why regular visits are so important for their welfare. We look forward to another 12 years of visiting the hard working Mules of Samaria Gorge!