Andros Equine Outreach 2024

On March 22-25th Animal Action Hellas’ Equine Care team visited the island of Andros in Cyclades.

The outreach expeditions of the Equine Programme involve many visits to Greek islands and islets. Getting there and staying to offer vital services to working animals is not at all holidays. On the opposite, there are often quite harsh conditions. Fortunately, what our teams encounter is ethically rewarding which gives them an extra motivation to continue to the end of each day.

Andros is not a typical dry Aegean island of the Cyclades complex. Its relatively high peaks (highest is Petalo at 994m a.s.l.), large surface area, and the numerous springs, small rivers and torrents redound to the growing and preservation of rich vegetation.

Our equine team, veterinarian Kostas Okkas, equine dental technician Alkis Geskos and farrier Tasos Skyllas traveled to 24 villages, coming across a difficult outreach for four days, given the island’s vast distances and the challenging geomorphology. They offered their services to 75 equines (28 donkeys, 30 horses and 17 mules). Most of these are working equines, used in agricultural work carrying products, logs or people and several are rescued elderly animals.

The vast majority of animals required dental care. The dental technician rasped down the sharp dental edges, while several animals had very large dental hooks or overgrown teeth, therefore motorized equipment was used. Most of the equines required hoof trimming, with particular emphasis on the farriery services provided to the animals with overlong hooves; these animals suffered from chronic laminitis caused by imbalanced nutrition, usually excessive consumption of grains or fresh grass.

Several of these animals were treated again the previous years, their owners had followed our advice and the animals’ condition had improved significantly; with the exception of one owner who had not changed anything in his donkey’s diet, disappointing our vet and trying to educate him for a second time. One pony was found with pain and lameness due to acute laminitis, therefore analgesics and anti-inflammatory treatment was given by our vet, followed by advice to the owner.

During this outreach, our team was delighted to see a very positive attitude by local owners towards our mission. Old and younger people who had trusted us in previous years responded again to our call. Each of them brought one or more of their animals for checking and treatment and it was apparent that they observed –and, whenever necessary, participated in- every procedure with respect.

Most touching was perhaps the case of a mare who needed floating her most caudal lower molars whose back edges had become like nails: their owner thanked the team members warmly and brought some local tsipouro (drink) and sweets that proved delicious.

It is important that several loggers on Andros have observed the benefits of equine welfare: they brought again their hard working animals to the meeting points, and were enthusiastic with the results.

Unfortunately, the owners of an old gelding mule with severe respiratory issues were not present, so out vet couldn’t offer directly advice for treatment;

On the last day, before returning to their homes, the team was led to a farm where ridden horses drive sheep and cattle within grazing fields. These people had been reluctant in asking our services for at least 2 years. But they are friends of our local contact on Andros, and agreed at least to have them checked by our team. Alkis, our EDT, did routine floating to one animal first and, surprisingly, more followed. They wanted to thank our EDT and show their appreciation, so they invited the whole team for a full meal at their tavern. That day was the Greek Independence Day celebrated on March 25th, so there was no better way for this trip to finish.

We’d like to thank Fast Ferries for generously providing our team’s ferry tickets for the third consecutive year, showing their sensitivity to welfare matters.

We’d also like to express our gratitude to the recently elected Andros Municipality who, like the previous one, responded  to our needs by finding locals sponsors : Nikolaos Moustakas  for the accommodation in Paradise Design Appartments in Batsi, the restaurants “Belitsa” in Batsi, “ “Ta souvlakia tou Gavriou” in Gavrio, for the meals they offered to the team and Μrs. Tzioti Frantseska in Ormos Korthiou for the petrol.

Finally, let us not forget Julia Joyce and Petros Vassiliadis, who organized the program and facilitated the work of our team, throughout the trip. Without their contacts and organizing, it would be impossible to carry out the action. We thank them and renew our appointment for next year.

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