Samaria Equine Outreach 2024

Early this year we received a request from the Management Unit of Samaria National Park and Protected Areas of Western Crete (National Environment and Climate Change Agency), to offer our dental technician’s services to their working equines. We responded positively, as we are always happy to meet these hard workers and contribute to their wellbeing, helping them, in this way, to live and work healthy.

This winter and early spring, all animals were kept, for a second time, in the stables of a horse riding school in the town of Rethymnon. Their staff does an excellent job regarding husbandry. Alkis examined four working equines (three mules and one horse) there in early April. All accepted floating quite well and had their known recurring problems (sharp edges, ramps and hooks) treated satisfactorily.

The additional three working mules and a fourth retired old one had already been moved inside the Samaria gorge, to prepare the path and other infrastructure for the visitors. Alkis had the unique opportunity to visit them in the installations next to the gorge’s northern entrance, about two weeks later: the stable is tall, spacious and stone-built in the local traditional way. There is also a fenced area where they can move and rest freely. It was noticed that the people of the Management Unit – especially, Maria Axypolytou – are very much concerned with the animals’ diet, health and welfare in general. On that day, all mule drivers were having a day off to rest from their exhaustive obligations. Mr Marcos, however, a local FS Ranger was, unexpectedly, a most encouraging revelation: in his presence, all mules – including Paris who, initially, could not be approached last year – felt comfort. Alkis was, thus, able to finish his work (hooks, sharp edges and calculus treatment) relatively swiftly. Aristodimos had calculus on lower canines and incisors again. His wave mouth, however, had improved since last year and was further treated. Makis, the retired mule with the broken upper incisors, was examined and treated too.

After the completion of the two visits, we received a thank you letter from Ms Axypolytou and the Management Unit, in which they expressed their satisfaction for the work done and their appreciation to our equine dental technician Alkis, not only for his professionalism and gentle behaviour to animals, but also for his ethos as a person.

The working equines of Samaria gorge are the only means of transport in this most important biodiversity area of Crete. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world visit it every year. The mules, and horses, make sure all rubbish is moved to the disposal sites, transfer wounded visitors, carry the material and tools for fixing the paths and do all sorts of work possible. Ensuring their wellbeing is immensely important and, in the end, heart filling.

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