Treating the rare miniature horses of Skyros!

After their visit to Kea, our Equine Outreach team paid a three-day visit to the island of Skyros in November, to treat 71 Skyrian horses and 1 donkey.
The ancient Skyrian horse is one of the rarest breeds in the world, these miniature horses are a protected species and are thought to descend from horses brought to Skyros from Athens during the 5th to 8th centuries BC. Due to its height, the Skyrian horse is often classified as a pony, as they usually only stand between 9 and 11 hands, however, the anatomy of its body resembles a horse, making the breed one of a kind! Mouries Farm – Skyrian Horse Conservation Centre, located near the natural habitat of the breed, Mount Kochylas, opened in 1995 to conserve the breed as it was at risk of extinction. The conservation centre is home to 65 Skyrian horses and their general condition was very good. Last year our team had treated most of these animals, so the vast majority only required hoof trimming and filing of sharp dental edges which were naturally formed during the year. What was interesting for our dental technician to see, was that while last year a large percentage of the horses had hooks and ramps, something that Skyrians tend to form easily due to the anatomy of their jaws, this year this percentage was less than half, showing the importance of annual dental treatment, which tends to keep the mouths in the best condition. The team also travelled around the island treating many other equines, and with help from local organiser, Manolis, plan to treat even more all over Skyros next year.
Thetis, an 8-year-old mare, had hugely overgrown hooves due to chronic laminitis. Our team had treated her last year when the laminitis was more severe and she was obese due to incorrect and inappropriate nutrition, however, this had vastly improved as she is now in good body condition and in much less pain! The team also intervened with a horse who was showing symptoms of spasmodic colic, our vet gave the appropriate treatment along with extensive instructions for the future to the owner on nutrition and deworming, and we were pleased to see the horse made a full recovery. Unfortunately, a sad reality is that our Equine team are sometimes presented with cases where euthanasia is the most humane course of action. Our vet led ‘quality of life’ assessment complies with Greece’s strict legal requirements to do so, and the decision is based on professional judgement to alleviate suffering. The team visited a donkey who was unable to stand, resulting in many pressure sores, while also showing symptoms of renal dysfunction. Another horse was extremely weak and presented with inability to support itself in a standing position, even with help, so was also constantly lying down. After much discussion with their owners, both cases sadly had a bad prognosis. It was a useful coincidence that our team happened to be on the island during these animals’ difficult last moments and in order to prevent them from suffering any more, with the consent of their owners, they were euthanised to relieve them from pain.
Thank you to the Skyros Shipping Company and the local Municipality of Skyros for providing our team’s ferry tickets and Ioannis Evgenikos for offering once again accommodation at Nefeli hotel. Special thanks to the owner of Mouries Farm, Manolis Trahanas, for providing meals to our team, but above all, for being constantly with us. His help was invaluable as he organised the entire programme for treating Skyros’ equines, not only on Mouries Farm, but all over the island
Dental technician, Alkis, treating a Skyrian horse
Vet, Kostas, examining and auscultating a Skyrian horse
Overgrown hooves before they were trimmed by farrier, Tasos
A Skyrian horse having her hooves trimmed while her foal watches carefully!
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