Feb 18, 2018

A Mission Trip of a Different Kind

Andrew Palmer (Left) and Karen’s son, Pablo Espinal (Right), mounted; Coach Marco Bernal, Jean, and the Young Riders Team members and club staff.

Perhaps you know someone who has been on a foreign mission trip. Or, maybe you have volunteered yourself to help, encourage, and make a difference in people’s lives. This mission trip was different in some ways.  There were no construction projects, water filters, or community development projects. Instead, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) members and sport horse breeders Dr. Jean FowlerAndrew Palmer, and Dr. David Lee Davis from Honduras Outreach recently visited several communities across the Central American country of Honduras providing seminars on horse care, breeding, first aid, and preventative veterinary medicine as well as eventing and jumping clinics and demonstrations. The trip was organized in part by new USEA member from El Salvador Hugo Alexander Moran, Zamorano & University of Georgia/CAES alumnus. 

First, the delegation visited Equinos de Honduras (EQUHS) in the city of Choluteca. EQUHS is partially funded by World Horse Welfare Organization and is comprised of local ranchers, breeders, young riders, and community businessmen. The equestrian needs in Choluteca include information on breeding, horse care and health, and handling of younger horses. Andrew and Dr. Fowler covered a range of topics on breeding and riding as well as best practices in horse care and nutrition. They fielded questions for over three hours with the help of an excellent translator provided by EQUHS. After a fantastic lunch, also provided by EQUHS, Andrew provided a hands-on demonstration to students on how to handle younger horses as well as some tips on riding and building trust with the animals. 

Left: Jean Fowler and Mr. Armando Solano Williams, Quarter Horse breeder in Southern Honduras and father of Gone Away Farm former intern Jorge Solano. Right: Andrew Palmer and Maverick Ortiz, UNA Vet School Student working with EQUHS, and Osman Eschiverria, EARTH University, former intern of Gone Away Farm, now Director of Vocational Education Center for Holistic Transformation.

From there our missionaries travelled to the capital city of Tegucigalpa, home of Club Ecuestre La Herradura, owned and developed by Karen Alaya de Espinal, the 2011 Pan American Games Dressage competitor and secretary of the Honduran Equestrian Federation. This beautifully appointed and picturesque club is set on the side of a mountain just a few miles from the popular Valle de Angeles. Club Ecuestre la Herradura is the home of over 54 horses and sport riders that compete at the highest levels in Central and South America. Andrew gave an advanced jumping demonstration and worked with the club’s most proficient riders on form, speed, and especially cross-country jumping techniques. After the mounted horse work, Dr. Jean taught a short seminar on the care of sport riding horses and nutrition and Andrew shared from his wisdom as a breeder information on the unique care and training of stallions.

Left: Jean and Monstro, the now 20-year-old warmblood former stallion she tried to import to her farm in Georiga 10 years ago, but wasn’t able to due to USDA quarantine requirements. Right: Andrew (Left) and Karen’s son, Pablo Espinal (Right), mounted; Coach Marco Bernal, Jean, and the Young Riders Team members and club staff.

Our adventurous missionaries then traveled over the mountains to the Valle del Yeguare and the world-renowned Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School. The team stayed at the stunningly appointed Kellogg Center and enjoyed great meals at the university dining hall as well as a tour of the campus and the groundbreaking agricultural work of the university. While Zamorano does not have an accredited equestrian degree program, there is interest in developing a 15-week for-credit module. The Club Hipico at Zamorano University is a university approved equestrian club that promotes equine activities, riding, and care. Students and staff participated in lectures on horse care and on course jumping demonstrations as well as individualized coaching. Specific attention was given to topics related to building trust with the horse, advanced jumping and timing, as well as techniques to prepare the horse for sport riding. 

Left: Jean and Andrew with one of the Zamorano-raised horses demonstrating stretching techniques. Right: At Zamorano Club Hipico with Club Adviser Marielena Moncada, long-time Club Instructor & Stable Manager Carlos, and club members and interested faculty holding some of the many generously donated tack and horse care items.

We want to thank our many friends and professionals for their generous donations of professional time, plus handbooks, saddles, brushes, tack, and equine first aid kits: Jeffers Pet Supply (c/o Kim Cahill); Dr. Robin A. Barrow and Valerie Walthart, Barrow Vet Service; Glenn Nasworthy, farrier; Mary Bess Davis, Triple Creek Eventing; Joan and Gill Hilsman, Between the Pines Farm; Platinum Performance;  Jean and Rob Fowler, Hugo Moran, Gone Away Farms; Honduras Outreach Inc.; and the USEA.

Left: Vet Tech Mary Stuart Thomas (Left) and Dr. Teresa Wylie (Right) with donated first aid kits from BVS and Gone Away Farm the day before we left for Honduras. It was 16 degrees outside! Right: Farriers Mr. Glenn Nasworthy and Mr. Matthew Burkhalter with and Hugo Moran, Farm Assistant Manager at Gone Away Farm with some of the donated items.

Andrew Palmer summarized this successful trip, “The trip was about being flexible, identifying the need wherever we went, and offering help to meet that need through education. Whether it was preventative care practices, techniques to improve performance, or an understanding of how to interact with a horse to build a better bond, everything we had to share was eagerly received. It was great to see a passion for horses thriving worldwide and it was personally enriching to offer knowledge and insight that will make a difference in the Honduran equestrian community.”

Dr. David Lee Davis of Honduras Outreach said that, “mission trips are about encouraging leaders, sharing vital information, and encouraging progress. In that sense, this was a wonderful mission trip. Horses are a vital part of life in Honduras. There is a great need at every level of equine care and riding.” 

If you’d like to know more about how your club, or you as an individual, can make a difference in Honduras, please contact Hugo Moran or Jean Fowler of Gone Away Farm in Covington, Georgia.

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