Even since the age of three Imogen Burrows has wanted to be ‘a horse vet’.
Now the senior equine veterinary assistant at Cliff e Equine Clinic in Lewes is off to teach her skills to vets in The Gambia.
Imogen, who has worked at the clinic since 2006, sets off on Wednesday to volunteer to train veterinary staff at The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, to help improve the welfare of working equines.
“From the age of three when I told my mother I wanted to be ‘a horse vet’ I knew what my passion in life would be,” she said.
“From that moment on my passion never shifted. When I became an equine vet I knew I wanted to make a difference to every animal I treat.
“Slowly, as I gained more experience in my job as an equine veterinary surgeon, I realised that there were more subtle ways in which I could make a difference.
“I found that I had a flair for educating people. As a student presentations were never my forte, but after qualifying I acquired a new found confidence in my ability to engage with owners about their animals.
“I realised that educating individuals was something I did everyday, in every consultation.
“The thirst for knowledge has never left me, but I realised I have become increasingly passionate about sharing this knowledge.
“‘Teach a man to fish…’ is a proverbial saying that is incredibly important to me.
“My employers, Cliffe Equine Clinic, part of Cliffe Veterinary Group, have encouraged this by aiding my education training, and supporting the many talks and events that I have run for vets, nurses, horse and riding school owners.
“My latest challenge however is going to be, well, demanding to say the least. Cliffe Veterinary Group are members of XLVets, a group of veterinary clinics that have one common goal – to strive from excellence in practice.
“This means we strive to make a difference whenever and wherever the opportunity presents. Their latest initiative has been to partner with The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT) to improve welfare in the working equine population in The Gambia.
“The plan is for two experienced equine vets to volunteer for two weeks twice a year to travel to the centre of the Gambia to the Trust’s hospital, and provide 3-4 days of training for their staff and veterinary volunteers.
“Many vets travel to the GHDT, volunteering their time to work at the hospital and as part of their mobile clinics that travel to the rural village markets. However, training the Gambians how to provide more effective care, how to recognise and treat disease, and how to educate the donkey and horse owners to improve working equine welfare is vital.
“I am immensely proud to be nominated as part of this initiative, and confess to being both excited and apprehensive about how this is going to work.
“In The Gambia, owning a horse or donkey increases a family’s income by 500 per cent. Families depend on the animal. Without an animal, a family has no transport for food, for water, to harvest crops, or take their children to hospital. It is literally the case that if the animal dies, the people relying on it die. Veterinary care is basic, but people do try to seek help.
“Horse and donkey welfare is often poor due not to cruelty, but due to lack of vital knowledge.
“Gambia is one of the poorest countries in West Africa. The problems caused by this lack of knowledge have been exacerbated this year by a lack of food for people and animals resulting from a poor harvest. On top of all of that, the Ebola crisis is crippling tourism in West Africa, despite the fact that The Gambia remains Ebola free.
“The situation is desperate.
You can keep up to date with how Imogen got on at www.cliffeequine.co.uk