Before you read this post, I have to ask your forgiveness. Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch is not a “mission” blog. I don’t often launch myself in shouting matches or guzzle purple KoolAid, passionately following any idea at all. That is the diametrical opposite of mindful examination of all sides of an issue. But the Adventurists’ blatant lack of concern for Mongolian horses and people, their environment an culture, in the name of “fighting to make the world less boring” is an insult to the compassion and intelligence of horsepeople everywhere, and I find that at the moment I just can’t let it go. If you can, and you’re tired of hearing about it, or you think I’m making too much of it or that there are other causes I should write about, then click away now. You won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll never know.
The Adventurists, while maybe not experienced at launching equestrian adventures, are certainly experts at disseminating charming disinformation.
I stumbled upon a brilliant example of this on the message boards at newrider.com, where their PR person was immediately called out for “spin.”
Here is a lovely disclaimer post on the forum, which I have seen in several places recently, apparently intended to pacify those bent on focusing attention on what is really happening in Mongolia.
The Adventurists would like to respond to recent statements published online concerning the veterinary care for the horses taking part in the Mongol Derby, and to clarify their relationship with the Mongolian veterinary NGO, Vet Net.
(Full statement is available here as a PDF: Update.pdf)
Horse welfare has always been at the top of the agenda for The Adventurists, and hence in November 2008 they contacted Vet Net, in order to seek advice on veterinary care for the 600 plus horses being ridden in the Mongol Derby.
The Adventurists would like to make clear that the two parties have been in regular contact since November 2008, by email, telephone and in person. Vet Net have consulted The Adventurists on the veterinary situation in Mongolia, on the availability of good quality medicines and on how best to provide veterinary care for the Mongol Derby horses. Vet Net also provided The Adventurists with the names and contact details of all their trained soum (village) vets along the Mongol Derby course.
According to an email from a representative of Vet Net to The Adventurists: “The soum veterinarians are well qualified veterinarians. They are private practising veterinarians who have benefited from the world class drugs and equipment that we have been able to import and supply for them after they have received training in their use.”
This network of Vet Net trained vets will be providing vet care for the Mongol Derby horses over the 1000 kilometre Mongol Derby. They will be checking the horses during their pre-race training, immediately before they start, and after they have completed.
These Vet Net trained vets will be working in conjunction with a UK vet with 32 years of equine experience. This vet is being flown out to Mongolia especially for the Mongol Derby.
This UK vet will be following the race in one of the back-up emergency response vehicles. He will be equipped, as all the riders are, with a GPS spot tracker, and will respond to any emergency situations that arise. He will be following the race with an equine vet from the Mongolian government’s Ministry of Agriculture, who is fully supportive of the Mongol Derby.
All vets, herders, horse breeders and trainers involved in the Mongol Derby are being well paid by The Adventurists for their involvement. Horse welfare and respect for the Mongolian people and their culture is of the utmost importance to the organisers. The Adventurists hope that this information clarifies the recent confusion over Vet Net’s association with the Mongol Derby, and looks forward to the first of many successful editions of the event.
To read the full statement please follow this link for the PDF: Update.pdf
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us directly.
All the best,
Yet I find a transcript of a July 11, 2009 interview with Thomas Jeurgens, DVM, of VETNet by officials of the Long Riders’ Guild in which Dr. Jeurgens refutes The Adventurists’ claims of their participation quite clearly. I imagine VETNet would know whether or not they are overseeing the veterinary care of the horses in the Mongol Derby.
Following are portions of background information and the interview (quoted directly from the Long Riders’ Guild site:
Dr. Juergens is an American equine practitioner and advisor to VET Net, the Mongolian NGO, which has been linked to the Mongol Derby. According to documents released on July 1, 2009 by Tom Morgan, and his English tour company, the Adventurists, stated that the renowned Mongolian veterinarian training program, VET Net, was associated with providing equine medical assistance during the race.
“We are working with an American Veterinary NGO based in Mongolia called VET Net.”
In an effort to placate irate donors, PR representatives of the Portland based charity, Mercy Corps, also circulated VET Net’s name so as to offset public anger. According to Dr. Juergens, officers of the highly respected medical organization were not even aware that their organization was being linked to the race, nor do they support it in any way. In fact, VET Net’s spokesman has denounced the event. (emphasis mine)
How long has VET Net been working in Mongolia and what are some of the many achievements your organization has achieved there?
VET Net is the leading source of veterinary continuing education in Mongolia. The NGO was formed by Dr. Gerald Mitchum, who has spent the last seventeen years overseeing the training of hundreds of Mongolian veterinarians in modern veterinary medicine.
What are your personal connections with Mongolia?
I’ve spent the last ten summers there, educating remote veterinarians on how to become better veterinarians, practicing modern equine veterinary medicine..
What effect will this race have on your personal efforts, as well as Vet Net’s, to further veterinarian education among the Mongols?
This race negates everything we’ve been teaching the Mongolian people and veterinarians for the last ten years because here we have the concern of foreigners racing horses to death. Have you ever seen a horse raced to death? It’s horrific. (emphasis mine)
According to a document Morgan released last week, he claims, “Horse welfare has been at the top of the agenda since … early 2008.” When did VET Net officials first learn about Morgan’s Mongol Derby and did your organization offer to lend your medical expertise to this event?
I think VET Net was contacted in either January or February of 2009. It is my understanding that they wanted us to supply all the veterinarians and oversee the medical needs throughout the entire race. But it is my understanding that VET Net is not involved with providing veterinary care to the horses in this race.
Were you aware that Morgan and Mercy Corps had specifically named VET Net as being in charge of the equine medical care of the 800 Mongolian horses to be used in the non-sanctioned race?
I was surprised to be told that our organization had been named as being part of this race.
Upon learning that Morgan had misinformed the public about VET Net’s role in the race, did your organization contact the Adventurists and order them to cease using your organization’s name?
One of the other advisors immediately fired off emails asking that VET Net not be linked to this event.
Do the officials in charge of VET Net have concerns regarding the potential damage Morgan’s race may inflict upon the horses, the herders and the equestrian heritage of Mongolia?
Absolutely ! This event is being done in total disregard to the welfare of the horses and it shows no respect for the nation’s equestrian traditions either. It’s as if they think these horses are rental cars. Because the contestants don’t own the horses, they’ll think they can ride them hard, then just walk away. There’s no sense of personal accountability. What I see instead is disrespect for the horses and Mongolian traditions. (emphasis mine)
The race organizers in England have attempted to sooth public concerns by saying that they will be providing vehicles to drive local vets along the route of the race, so as to ensure proper equine safety standards are maintained. What are your feelings about that?
Just because the remote Mongolian veterinarians have studied modern veterinary medicine for six weeks with VET Net doesn’t mean they are qualified to act as attending veterinarians for the critical health needs of the horses competing in this race. Normally the horse’s pulse, respiration, soundness and hydration are all checked at required stops by qualified veterinarians during a normal endurance race. This race is absolutely different. And saying that the individual horses are “only” going to be raced for forty kilometres is just showing disrespect. You have to worry about the horses – and the riders. I can’t see any good coming from this race.
Do you, as an advisor to VETNET, believe it is in the best interest of Mongolia for Mongolian officials to order this event to be halted?
Yes, because there are ethical, moral and humanitarian concerns which do not seem to have been met at this time. If the race organizers wanted to put on such an event, they should have spent more than six months organizing the logistics of quality veterinary care for the horses. But they haven’t even proved that they can provide adequate veterinarian care for the horses.
They Said, He Said, and the controversy goes on, but as the race continues, who pays the price? Why is there not news coming out of Mongolia? This question raises yet more questions:
Are conditions such that news cannot get out? If so, then should they be racing?
If there were good, humane, sportsmanlike news, surely the Adventurists would be plastering it all over the horse world. Where is it?
Bad news travels nowhere. Is that the problem?
VetNet is a team of Mongolian Christians reaching out to Mongolia with the message of Christ through their professional skills. There are over twenty full- time team members and approximately eleven part- time workers. These include veterinarians, teachers, artists, economists, a lawyer, drivers�. reaching out through the gifts that God has given to each of them. Fifty to sixty short-term western professionals will also assist in the work this year. Short-term volunteers include veterinarians, university faculty and administrators, physicians, dentists, nurses, teachers, contractors, agronomists, students, businessmen, and others.
Thanks to Andrew Campbell for forwarding me the fabulous photo of the mounted Mongol rider, in perfect balance at the gallop.
© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal
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