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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

15 mins ago

EIT | Te Pūkenga Professor Nat Waran (right) with a group of veterinarians, vet technicians, vet nurses, RDA and Pony Club volunteers and Veterinary Nursing ākonga (students) at the Napier RDA.

Horses in Hawke’s Bay that were displaced due to Cyclone Gabrielle will now be able to be traced as part of a microchipping initiative led by EIT | Te Pūkenga Professor Nat Waran.

Prof Nat Waran, Professor of One Welfare at EIT | Te Pūkenga created the EQuiChip initiative.
The initiative enables the equestrian community in Hawke’s Bay to take positive preventative measures to help reduce some of the risks and stress associated with being unable to find and identify horses if they are separated from their owners in unforeseen circumstances.

As the Chair of the Companion Animals New Zealand, the organisation responsible for the National Companion Animal Register (NZCAR), Nat is keen to increase awareness amongst responsible horse owners of the need to microchip and register their much loved animals so that they have a better chance of finding them if they are lost or separated.

“Although some far more impacted than others, Cyclone Gabrielle affected all of the Hawke’s Bay equestrian community. From pony club and leisure horse owners to elite equestrians and racehorse trainers.

Nat says while there were many stories of horses that had timely evacuations or were lucky to be quickly found, there were also those who were swept away by the flood water or trapped in silt, their whereabouts unknown.

“In the days after the cyclone, many of our community searched for their horses, posting desperate Facebook messages, circulating photographs for identification, and contacting the emergency centres. In circumstances like this, being able to more effectively identify a horse and its ownership through a microchip will help improve the chances of reuniting a horse and its human.”

Nat says the Hawke’s Bay equestrian community has pulled together to support each other over the past months, including getting behind the EQuiChip initiative.

“Whilst the project won’t change the impact of the devastating event that affected many local horse owners, we will, I hope, through this initiative, ensure that we are better equipped to protect our horses in future.”

EIT | Te Pūkenga NZ Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Level 6) Ākonga (student) Sophie Freeman with Vet Renae Griffin.

Megan Williams, the head coach for one of the local pony clubs, is a vet nurse for VetsOne and an EIT | Te Pūkenga veterinary nursing student who is completing the new degree .

Megan’s personal experience following the cyclone where she couldn’t locate her children’s pony who had been swept away by the flood water in Dartmoor Valley meant that she didn’t hesitate when asked to help with the EQuiChip days.

“It took three long days before very luckily our pony, Poppy was found alive. I would recommend having all horses microchipped and registered on the national animal register so that they are easier to identify and can be returned quickly to their owners. Fortunately, despite having such a traumatic experience, Poppy is home now and appears none the worse for it.”

Three free ‘one-off’ events have been held in Napier, Hastings and most recently at the Waipukurau Racecourse (August 12), with more than 150 horses and ponies microchipped. They hope to see more owners contacting their vets to have theirs done too.

“It’s great to have had such wonderful support from colleagues in MPI, SPCA, ESNZ, local veterinary groups – VetServices Hawke’s Bay and VetsOne and the BioTherm Chip manufacturers (MSD).

“We are also extremely grateful to our venue hosts – RDA Napier, Hastings Showgrounds (VetServices Hastings) and Waipukurau Racecourse – along with the many local volunteers from local pony and riding clubs, including the vet nursing staff and students from EIT | Te Pūkenga.”
Emma Martin, the programme leader for veterinary nursing at EIT | Te Pūkenga has been assisting with the events.

Leanne Harkness, EIT | Te Pūkenga eMarketing Coordinator, has also been heavily involved.
With seven horses herself, who were not displaced, she has been traveling near and far collecting donated hay and delivering it to owners in need for the past six months.

Sophie Freeman, who is in her final semester of the NZ Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Level 6), has gotten behind the initiative.

During her studies, she has been working as a vet nurse, and spent three weeks out in the field in the aftermath of the cyclone finding horses to “bring closure to families”.

“Obviously it’s hard when you’re trying to identify animals out there and get them back to their families. Especially when so many went missing. And we weren’t quite prepared to track owners down, which is why we’re doing this so we can have another way to identify them.”

While they did scan horses they found, not enough were microchipped.

Sophie has seven horses and says microchipping them is something she has always done. “We get our cats and dogs done so it makes sense to get horses done as well.”