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Helping Horses on the Gili Islands

By Amanda Drought

As an avid animal lover, and Dr Harry fan, my ambition to become a vet started from a young age. As I grew older this ambition stuck with me and grew stronger. My bi-cultural, Indonesian and Australian, upbringing allowed me to realise a large contrast in animal welfare standards between South-East Asia and Australia.

With each trip to visit family in Indonesia I became increasingly eager to pair my passion for animals, and my fluency in two languages, to make a change in the world.

A horse and driver on the Gili Islands
A horse and driver on the Gili Islands

I finished high school with an ATAR score to be proud of, but it was not high enough to gain entrance into the Veterinary Medicine course at my closest university. I decided to take a year off and gain some experience in the veterinary profession. I approached my local vet clinic, and after a week of doing voluntary work-experience, I was offered a permanent full-time job as an animal attendant. This was an invaluable opportunity for me. The vets at this clinic were ever supportive of my ambition and took every opportunity to teach me what they could.

A year later I made the big move from my country town of Bunbury to Perth, a two-hour drive away, where I would begin studying a Bachelor of Animal Science with the aim of transferring into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine course. This was an exciting yet scary time for me, going from living at home and having a full-time job, to living away from my family, with only a small amount of savings to support me for the foreseeable future.

I was incredibly fortunate to be awarded a Long Tan Bursary. It made an easier transition into university life.

Dental work on a horse can be tricky
Dental work on a horse can be tricky

The Long Tan Bursary helped put me in a better position, and I was accepted into Veterinary Medicine the following year.

I transferred to the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine course in my second year of university and am now in my fourth year of the course. Although extremely challenging I have been thoroughly enjoying the journey and am very eager to hit the ground running for my final practical year in 2020.

Amanda with a horse and owner
Amanda with a horse and owner

A highlight from my time at is a volunteer program in the Gili Islands of Indonesia. The Gili Islands are a small cluster of islands off the east coast of Bali and a popular tourist destination. Motorised transport is prohibited on these islands and so the local population has an ancient culture of using horse-drawn carts as their main mode of transport.

Each year a group of volunteer students, and veterinary professionals, spend a week travelling the Gili Islands. They provide free veterinary care and advice for the local horses and their owners. I am the first Indonesian speaking person to have joined the trip. Speaking Indonesian helps overcome gaps in communication between volunteers and horse owners.

Amanda and her father, a Vietnam veteran, on the Gili Islands.
Amanda and her father, a Vietnam veteran, on the Gili Islands.

I have now volunteered on the Gili Islands three times. I've been conducting a research project to study a thermoregulation disease that appears to have a high prevalence in the population of horses on the islands. I hope to be able to educate the local horse owners about the impact that this disease can have on a working horse, and help them find strategies to manage it, and thus improve the welfare and performance of their horses.

I think the key to making a lasting change to improve animal welfare is fostering good relationships with animal owners, and offering education and support in the proper care of animals. Horse owners are doing the best they can for their animals, with the resources available to them. I hope that when I graduate I can continue to spread this message and increase local veterinary knowledge on the Gili Islands for the good of the animals.

 

Amanda was awarded the Long Tan Bursary in 2015.

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