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See our draft mules, Rock and Roll at work and play in the latest LTR Presents video!
By Meredith Hodges
In Part 1 of Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, we learned about the discovery and rescue of Belgian draft mules, Rock and Roll, by Meredith Hodges and her team of experts. As the pair’s rehabilitation continues, the road to recovery gets tougher. But for every health setback, there is a personality breakthrough with these courageous and now-trusting gentle giants—and always a reason to hope.
By May of 2011, both mules were beginning to bond well with me and I was able to separate them during workouts. I knew I would have to develop a strong bond with Roll in case Rock didn’t make it, and we all knew the odds were not in Rock’s favor. Being alone with me in the round pen helped Roll to concentrate on the tasks at hand. His way of going was markedly improving with each new lesson.
Both mules could now square up properly and move in a much more balanced frame, although holding that balance was intermittent. The personality of each mule began to emerge and they became more willing to play games and to be touched and kissed about their heads. Rock was much more overt about his pleasure during the massages, and we could finally tell that they were beginning to trust us.
By mid-June, we were able to take the pads off Rock’s back feet and reset the shoes without the pads. He had grown three-eighths of an inch of sole on both hind feet and the rotation began to improve in one back foot. Both mules were feeling much better and were actually engaging in play during turnout. Next, we discovered that due to the concussion to his rear feet from improper use during driving in the past, Roll had side bones in his right hind foot. This caused him to twist that foot as it grew out between trims, so we put shoes on his back feet as well.
By that time, Rock and Roll were both looking magnificent! Considering the extent of Rock’s past neglect and injuries, he had gained incredible muscle tone and balance. His eyes were bright and alert, his coat was shiny and his feet were much improved (although they still exhibited a hint of chronic founder).
Roll’s fat and lumpy body had changed dramatically. Now his body was more symmetrical and balanced, and he also sported a shiny coat and balanced feet. His eyes were alert and his appearance of laziness had completely vanished.
However, by the end of July, Rock once again began to lose muscle tone over his right hip and his front feet became very sore. We thought he and Roll may have been playing too hard, which could have caused Rock to injure himself again, so we separated them into adjoining pastures during daily turnout. At night they remained in their respective stalls and runs, side by side. Custom-made boots were ordered for Rock’s front feet to help alleviate the pressure, but unfortunately we had to wait until the first of November for delivery of the boots. By the time they arrived, they were of use for only about two weeks before the weather changed. The wet snow and mud became packed in the boots, causing Rock too much pain on the dropped soles of his feet.
While Rock was on three weeks of rest during August, he developed swelling in his sheath. He was treated with an anti-inflammatory for two weeks, but the swelling didn’t go down. Since his front feet seemed better, I decided to resume his physical therapy. Although the structured movement helped the swelling go down, it migrated to the midline of his abdomen. After two weeks of hot packing the abdomen twice a day, the swelling finally disappeared. Because Rock was becoming stronger and getting up and down more often, he was beginning to develop sores on his knees, fetlocks and hocks, and “shoe boils” on his underbelly (pressure sores caused by his hooves when lying down), all of which needed to be frequently tended to.
In September, once again there was swelling on Rock’s underside midline, which also seemed to cause him to get weaker musculature in the hips. The swelling was hot-packed, and it disappeared fairly quickly this time. By mid-October, Rock was lying down for prolonged periods of time—unhealthy for an equine—so his support team of three veterinarians, two equine chiropractors, his equine masseuse and I got together to assess his condition. All 2000 plus pounds of his weight was being shifted off his three bad feet and onto his left hind leg, causing it to track behind the right front when he walked. We decided on a regimen of phenylbutazone (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), minimal exercise, plenty of rest and icing of his feet for 15-20 minutes twice daily. Things were not looking good.
No matter what was asked of him, Rock always gave it his all. We babied him through turnout, chiropractics, trims, and massage, but it finally got to the point where we could barely get his back feet off the ground to apply the hoof dressing. We decided to remove his shoes. That day, he was so weak in the hindquarters we could not replace them and couldn’t even trim the feet without running the risk of him falling down. We waited a couple of weeks before we trimmed his heels with the aid of a custom-made, six-inch equine jack stand. That seemed to help through November and part of December, but Rock still needed the Thrush Buster and Rainmaker for hoof health. He was able to tip his hind feet forward and let us have the bottoms of his feet for a few seconds at a time so the medication could be applied. Finally, he just couldn’t manage having his feet elevated at all—the pain was too great. Around this time, we noticed that the swelling had again cropped up in his midline abdomen, which led to another week of hot packing it twice a day.
After Christmas, I decided to resume a modified version of his physical therapy. Trooper that he was, he tried with all his might, but his hips were listing terribly to the left, and the first time he went over the three one-inch ground poles, he crashed into every one of them. His third time over, he grazed just one. When I put him back in his pen, he immediately laid down. I then noticed the bulging in the coronet band of his left hind foot. He was “sinking!” We immediately called the vet and he confirmed my fear. The lamina was pulling away from the hoof wall and allowing the bones to “sink” through the sole of Rock’s hoof. It wouldn’t be long before the other feet would quickly follow suit. It was clear that he was in agony and would have to be put down, so our vet came out the ranch, loaded Rock up with anti-inflammatory and pain medications and said he would be back the next afternoon.
Every day for a year, I prayed for a miracle for Rock and each time I prayed, he got better. I now wondered if God would give us yet another miracle and let him live—but it wasn’t meant to be. On December 27th, 2011, surrounded by his Lucky Three family, our beautiful Rock took his last steps. We all knew it was time for us to let him go. Rock was euthanized at home and died peacefully, with his head resting in my hands.
My vet Greg Farrand informed me that the president of Colorado State University had pulled together a team for Rock’s necropsy and the preservation of his skeleton as a teaching aid for the CSU Veterinary Sciences department.
When the necropsy came back, it showed not a single fracture of Rock’s pelvis, but rather multiple old fractures in the socket of the hip joint. The bottom of the socket was almost completely gone and there was a hole the size of a dime at the top of the socket. The head of the femur had no cartilage left and there was fibrosis and cysts full of fluid the entire length of the femur stem.
I have come to realize that our courageous and noble Rock gave us more than one miracle. He had been able to live one more year of life with a severely shattered hip joint and compromised femur. He proved that our balance and core muscle therapy can work wonders! And he lived long enough to give his half-brother, Roll, the chance to bond with people who will love and care for him for the rest of his life. Thank you and God bless you, Rock. We will miss you.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her new accredited equine university at TMDEquineUniversity.com and her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2012, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Meredith Hodges
I first saw Rock and Roll at the National Western Stock Show in January of 2010. The two Belgian draft mules looked enormous in the 12′ X 12′ stalls in the holding area. They had been rescued from slaughter at an auction in Kiowa by my two friends, Fran and Larry Howe, owners of the Bitterroot Mule Company in Bennett, Colorado. My friends explained why they couldn’t resist trying to help the two draft mules. They were the largest mules any of us had ever seen. Roll was supposedly 16 years old at 17 1/2 hands and Rock supposedly 17 years old at 18 hands. Both mules were severely underweight. Rock had recently been treated for abscesses, which required the removal of two molars. The two draft mules stood quietly, seemingly unaffected, as we stared in total amazement. A rescue attempt was certainly worth trying.
In August of 2010, I saw Roll again at the Larimer County Fair. Larry drove him in the single hitch classes and, when I was able to speak to him, he and Fran told me Rock could not come to the show. He had come up lame. Roll had put on weight and was looking better than he had looked in January; however, he still appeared to be stressed. Longears have been known to die from depression, so one of my main concerns was if Rock died, Roll could become depressed and might not live very long. Fran and Larry decided that this rescue was more than they could handle and asked if I would be interested in taking the pair. I agreed, and after we had quickly made a suitable space for them, Rock and Roll were delivered to the Lucky Three Ranch on December 5th, 2010. One look at the way Rock was moving and we knew this was going to be difficult at best.
Rock and Roll were obedient, but suspicious animals. Their eyes lacked expression and were cloudy in spots, and their coats were oily and dull, something that is not apparent in photographs. Their hooves looked irregularly trimmed and out of balance, with prevalent stress rings on all four feet of each mule. They had clearly been foundered more than once and their bodies were riddled with scar tissue. Roll listed to the right and walked with a twist to the right hind foot. Rock had to lift and swing his right hind leg to the side in order to walk forward. The leg appeared calcified and restricted in every joint. Neither mule could freely reach forward through the shoulders and hips, nor place each foot in a regular rhythmic fashion. There was muscle atrophy throughout their bodies, and their bellies hung from the spine, with no apparent musculature in the abdomen or over the top line. There was hope for some recovery with Roll, but when my well-respected equine masseuse, Joanne Lang, C.M.T. and I assessed Rock, we knew there would be limitations as to what could be done for him. We both knew we might be setting ourselves up for a broken heart, but for Roll’s sake, we agreed to try to make Rock comfortable for as long as we could.
Before beginning therapy, Joanne and I gathered all the information we could on Rock and Roll. This was not an easy task, as there were no registration or health papers, only the information that Bitterroot Mule Company could provide. The pair was not eating very well, and by the way he was turning his nose up at the feed, I suspected Rock might even have ulcers. Fran and Larry told me what they had fed the mules. I promptly took them both off the feed that would clearly be, in my experience, too rich for them and put them on our standard equine diet. Because both mules were branded, we were able to identify the brands as coming from the Hunt Limousine Cattle Ranch in Elizabeth, Colorado. We later discovered that the Hunt Limousine Cattle Ranch had obtained Rock and Roll when they were just three years old from an Amish Family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both Rock and Roll were out of sister Belgian mares, and by the same jack. Rock and Roll mostly pulled a wagon for birthday parties for 6 yr olds at the ranch. They also pulled the wagon for a nearby church so they could sing Christmas carols in the towns of Elizabeth and Kiowa, Colorado, and were also used to pull Grand Marshalls and other dignitaries in local parades. Rock and Roll, along with two other teams were well taken care of and loved deeply by the family who cared for the ranch. A ranch wife to one of the hands took the responsibility of scheduling routine farrier appointment s and vaccinations for them and ten other ranch horses. Unfortunately the ranch was eventually in a position in 2002 when they had to be sold. The family who cared for them was “heart broke and sad.” At that point, they were healthy and weighed 2500 pounds each. What happened after is still a mystery, but one thing was tragically clear—they were overworked out of good posture and not properly fed. Many people just don’t realize that even big draft mules need the benefit of a healthy diet and a specialized exercise program, especially before starting work in harness.
Within days after changing their feed to our crimped oats mix with Sho Glo, Mazola corn oil and grass hay only, the two mules’ appetites improved. There was a drastic change in their coats and their eyes began to come alive. We gave them a small turnout area just off their runs and along the county road, so they could watch the people going by and the cattle grazing on the other side. Rock would go into the corner of the pasture and just stand and stare for hours, not moving until he was called back in.
I noticed that Rock did not lie down or roll, but considering how neglected they had been, this didn’t really surprise me. Because of the muscle atrophy in his right hip, we decided that we should get started with Rock immediately. So, the very afternoon they were delivered, Rock got his first massage. He was tolerant of the massage, but we soon discovered that touching his face was out of the question. Both mules would shy away if anyone so much as raised a hand or made any small abrupt movement in their presence. We also noticed that Rock had a perpetual and distinctive worried “V” in his eyebrows over both eyes. A health check with our veterinarian was scheduled and we continued equine chiropractic, using the same equine chiropractor that was used when Fran and Larry first got Rock and Roll. After a couple of months of chiropractics, regular farrier and vet visits with massage and physical therapy done on a weekly basis, Rock was finally able to get down on his left side and roll. He and Roll then began to play!
Our farrier Dean Geesen came out to the Lucky Three and gave both mules their first official trims. Our support team agreed that it would be a long time before their feet would begin to look normal. During a farrier visit in March, we discovered that Rock had two old abscesses in his left front hoof. Dean was guarded about whether or not Rock’s hooves would ever be okay again. But Rock was a real trooper and although it was very difficult for him, he managed to yield all four feet when asked.
When our veterinarian Greg Farrand checked his eyes, he found cloudiness and thickening over the corneas. He was put on a regimen of eye drops three times a day to stave off chronic abrasion of the eye. Within days, Rock was chasing bunnies around the small turnout pasture—no more standing in the corner! Greg also did a walking palpation to see if he could determine what was causing the lameness in Rock’s right hip. He thought he felt a fracture on the face of the pelvis, but there was no way to really tell exactly what was going on. To find out for certain, Rock would have to be taken to Colorado State University, sedated and turned upside down in order for any necessary radiograms or ultrasound tests to be performed. We all agreed that this process would be far too traumatic for him. We opted to just be very careful and not to do any manual range-of-motion movements on that leg for fear of making it worse. Instead, I discovered a way to have Rock do range-of-motion exercises on his own during physical therapy and my adjustments worked well. Rock and Roll continued to improve. Roll even graduated from the leading core muscle exercises to the round pen core muscle exercises. Rock and Roll began to play and argue with each other. The pair seemed to be gaining strength and proprioception (body awareness), and both seemed to be feeling much better overall. After a very short time, both mules complied—on verbal commands alone—to correct their own balance and square up at every halt…because it felt good!
In mid-March, we had Rock’s feet x-rayed and it was found that there was 45 degrees of rotation in both hind feet. There was no rotation in front, although the front feet did have multiple stress rings, collapse of the hoof wall and were starting to exhibit seedy toes. Rock couldn’t stand on the four-inch blocks the vet used to x-ray him, so we made do with a couple of two-by–four boards. Even when the farrier worked on him, we would have to put Rock’s rear feet on an equine jack stand to trim him. After learning to successfully execute his balancing pattern during physical therapy, we noticed that the soles of Rock’s feet were beginning to wear away. When the x-rays came back, they showed that only a quarter of an inch of sole was left on the bottoms of each of his rotating hind feet. We then immediately got shoes on those back feet! We began a regimen of Thrush Buster and Rainmaker hoof dressing by Farnam on both mules’ hooves in order to help the hooves to begin to grow back in a healthy way. By April, Rock had grown three-eighths of an inch more sole on his hind feet and was actually trotting over his ground poles!
Now that Rock was feeling better, the worried “V” over his eyes began to disappear. He was actually getting up and lying down, but due to the difficulty he had, he began to get sores on his hocks that needed to be wrapped and tended with Panalog ointment. Although the sores were obviously very painful, Rock allowed me to wrap them and doctor them with little complaint. Once wrapped, he happily munched his oats reward for his stellar behavior and gently placed his forehead on my chest in a clear gesture of gratitude.
In part 2 of Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, Rock’s roller-coaster progress of victories and set-backs continues, as Roll slowly comes out of his shell and learns to trust us and—even more importantly—himself. Our regimen of compassion, patience and therapy goes on as Rock n Roll touch everyone’s soul by proving that they are ready and willing to give it everything they’ve got, right from their hearts.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her new accredited equine university at TMDEquineUniversity.com and her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2012, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
December 2, 2016
Roll’s bout with White Line Disease began on December 31, 2015 and did not look very promising considering we were dealing with a 3000 lb. animal with two-thirds of his hoof wall detached and full of fungus.
Dean Geesen, our farrier dug out all the fungus from the compromised hoof and cut away the seriously detached hoof wall.
Roll has recovered in record time with our due diligence and willingness to change up the program as needed. There is no cure-all for White Line Disease. It does have some protocol, but if you look back at our postings about Roll’s battle on my Facebook pages and in “What’s New?” on our website, you will see that things can change abruptly in a day.
When dealing with something like this, one needs to think “outside the box” to keep up with the changes and keep the foot on the right track to grow back properly. It takes a whole team: the owner, the handlers, the vet and the farrier working together. We were constantly assessing the shape of the foot, tissue condition, pressure points and balance in the affected foot and hid overall mental and physical health.
We watched the way he moved carefully each and every day. We had to assess how much he was compromising with weight distribution to his healthy feet and trimmed and shod them so they did not become damaged in the healing process.
We did supplement his feed with Hoof Power and would recommend it above all other hoof supplements to help accelerate hoof growth. Dean Geesen, our farrier was certain that it would take better than a year to grow back the foot, if it could even be done. After the first three months, he wasn’t sure that Roll would actually make it.
After today’s trim and a sound diagnoses, Dean admitted that he really didn’t think back in the beginning that he would recover like this. Thankfully, with the conscientious and diligent help from his management team, Roll got full hoof growth back in exactly one year and is now sound with four healthy hooves!
Roll continues to improve after a bout with White Line Disease that began in January 2016. The White Line Disease in his left hind foot is almost completely grown out now!
He is maintaining conditioning pretty much on his own with turnout since I did not want to add any stress to his routine while the hoof was still badly compromised. I was pleased to see that all the lessons that Roll has had for the past six years are firmly engrained in his brain.
Over the past ten months, I have watched him doing his straight forward walking exercises in good equine posture and he continued to square up every time he stopped to rest.
It truly has become his natural way of moving and kept the weight evenly distributed over all four feet during his recovery with the help of shoes on the other three feet to keep the hooves on the healthy feet from wearing unevenly from added weight-bearing.
After the initial onset that lasted about four months, we did use product on the hoof (betadine solution, hoof supplement, etc.) as it was growing out, but once we got past the “critical” stages, we just kept it clean and trimmed properly to promote even growth.
Everything looks great now, Roll is happy and he should be able to begin his lessons again soon!
When Rock and Roll came to me in 2010, they were both in dire straits. We were able to keep both of them sound from December 2010 to December 2011 and although Rock had a shattered hip, with our core strength postural training exercises, he only needed Bute 3 times during that year for a five-day stretch. Roll was able to graduate from the postural leading training to lunging in the round pen and later ground driving. He met his final goal of being ridden around the hayfield, but had a set-back with White Line Disease in his left hind foot that began in January 2016. Roll is now 23 years old and the White Line Disease is practically all grown out now.
I could not be happier with his progress! Today Roll got the shoes replaced on three of his weight-bearing feet and a trim on the left hind.
We put shoes on the three feet so that the balance of the feet would not be compromised as he tried to keep the weight off the injured foot. Our concern was the other three feet could become unhealthy if the weight was unevenly distributed.
The affected foot is growing out nicely and we figure we only have two more trims until he is completely grown out.
By paying attention to the weight-bearing surfaces, we were able to control not only the way the feet were growing, but the musculature in his body as well. He could very well have developed uneven muscle conditioning over the past seven months. Because of his core strength leading exercises and the changes we made in his body before he got the White Line, he was able to sustain his strength and good posture. At twenty-three years old, he continues to improve with each new day!
Today was the perfect day for a summer bath. Roll is feeling well and his left hind foot has nearly grown out from his bout with White Line Disease. During the duration his White Line Disease that began in January, he has not spent one lame day.
Every time I clip Roll’s bridle path, it is an exercise in frustration, but he exhibits great patience with me as I stretch the skin and clip over the deep scars between his ears. Someone must have taken the idea about “hitting a mule with a two-by-four” quite literally.
The mule that used to hide behind his partner Rock, trusts me completely and even enjoys the cool water on his face on a hot day!
He knows his good behavior will always elicit an appropriate reward!
Roll likes his Wonder Blue Shampoo and doesn’t even mind a bucket of soapy water in the rear! He knows it makes his tail REALLY PRETTY and remarkably swishable!
Ours is a relationship of many negotiations. One of our regular deals is “He eats oats from the fanny pack and I spray!”
In the summer, one needs to be aware of the eggs that the flies lay in specific spots on each of the mules. They LOVE Roll’s lower legs! A Shedding blade and a Bot Block are about the only things that will remove the sticky eggs.
Using a regular hairbrush, I use Wonder Blue Shampoo to bring out the buttery whiteness in Roll’s mane and tail. In this photo, you can see how well the left hind has healed so far.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness as my grandmother used to say! Thank you, My Friend, for a lovely day together!
Our farrier, Dean Geesen, came out again today to check on Roll assisted by Lucky Three Ranch Manager, Chad. We let Roll go a little longer between trims this time to help with the healing of the White Line Disease. He is making good progress and has a lot of new hoof growth on his left hind. He is having no trouble bearing weight on it.
The dead tissue is now only present on the lower half of his foot and the new growth is staying healthy so far.
We have been fortunate to be able to keep him in good balance over the foot to prevent any more abnormal hoof growth and to promote healthy hoof growth. We put shoes on the other three feet to keep them from wearing unevenly during the healing process.
What we have been doing has worked well. We opted to continue with shoes on three feet and to leave the White Line foot without shoes for one more stretch. We don’t want to compromise the foot with any nail holes quite yet.
Even with all his issues, Roll has yet to experience one lame day since he first arrived at the Lucky Three in 2010. The White Line Disease began in January, so we are making good progress in a relatively short time. Thank you all for your prayers for Roll!
It was a beautiful spring day today, so I took advantage of the warm weather and washed the dirt and baby oil out of Roll’s mane and tail before our farrier, Dean Geesen began to work on him.
Then I went over his body with a regular hairbrush that pulls most of the loose underneath hair out. The hairbrush works better than any other shedding tool because it does not cut or damage the hair. We only use the shedding blades when the equines have mud on them and to scrape off excess water. He seemed to enjoy getting his mane and tail cleaned and his coat “aerated!” He sure looked amazing when I was done!
Then Dean took off the boot on his left hind so we could see how the White Line Disease was doing. He has grown substantially more hoof and is staying balanced on it with our efforts on his behalf. Dean noticed that Roll is now putting pressure on his heel and a bit of pressure on the medial side of the hoof and on the toe.
The boot, although taken off twice a day and dried out, appeared to be holding in more moisture than it was before, so Dean suggested that we let him go without the boot and see how he does. We thought he might stay drier now that the weather has been sunnier and drier overall. We are still getting intermittent rainstorms, but Roll prefers to stand inside his stall in the sawdust, so it may be that he can go without his boot…at least for a while.
We did see a drop of blood on his sole and his sole was responsive to the hoof tester, so that confirmed for us that there is still circulation in the hoof…a really good thing! We were wondering about that.
We did have to put the boot on his left hind while Dean worked on his right hind because now that he was “feeling” the sole, it was too much for him to bear all his weight on that hoof alone. We took off the boot afterwards, before we put him away.
Dean had reset the right hind foot with the borium shoe to keep him from slipping and putting undue weight on his bad foot. That also seems to be working very well to keep his weight evenly distributed over all four feet.
Brandy and Jubilee were curious about what was going on with Roll and the farrier as they passed by on the way to their lessons.
All in all, staying flexible and attentive to his needs and all your prayers are helping Roll to get through all this quite nicely. I can only hope this good fortune continues for Roll’s sake!!
Roll has been coming along quite well with his White Line Disease. He has been growing a new foot at a rate of about 1/8” per week and is gaining ground. My Ranch Manager Chad had found some thrush around the frog during the morning check. He cleaned it and applied iodine to the area. However, we noticed that the lamina growing beneath the old hoof wall at the toe was beginning to curl upward. So, we contacted our veterinarian Greg Farrand to come out and take a look.
We had concerns that it would push on the old hoof wall which could put torque on the new hoof wall above and possibly cause it to begin to curl up as well. This would result in irregular hoof growth that could result in uneven pressure and an unbalanced foot. If this occurred, it would result in an imbalance throughout his entire body that could put 3000 lbs. of pressure on the damaged foot and impede our progress with him.
We went from changing the neoprene in his boot every other day to checking it twice a day to brush out any debris and to dry it off so it wouldn’t be SOAKING wet all the time.
We took off Roll’s boot and Greg began by testing the hardness of the new growth. We were concerned that it was getting a little soft with our wet spring weather after the snow had melted. It was sunny, warm and dry today, so when he tested the hardness with his little hammer, it was not as soft as we had thought a few days before.
Greg cut off the old dead lamina that was curling up and then trimmed back to healthy tissue. He did this to keep it from separating and tearing off which could possibly causing further problems.
After Greg pared off the dead curling lamina, he checked the sole growth for infection and there was none. Then he finished paring the dead lamina around the affected sole. Greg checked for a cavity between the new hoof growth and the old hoof growth to make sure everything was sound.
After paring what he did, we were left with healthy tissue and no further measures needed to be taken. He recommended that the farrier trim his heels down since he had not been trimmed since February 26th.
We are now scheduling our farrier, Dean Geesen, to come out to trim him again as soon as possible. We will continue the same protocol and be ready and flexible to promptly handle anything else that might come up in a timely fashion for the best results. Things are still looking positive.
We wanted Roll to go as long as possible in between trims because we didn’t want to put too many nail holes in his damaged right hind foot. Today Dean Geesen came out and trimmed the foot after our veterinarian had the opportunity to check the foot yesterday.
Things are looking very encouraging for Roll as long as we don’t hit any serious snags. The foot is growing at a rate of 1/8” per week and is producing healthy tissue and no more separation that we can tell. We opted to get him trimmed and then just wait another month and x-ray the foot again to make sure there are no hidden issues.
We were changing the boot every other day when the weather was drier, but now we are taking off the boot and cleaning the hoof twice a day, then blowing it dry with a hair dryer to help keep out the spring moisture that was beginning to produce thrush. The trimming gave us the opportunity to trim down the heels a bit to get him backed off his toe and to re-balance the foot. We are happy with his progress so far.
Roll continues to stay sound! The key to his entire treatment has been to frequently assess the progress and then be willing to be flexible in any changes to the treatment that we might have to do. Being proactive like this is definitely the key to success in Roll’s treatment!
Roll had his shoes replaced on the two front feet and the right rear today. Dean was very pleased to discover that on the left hind that has White Line Disease, he is growing hoof back at a rate of about 1/8th of an inch a week! We are encouraged that even though we are looking at months of recovery, if we can keep him balanced, he might actually make it! I am convinced that the balancing of his body and core strengthening exercises he has been doing for the past six years has really been the primary reason for him doing as well as he is. He weighs 3000 lbs. and that is a lot of weight to put on a damaged foot. Without the balance, the dispersement of his weight could have been irregular and put undue pressure on the fragile and damaged pieces left of the hoof wall. This could have caused a complete collapse of his hoof. This is always a consideration, so we are checking him regularly and will be replacing the Styrofoam pads with neoprene support pads in his boot every other day going forward after we can get them. The Styrofoam pads are wearing out too quickly. The other three feet are holding up well with no real signs of additional stress. He has yet to have one day of lameness at all since we got him in 2010. He is happy and showing no signs of pain. We will just continue as planned and make adjustments to our approach as needed.
Roll hasn’t had a massage in quite some time, so we thought he was definitely overdue. I think he thought so, too! Roll is still happy and not showing any pain. This is encouraging.
He has had quite a struggle with White Line disease and we are being very pro-active in his treatment. Today we checked his foot and he has more new growth which is encouraging, but we have had severe and very wet weather lately which is causing the new growth to get a little soft.
We checked with the vet and short of keeping him penned in his stall (not an option), we are limited in what we can do. We opted to have the vet come down and take a look for himself and not just look at the pictures.
We agreed that it might be beneficial to clean his foot twice a day and then dry it off before putting it back into the boot. This could help some. The switch from Styrofoam to neoprene inside the boot is working much better.
Joanne, our equine masseuse, started by working on both of Roll’s hips since that is where he is having the most trouble with weight-bearing, but so far, he is staying balanced even with his severely damaged foot. The pressure remains centered on his damaged foot and is not listing one way or the other. This is a good thing!
Then she worked over the croup area where muscles can easily get strained in his back. Roll seemed to really enjoy his massage.
Joanne massaged the insides of his legs to relieve the gaskin muscles…and into the flank area. Since we do regular “imprint” touching with him all over his body, he was less touchy in these areas than he might have been otherwise and actually enjoyed the relief she provided for him in these areas.
Then it was on to the withers, shoulder and neck…
…but when she began massaging his face, he was in pure ecstasy!!! Roll continues to improve and we are hopeful for a reasonable recovery. Thank you all for your prayers and support!
On February 25, we discovered more White Line Disease on the medial side of the foot. We also discovered some strange growth that looked like new hoof growing out of the front of the coronet band and continuing around both sides of the hoof in a uniform fashion. It was pliable which caused some concern, so we opted to follow up with x-rays today.
We weren’t sure about what was really happening with this foot. So, we called veterinarian Greg Farrand to come to see this new development and get his input. I clipped the area around the coronet band so we could see the new growth clearly.
When Greg saw this, he thought he could be trying to slough the involved hoof wall and trying to grow a new foot. We thought more x-rays would be in order to determine if the old hoof wall was dead tissue and if the new hoof wall was healthy and not detached.
Greg prepped the area with Barium/Mineral Oil beads to identify the band between the new growth and the old hoof wall so it would show up on the x-rays.
Roll was so sweet and cooperative as we asked him to get back up on his blocks again. He stood like a trooper! But then after going through our sequential training program, he should and does. The x-rays showed that the new hoof growth was healthy and that there was still live tissue in the old hoof wall. This was very encouraging news!
Roll has yet to have one lame day since he came to us, so we all agreed that things looked good…at least for now…and that we should continue forward with his boot and Styrofoam protection.
We realize through this treatment process that we need to be alert, notice when things change and be flexible and willing to alter our plans at every turn. Roll is certainly appreciative as are we for all your support and prayers! And he is appreciative for a lot of extra oats as well!!!
Our farrier, Dean Geesen, came to check Roll on February 5th and took off the protective tape and cardboard that we had protecting the exposed inner hoof. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand suggested that we discontinue the Providone-Iodine treatment because he was afraid it might dry out the inner hoof wall too much and could cause deterioration and further damage. So we proceeded forward with just hosing the area every other day to keep it clean.Dean arrived today at 10 a.m. and took off the shoe that had stayed on very well for the full seven weeks.
He began trimming the foot and found that Roll had contracted White Line on the medial side of the same foot, only it was not nearly as advanced as the lateral side that had been pared with the hoof wall removed.
Roll did have over a half inch of growth in the foot which was a good thing. He pared away the part of the hoof wall and dug out the White Line fungus. Then he noticed that Roll was growing rather odd looking tissue along the coronet band.
Dean said he had not ever seen anything like this, so we called Greg and he said he would not be able to come to us until the end of the day, so we put a pad over everything and taped it to his foot for protection until the vet could arrive and help us to assess these strange new developments.
Greg showed up a little after 5 o’clock p.m. and we began our discussion. Dean thought the foot might be dead after no sensitivity reaction to the hammer.
We were all concerned after removing the Styrofoam and tape that the issue with the coronet band would be serious, but upon inspection, Greg thought it looked like he was just trying to grow a new hoof. We opted to set a date next Tuesday to do x-rays to make sure that the new hoof was not separating.
Then we looked at the imprint of his foot on the Styrofoam that had been taped on all afternoon to see where the pressure points were and it looked like the way he stood on the foot had adequately supported the coffin bone.
Rather than using the tape to adhere the Styrofoam support, we decided to try using Rock’s old custom-made easy boots and just put the Styrofoam pad into the bottom of the boot. The boot fit and we cut the Styrofoam to fit inside of the boot. We will routinely check to make sure it stays thick enough to do it’s job and maintain the correct pressure to the bottom of his foot and change it as needed.
We determined that perhaps there was only nerve damage in the foot that was causing the non-reaction to the hammer. We agreed that there could still be adequate circulation to the foot or he would be lame if the hoof was dying. And, he has not had one lame day since he come to us in December of 2010.
We ended this session and all agreed to meet for the x-rays on Tuesday of next week to obtain more information and determine our plans going forward. The very last test was to see how he walked with the Styrofoam lined boot. We would need to check to make sure the straps don’t rub and cause an issue. If they do, we plan to pad them with rolled cotton. This is quite a setback, but there is still HOPE!!! Keep the prayers coming… they’re working!
We got the team together again today with Roll to assess what we were going to do going forward. The hoof wall did what we hoped it would for eight days and stayed intact with daily cleaning and new wraps, but it was now beginning to get stress marks at the heel. We knew that without adequate circulation to the area, it would no doubt begin to deteriorate. This bought us some time, however to brainstorm for a solution to the support problem going forward.
Our support team arrived including veterinarian Greg Farrand, farrier Dean Geesen, assistant farrier intern Lance, Ranch Manager Chad Leppert, assistant ranch manager Steve Leppert, my assistant Kristen Florence and me. We discussed whether or not to resect the hoof wall.
How we did this was an important consideration. The nippers could cause torque that might result in cracking. We discussed whether or not to use nippers only or a dremel, or both.
We discussed what kind of support would be needed from the shoe and we were concerned about the limitation for nailing the shoe onto the hoof since he does not have much foot left to nail to.
We finally decided to use both the nippers and the dremel. Dean first nipped away at the hoof wall in very small increments with both the straight nippers and then in the smaller areas with a rounded narrower nipper.
When he got all that he thought he could safely done with the nippers, we then went after the edge with the dremel to create a smoother line that would inhibit cracking.
Then Chad cut down the custom made the shoe to fit what was left of his foot. We opted not to go completely around the toe, leaving it and the left side open and covered the hoof across the heel instead.
Dean put a bead of borium on the shoe at the toe of his opposite foot for traction and it was useful the minute we took him out of the Tack Barn and onto the snow leading to his pen. As he stepped onto the slick snowy surface outside, the good foot did slip, but he was able to catch himself with the Borium bead.
We talked about doing a test to see what kind of circulation he had in the foot and decided it wasn’t really feasible to do it. Roll has side bones and ring bone in the foot and that alone would produce irregular circulation patterns in the foot. Therefore, the test really wouldn’t reveal anything that would be helpful at this point. We opted not to do it.
We also talked about doing an ultrasound on the connective tissue to make sure we had cleaned out all the fungus, but again, it really wouldn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already suspect to be true. The main concern was if there was any more fungus left in the foot, but after resecting the hoof wall and cleaning the affected area, we could see with our own eyes with the help of the x-rays that there was nothing left to ultrasound.
We put Roll’s foot onto the hoof stand, checked it once more and then Dean set the ¾ custom-made bar shoe with minimal nails that he and Chad had made.
He then taped cardboard over the affected area with gorilla tape to keep the glue away from it. Once that was in place, he then applied an extra-hardening glue to the bottom of the foot to hold the pad in place. This would lend more support to the hoof and allow it to do its job more closely to normal giving the sole and frog a more even surface of pressure.
Once the glue was in place, he put on a tough blue pad to provide some support to the sole and to help hold the shoe in place. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand suggested that we brush out any dirt and debris that adhered to the foot every other day as the pad and cardboard were compromised. Then we would just cut new cardboard and wrap the tape back around the affected area to keep most of the debris out of the affected area.
We had to use both minimal nails and glue together to keep the shoe in place and we will try to go 7 weeks before re-shoeing if possible. Our local farrier supply house, “Oleo Acres” recommended using the supplement Hoof Power made by Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center in Forest Lake, Minnesota to help accelerate hoof growth. We opted to use Providone-Iodine to clean the affected area every other day as Greg said the concentrated “White Lightning” was better to use at the onset and for a shorter period of time. As we go forward, we will be sure to continue to share our experience with all of you. Please continue to keep Roll in your prayers.
Only five short weeks ago, Roll’s hooves were in good shape. When we brought him up to the tack barn today, he was not at all lame.
However, when our farrier Dean Geesen arrived this morning to do his hooves again we found that Roll had some fairly advanced symptoms of White Line Disease in his left hind foot. I am just happy that we were able to catch this fast-growing fungus as soon as we did.
Our other equines are not getting done as frequently as Roll was. We opted to do him every five weeks instead of every 6-8 weeks because of the severe founder he had before. We wanted to be sure to keep his feet balanced so that any hoof growth would not begin to offset that balance. There is no telling how far this fungus would have progressed in another 1-3 weeks!
I am so happy that I kept a copy of the article that appeared in the American Donkey & Mule Society’s Brayer magazine in the July/August 2007 edition about White Line Disease. I have kept all issues because here is a wealth of useful information in the Brayer Magazine that now serves as my Longears-Equine Encyclopedia! We called our veterinarian Greg Farrand and he was able to come to the ranch quickly to help assess the situation.
Roll’s left hind foot had a gap in it after Dean cleaned out the fungus of about 4” along the outside of the foot from back to front by ½” wide and almost 1 ½ inches deep. Dean said he had not seen a case of White Line in Colorado in 13 years. Typically it manifests itself in more humid climates, however Colorado has recently been unusually humid as we experienced with fungus in the hayfields earlier this year. It was a very acute and severe onset!
It was so wide and deep that my Ranch Manager Chad could get his finger into the cavernous space. It was a real concern that it had gotten this bad in such a short time.
We had shoes on Roll’s hind feet to keep him from dragging them and wearing down his toes. Keeping a shoe on the left hind foot was not going to be an option since there was nothing to nail the shoe to on one side of his hoof. We talked about whether or not to cut away the affected hoof wall. Since Roll is a draft mule and has such large feet, we decided that keeping the “cavern” clean would not be too difficult, so we opted NOT to cut away the hoof wall right away. He would need all the support left on that foot for as long as he could get it. A smaller foot would have to be pared away immediately to treat it effectively.
We wanted to salvage the hoof wall to keep his overall balance and the balance of his feet intact as much as we could. We decided that it would be better if we just didn’t put any shoes on the back again rather than causing an imbalance by shoeing the right foot only.
For the first five days, we planned to clean the “cavern” daily, rinsing it with iodine astringent, packing it with gauze dipped in the iodine and then well wrung-out to prevent too much moisture from collecting in the affected area. When dealing with astringents and the like, it is advisable to wear gloves! We took measurements of the hoof so we could accurately monitor his progress. Since this is to be a daily process, we are grateful for Roll’s impeccable manners and cooperation!
We talked about whether or not to use an “easy-boot” to hold the gauze in, but decided that duct tape could do the job nicely. It would be easy to replace daily and would not trap moisture like the “easy-boot” could because the duct tape would erode as he walked on it. This would allow the air get to it and keep it drier to promote healing.
We also decided that it might be prudent to be proactive and put shoes on his front feet since he will no doubt be throwing his weight forward if the White Line Disease begins to cause any pain. Right now, he is sound and not lame at all. That is definitely encouraging.
This process will need to be repeated every day for as long as it takes for the foot to be rid of this fungus, but instead of using the astringent iodine, soon after the initial four days, we will x-ray him to get a baseline and make sure we know what we are dealing with. Then going forward, we will use a more diluted form of iodine like Providone-Iodine, Betadine or a product called “White Lightning” that has been developed specifically for this purpose. According to our veterinarian Greg Farrand, these are all antiseptic rinses and any of them should work fine.
The prognosis is encouraging. We know we need to make sure the “cavern” is cleaned out thoroughly each day and the gauze and tape are kept clean upon application. This is a long-term therapy and will take 14-18 months to grow back out…if it can. Although White Line Disease is very similar to thrush, it is not a stable management issue like thrush. The onset is quick and there does not appear to be a consistent explanation as to exactly where it comes from. To be pro-active, we added a few more inches of pea gravel to his run so that when the snow melts and the mud mixes with the old pea gravel, we won’t have mud to pare out of the “cavern.” The pea gravel is less likely to mesh with the fungus and should be easier to clean. This is just the beginning of yet another challenge in Roll’s journey and we will do follow-up posts to keep you informed on Roll’s progress as we usually do. Roll would truly appreciate your thoughts and prayers!
At 21 years of age, Roll has worked hard since December of 2010 when I saved him from slaughter. He is now able to carry my weight and go for jaunts around the hayfield monthly with a buddy in addition to his milder weekly exercises.
Roll thinks Brandy, another rescue, is pretty cute! She’s a “Mini-Me!”
Today, both Roll and Brandy are both being tested without their “Elbow Pulls” to assess how much of their own good equine posture they can maintain. Roll was actually more consistently engaged and rounded over the to line than Brandy.
We stopped to look at the horses that were running in a nearby field.
Although Roll was still twisting his right hind somewhat from bearing most of the weight from the other three compromised feet, he still maintained a decent posture and continued to step well underneath and stay rounded over the top.
His reinback was slow, but accurate and submissive.
Roll enjoyed riding past the Jasper Bunkhouse! Lots to look at!
Roll and Brandy matched their pace as we rode past the bronze statue that commemorates the famed Lucky Three Mae Bea C.T.’s accomplishments in Combined Driving and Combined Training.
Roll begins to “pace” when he gets tired, but he still matched Brandy’s pace through the “Mule Crossing.”
All in all, both mules did fairly well without the “Elbow Pull,” but it was clear they would still need it’s support for future rides for a while longer. Roll is staying sound and seems much happier to be able to get out in the wide open spaces for a change!
It’s been almost five years since I rescued Rock and Roll. Roll was a real nut when I first got him. He would hide behind Rock and looked like he would spook and run away at any minute. I was convinced that Rock lived that whole year from 2010-2011 to make sure that Roll would have a good home without him. Roll is a whole lot calmer now and much more trusting. His physical condition is incredibly improved with our slow, sequential and logical approach to training. I knew he would never be able to pull anymore heavy wagons or even carry a heavy rider and with the side bones and ring bone, I never really expected him to stay sound and be able to carry me under saddle, but he has attained what I thought in the beginning were very high goals. This is no special training approach…it’s what we do! Rock and Roll were the ultimate validation of my entire training program! He now stands quietly while mounted in the open driveway for the very first time …
…flexes laterally at the poll on his own with the slightest of rein cues…
…walks obediently forward with a slight squeeze from my legs upon request…
…is not fearful nor tense and resistant while going past scary things anymore…
…keeps pace with his riding partner with rhythm, cadence and regularity of gait…
…walks freely forward with impulsion, keeping slack in the elbow pull at all times…
…is relaxed and comfortable in his work…
…bends correctly through his rib cage…
…trots easily upon request…
…stays “on the bit” and has good muscle tone throughout his body…
…and knows exactly where to park at the work station when the ride is completed! At twenty-one years old, he just keeps getting better! Look for “Rock and Roll: The Story of a Rescue” in the “Mule Crossing” section of my website for the complete story.
This morning Roll had lots of fun reading Training Mules & Donkeys: A Logical Approach to Longears. He’s always up for posing and this day was no exception. We just strolled down through our longears sculpture park where we found a bench that would allow both of us to read comfortably. Roll is in good health and has almost finished shedding his winter coat. It was really too hot (in the 90’s), so any strenuous exercise was definitely out of the question.“This looks like a wonderful idea on a hot day! Lolling around in the lush green grass with a canopy of glorious fire maple trees overhead in the sculpture park is much cooler and a peaceful place to be.”
“This looks like a nice place to relax… a nice bench for you and plenty of room for me.”
“Hmmmm…I hope she doesn’t think I can do that! I’m much too old for jumping!”
“Ah, yes! That’s more my speed! Practicing good posture while ground driving the hourglass pattern is fun and feels really good!”
“Trail obstacles? That could be fun, I guess, provided they are well built and can hold my weight!”
“We’re all done with our studies already? Do we really have to leave now?”
“Oh well, if we’re just going to the other side of the fence for turnout, I guess that’s okay!”
Before and after his recent trim…
After four years of conscientious therapy and specific attention to nutrition, hoof care, appropriate core muscle exercise, chiropractic and massage, Roll has been transformed and has not spent one lame day since he arrived despite the presence of side bones and ringbone.
When Roll first arrived on December 5, 2010, he was foundered in all four feet with severe muscle asymmetry and atrophy. The founder is now grown out and his hooves balanced. The goals I set for him would be simply to be able to be ridden around the hayfield and possibly even pull a light-weight two-wheeled cart.
Roll began his therapy with a shift to our feeding regimen, regular multiple leading and ground driving exercises first without and then with the “elbow pull” and finally with work in the round pen.
Finally, after four and a half years of work and a brief introduction to the under saddle work in the arena, Roll got his chance to be ridden in the hay field and loved every minute of it!
Well, here we are again… me and Roll back out of shape and trying to get going again. I think age is a factor for both of us! I had visions of him being able to do five rotations at walk each direction and ten rotations at trot in each direction, but it didn’t exactly work out quite that way.Roll did a pretty good reverse although he had to hesitate and think about it first.
Tracking right, he engaged with a very slow walk with practically no impulsion and the trot was okay, but not energetic. The weather was cool which DID help.
In the other direction the walk became somewhat more animated and the trot was satisfactory.
However, he was only able to do five rotations at the trot in each direction before we were BOTH out of wind! He was so willing to give me what he had that I saw no reason to push it.
We will continue to build our wind, stamina and muscle going forward during the better weather ahead. Still, Roll is holding his core muscle strength in good posture and just naturally falls into the four-square position every time he stops…all on his own! He continues to be a happy and affectionate draft mule!