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Erick Lundgren is a PhD student at Arizona State University conducting research on a previously unstudied behavior of wild burros—digging wells! With the help of ASU, he’s already gathered lots of interesting data about these wild burros’ water-seeking behavior in arid climates, but he is seeking more funds to continue his research during the summer. For more information, check out the video below and visit his Indiegogo campaign to support this interesting and important research!
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!!
Donkeys have a lot of behaviors that owners might find strange. One of these is dropping their spine, or “sinking,” when you put a hand on their back. Not all donkeys will do this, but many of them will, especially when they are young and or haven’t been handled routinely. I’ve personally had experience with donkeys sinking to the point that they’ll go down to the floor on their knees and bellies. You may also commonly recognize this behavior in cats and dogs.
In order to understand what’s happening, it is important to understand the intervertebral equine anatomy. “Intervertebral” refers to the opening between two jointed vertebrae for the passage of nerves to and from the spinal cord. When a foal is first born, their bones and cartilage are soft and flexible, and their nerves in these areas are hypersensitive —especially over the spine.
A foal that has not had the benefit of imprinting will be much more sensitive and generally reactive to touch than one that has been imprinted. Imprinting begins to desensitize nerve endings throughout the body wherever the animal is touched. However, the primary focus when imprinting is usually on the head, neck, ears, around the eyes, mouth, and down the legs, with only a passing swoop over the back and croup. Thus, the back does not get as much desensitization during imprinting and is largely ignored until grooming comes into the picture, and later, tack and equipment.
As the foal ages, muscles begin to develop under and around the nerves thanks to ongoing exercise. When muscles get harder and toned, though still maintaining their elasticity, they put pressure on the nerves from the inside of the body. You will start to notice that the foal that used to “jump” out from under your touch is now increasingly tolerant, and his reactions are not as abrupt and overdone. Foals that are more active in their exercise tend to be less likely to sink their backs, as their hardened muscles have begun to desensitize the nerves to some extent. Softer, untoned muscles do not affect nerves in the same way, so less active foals will usually have a more drastic reaction to touch.
With the right kinds of controlled passive leading exercises, the foal’s body can grow properly, conditioning muscles symmetrically and allowing the body to develop balanced equine posture. This conditioning allows for efficient movement, maximum blood circulation, internal organs working as intended, joints bending correctly, and nerve impulses firing in an unobstructed and healthy manner. When the animal is not exercised with good postural balance in mind, his way of going can be compromised. Though his unbalanced movement may not be apparent to the untrained eye, it can still produce pinched nerves and pain. If you have an animal that sinks to your touch, it is up to you to determine whether the reaction is a case of sensitivity due to minimal touch, or a more serious case of pinched nerves.
You can help desensitize your equine in a healthy way by continuing to imprint throughout the training process. Don’t just limit imprinting to a birth exercise, but pay attention to every phase and opportunity for touch. When grooming with the shedding blade for instance, pay special attention to the pressure over different places on your equine’s body. You can apply more pressure to fatty areas, but be sure to lighten up over the bony areas, as it can cause pain. Too much pressure over the spinal nerves will produce the sinking effect. When using your brushes over the body, be sure to use short flicks instead of long strokes. Short flicks induce more passive pressure over the nerves, which not only removes dirt more efficiently, but also provides more endurable pressure over the nerves that will eventually minimize your equine’s sensitivity. With these careful and detailed practices, the sinking effect will soon disappear.
These kinds of initial training practices will greatly enhance the training experience for both you and your equine. All behaviors, bad or good, arise from the way you do things with your animal, and you will only gain his trust when you make him feel good. When he feels good, his behavior will be good. Preparing him properly before asking him to carry tack and equipment, and later, a rider, will make the process much easier for him to accept, and will avoid the adverse behaviors and even painful or severe consequences that can develop without proper preparation. Be patient and always take the extra time to do the little things that will enhance your time together. It will be well worth the effort!
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!
Lucky Three Ranch knows a thing or two about elderly equines—miniature mule Lucky Three Franklin just celebrated his 40th birthday on April 1, and we’ve been happy to celebrate many of our other equines through their 20s and 30s.
That’s why we’re very happy to acknowledge Tootsie, a resident of the wonderful Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland, who is an incredible 54 years old—making him one of the oldest mules ever. The Donkey Sanctuary rescued Tootsie in 1992, and he is part of their “Super Grannies” group of equines that are all over 30 years old, who receive special treatment, feed, and love from the Sanctuary’s volunteers.
Curious about other historically aged equines? Longears have the opportunity to live particularly long lifespans, so there may be many out there, but here are a few we know about: Suzy, Rosie and Eeyore, donkeys who lived to be 54; Flower, who is believed to have reached the age 70; and Joe, a 45-year-old full-sized mule from Colorado Springs who’s still around today.
Wishing well to all of these sweet seniors!
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!
West Point Military Academy Press Release
“General Caslen, on behalf of all Army Rangers and the Class of 1975 and the West Point Society of South Carolina, we present you with Paladin!” said Steve Townes ’75, CEO and Founder of Ranger Aerospace LCC, who has been West Point’s “mule donor in perpetuity” for well over a decade. ( Since 2001. )
Four-year-old Paladin, whose name refers to 1 of the 12 legendary peers or knightly champions in Charlemagne’s court, began his West Point experience on March 31, 2016, reporting to Ranger III, now gray in his muzzle.
In a ceremony to welcome the Army team’s newest mule, Director of Cadet Activities COL Tom Hansbarger ’92 officially signed in Paladin, who had two green duffel bags tied on his back. Several notable guests were on hand to witness the event, including VA Secretary Bob McDonald, another member of the Class of 1975, and LTC Anne Hessinger, an Army veterinarian who served at West Point from 2003 to 2006 and is now an equine officer at Fort Bragg, NC.
Paladin, small in stature, posed calmly for a round of photos after reporting to Ranger III, the mule in the red sash, before being led across the street to the barber while onlookers cheered him on with a rousing “Beat Navy!” chant. Paladin showed his spunk though when he kicked out his left hind leg toward the barber who was trying to get close tom him in order to shave a big “A” into his hind quarters. “He’s just nervous, just like every other plebe on their R-Day,” remarked an officer in the crowd who was watching the event.
At the conclusion of the event, Ranger III and Paladin were loaded into horse trailers for a trip to Morgan Farm, where Paladin will spend his summer at his quarters. He will be officially introduced to the West Point Community and Army football fans on September 10 when Army West Point hosts Rice. The mule mascots will lead the team onto the field, carrying flags and interacting with fans.
Paladin, whose name was selected by the Corps of Cadets and approved by the Superintendent, is the third mule donated by Townes, a former mule rider and former Army officer with the 75th Ranger Regiment who has set up an endowment ensuring the Academy’s future mascots. Ranger III and his brother Stryker, Townes’s last donations, both reported for mascot duty at West Point in 2011.
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!!!
First and foremost, a routine grooming schedule at least every other week and preferably every week is essential for the hygiene of your equines. We use fly masks without ears on the animals that are sensitive around their faces and we spray with Tri-Tech 14 once a week for insects that will pester your equine. We NEVER clip the insides of the ears. Regular grooming once a week to remove excess hair, mud, etc. will eliminate places on the animal, including their legs, that would be subject to their laying eggs. We worm our equines in January, March, May, July and September with Farnam ivermectin and then break the cycle with Strongid in November to prevent the cycle of internal worms and parasites. Using Johnson’s baby oil in the manes and tails helps keep the flies at bay, helps to prevent “frizzies” and train manes to lay over, and will also keep other animals from chewing on them.
In order to keep flies and other insects under control, all stalls, runs and pens need to be kept free of manure and debris daily. Barns need to be cleaned periodically with disinfectant.
Fields and pastures should be harrowed in the spring, fall and between hay cuttings. Only rake hay when absolutely necessary before baling. Turnout fields should be kept separate from your hayfields. Do not use manure on your hay fields. This can cause an increase in weeds that can attract more insects since equines can pass weed seeds through their digestive tract.
Keep all tack and equipment clean so it does not attract flies to your tack room and grooming area. Spray the tack room when you leave with a household flying insect spray for any residual flies.
Here are several rules to remember for good management and insect control around your own farm:
1) Feed the right kinds of healthy feed for equines and know the differences for mules and donkeys. This requires some research on your part. Do a quick body check at each feeding.
2) Keep all stalls, pens and sheds free of manure (clean every day!) and routinely harrow your pastures.
3) Keep manure collection piles well away from your house and barns (we have ours hauled away weekly).
4) Keep all water sources clean with a weekly cleaning schedule.
5) Practice good grooming practices at least once a week. When grooming, do a complete body check on your equine to look for any oddities that might arise and treat as needed. If certain body areas begin to get sores (like Jack sores), scabs, or bumps, use Neosporin or if they are severe…Panalog, also called Animax or Dermalone by prescription from your vet. And, know WHEN to call your veterinarian.
6) Use Tri-Tech 14 by Farnam fly spray weekly for bugs and insects that can pester your equine. This seems to be the best and longest lasting. Herbal remedies and other sprays will work, but will need to be applied much more often.
7) Never clip the hair inside of the equine’s ears! The hair will keep out most insects.
8) Do not clip the hair on the legs unless you absolutely must for showing! The hair protects the legs from insect bites.
9) Use fly masks for those mules and donkeys that have sensitive skin around the face. Farnam Super Masks will usually fit most animals. You can find them in most tack and vet stores.
These simple rules will help to keep all your animals healthy and happy, and will leave you with a fresh and clean-smelling, nearly insect-free facility.
Mules have served as the loyal mascots at the United States Military Academy at West Point since 1899, as a symbol of heartiness and durability. This great video from Army Athletics details the history of mules both as mascots to the teams, as well as in service to the army at home and abroad. The video also follows the mules that are taking their place of honor at West Point, as the previous generation of the mule corp retires.
“Hey Spuds, where are we going today? What’s that over there?”
“Oh, it’s just the barrels. I remember ground driving through these!”
“This is my favorite part of the lessons, Augie!”
“What the heck does she want now, Augie?”
“Okay, I get it now Augie!” That was easy!”
“Now what is she up to? I have to work by myself?!”
“Spuds, I just can’t back between the barrels. I can’t see where I’m going!”
“I’ll show you how, Augie! Forward around the barrels? No sweat!”
“Back around the barrels in a figure eight?! Easy as pie!”
“And the reward is always just heavenly!”
“Oh good…something I CAN do!”
“Wheee! Now this IS fun!”
“I’m not too sure about these steps, Augie!
“But jumping sure IS fun! I am so glad she made us pay attention to good posture during training!”
“It was another great adventure, eh Spuds?!”
“Yup, it sure was!”
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!
The Cloud Foundation published an informative article and call to action describing the last viable herd of wild burros. This is an important issue to all who love longears and our wild equines. Please help be a voice for the wild burros.
The majority of wild burros in the US live in the deserts and mountains of Arizona. Quiet and deliberate, they are beautifully adapted to their surroundings and are some of the largest wild animals to be found in their desert home. Unlike wild horses that run from intruders, burros tend to size up a situation. It gave us an opportunity to quietly observe them.
Although protected by the Wild Horse and Burro Act, they are managed at token levels, far less than the herd sizes needed to guarantee their existence into the next century. The recent National Academies of Science Report included cautionary words “multiple populations (of burros) totaling thousands, rather than hundreds, of individuals will probably be necessary for long-term viability of species.” Genetic analysis of wild burro herds finds diversity levels lower than their endangered cousins in Africa!
Only one herd comes remotely close to the minimum required for long term survival and that is the one targeted for a devastating removal, unless we can convince BLM to reconsider. Over 1,000 burros call the Black Mountain Herd Management Area home. Scattered over the landscape, these hardy burro survivors can be difficult to spot and are wary of onlookers. 75 miles long and 13 miles wide in northwestern Arizona, the Black Mountain area is 1.1 million acres of volcanic mountains and sandy draws east of the Colorado River. It is nearly as large as the state of Delaware.
A lone jenny and her baby forage on brittle sticks and scanty vegetation. Like all burros they thrive on very little, and eat roughage that is indigestible to their cloven-hoofed counterparts. Burros are accused of competing with other animals. Yet, new scientific revelations in Arizona show vital ways in which they benefit other wildlife. Trail cam footage shot in August 2015 reveals burros digging for water. With their solid hooves they are better equipped to dig than cloven-hoofed animals like Javalena, mule deer, and Desert Bighorn Sheep. Even coyotes and domestic livestock (also cloven-hoofed) benefit from the well-digging wild burros. Burros are often blamed for destruction of fragile desert habitats when the damage is clearly done by humans. The tracks you see below are not burro paths but ATV and motorcycle trails sliced into the desert dunes.
Ignoring the real culprits of desert destruction, BLM proposes to remove nearly 3/4’s of the burros in Black Mountain, leaving a non-viable remnant. Let’s fight back for the burros. The last wild horse or burro range where management is primarily for wild horses and burros was designated 25 years ago. It’s time for the burros of Arizona to have a range designated for them and the other wildlife of the Black Mountains. Without protections, a roundup could destroy this last stronghold of the burros.
Let Arizona’s Congressional Delegation know you want a range for these icons of the desert in their State! Ask them to do the right thing today for the Burros of the Black Mountains. Stop the roundup. Create an Arizona Burro Range. Click here for a list of the Arizona’s Senators and Congressional Representatives. Respectfully ask them to request the creation of the Black Mountain Wild Burro Range. Stop the roundup!
Therapeutic riding has a long history of helping veterans with traumatic injuries, so when Meredith Hodges decided to focus an episode of her television documentary series on hippotherapy, she knew she had to include a Wounded Warrior. If you’ve seen the “Walk On” episode of Those Magnificent Mules, you may remember Army technician Natasha McKinnon, then 24 years old, who had lost her left leg below the knee following an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Under the supervision of riding instructor Mary Jo Beckman, herself a retired Navy Commander, Natasha was working to improve her physical movement with therapeutic riding. In the program, they used Army caisson horses and Natasha bonded with one equine in particular, named Mini. She describes Mini as “a big, white, comfy couch” who watched over her like a big sister.
Now 33 years old, Natasha has finally reached a place she can describe as her “new normal.” When we spoke, she had just picked up her diploma from North Carolina State University, where she’d recently graduated with a degree in animal sciences. Although school took a little longer due to some challenges, her determination and love of animals kept her pushing forward to achieve her goal. Armed with her new degree, Natasha is looking forward to working as a veterinary technologist, seeking more hands-on experience after concentrating on her studies in school. She says she would also like to work with veterans’ groups that use animals for emotional therapy and healing.
Today, Natasha can reflect back on her injury, acknowledging that it “lit more of a fire under me.” Like many returning soldiers, she says there have been mental and emotional ups and downs. At the same time, however, she says: “It puts things more in perspective; for me to really not take things for granted. I have to be more mindful of my physical well-being than ever before. I’ve been dealt this hand but I can still manage it.” New advancements in prosthetic equipment have also improved her outlook and her confidence, as she can acquire different legs for different purposes, such as walking and running. The technology is evolving, she says, and so is she.
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!
A recent article at the Chronicle of the Horse had us excited to share the story of Buckeye, an 8 year-old Appaloosa mule who has been showing off the versatility of mules with his skills in the arena.
When Buckeye first came to owner Christina Gregory, he was a little green under the saddle after being mostly used as a driving mule for an Amish family. After some initial work with Christina, he began training with 22 year-old Samantha (Sammi) Majors.
Sammi began him with dressage and earlier in the year he was impressing judges and scoring consistently in the high 60 and low 70 percents in recognized shows. This fall she decided to add jumping in preparation for a show. “He loves jumping. For a long time we would work on dressage stuff and school him over cavalletti, and he always loved it. We’d be doing a 20-meter circle, and if we went anywhere near the cavalletti he would try to pull me to it,” said Majors. “As soon as we started jumping he took an immediate liking to it. That’s all he seems to want to do now is jump, jump, jump!”
He recently returned home from the North Carolina State Fair Mule and Donkey show with plenty of ribbons, winning Most Colorful Mule class, Hunter Hack class, Coon Jumping, Pleasure Driving-Single Mule, reserve champion Pleasure Driving, the Turnout Class and Reinsmanship.
Today we honor the sacrifices that our brave enlisted men and women have made to protect and serve our country. Throughout history, mules have also played an important part, serving alongside soldiers. One occasion where their value cannot be underestimated was the Burma Offensive of World War II. The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) or more commonly known as Merrill’s Marauders was a US Army long-range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit. In addition to its specially trained soldiers, it also included mules.
The mules came from Missouri, Texas and Tennessee and were shipped to Calcutta. They were then transported into Burma by aircraft, and later in the operations were dropped from planes with special parachutes that consisted of an inflatable dinghy (in which the sedated mule would be placed) and attached to a triple cluster of three 28-foot silk parachutes. Mules were capable of being loaded and packed within 20 minutes of landing.
The terrain of Burma (modern-day Myanmar) was almost impossible for vehicles to transport and deliver supplies. Mules are well-know for their sure-footedness, self-preservation and hardiness and were the perfect four-legged soldiers. They packed weapons, ammunition, food and water, medical supplies, equipment and radios through a 700-mile trek of what was considered some of the harshest jungles on the planet.
The men switched between being muleskinners and soldiers and many bonded deeply with their mules by the end of the offensive. One soldier remembered, “We couldn’t have gone half the distances we did and gone half the places we did without the mules.”
Click here learn more about Merrill’s Marauders.
Foaled June 2, 1980, Lucky Three Sundowner was the last mule born at my mother’s Windy Valley Ranch and at two weeks old, the first mule to become part of my own Lucky Three Ranch. He showed successfully at Halter, English and Western Pleasure, and became the 1984 World Champion Reining Mule at Bishop Mule Days. However, his greatest accomplishment was to make it to Fourth Level Dressage after introducing Dressage to our Bishop Mule Days show, and after winning the World Championship at Third Level Dressage in Bishop in 1992 and 1993. (They did not offer Fourth Level.) He never really liked the Full Bridle and did all this in a Snaffle Bridle. Mules were not allowed to compete in the A.H.S.A.-sanctioned shows with horses during that time, so we were limited to schooling shows with horses to measure our progress. However, with his help, and with the help of other Dressage enthusiasts like Carole Sweet and Audrey Goldsmith, we laid a foundation with goals that were finally realized eighteen years later when mules were finally officially accepted into the Dressage Division of the United States Equestrian Federation. To date, “Sunny” is the only mule in history (that I am aware of) to be schooled at Fourth Level Dressage. He was working on Piaffe, Passage and Flying Lead Changes every two strides when he was retired at twenty-three years old…truly a remarkable friend and ambassador for his breed! This week, he finally crossed over the “Rainbow Bridge” due to a tumor that eventually prevented his ability to chew. He will be profoundly missed!