LTR Blog

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Prey or Predators?

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Are equines prey or predators? Although some trainers base their methods on the idea that equines should be approached as “prey,” this blog post by Sara Annon explains that the answer may not be that simple.

An excerpt:

The real lesson in this is that the predator/prey model of horsemanship is inaccurate. Rodents are prey animals. Horses are herd animals.  Their enemy is the weather (click here  and here). Horses die from hypothermia in winter, drought in summer, and starvation when grazing is scarce. Weakened animals are picked off by the occasional courageous wolf pack or lion. I say courageous because it only takes one quick smack with a hoof to break bones, and for a predator that is a death sentence.

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Sadie Wins PATH Intl. Equine of the Year Award

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HUGE congratulations to Sadie who has won the prestigious PATH Intl. Equine of the Year Award for Region 10 (CO, UT, WY, AZ, NM) and is also up for the International Equine of the Year award! We are so proud of Sadie who’s been one of our four-legged therapists since 2006! Next time you’re at Hearts And Horses, be sure to give her an extra pat!Sadie

 

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An Ode to Days Past, Colorado Burro Racing in Full Swing

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The following story is an excerpt from The Gazette.

IDAHO SPRINGS – Long ago before his long beard and long hair turned white, Bill Lee thought about what to be.

An oral storyteller, yes, because that, he felt, was a noble profession. That was needed in the ever- urbanizing West. But what to be?

“I decided on the mountain man,” said Lee, 67, reflecting in his log cabin, “because it was a really short-lived era in history.”

So he would go as the mountain man, fur coat and musket and all, to schools and libraries in towns up and down Interstate 70, to tell the kids about what used to happen in these mountains. And inevitably he would talk about the burro – Spanish for donkey – and he’d tell of the animal that was relied upon for toting supplies through the surrounding wilderness.

Toward the end, he would jump two centuries to the present. And he’d tell the kids about what they might decide to do with the burros one day:

Run with them.

Read the full Gazette article here.

The Elbow Pull

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The “Elbow Pull” is a self-correcting restraint that encourages the equine to use his entire body to go forward in a relaxed and correct postural frame. It promotes the stretching and strengthening of the topline and results in the hind legs coming well under to support the body and to keep the hind quarters (motor) providing active impulsion. In the “before” pictures, the equines are simply moving their front and back legs underneath the torso, but the torso is not really moving due to inactivity in the rib cage muscle groups. In the “after” pictures, you see that the equine posture has dramatically changed and now produces an active and “rippling” effect throughout the rib cage muscle groups (which can be seen in the moving videos). This is the basic difference between a really good dressage prospect and one that might be passed over.

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TMD Equine University Graduation Clinic 2016

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ADMISSIONS EXTENDED UNTIL JULY 31.

Click here to apply!

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TMD Equine University is an online school founded by Meredith Hodges and certified by the State of Colorado. Students engage in a full year of study in this two-semester program. The comprehensive equine study covers everything involved in the safe and enjoyable management and training of your equine.

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Our museum display affords students lessons in anatomy and its relationship to motion.

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Spa Day

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“Hey, Augie! It sure is hot…great day for a bath don’t you think?”

“Well, Roll seems pretty pleased after his bath looking in the window at
himself like that! Who needs a mirror?!”

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“Hey, Spuds! I found a gold mine of oats AND grass!!!”

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“A little WET, but not too bad!”

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“Oooooh! That water is kinda cold, Spuds! Shocking!!!”

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“Don’t pout, Spuds! It isn’t THAT cold and she will be done with you
in a minute! Suck it up!”

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“What’s up, Spuds? Eat your oats!”
“I can’t be BOUGHT, Augie!”

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“No Spuds, but you could cut off your nose to spite your face!”
“Hey, Mom…come back! I want the oats now!”

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“You’re lucky she came back, Spuds!”

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“We are two REALLY LUCKY guys, Augie! She’s the best!”

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What’s New with Roll? Bath Time

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WN-Roll070516-001Today 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.

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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.

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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!

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He knows his good behavior will always elicit an appropriate reward!

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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!

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Ours is a relationship of many negotiations. One of our regular deals is “He eats oats from the fanny pack and I spray!”

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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.

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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.

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Cleanliness is next to Godliness as my grandmother used to say! Thank you, My Friend, for a lovely day together!

 

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What’s New with Roll? Farrier

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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.

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The dead tissue is now only present on the lower half of his foot and the new growth is staying healthy so far.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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What’s New with Roll? Wash Mane-Tail & Farrier

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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Donkeys: The “Sinking” Reflex

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WN-DonkeySinking-001Donkeys 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.

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Equines of a Certain Age

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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.

Handsome elderly gentleman, Franklin

Handsome elderly gentleman, Franklin

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Photo: Donkey Sanctuary

 

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!

 

Click Here to Read more about Tootsie

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“Sir, Reporting to the Mule in the Red Sash!”

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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.25902287750_8dbfc2565c_z

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.

25902285630_b400ba5c24_zAt 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.

 

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Good Management Practices for Health and Insect Control

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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What’s New with Roll? White Line Veterinarian

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4/7/16:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Mules at West Point

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Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.41.14 AMMules 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.

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What’s New with Roll? White Line Massage

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Then she worked over the croup area where muscles can easily get strained in his back. Roll seemed to really enjoy his massage.

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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.

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Then it was on to the withers, shoulder and neck…

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…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!

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What’s New with Roll? White Line Farrier

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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.

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What’s New with Roll? White Line X-Rays

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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.

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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!!!

 

 

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What’s New with Roll? White Line Hoof Support

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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.

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Dean arrived today at 10 a.m. and took off the shoe that had stayed on very well for the full seven weeks.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Where Are They Now? Natasha McKinnon Update

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060519-A-5804P- 018 (1)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.

 

 

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