Memoirs of a mule
This summer has brought us lots of pleasure, we have been out and about doing fun rides and going places. Widget has taken everything in her stride and has been much admired. Her jumping is coming on and we did do some of the jumps on the rides. Not with any real style but we did get over.
I thought it was about time to hire a course to have a practice on so in October we hired Stockland Lovall cross country course. Mum came with us as the instructress and we set out towards the 100 odd jumps to go round. Widge saw what was coming before Autumn did and her pace slackened off, she was clearly unimpressed by the course. We got off to a good start over the mini section and then went on to have a fabulous day, Widge ended up leading over all sorts of jumps, we did tyres and ditches, and water. Then we did steps and coffins and gates. She took to it with a willing attitude and only stopped when it was me who was thinking ‘urgh this is a horrible fence!’ we noticed that a small crowd had gathered a field away, undoubtedly thrilled by the quality of horsemanship on the course, I suppose it may have been they had never seen a mule on the course but I like to think it was the former.
I realised summer had really gone when stripped off Widgets lightweight rug and suddenly found that she had grown a winter coat seemingly overnight. Now I must explain that I am somewhat of a rug fetishist and take enormous pleasure in rugging horses and indeed mules up to their eyeballs.
It is not unknown for the cry to go up in my household of ‘ oh no, not another blasted rug’ from a frustrated husband. When I lost my old horse he had somewhere in the region of 10-12 rugs. One for all occasions I liked to think. But as he was a good deal bigger then Widge and sadly I have had to start my collecting all over again. The main up side is that she takes the same size as the pony so at least they have interchangeable wardrobes. Lately I have been favouring a good think combo style, and lie in bed safe in the knowledge that she is warm all over.
However this hair development also allowed me to indulge in another favourite winter pastime, clipping.
I did the pony first, just a chaser for her as she is a bit old now and doesn’t do much work. Then I turned my attention to my mule. Now during the summer I had been running the clippers closer and closer until she was happy to have them all over her, and even let me put them on her ears. So after a night in the dry I tied her up and got the clippers. She watched me with the air of an animal who knows that this is not a drill, one ear was back but she stood still while hair started to fall away from her body. Now I had decided to do a high blanket clip as I was intending to do some work this winter and was going to take her our hunting. But I blame the hair in my eyes, I can’t accuse her of moving as she didn’t move a muscle during the whole process, but my lines went horribly wrong and I ended up with a hunter clip.
Widget was shocked into silence I think at the outrage of being naked, but I told her all the best mules were doing it. I don’t think she believed me as a long stony glare was all I got. However I was pleased as she was shining like a vision of beauty. Incidentally this is how I described her to hubby when I came in but all I got were gales of laughter, and him begging me to stop making such funny jokes.
I was pleased to see that mine were the first horses in the village to be clipped as we rode out, Widget being an amiable sort of person took her new look with good grace after getting over the shock and was pretty frisky that day.
But we were not able to enjoy it for long as she went lame a few weeks after. I was so surprised to find her unlevel I stood for ages just looking at her and wondering how this had happened. After a few lusty sighs and resting of foot I called the farrier out who diagnosed a bruise on her sole and told me to rest it. So out she went (rugged up well of course!). I checked on her everyday, and so did Brenda my pony’s jockey. But a week later we went to get them in and to my horror she was hopping on three legs. I was astonished that she could have gotten so bad overnight, having never had lameness in any of my horses before. And feeling like the worst mother in the world I made her walk down the road back to the yard. Leaving Brenda to see to the horses I rushed in and called the vet out. It was pitiful to see my beloved mule limping dejectedly around, if anyone has had a lame animal you know how it feels, I wanted to tell her to stop walking about.
So Brenda and I waited about for the vet to arrive, and were chatting when I saw a car drive past.
‘that’s the vet just missed us’ I told Brenda, she asked how I could tell and I struggled to explain that a vets car just has a certain look about it. Usually a nondescript estate, bit muddy and weighed down a bit on the back, just a vets car.
After a minute or two the vet came back and remarked on seeing Widge that he hadn’t seen a mule for over twenty years. He dug about in her foot and extracted some gravel from the wall of her hoof. Then he said that she probably had an infection and to give her antibiotics and let the pus ‘work it’s way out’ he left and I decided after several conversations that I wasn’t altogether happy with the visit but I would see how we went. Four days of antibiotics later she was still unhappy in her foot. I called the farrier again and he came out the next day. I tied her up and the farrier, after bemoaning the butchery the vet called cleaning the feet out, he set to work looking for the sore site. Her foot had quite a lot of heat in it and was testing sore all across her sole. Out came the knife and he started cutting, tense seconds ticked by as he tapped and cut and scraped. Once he thought he has found a black spot that marked the infection but it turned out to be a black spot and nothing sinister. The silence was broken only by the grunts and huffs of the farrier, the atmosphere was thick with expectation then all of a sudden Matthew shouted ‘I’ve got it, I’ve got it!!!’
I have never been so relieved to see pus in all my life. She had picked up something very sharp and very thin in her toe which had introduced an infection. I could almost see the relief in her face as the pus drained out and left her feeling so much better. The infection had been behind her sole and apparently a new sole will grow behind the old one and replace it in the future. We decided that the best thing to do was to leave the hole open for a bit to let the pus drain away, and to soak it in salt water everyday and poultice it for two days. However Widget had different ideas. I was very organised and got the hot water, Animalintex, bandages, tape and thick plastic all ready, tied her up and soaked the foot. Then lifting her hoof out of the water I put the square of poultice on, I turned to get the bandage and she whipped her head down grabbed the poultice and threw it across the yard and snatched her foot away and plonked it into a puddle of dirty water before I even knew what happened. Over the next few days she doggedly removed all bandaging and protective footwear that I put on. Most didn’t last the night. Then my mum hit on putting Vaseline soaked cotton wool on the hole to keep it from getting dirty. I duly followed the advice which worked well. My farming neighbour appeared with a Shoof, a plastic hoof cover that ties up over the coronet band. Overjoyed with this I put it on and turned her out as she was getting very bored indeed with being in. Well the Shoof lasted about 20mins, before it was sent flying across the field.
I know she was grinning as she disappeared round the corner.
However despite her best efforts to evade having her hoof treated she came sound and Matthew and I decided to put front shoes on to keep the hole covered and reduce the risk of getting rubbish up there again.
I was prepared for her to be silly about having red hot strips of iron pressed against her foot but to my surprise and delight she took it all in her stride, all she required was a handful of feed and my armpit to tuck her nose under.
So that brings us up to date really, she is basically sound but I have to keep the shoe clean or bits of dirt wedge underneath where the hole is, and has become rather noisy on the road, no more sneaking up on unsuspecting OAP’s. During the month that she was off work her coat has grown enough to warrant another clip, and I am planning to take her out hunting soon. Goodness only knows what the nice well bred horses will think of her, especially as she is bound to shout a bit. But I am looking forward to finding out!!!!