Marty and Xato’s tumultuous love affair has been interrupted due to the fact that I’ve taken out restraining orders against them both.
A little under a month ago, the herd moved over to the front paddocks in order to graze it down before the spring growth starts to come through. There is not a lot of space out there, and so I have split the herd in two during the day, when Iris is out, and at night (when Iris is in the stable, keeping Little Mare company) I was putting all three boys together in one paddock. Our herd is usually peaceable enough to coexist nicely in even the smallest space, but unfortunately Xato – though a sweetheart – is also an incorrigible antagonist and I would arrive in the morning to find evidence of midnight mayhem. Not wanting to risk them in the dark, I separated the mules overnight and only put them out together during the day.
Unfortunately, although I never actually witnessed any play between them, Xato was almost always ending the day with a ripped rug, or another chunk missing from his mane and tail, or a new and bloody wound on his neck. So both mules are now out with a horse chaperone and a fence between them; at least until they’re back in a bigger area.
Another reason for separating them is because they’re going to cost me a fortune in chiropractic work otherwise. Xato might bare the physical results of their interaction, but little Marty is clearly getting an equal battering. We’re quite sure that his mystery lameness was due to playing with Xato, as Little Mare’s owner reported that she’d seen him get one foreleg stuck over Xato’s back before falling over and landing on his nose. His back treatment from Celina Harrison last month got some of the kinks out, but she wasn’t able to get to them all because he was so anxious about it and we thought it unfair to stress him any further.
On Monday both he and Xato had a follow-up treatment, and although they had been separated for a couple of weeks by then Celina still found a lot of problems – most noticeably in Marty’s withers, which were apparently very sore and he was very cross about having them worked on. Celina suggested that there might be some old scar tissue in there, and that possibly a big golden nemesis* had got hold of him and dropped him on the floor, WWE style.
* I might have said it before, but I have adopted Kate Beaton’s Nemesis series as a Marty and Xato story.
Xato on the other hand is his own nemesis, and is under orders to do some pole and hill work to try and strengthen his core muscles and help stabilise his pelvis, which keeps dropping on one side and causing his issues with feet handling. I also hope that it will help with his steering issues, as the way he’s put together means he can’t really help but be heavy on the forehand. Good core strength will mean he can use his hind end better and help support that enormous head.
An interesting thing that Celina pointed out was that the bones of both mules, but especially Xato, feel much “bigger” and sturdier than a horse’s. She added that she would love to see what he looked like and, as morbid as it might be, I have to agree – it would be fascinating. I did a search on mule bones vs. horse bones to see if anyone had studied this, and found this interesting .pdf about anatomical differences between mules and donkeys. It mentions the (obvious) difference in the brow bone and the fact that donkeys have thicker, heavier mandibles. The donkey’s sacrum, spinal canal and coccygeal vertebra are also different, along with a host of other things that I invite you to check out for yourself in the article.
One other interesting thing that I read about in the article (though unrelated to bones) is that the donkey’s nasolacrimal duct is located in a different area of the nostril than the horse’s is. I wonder if this difference is what caused Xato’s nasolacrimal problems? I spoke to the vet again recently, and she said that only one other of her colleague’s had seen an equine with a missing duct – and that was also in a mule.