It seems to me that the boys are trying to one up each other in as many trifling ways as possible.
For example, last Wednesday we had our EP, Emma, out to trim the herd. As I mentioned last week I wasn’t sure about Xato’s hindfeet, so I’d told Emma that if she didn’t want to trim them then that was absolutely fine – safety is paramount. However, I was fairly confident about his fronts. He had been getting a little bit better each time I handled them, and I’d also made sure to bring him down to the yard to have his feet picked out: I remembered how long we spent working on feet with Marty, only to find that he didn’t associate the stable yard with a place where his feet could be handled! As far as he was concerned, feet were only picked up in the arena or, sometimes, in the field. I didn’t want to meet the same problem with Xato.
Forty minutes later and with one stomped toe (Emma’s, not mine), I was beginning to regret thinking that his fronts would be easy. We didn’t even attempt the hinds as we were running out of time and still had the rest of the herd to do, but I imagine he would have been just as bad.
Marty was third in line, and he strolled in like he was king of the world and allowed Emma to trim every foot without issue. He didn’t even flinch when she accidentally dropped a rasp directly behind him – something that would once have sent him into orbit, and put me in his bad books for days.
Unfortunately, Xato has white line disease in all four feet and Marty, it turns out, has an infected frog. These are both things that mules and donkeys are prone to, and I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t experienced them up til now.
This means that I need to treat their feet daily, which isn’t a huge problem; I’m going to have to handle Xato’s feet daily anyway, in the hopes that he’ll have improved by the time Emma returns to do his hinds in a fortnight’s time. But I’m also looking after Little Mare, who needs meds twice a day, mucking out etc. twice a day, and bandages changing daily … plus all our own chores … oh, and Xato has conjunctivitis so he needs eye drops administering twice a day too!!
It’s fine, it’s not like I have a job to go to or that we have limited daylight hours … oh wait. Remind me again why I got into this?
So anyway, here is the current leadership board:
- Having feet trimmed: Marty 1, Xato 0
- Most diseased feet: Marty 0, Xato 1
- Amount of daily work required: Marty 0, Xato 1
- Easiest to lead: Marty 1, Xato 0
- Easiest to handle, feet: Marty 1, Xato 0
- Easiest to handle, in general: Marty 1, Xato 1 (though both in different ways)
- Ability to clonk handler on head with own head: Marty 0, Xato 1
- Most affectionate: Marty 1, Xato 1
So as you can see, they’re currently drawing level. Marty might be slightly ahead in the affection stakes, but then again he has been with me for nearly three years and he knows by now that this is as good as it gets. Xato is friendly and sweet by nature, but he doesn’t yet think that I’m important enough not to bump into – he’s holding out hope for a better, nicer human who doesn’t insist on picking his feet up or dress him in silly rugs.