Xato is off work at the moment because I’m a little concerned that he may still be having issues with his back. He has a chiropractor booked to come and see him in just under two weeks time and I don’t want to risk aggravating the problem if there is something up.
After Gavin’s visit four weeks ago Xato felt a lot better; his feet handling improved and he felt more fluid under saddle. However, I noticed that he was still resting a hindleg most of the time: while eating his hay, while standing still for any length of time when being ridden, and so on. Then at the weekend he had an obvious shortness of stride with his left fore and the hoof on that foot is also wearing differently to the other.
Our trimmer, Emma, came out to do the horses on Monday afternoon. Xato was much better than he was last time; he didn’t stamp on her and he didn’t snatch his feet away – until she moved on to his right fore. He swung his quarters round a couple of times, not attempting to kick, but almost trying to “sweep” Emma away – it seemed clear that he didn’t want her to pick that foot up, and was quite grumpy when she did. Interestingly, he kept wanting to rest his left hind while she was working on his right fore, but he was happy to stand on all three feet while she was working on the right hind.
While I was picking out his feet this morning, he actually tried to bite me when I moved round to do the right fore. That was the only “nope” he offered, and it seemed to me that it was more of a “pay attention!” rather than an actual attempt to make contact – he missed my backside by several inches! So I stood quietly for a few moments, my hand on his shoulder, before gently asking again and this time he gave me his foot and let me pick it out and spray it. He’s such a sweet and gentle boy, but it does make me worry that he might be hurting more than he’s letting on.
So today we just did some gentle in hand stuff. I walked him around both front paddocks – he hadn’t been in the corner one before and thought it very fine – and practiced our walk to halt to back-up to come forward. Then, as a special treat and because I was feeling a bit mad, I thought I’d take his headcollar off and let him graze. Admittedly I was interested to see whether I would be able to catch him again with all this lovely untouched grass on offer!
To my surprise, he didn’t immediately go for the grass or take himself off to explore the area like Marty would have. Instead, as I walked away, he came with me. I did a big loop, including heading towards and then away from the gate (his sticking point), completely enthralled by this unexpected response! It was only after I’d stopped, rubbed on him, and told him what a good boy he was that he put his head down and began to graze.
He didn’t go very far from me though, eventually working his way closer and closer until he was almost on top of me. Then something out on the road spooked him, and after he had (thoughtfully) sidestepped around me, he came up as close as he could and started tugging at the headcollar in my hands. I took the hint and slipped it on him!
Who knew that a mule could be so easy to catch?!