Marty and the Mystery Malady

I had thought that my mules were getting along better; last Monday, the three boys spent their first night out in the same field together and no one lost a limb. I’d turned the mules out with Iris and that went well, too. I was no longer arriving on the yard to see Xato antagonising / being antagonised, so I figured they’d sorted out their grievances and that their play was being toned down a bit.

Xato and Iris went out together for the first time a week ago. The first thing Xato did was stick his nose in Iris’ lady bits … she was not impressed and told him so, very loudly. Good girl!
Unimpressed mare is unimpressed.

“Buck you,” says Marty.
Ah yes, the “grab each other’s hamstrings” game. At one point they were both stood there, holding onto each other’s legs, and not moving a muscle. It seemed to me like it was a bit a “what now?” moment.
…So Xato decided to sit on Marty’s head and win the game that way.
And then a little bit of drama – but this whole session lasted no more than 5 minutes (as opposed to the 45+ I’ve seen them play before), and since that day I haven’t seen them do more than a bit of a headshake or a dirty look. I do spend a fair amount of time with them so I assumed they’d calmed down.

Unfortunately, on Saturday morning Marty was very lame. He was so lame, in fact, that he did not want to walk over to his pen for breakfast; and when he did, it was with a very slow, very careful way of moving.

I checked him over and could find no obvious cause. He had no heat, no swelling, and when I manipulated his afflicted leg by bringing it forward and moving it back, he showed no sign that he found it uncomfortable. Mules are known to be extremely stoic, but Marty is not a stoic mule! If he even suspects that something might hurt, he will make sure you know about it. Another way in which we’re similar.

The wheelbarrow is a much coveted prize and the source of many disagreements.

Having weighed up the pros and cons of calling the vet out on a Saturday and dealing with the possibility that the vet on call might be male*, I decided to keep Marty in his pen for the rest of the day and see how he went. Luckily, I still had a box of painkiller left from when we thought we might try him on a bute trial but ended up opting for an xray instead, so he got a second breakfast with that in and then a couple of big nets of hay just for him. Poor Xato didn’t get much of a look in that day and was feeling very put out – I almost expected him to be faking a limp when I later returned!

* I have nothing against male vets – Marty, on the other hand…

Marty was much better by evening, but I wasn’t keen on sticking him out with Cash and Xato overnight. I wasn’t sure whether he’d stay in his pen as he’d be unable to see anyone if the boys wandered away, so I decided that stabling him was the lesser of two evils. Iris and Little Mare were in anyway, and could keep him company. It was the first time he has ever spent the night in a stable, and I’m pleased to report that he did extremely well! Ben and I thought this was a good opportunity to try it; better now, when his ailment wasn’t serious, rather than finding ourselves in a bad situation if anything ever happened that meant he had to be stabled.

I think it also probably helped that it was a very wet, windy night, and Marty – who hates the rain – was given the chance of appreciating a few hours spent between four solid walls.

Oh yeh – I was able to halter him, in the dark and the rain and the wind, while wearing my scary rustly rain jacket, and bring him down to the brightly lit yard with no issue at all. He has made so many improvements in the last 5 months! I am extremely proud of him!

Anyway, he was more or less sound by the following morning. We had wondered if he had an abscess, but there was no sign of one having burst during the night so his lameness remains something of a mystery. I turned him out with the herd and he remained sound all day. It’s something to keep an eye on, however! Xato is sporting a couple of bald patches on his neck so it’s entirely likely that the two mules had a scuffle just before I arrived on Saturday, and Marty perhaps tweaked something that got better with rest.

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