Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Truth of the Matter

The truth of the matter is that my off hock is Not Quite Right. It is not Wrong enough to make me sad, or to damage my appetite, and it is not Wrong enough to prevent my noisily bucking and farting across the pasture just for the Muleness of it, or to prevent me enjoying a long-reining session, but it is Not Quite Right. My hock which was normal last winter and strangely inflamed without explanation or precipitating injury this spring is a Problem, this summer, with a capital P.

1.—It is swollen. My thoroughpin—a swelling of the tendon sheath which appeared on the outside of the joint (but which could be pushed through to the inside)—used to fluctuate between tea-bag size and consistency and golf-ball size and consistency. Now it is consistently hard. It is about the size of a golf-ball on the outside of the joint and about the size of a half-a-tennis ball on the inside of the joint, and firm to the touch. It does not give to pressure, unless I lift the hoof and flex the joint at which time the swelling becomes flexible.

2.—It is bothering me. I rest that leg more often than the other, and I am sometimes found resting either hind leg—but more often the left—in an unnatural "heel up" fashion: like option C in this drawing. (Begging forgiveness—I made this drawing myself, FarmWife being too busy, and hooves are less than perfect for the task of illustrating with a computer mouse.) A of course is a normal standing hoof and B is a normal resting hoof.

I trot soundly but at the canter I get a hitch in my step—pulling my bad hock up towards my stomach once in a while. I walk soundly. I am sullen under saddle (FarmWife, of course, dismounted the moment she made a connection and shall not ride again in the immediate future). I am jolly and cooperative during ground-work at the walk, of which we have done some. I am on paddock turnout; light exercise has not had a noticeable deleterious effect.

I went to the vet for this issue a couple of months ago, when it was new—he approved four weeks rest from riding, despite my having been very sound at the time, and recommended DMSO and Nitrofurazone in a 1:1 ratio applied topically to the area daily for a week. It had no effect on the size of the thoroughpin.

This week, FarmWife has been on the phone with vets and has, of course, stopped riding. She is putting DMSO and Nitrofurazone on the joint twice daily. This afternoon, she plans to wash my hock thoroughly and apply ice-packs with a new boot contraption. (Can you, I wonder, wear ice and a bandage over DMSO? We are guessing not.)

So, here we are. FarmWife has tried comfrey salves, light massage, hand-walking, cold-hosing, topically-medicating, and vet-going. There are apparently options for more invasive treatment (draining the area, injecting anti-inflammatories, etcetera), but our vet has warned that they are expensive, uncertain as to results, and often only temporarily helpful. We have not had X-rays. Should we? Would it be helpful?

Your thoughts, dear readers, are welcome. In the meantime, I have a beautiful harness due in the mail any day. If nothing else, we shall use it to keep me sane during this period of rehabilitation. It is much more fun, in my Mulish opinion, to be a lame driving mule-in-training than to be a lame riding mule-in-early-retirement. And finally—if WORST comes to worst, FarmHusband has agreed that we can find me a disciple at the New Holland auction if and when we move East. I can play Yoda to his Skywalker. In the meantime, though, help me out here—think positive.

Your (temporarily!) unsound friend,



  1. Fenway - New Holland is a swear word at my house - it is never mentioned! I too have a hoof issue - got all excited with the fireworks and wrapped my lead rope around my hoof - have some nasty rope burns. Doing the soak, cleaning and medicate routine!

    Your Fren,

  2. Fen,
    SO SORRY you are not yourself, and a hope that a solution to cure your problem is found quickly.
    But, pray tell, what is this reference to the Kill buyer auction?

  3. New Holland—a good place to rescue a mule. If it comes to pass that I am retired, we shall get me a sound friend and protégé to bring along as FarmWife's next mount. I, of course, shall remain in perpetuity as the Sovereign Leader of the Bent Barrow family.

    Buddy, don't let the humans take advantage! One carrot per minute of soaking is the recommended toll.


  4. FB,

    Sorry to hear you are in discomfort. But as you have a wonderful caregiver, all really will be well for you. Of course we would work if we could, but not working is really not that bad!

    Poor Farmwife... I hope she bears it more cheerfully than Mother bears my infirmity.


  5. Fenny I am sorry your not making progress. It can be a long process

    My horse Jay had poor hocks. Fusion can be a normal process, but unfortunately he never quite got on with it. Joint injections helped allay the discomfort but the fusion did not progress. He started getting some spurs which caused bony swelling. I knew he was unhappy in the eg when he started standing with that leg up and to the inside almost all the time.

    When he was no longer able to stand up to work and was quite unhappy all around, I sent him to Pullman and had a laser fusion on both hocks.

    The recovery was long, the right hock was quite bad, but after 14 month of R and R we started back to work.

    His gaits and ability were far superior to what he could do before , even far before he started having so much issue. After 5 months of gradually bringing him back to work, I put him in full training. His ability was better than ever. He , for the first time in a long time, consistently stood square with all 4 feet equal and balanced. When I saw that I knew. When he stood unevenly, I knew he needed a bit of a rest.

    He has moved on to have a wonderful life with a new Momma. I am so happy that I was able to invest in having this procedure done. He deserves a comfortable happy life and I have every hope that his new situation will allow him to be the good teacher and good friend he can be.

    My vet was Nan Haberman and she was compassionate and thorough. She only works on lameness issues and travels all over much of the area. I know she goes up to Whidbey Island and perhaps she comes further north.

    X rays are a must to get a good idea of how extensive the issue is. With that knowledge you can set up a plan. It may take much longer or there may be more than one issue going on. X rays help you make wise decisions.

    I personally would not recommend using DMSO under an Ice pack. If there is any foreign material on the fabric, that will be carried into the system DMSO can also be unfriendly on some synthetic fabrics. I had a nifty hock wrap with freezer gel inserts. It worked very nicely.

  6. Fen, I heard that it is not a good thing to cover over DMSO. Anything will be carried with it into the tissues. I am sending vibes for speedy recovery.

  7. You are all so kind! I had my hock thoroughly washed this morning and then actually managed to remain in an ice bandage for two hours off and on. I am also getting a new dietary supplement with MSM and glucosamine. We shall see!



Thanks in Advance for Your Mulish Opinion!