Ben is sound and healthy and seems very happy and content these days. He was a bit aloof when he first came here and somewhat wary in a quiet, stoic way. Dave tells me that he was always that way at his place too. Ben is coming out of that shell though as he adjusts to living here. I think he is thriving in a small, non-threatening, close-knit herd.
Ben strikes me as more of a lover rather than a fighter and he dislikes conflict or drama of any sort. I think he has spent most of his life at the bottom the pecking order and, rather than fight his way up, he stays on the edges and works to avoid confrontation.
The only exception to this is where food is involved as he was rather guarded and defensive about his food when he arrived. However, that faded once he realized that there is always something edible available to him here. He might have to go looking for it or work to get it out of the nets, but it is always there and that relieves a huge source of stress for him. He was terribly annoyed by the hay nets at first, but he has come to appreciate them.
I have also found all of Ben's favorite scratchy spots and make a point of spending time with him every morning, after his vitamin breakfast, rubbing his ears and scratching his withers. Now, instead of being aloof, he follows me around like a puppy and comes when I call.
Ben is incredibly sweet and lovable and even Ramsey is starting to accept him more - as long as he gets hugs and scratches at the same time Ben does. Ramsey requires two scratches for every one that Ben gets, which Ramsey thinks is fair since he is half Ben's size. That is donkey algebra for you.
Ben is gradually becoming a true part of the herd and the more integrated he becomes, the more relaxed and content he is. Ramsey would still like him to disappear on occasion, but much to Ramsey's dismay, Ben does not feel intimidated by him in the least. It drives Ramsey a little crazy sometimes, but he is working it out.
Ben is still very intimidated by Tessa, but she is the least threatening horse on the planet and she loves donkeys. He is gradually figuring that out, although he doesn't entirely trust it just yet.
All in all, I think that Ben is happy here and learning to be very content. He has also figured out that I have fallen pretty hard for him and he is learning how to keep me wrapped around his not-so-little ears. I think Ramsey may be giving him lessons in secret.
I've had several requests for an update on Ben's foot. In truth, I am not entirely certain what to think about the canker. The foot is looking OK with some decent frog growth. However, he still has this large crevice in the frog to the right of the central sulcus...
The crevice in the center is normal, although deeper than it should be, the crevice to the right is not normal. It should look like the left half of the heel....
Ben is completely sound on this foot and shows no signs of distress. In this odd crevice though,(which I have taken to calling the Troll Cave) is this one spot that still looks funky (that's the technical term).
That spot is nasty looking like canker, but is not sensitive nor does it bleed like canker. So, I am not sure if it is canker or, perhaps, scarring from treating the canker. I don't like the look of it regardless and I am not happy that the Troll Cave is not filling in with healthy tissue. However, I am not sure that cutting into it to remove the funky spot would be warranted at this point as there is healthy looking tissue under it.
Treating canker is not a straightforward or simple thing and I am groping my way through this, as everyone does. However, my instinct is to treat it as aggressively as possible without causing permanent damage.
The wet ground definitely seems to encourage canker growth as this funky spot only turned nasty looking with the arrival of the Fall mud season. I had left the foot unwrapped while the ground was dry, but the real Fall rains showed up in earnest this past weekend and all is wet, wet, wet. I have reapplied a liberal dose of Magic Cushion, which has worked well to fend off the canker so far, and I will be keeping the foot wrapped for the foreseeable future.
I will also be sending all of this to my vet to see if there is anything else I should be doing. Another round of the metronozidole/acetone concoction might be in order. Maybe more cryotherapy too?
With the soggy wet has also come some white line separation and some seedy toe. I have trimmed the hoof wall back with a strong bevel all the way around and the Magic Cushion should help with that as well.
The good news is that Ben is not at all bothered by any of this. He has plenty of nice concavity in the foot with nice thick soles and walls, which are all good things. Aside from the canker and the problems associated with being water-logged, he has nice feet.
It may be that keeping the canker in check will be an ongoing management issue rather than conquering it all at once. I am not happy about the idea, but it is not unbearable either. It is much like the ongoing management issues I employ to keep Ramsey's bad foot healthy. He too is sporting a wrapped foot today to protect it from the wet. Because of the missing chunk of coffin bone, he is prone to abscesses during the Spring and Fall mud seasons. I want to prevent further pain and damage to his foot so it is wrapped with Magic Cushion for the duration as well.
The boys will be sporting matching outfits, like twinsies.
I haven't talked much about Levi yet. He came to this farm about two years ago in very poor condition. That has changed and he is in excellent shape now.
Levi has a sweet and mischievous nature and would be happy to go looking for trouble if he thought he could get away with it. He'll test the boundaries just because he thinks he should, but he gives up happily enough because his heart isn't really in it. He and his person have worked out a fine friendship and have a genuine connection.
This is what his feet looked like on 8/28/16 when I first looked at them....
These shoes had been reset just a couple of weeks before and you can see that they sure weren't doing much for him. Levi was very sore and tender footed in these shoes and they were doing more harm than good.
Unfortunately, I did not get any more pictures at the time, but Levi's feet are, sadly, very typical of what I see around here. The foot is badly under-run, he has central sulcus thrush, the walls are long with very poor connection and his soles are paper thin.
If I had remembered to take pictures of those soles, you would have seen that the bottom of his foot was nearly convex rather than concave and the frog was prolapsed beyond the bottom of the sole. I know that if we had had x-rays taken, they would have shown a sole with only 3-4 mm of depth rather than the 15-20 he should have.
This is very common in this area because the ground is perpetually wet and soft. The soil is highly acidic and very deficient in both copper and zinc, which are needed to grow good feet. Feet like this are a by-product of our environment and the extent of the associated problems depends on the genetics of the individual horse. I have seen much worse than Levi, but there is a great deal of room for improvement.
My goals with Levi are to treat the thrush, bring the heels back and shorten the toes. This should allow him to grow in healthier, well connected walls, which will also increase the depth of his soles.
This is what his foot looked like on Friday after I had pulled his first set of Easyshoes....
Believe it or not, this is improvement. When we started, Levi's collateral groove at the back of his foot was less than a 1/4 inch deep and was a negative number at the front of the frog. Here, he has about 1/2 an inch in the back and 1/8 at the front. Dismal, but still an improvement.
I was worried about Levi when I did his feet the first time because his feet were so flat, I was afraid that even the Easyshoes would put too much pressure on his thin soles. Thankfully, the Easyshoes made him immediately more comfortable instead and he is striding out well in them.
As you can see in the above photo, he also has very thin hoof walls. I find it a bit tricky to clinch the nails without ripping them right through the walls.
I have been using copper-clad nails, which just came on the market a few months ago. I really like the copper because nail holes are generally a great breeding ground for bacteria and the copper prevents that. The copper nails are a little harder to use though as they are a bit less malleable. So far, I think the trade off is worth it and my clinches will get prettier with more practice (and thicker hoof walls). The shoes stay on - knock-on-wood.
I could have made the feet look prettier by rasping off more of the excess toe, but that would be cosmetic and do nothing other than thin the walls even more. I have set the shoe back far enough that the break-over is where it would be if this were a healthy foot. Doing that will help him actually grow a healthy foot. I prefer to leave the feet a bit ugly, but functional rather than pretty and sore. Levi doesn't mind and his opinion is the only one I really worry about.
I got an email from Levi's person telling me they went out driving down the gravel roads of the state land with his new shoes. It is the first time they have been able to do that this season because this is the first time his feet were not sore on the tough gravel of the Enchanted Forest.
That is what I like to hear.
I have had a couple of requests for an update on Ben's foot and I am working on that. I will try to have it ready in the next few days.
I went over to see Amos and Levi yesterday to work on their feet....
Amos is looking really good and is doing very well. It's a little hard to tell because the weather has turned vile and no one was precisely "photo ready", but you can still see a lovely horse under the mud:)
Amos is really coming out of his shell and his true personality, both quirky and charming, is coming out. He got a couple of apple flavored treats along the way and the whole time I was working on his feet, he was rhythmically slurping his tongue trying to get every smidgen of flavor out of each treat - like a kid with a lollipop. I've never seen a horse get so much out of so little and he had me cracking up while I was working on him. Silly boy.
Someone (Rebecca??) asked me if there was something odd about his hind legs. The answer is: sort of. He is a bit sickle hocked, which basically means that there is a little more forward curve in his hocks than is ideal....
...and his left hind bows out just a bit.
Technically speaking, these are conformation flaws.
Do they matter?
Since this horse is in his mid twenties, is completely sound, extremely fit and has literally thousands of hard-working miles on these legs, I sure don't think so.
Dave sent me a photo of Amos from before he bought him....
You can see that he was pure muscle with not a single ounce of extra weight on him. He was driving 30 miles a day and has done that for most of his life. We can all only hope to be as tough as he is at any age.
More about the feet coming up since I got off on a tangent with this post.....
This was Ben Hart from the UK donkey sanctuary working with this lovely white donkey. This donkey was pretty well convinced that he did not want his feet picked up, but he eventually did.
I confess, I took a bit of a liking to this donkey. he was quite a handful and had very strong opinions. I'm a sucker for those types. However, I made a point of not spending much time with these adoptable donkeys who were looking for homes. My barn is full and my hay supply limited so I avoided them. Sadly, I don't think this donkey found a new home and had to make the terribly long trip back to Texas.
These two beauties also made the long trip back to Texas, but at least they got to stay together. They were good buddies.
These smaller donkeys all got adopted and left for new homes here in the Northeast.
One of the highlights of the symposium were these mammoth donkeys who were there to give demonstrations.
A couple of them were offering rides and I skipped one of the classes on Saturday to do this instead....
It was a beast of a tractor and a real workhorse, but it had it's problems. I worked around its issues for a lot of years, but it finally got to a point where I knew a massive meltdown was looming in our future. After one particularly epic two week battle to complete what should have been a minor repair, I said enough and sold it. I sold it cheap, but consoled myself with the knowledge that I had avoided the major implosion I knew was on the horizon. The better part of valor and all that.
I still need a tractor to keep up with everything around here though so the search began to find a new dragon to help out with farm maintenance. I can't even begin to tell you all the twists and turns that went into finding a new tractor and the final result still has me scratching my head and pondering the mysterious ways of the world.
One of the stops along the path was this little Ford 3000....
It ran great, but it too had its issues. In particular, it had steering and hydraulic problems. It took massive amounts of brute strength to make it go in anything other than a straight line and would not hold the mower up while it was running, which meant I had to keep one had on the hydraulic lever and try to steer with the other. After 30 minutes of mowing, my mangled shoulder would be seized up, my hands would be numb and I would have exhausted an entire month's quota of swear words.
Dragons will do that to you.
This dragon and I did not get along so, I put it up for sale. And waited. And waited. And re-posted it. And waited. I waited all summer and had pretty much resigned myself to shipping it to an auction and taking my chances. I was about to delete the sale posting and, instead, my finger went to the the renew button all by itself.
The next morning, a guy called me up and bought it - just like that.
Dragons are unpredictable.
This is where Ben and hoof trimming comes in. Yes Ben, definitely NOT a dragon....
It turns out that Ben's last person is a tractor mechanic. I was over at his place working on trimming hooves and I asked him to keep an eye out for a tractor for me. A few days later he called me up and asked if I really wanted a new tractor. A friend of his had passed away last year and his son had gotten in touch about selling his father's tractor and was I interested?
And that is a very brief, very annotated version of how two years of tractor drama, mammoth donkeys and farrier work all came together in a mysterious, cosmic, mish-mash of happenstance and mechanical battles that would put St. George to shame to plunk this pretty blue dragon onto my farm.
Isn't she beautiful? Eat you heart out St. George.