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,