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  • Writer's picturelynnlittlebrookfarm

Nate the Mule

On Friday, June 15, Summer and her friend drove 9 hours round trip to pick up a severely neglected mule in Western NY.

Underweight, infested with lice, and barely able to stand due to the pain from an injured fetlock, Nate was an unbelievably good patient and tolerant of everyone's efforts to make him comfortable. At only four years old, it is nauseating that this animal has suffered so much from years of neglect at the hands of his owners.

Since Nate arrived late on Friday evening, June 15th, Little Brook Farm's amazing vets recommended that he be treated with banamine (a pain reliever) to try and make him more comfortable overnight. He did clean up 2 small flakes of hay and drank, but his pulse was elevated at 90, a sure sign that he was in pain.

Saturday morning, he had more banamine, fly spray applied and accepted a bit of hay from Kristen as Little Brook Farm waited for the vet to arrive and assess him. Generous donors committed to contribute to his care. The question would be whether the financial resources and the farm's commitment to Nate will be enough. The greatest love and the best health care in the world is sometimes not enough to reverse the damage from those who had him in their care before. It may be that it's not in his best interests to move forward - it has to be about Nate and not us, regardless of how much we want to see him heal and live his best life. He has suffered his whole life, never seen a vet, no vaccinations, not gelded, and never seen a farrier. If there's something that can be done, our vets will make it happen because they're awesome.

Saturday afternoon, June 16, 2018

- Vets were here over 2 hours for their initial assessment of Nate. X-rays show a great deal of calcification on the worst fetlock and it has no mobility.

- One question is how to attempt to trim him since he can't stand on the bad ankle as other feet are lifted to be trimmed.

- He's only four years old, so he'll continue to grow and gain weight, adding to the strain on his front legs

- He was given banamine, yet his pulse remained at 80, at least twice the normal heart rate of a horse/mule/donkey at rest, so we know he was dealing with a great amount of pain. Since he's spent years of his young life suffering like this, his heart has been working overtime.

- Pros: What he has going for him is attitude.

Our vets are going to send his x-rays out to see what may be available but his prognosis is very guarded. We're all hoping we can right this wrong, but it has to be about his quality of life and not our own agenda. This whole scenario is due to an irresponsible owner.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tried Previcox in a handful of grain for pain along with a serious dose of Banamine. His pulse was down to 60 from 80, but it's still too high. He's smart enough to take advantage of resting in his hay and eating while down. He can't continue very long like this but we're trying to make him as comfortable as possible until some sort of decision is made. We will do the best we can for him until the best we can do is let him go.

He has been treated for lice, he doesn't mind fly spray and he has food/water brought to him rather than having to drag himself around a large field trying to get enough grass. We can't believe anyone could watch this mule struggle like that for so long.

Monday June 18, 2018

Our farrier Peter stopped up to see Nate the Mule. He decided to see what would happen if he just tried to take some of the toe off. Peter couldn't resist an informal attempt... knowing to stay clear of those hind feet, which have a sophistication of movement we would never have guessed considering Nate's condition!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Here are two side by side comparisons of Nate on evenings 3 and 4 at Little Brook Farm (see photo below). His original heart rate was 80 on Saturday (very high), dropped to 68 last night, and tonight, evening 4, it is 50, approaching a high normal. An elevated pulse at rest indicates pain/stress. It's possible there's nothing to be done to help him but we need to know we can keep him comfortable while we take the time to look for options. We seem to have found the correct amount of pain medication, have trimmed his feet a tiny bit, rid him of lice, made sure he's had fly spray and we bring his hay/water/grain to him so he isn't forced to walk looking for grass. He's spending time resting, getting up and down easily. The second photo, a day later, shows a more peaceful expression.

Tuesday evening: Nate is enjoying all the attention and even nickered to the girls this afternoon. We're not sure what the plan is yet, but he's been with us 4 full days and it's obvious he appreciates the care he's never had before.

Wednesday: the vets came to the farm again to evaluate Nate. The prognosis was not good, and the consensus among our vets at Equine Clinic at Oakencroft and Rhinebeck Equine was that Nate would probably have to be euthanized. All of the vets we consulted with wanted to wait for x-rays of his right front leg in order to make a final determination, but Nate was likely not a candidate for a prosthetic leg.

*There are other vet visits for Nate between Wednesday and Monday, but we also had a serious emergency with Ivy, an OTTB who was transported to Rhinebeck Equine Clinic in the middle of the night on Saturday. Ultimately we lost her at 3am Sunday morning.

Monday, June 25th, 2018: The surgeon at Rhinebeck Equine called to say he had viewed Nate's x-rays for the right front leg and said it would be unfair to subject Nate to the surgery on the left leg when the right leg would not be able to withstand the added weight and pressure. At only 4 years old, Nate was underweight and malnourished, which meant he was at a huge disadvantage in his capacity to endure surgery. As a Belgian, as he grew and gained weight, it would only add to the stress on his limbs.

Our own vets warned that it was all a balancing act: the left leg was likely to snap as he gained weight, so we had to make a decision quickly for Nate's best interests.

That very night, Monday, June 25th, Nate's left ankle dislocated further, most likely from the weight he had gained over the last 10 days of careful feeding. The ankle was non-weight bearing and swollen. Dr. McDonald came immediately and, as we had worried would happen, the decision was taken from us. We had no choice but to put Nate down. We gave him a huge, forbidden bucket of grain as he was surrounded by Kristen, Lynn, Macy and the vets he had come to know over his 10 days with us. None of us had a dry eye, and we are so sorry we didn't know he existed sooner so we could have intervened with a different outcome. The abuse and neglect had such a huge head start that any of our herculean efforts couldn't catch up and it was not humanly possible to do anything more for him than we did.

He was loved, he won't be forgotten, and we have since rescued his brother and 14 members of his equine family in his honor.

Ivy and Nate are buried next to each other on our hill.

Ivy (Valiant Cause), OTTB + Nate (bred and neglected in a back yard) = equally honored and loved and resting together, from two wildly different worlds.

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