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MULE CROSSING: Driving Activities


By Meredith Hodges

With the introduction of the automobile came decreased interest in horse-drawn vehicles. Tractors replaced equine-driven vehicles in the fields. It seemed as if equines had been put out of a job! But, as with any change, this was only temporary. Modern society still has need of equine participation, especially from donkeys and mules. The well-schooled driving donkey or mule is much safer and more reliable than any horse. The reason for this is the donkey and mules’ natural sensibility and their positive response to verbal communication. Once they have learned the parameters of their job, if treated fairly, they will calmly and diligently go about their business, flicking their ears back and forth toward the driver, always listening for verbal reinforcement of their behavior. In a pinch, they can more often be prevented from “freaking out” with a few calm and reassuring words. Their strength and durability enables them to work longer and harder hours than can a horse and their variety of sizes and colors provides them as suitable driving animals for a number of driving-related activities.

Most often we see driving animals in parades. Although it seems simple enough to drive down a parade route, there are a number of things to consider that can complicate the issue. Parade routes are lined with potential hazards and an overload of outside stimuli. Horses that become spooked have been known to bolt and actually run right through crowds of people. I have yet to hear of a donkey or mule that has done such a thing! Perhaps it is because the donkey or mule will not run into trouble if he can possibly avoid it. He will also be more likely to rely upon his driver for support and direction through the safest route. He will stop if in doubt of a situation when properly trained. Mules and donkeys are familiar with teamwork and will work as a team with their driver. The frightened horse just says, “Forget you!” and leaves!

Driving competitions are becoming more popular than ever these days as a number of different types of driving classes are being made available to contestants. For the really serious competitor, there are pleasure, obstacle, and Reinsmanship classes in which to measure one’s progress in performance.

As the competitor improves, he may move into marathon driving, testing his skills across country and through obstacles (called hazards). The driver may use singles, or teams, depending on his personal preference. The American Driving Society has been more than generous, allowing mules and donkeys to compete in most of their events right along with the horses. For more fun-loving competitors, there are a lot of different driving games, gauged for the ability of the competitors. This allows even the most inexperienced driver some source of enjoyment from which he can derive a sense of accomplishment and excitement.

For those who want to enjoy a nice day in the country with their animals, there are rallies and organized picnic drives. This type of driving is more relaxing, but no less rewarding and satisfying than competitive events. Awards are sometimes given at rallies for coming in closest to the optimum time, but the pace is usually quite leisurely! Your donkey or mule will love the alternative to showing and will enjoy the activities as much as you do.

Mules and donkeys are used in many tourist areas, pulling cabs and carriages of all varieties, taking tourists in a more leisurely fashion through the streets of history and tradition. Couples can romantically celebrate special moments in their relationships with a relaxing ride in a special cab or buggy. The sensible mule or donkey assures a safe and romantic memory that will stay with you for the rest of your life! We have used our mules to pull carriages for weddings and receptions, adding a touch of class and a little tradition to an otherwise fast-paced and chaotic world!

Because of their thoughtful and affectionate nature, donkeys and mules are ideal candidates for handicapped and disabled drive and ride programs. They are not as abruptly spooked as horses, and are therefore less likely to unseat a disabled rider, or run off with a disabled driver. Horses have fared reasonably well in riding programs for the disabled and handicapped, but are not really reliable enough for driving programs of this kind. This is where Longears can excel! Mule and donkey drive and ride programs, such as the Slade Centre at the Donkey Sanctuary in Great Britain, afford disabled and handicapped people the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of nature by offering them more mobility with the assistance of a new “friend” who is gentle and affectionate. These “friends” replace hopelessness with joy and fulfillment, helping to make life worth living!

Driving itself is a wonderful recreation for just about anyone, from the smallest child to the eldest grandmother. Driving donkeys or mules gives you that extra sense of security in an otherwise potentially dangerous situation. Driving a donkey or mule can provide a companion and friend to otherwise lonely and unfulfilled persons, keeping life more positive and enjoyable. Riding equines for enjoyment still requires a certain amount of training and practice. Learning to drive requires a lot less training and practice time for the driver, provided that the animal is well-schooled and obedient. Small farms today still use mules and donkeys for farm work. When they know their job, they do it with ease and sometimes work exclusively on verbal communication. Old farmers speak of their mules with pride and affection. It’s nice to have a “hand” that doesn’t talk back and isn’t afraid of a little hard work! In this fast-paced world, sometimes it’s nice to go a little slower and take in all the beautiful and fulfilling things that life has to offer, like a relaxing drive in the country with your very best friend!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 1992, 2016 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What’s New with Roll? Spring Grooming/Work in the Hourglass Pattern


Finally a day came that was warm enough to be able to wash the winter dirt out of Roll’s mane and tail! The first thing was to make sure he did not “feed on his lead rope” while I wasn’t looking, so I removed the rope lead and attached him to the chain lead at the wash rack.

The water was still icy cold, but I tried to limit his and my exposure to the cold. When we were done, his dirty brown mane and tail had turned the gorgeous, creamy reddish blond that I knew it was. He looked so handsome!

I gave his spine a stretch by pulling on his tail. Then it was time to put on his gear for his core strength leading exercises in the hourglass pattern in the outdoor arena.

He put up with my fussing to fit the surcingle…

…and obediently dropped his head when I put on the bridle and “Elbow Pull.”

I think he was glad we were finally able to go back out and work again after a few weeks of VERY cold temperatures. He has been having difficulty getting up and down, so I new he needed to get back to some moderate forced exercise. When he is left to his own devices, he tends to be somewhat of a couch potato.

He actually did better than I thought he would first walking down the road to the arena…

…and going through the gate to begin to execute the hourglass pattern balancing exercises.

It wasn’t that hard to get him to set up his feet with equal weight over all four feet…easier than the last time. Still, he is hesitant to fully weight the right hind foot. I believe this might be due to the soreness that he has developed from getting up and down. He has pretty tall side bones in that foot.

Roll is now 26 years old and although he cooperates, his mind does wander a bit like a “little old man’s” mind would! Still, when I call his name to remind him, he DOES come to attention!

After we did the hourglass pattern 1 ½ times each way, I slung the lead rope over his neck for the first time to see if he would follow me across the arena to the gate, stop, through the gate and down the road to the Tack Barn (Sorry, no photos – we shot video). He did excellent! I was so proud!

And when we got back, he obediently lowered his head again to get his bridle removed. He has truly changed dramatically in the eight years that I have had him. I can’t believe it has been that long! My how time flies when you’re having fun together…staying healthy!

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MULE CROSSING: Neonatal Isoerythrolysis


By Meredith Hodges

“Neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI) is a condition in which the mare creates antibodies against the foal’s red blood cells, and then passes these antibodies to the foal via the colostrum. Once the foal absorbs these antibodies, they result in lysis* of the foal’s red blood cells within 24 to 36 hours after birth. This red blood cell destruction is widespread throughout the foal’s body and can lead to life-threatening anemia and/or jaundice. (This is similar to the human Rhesus, or Rh, factor, where a woman who is Rh-negative gives birth to her second or subsequent child that is Rh-positive, resulting in destruction of the newborn’s red blood cells.)1″

All legitimate mule breeders should be aware of this condition, especially because it can occur more often when breeding donkey jacks to mares than it does when breeding stallions to mares within the same species. If the hybrid foal’s blood type is the same as its mother’s, then there is no problem. However, when the jack and the mare have different blood types, and the foal possesses the jack’s blood type, there is potential for NI to occur.

On the surface of the mare’s red cells are antigens that will stimulate the production of antibodies against incompatible red blood cells (RBCs). There are basically two ways that these RBCs can get into her system:

1) If the foal’s RBCs enter the mare’s circulation via the placenta during pregnancy or during delivery.

2) If the mare obtains these incompatible cells during a blood transfusion.

If neither of these conditions occurs, the mare can carry, birth and nurse her foal with no problem. However, if the incompatible red cells do somehow get into her system, she will begin making antibodies against those cells that, in turn, will be passed into the foal’s system via the mare’s first milk, or colostrum.

“Signs of neonatal isoerythrolysis depend upon the rate and severity of red blood cell destruction. Affected foals are born healthy, and then typically develop signs within 24 to 36 hours. In severe cases, the signs of NI may be evident within 12 to 14 hours, whereas in mild cases, signs may not be present until three or four days of age. NI foals will develop progressive anemia, thus leading to depression, anorexia, collapse and death. These foals may also develop pale mucous membranes that later become yellow or jaundiced.”2

The mare’s blood can be tested ahead of time to determine if she has a different blood type than the jack (or stallion), but a positive test result does not necessarily mean that NI will automatically occur, only that there is the possibility for occurrence. Blood samples from the mare and jack should be taken two to four weeks before the mare is due to foal to determine if she is producing antibodies against the foal’s red blood cells. If the blood test is positive, then precautions must be taken to save the foal at birth by making sure it is prevented from nursing its dam for the first 24 to 36 hours. The foal should be muzzled and bottle-fed colostrum from a mare that has not produced these same antibodies, and therefore is compatible with the foal. To be absolutely safe, the colostrum should be obtained and tested from a mare that has never had a mule foal.

For the best results in building the foal’s immune system, this “replacement” colostrum should be collected within the first six hours after birth. The mare being used does not need to be the same blood type as the foal, but her blood must not contain antibodies to the foal’s RBCs. The quality of the colostrum will determine the amount fed to the foal. Immediately after birth, the foal should be given two to three feedings of colostrum within the first two hours, and then be given milk (for energy) for the first 24 to 36 hours after that. Goat’s milk is best for this purpose. After 24 to 36 hours, the foal should be able to be safely returned to its dam’s milk. If NI is present but is caught early enough, the foal can be transfused with blood and there is a chance that it may live, but this transfusion procedure has inherent risks and there are no guarantees of success.

Research on NI has been done over the years on Thoroughbred horses, and statistics indicate that 20 percent have incompatibilities between dam and sire, yet only one percent of foals develop NI. The incidence in mule breeding suggests that the rate is higher. The Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins, the University of California at Davis and the Louisiana State University all have laboratories set up to do this initial NI testing on mares. Consult with your veterinarian about contacting any of these facilities for information on how to collect and ship samples for NI testing.

Out of concern for future mule offspring, the Lucky Three Ranch—with the assistance of our veterinarian, Kent M. Knebel, D.V.M.; Colorado State University researcher, Josie Traub-Dargatz, D.V.M., M.S.; and Louisiana State University researcher, Jill McClure, D.V.M., M.S.—began thorough testing of Lucky Three Ranch stock in the early nineties, with particular attention paid to our breeding jack, Little Jack Horner. It was discovered by Dr. McClure that Little Jack Horner’s RBCs were resulting in unidentifiable antibodies in many of the horse mares that carried his foals. The mares that were sampled had antibodies present, but Dr. McClure was unable to “type” the antibodies found in the mares.

The next step was to immunize some research horses at L.S.U. using Little Jack Horner’s RBCs. If they made antibodies, Dr. McClure would have a more readily available source of antibodies for further research. She also took samples from some burros from another L.S.U. project and discovered that they, too, had the same RBC factor that occurred in Little Jack Horner, but the antibodies produced in the mares were still unidentified. There was already quite a bit of medical and scientific data on N.I. that could help in the prevention of this potentially fatal condition. However, this discovery of new antibodies stimulated by the jack and produced by the mare proved that there was still a lot more that needed to be learned. All of Little Jack Horner’s tests showed him to be of a compatible blood type to the mares if he was a stallion of the same species, and yet these unknown antibodies were being produced. Perhaps future research will hold the answer to this puzzle.

A debt of gratitude is owed to veterinarians like Dr. Kent Knebel, who take time out of their busy schedules to collect samples for this research, and to dedicated researchers like Dr. Josie Traub-Dargatz and Dr. Jill McClure, who continue with this important research that benefits our mule industry and its future generations. Their ongoing research will continue to have a significant impact on mule breeding programs, not just here in the United States, but all over the world.

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 1990, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

Swiss Bulletin PHOTO Nr 1 2018

Mule Finds at Theodul Pass


Swiss Mule Magazine 2018-1

This article is written by Elke Stadler and from my friend, Josefine, editor of the Swiss Mule Bulletin in Switzerland! Since we share a love for Longears, we like to share each other’s respective mule historical experiences with our friends and fans. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did! Thank you so much, Josefine! In the future, we look forward to more news from Switzerland in support of Longears:

The Theodul Pass

The name is derived from St. Theodul, the first known Valais bishop from the 4th century Walser German, it is called Theodul Yoke. From the 16th to the end of the 18th century it was called Augst Valley Pass (Augst = Aosta, Latin Augusta Praetoria), later, until the beginning of the 19th century, simply also called Valais Pass, then Matter Yoke. The special feature of the glaciated pass is its great height: 3,295 m above sea level (as of 2009). It is located in the Valais between the Matterhorn and the Breithorn. The pass, which crosses the border between Italy and Switzerland, connects Zermatt in the Matter Valley with Breuil-Cervinia in Valtournenche.

No other Alpine pass of comparable importance is higher than 2,900 m above sea level. The Theodul Pass has always been an important crossing point in the Valais Alps. A stone axe found in 1895 comes from Brittany and dates back to the Neolithic period (4000 to 3500 BC). It suggests that the pass was already in use at that time. Near the top of the pass, a Roman coin treasure dating from the 1st to 4th century AD was found. You can see it today at the Alpine Museum in Zermatt.

The Mule and the Theodul Pass

The Theodul Pass was probably commemorated with mules from the Roman period, possibly as early as the end of the late Iron Age. The oldest evidence for the use of mules in the Theodul Pass region can be found in late-medieval text sources that report on trade relations between the Matter Valley and the Aosta Valley. The “horses” repeatedly mentioned in this article can only be mules. From the early 20th century onwards, the use of the mule for the transport of goods over the Theodul Pass, represented only a rarity in view of increasingly difficult climatic conditions and the emergence of a modern transport network.

Dangerous conditions at the glacier pass 

The historic pass consists of two sections: From Zermatt to the edge of the glacier a path on the grown soil; from there to the pass, as a rule, a track across the glacier. As a glacier pass, the transition to those altitudes in which passability is highly dependent on climatic conditions is sufficient. Daily fluctuations (hard snow, soft snow), seasonal influences (summer, winter, avalanches) as well as climatic changes over the centuries have an impact here.

The crossing of such a high pass was not safe for humans and animals. In the oral tradition of the Matter Valley there are numerous stories and legends that tell of mishaps of traders or farmers accompanied by their mule. In Zeneggen, for example, it is said that a farmer who went out with two mules to get wine in Italy got caught in a storm. The mules, who are known for keeping calm in all situations, came back to the village on their own and vice versa, while the owner, who was believed dead, followed a few days later.

Mule bone finds and a whole skeleton

The mules whose bones have been found in the pass region since 1985 did not have that luck. However, its skeletal parts are direct witnesses to the important role played by the animal, which is important for Alpine culture, in the regional economy. Even though the mules are known to us as indispensable human helpers until the transport connections of the mountains, little is known about the beginning of mule maintenance in Valais.

Until the discovery of a complete skeleton on the ice surface in the eastern area of the Upper Theodul glacier in autumn 2013, bone remains, i. e. individual fragments, were salvaged exclusively from the areas cleared of the ice. Most of the pieces come from the eastern edge of the Upper Theodul Glacier. From 1985 to 2013, 247 equine bones were collected, including 122 pieces belonging to the same individual.

At archaeological sites, remains of the bones of equidae are a rarity, and their identification also fails due to the extreme difficulty of distinguishing donkeys, horses and their hybrids (mules) from skeletal parts, which are usually isolated and fragmented. With the exception of the fully preserved mule skeleton discovered in 2013, every single piece of bone remains discovered in Valais was definitely assigned to a hybrid. The discovery of the complete skeleton can therefore be regarded as the first reliable evidence of mules in Valais. The Upper Theodul Glacier, was systematically prospected for the first time in 2010. This is part of a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation for the archaeological study of glaciated pass crossings between Valais and Italy.

In autumn 2015, the youngest find, belonging to a mule, was found in the interesting search area like a brown jellyfish on the ice: woven cords of a mule saddle sewn into a fine piece of leather. What will the melting glacier release in the coming years?

The archaeological discovery of the Theodul Pass is inseparable from the retreat of the Upper Theodul Glacier and the alpine, and tourist development of the Zermatt Alps from the second half of the 19th century onwards. Many objects were accidental findings of tourists. The oldest finds date back to Roman times. The numerous mule bone finds bear witness to the movement of goods and persons, which is regularly mentioned in textual sources. Up to 10,000 year old finds, in the immediate vicinity of the Theodul Pass and the Upper Theodul Glacier, indicate a prehistoric ascent of the pass. In the future, a more targeted archaeological investigation of the Theodulpass area will be possible thanks to the research project of the University of Freiburg i. Ue., which was completed in 2014 and calculates archaeological suspected find areas.

An ice free mule saddle made of cords and leather.

Sources: Mules and rock horses: animal bone remains, In: Providoli S., Curdy P. and Elsig P. (2015) 400 years in glacial ice. The Theodul Pass at Zermatt and his “mercenary”; NZZ: Glacier archaeology, stories from the freezer, Caroline Fink; www.ivs.admin.ch  ; https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodulpass

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Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere


This article is a repost of Valerie DeBenedette‘s article at Mental Floss.  

“… the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive …”

Yes, the famed Paul Revere set out on horseback on this day in 1775 to raise the alarm that British troops were on their way from Boston to Lexington.

Revere rode about 20 miles through what is now Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Massachusetts, knocking on doors to raise people to defend Lexington. Another rider, William Dawes, was sent by another route to do the same thing. A third, Samuel Prescott, was also pressed into service. Only Prescott completed the night’s work and reached Concord; Revere was captured and Dawes was thrown from his horse while evading British soldiers, forcing him to walk back to Lexington.

It was a good ride for Revere, and it was good for the revolution. But a little over two years later, a 16-year-old girl did the midnight riders one better. Sybil Ludington rode twice as far as Revere did, by herself, over bad roads, and in an area roamed by outlaws, to raise Patriot troops to fight in the Battle of Danbury and the Battle of Ridgefield in Connecticut. And did we mention it was raining?

Sybil was the eldest of 12 children of Col. Henry Ludington, the commander of the militia in Dutchess County, New York. Ludington’s farm was a receiving center for information collected by spies for the American cause.

In April 1777, Colonel Ludington and the members of his militia were at their homes because it was planting season. But about 9 p.m. on the evening of April 26, he received word that the British were burning Danbury. The man who brought the news had worn out his horse and he didn’t know the area. Ludington needed to stay where he was to help arrange the troops as they arrived.

Who could he send? He turned to his daughter, who knew the area and knew where members of the militia lived. Sybil rode her horse from her father’s farm in Kent, which was then called Frederick. She first headed south to the village of Carmel and then down to Mahopac. She turned west to Mahopac Falls and then north to Kent Cliffs and Farmers Mills. From there, she rode further north to Stormville, where she turned south to head back to her family’s farm. All told, she rode nearly 40 miles through what was then southern Dutchess County (which is now mostly Putnam County).

Sybil spent the night traveling down narrow dirt roads in the rain with nothing but a stick as protection. To add another element of danger, there were many British loyalists in the area and more than a few “Skinners,” a word generally used then to describe an outlaw or ruffian who had no real loyalties to either side in the war. One account of her ride says that Sybil used her stick to pound on a Skinner who accosted her.

By dawn, Sybil had made it back to her family farm where the militia men were gathering with her father. By this time, the British had gone south from Danbury to Ridgefield. The militia of Dutchess County, led by Colonel Ludington, marched 17 miles to Ridgefield and took part in the battle there, which some considered a strategic victory for the American forces.

Sybil’s hard riding earned her the congratulations of General George Washington, but it seems she got little recognition for her feat after that. She married another revolutionary, Edmond Ogden, in 1784 and had a child. At one point she and her husband ran a tavern in Catskill, New York, but she spent the last 40 years of her life as a widow until her death in 1839. She is buried near the route of her ride in Patterson, New York, with a headstone that spells her first name as Sibbell.

So why do we all learn about Paul Revere in our American history courses and not Sybil Ludington? In more recent times, Sybil has received a bit more acclaim for the ride that she made—there have been books written about her, a postage stamp near the bicentennial honoring her, and even a board game where players follow her overnight path. And in 1961, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a larger-than-life statue of her on her horse in Carmel, New York.

Revere, of course, is justly honored as a man who served the Revolution in many capacities, including as a messenger and engraver (by trade, he was a fine silversmith). Perhaps his place in history was secured because he had Henry Wadsworth Longfellow serving as his publicist, with Longfellow’s famous (and famously inaccurate) poem—it leaves out both Dawes and Prescott—turning Revere into a legend. Sybil has no such fabled poem, no “one if by land, two if by sea” catchphrase. But perhaps as children we all should hear of the midnight ride of a teen with no fear.

All images courtesy Valerie DeBenedette.


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Compassionate Training – A Historical Example


HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017! Let’s go forward loving and learning together with our equine companions! When kindness is used in training, greatness can happen. That is the story of Beautiful Jim Key. The sickly colt was adopted by “Dr” William Key, a freed slave and self-taught veterinarian. Using his veterinary skills and training with no force, the colt grew into a healthy adult with some special abilities – he could read, write, spell, do math, tell time, sort mail, cite Bible passages, use a telephone and cash register. Together, they were seen by an estimated 10 million Americans and hailed as the “Marvel of the Twentieth Century”. Dr Key died at the age of 76, being universally praised for his service to humanity and Beautiful Jim followed three years later at the age of 23. As TIME magazine declared, “This wonderful horse has upset all theories that animals have only instinct, and do not think and reason.”

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Mules and Donkeys in the Bible


When I posted this on Facebook about mules in the Bible…

Origins: The mule is mentioned in mankind’s earliest records. Consider this passage from the Bible: “And Absolom met the servants of David. And Absolom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the Heavens and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away.” (II Samuel 18:9). If you choose to ride a mule, you will need a good sense of humor!!!

…we were asked about mules really being in the Bible.  We sent an email to a Rabbi inquiring about the translation of the ancient Hebrew word for “mule” or “pered.” Here is the reply:

“Solomon rode on a mule (1Ki 1:38) because his father David told Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to “cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule” (v 33). This is the word for a “she-mule” (BDB, TWOT). Its three Old Testament uses are all in this passage (see v 44), referring to one mule, David’s. Solomon’s riding on David’s mule in company with David’s advisors gave a clear message: he was the successor David had chosen. Years later in secular history, female mules became preferable for riding and males for bearing burdens. That may have been a factor in David’s having this special mule. Second, an observation. David’s sons all rode on (male) mules (2Sa 13:29) and Absalom rode a mule at the end of his life (2Sa 18:9). Since a mule is crossbred between a mare and a male donkey, and since crossbreeding was prohibited in Israel (Lev 19:19), mules were likely imported (TWOT), and were thus more valued. They (along with horses, silver, and gold, etc.) symbolized the wealth that other kings brought to Solomon annually (1Ki 10:25). Third, a suggestion. The greatest reason for David’s choice of a mule rather than a horse may have been God’s prohibition for kings (Deu 17:16): they were not to multiply horses to themselves. David was careful in this. Solomon, to his own destruction, was not (1Ki 10:26, 28).”

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Dressage Mule Slate Helps Spread Awareness of Working Equines


This is a repost from Brooke USA.

Lexington, Ky.  – November 15, 2016 – Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Vicky Busch and her mule “Slate” continue to spread awareness of the plight of working equines in the developing world and the work of Brooke USA. Most recently Slate and his young rider, Busch’s student Isabella Rodwig won their Training Level Test 3 class at the dressage schooling show at Amen Corner Farm in Folsom, LA.

Isabella Rodwig and Slate Compete at the Amen Corner Farm Schooling Show

The pair did so in style and with a nod to Brooke USA, with a large Brooke USA heart painted on the mule’s rump. Busch uses Slate’s engaging personality and the novelty of seeing him at a dressage show to educate the crowds he draws about the mission of Brooke USA. She hopes that Slate and his young rider will continue to compete in more dressage shows this year with the goal of qualifying for the USDF Region 9 Championships sponsored by the Houston Dressage Society.

Since learning about Brooke USA, Busch and her husband Eric have been generous supporters. For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of equines who work in some of the poorest communities on Earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous equine welfare challenges actively improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them. Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world.

Slate and Isabella Ready to Spread the Word About Brooke USA

Owning Slate has made the work that Brooke USA does – helping working equines including mules around the world – a cause close to Busch’s heart. She hopes that she can use the attention that Slate attracts to bring more awareness to Brooke USA, and put a personal touch on it. Busch is eager to tell Slate’s admirers at shows about the important work of Brooke USA and how they can help improve the lives of working equines around the world who are not as lucky as Slate to have such a wonderful home.

About Brooke USA

Brooke USA is a 501(c)(3) charity located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which exists solely to support the overseas work of Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare charity.  For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of horses, donkeys and mules who work in some of the poorest communities on earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous welfare challenges improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America.  Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world. To learn more, visit BrookeUSA.org.

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Laura Hermanson & “Behold the Desert” to Compete in USDF Finals


While dressage has long-been regarded as a horse and Pony Club sport, Meredith Hodges opened the doors to mules in dressage in the United States Dressage Federation Schooling Shows in 1986. With the help of Carole Sweet and Leah Patton of the American Donkey and Mule Society in Lewisville, Texas, they were formally accepted by the United States Equestrian Federation at their convention in Los Angeles in 2004. Laura Hermanson has since taken full advantage of this amazing opportunity. In 2015, she qualified for the United States Dressage Federation Finals with her own mule, “Heart B Dyna”, that is to be the subject of an upcoming documentary. The film is titled ”Dyna Does Dressage,” and is produced by Sarah Crowe and Amy Enser, who describe it as an “Underdog story [that] follows Dyna and her owner/rider, Laura, as they defy the odds to find their place among this elite world of horse riding.” Laura Hermanson is breaking through the stigma that dressage is only for horses and ponies as was previously defined by the USEF Rulebook. Much like Meredith Hodges herself, what began as a love of horses evolved into the championing of the noble MULE, an equine ambassador that truly deserves our respect. This year, Laura is competing Behold the Desert (aka Beasley) owned by Troy and Carol Delfino of Bakersfield, California and bred by Candace Shauger of Genesis Farms in Bremen, Ohio, in the upcoming U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, November 10-13. Let’s all give our support to this amazing team!

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Breeding Letter from George Washington


A letter from George Washington, written in 1786, was recently put up for auction by bookseller William Reese. The letter is in regards to a donkey sent to Washington’s Mount Vernon ranch for the purpose of breeding. Washington is well-known for his agricultural brilliance and for breeding the first American mule. The correspondence was written a during a breif period of retirement and a few years before Washington became president. washington-letter

Washington writes: “Dear Sir, When your favor of the first inst., accompanying the she ass, came to this place, I was from home – both however arrived safe; but Doct. Bowie informs me that the bitch puppy was not brought to his house. Nor have I heard any thing more of the asses at Marlbro’, nor of the grass seeds committed to the care of Mr. Digges. I feel myself obliged by your polite offer of the first fruit of your jenny. Though in appearance quite unequal to the match, yet, like a true female, she was not to be terrified at the disproportional size of her paramour; and having renewed the conflict twice or thrice it is to be hoped the issue will be favourable. My best respects attend [Mrs. Sprigg] & the rest of your family. With great esteem & regard, I am Dr. Sir Yr. most ob. serv. Go. Washington.”

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The History of the Missouri Mule


The Missouri mule is a well-known symbol of American strength and perseverance, thanks to its significant contributions both within the state and throughout the country. Today, the mule still serves as Missouri’s official state animal, so the connection remains strong. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has put together a great photo slideshow about the history of these iconic equines and their role in the Show-Me State—click here to see the full slideshow!



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Prey or Predators?


Are equines prey or predators? Although some trainers base their methods on the idea that equines should be approached as “prey,” this blog post by Sara Annon explains that the answer may not be that simple.

An excerpt:

The real lesson in this is that the predator/prey model of horsemanship is inaccurate. Rodents are prey animals. Horses are herd animals.  Their enemy is the weather (click here  and here). Horses die from hypothermia in winter, drought in summer, and starvation when grazing is scarce. Weakened animals are picked off by the occasional courageous wolf pack or lion. I say courageous because it only takes one quick smack with a hoof to break bones, and for a predator that is a death sentence.

Read The Full Post


An Ode to Days Past, Colorado Burro Racing in Full Swing


The following story is an excerpt from The Gazette.

IDAHO SPRINGS – Long ago before his long beard and long hair turned white, Bill Lee thought about what to be.

An oral storyteller, yes, because that, he felt, was a noble profession. That was needed in the ever- urbanizing West. But what to be?

“I decided on the mountain man,” said Lee, 67, reflecting in his log cabin, “because it was a really short-lived era in history.”

So he would go as the mountain man, fur coat and musket and all, to schools and libraries in towns up and down Interstate 70, to tell the kids about what used to happen in these mountains. And inevitably he would talk about the burro – Spanish for donkey – and he’d tell of the animal that was relied upon for toting supplies through the surrounding wilderness.

Toward the end, he would jump two centuries to the present. And he’d tell the kids about what they might decide to do with the burros one day:

Run with them.

Read the full Gazette article here.

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Equines of a Certain Age


Lucky Three Ranch knows a thing or two about elderly equines—miniature mule Lucky Three Franklin just celebrated his 40th birthday on April 1, and we’ve been happy to celebrate many of our other equines through their 20s and 30s.

Handsome elderly gentleman, Franklin

Handsome elderly gentleman, Franklin


Photo: Donkey Sanctuary


That’s why we’re very happy to acknowledge Tootsie, a resident of the wonderful Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland, who is an incredible 54 years old—making him one of the oldest mules ever. The Donkey Sanctuary rescued Tootsie in 1992, and he is part of their “Super Grannies” group of equines that are all over 30 years old, who receive special treatment, feed, and love from the Sanctuary’s volunteers.

Curious about other historically aged equines? Longears have the opportunity to live particularly long lifespans, so there may be many out there, but here are a few we know about: Suzy, Rosie and Eeyore, donkeys who lived to be 54; Flower, who is believed to have reached the age 70; and Joe, a 45-year-old full-sized mule from Colorado Springs who’s still around today.

Wishing well to all of these sweet seniors!


Click Here to Read more about Tootsie

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“Sir, Reporting to the Mule in the Red Sash!”



West Point Military Academy Press Release

“General Caslen, on behalf of all Army Rangers and the Class of 1975 and the West Point Society of South Carolina, we present you with Paladin!” said Steve Townes ’75, CEO and Founder of Ranger Aerospace LCC, who has been West Point’s “mule donor in perpetuity” for well over a decade. ( Since 2001. )

Four-year-old Paladin, whose name refers to 1 of the 12 legendary peers or knightly champions in Charlemagne’s court, began his West Point experience on March 31, 2016, reporting to Ranger III, now gray in his muzzle.



In a ceremony to welcome the Army team’s newest mule, Director of Cadet Activities COL Tom Hansbarger ’92 officially signed in Paladin, who had two green duffel bags tied on his back. Several notable guests were on hand to witness the event, including VA Secretary Bob McDonald, another member of the Class of 1975, and LTC Anne Hessinger, an Army veterinarian who served at West Point from 2003 to 2006 and is now an equine officer at Fort Bragg, NC.25902287750_8dbfc2565c_z

Paladin, small in stature, posed calmly for a round of photos after reporting to Ranger III, the mule in the red sash, before being led across the street to the barber while onlookers cheered him on with a rousing “Beat Navy!” chant. Paladin showed his spunk though when he kicked out his left hind leg toward the barber who was trying to get close tom him in order to shave a big “A” into his hind quarters. “He’s just nervous, just like every other plebe on their R-Day,” remarked an officer in the crowd who was watching the event.

25902285630_b400ba5c24_zAt the conclusion of the event, Ranger III and Paladin were loaded into horse trailers for a trip to Morgan Farm, where Paladin will spend his summer at his quarters. He will be officially introduced to the West Point Community and Army football fans on September 10 when Army West Point hosts Rice. The mule mascots will lead the team onto the field, carrying flags and interacting with fans.

Paladin, whose name was selected by the Corps of Cadets and approved by the Superintendent, is the third mule donated by Townes, a former mule rider and former Army officer with the 75th Ranger Regiment who has set up an endowment ensuring the Academy’s future mascots. Ranger III and his brother Stryker, Townes’s last donations, both reported for mascot duty at West Point in 2011.


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Good Management Practices for Health and Insect Control


First and foremost, a routine grooming schedule at least every other week and preferably every week is essential for the hygiene of your equines. We use fly masks without ears on the animals that are sensitive around their faces and we spray with Tri-Tech 14 once a week for insects that will pester your equine. We NEVER clip the insides of the ears. Regular grooming once a week to remove excess hair, mud, etc. will eliminate places on the animal, including their legs, that would be subject to their laying eggs. We worm our equines in January, March, May, July and September with Farnam ivermectin and then break the cycle with Strongid in November to prevent the cycle of internal worms and parasites. Using Johnson’s baby oil in the manes and tails helps keep the flies at bay, helps to prevent “frizzies” and train manes to lay over, and will also keep other animals from chewing on them.


In order to keep flies and other insects under control, all stalls, runs and pens need to be kept free of manure and debris daily. Barns need to be cleaned periodically with disinfectant.



Fields and pastures should be harrowed in the spring, fall and between hay cuttings. Only rake hay when absolutely necessary before baling. Turnout fields should be kept separate from your hayfields. Do not use manure on your hay fields. This can cause an increase in weeds that can attract more insects since equines can pass weed seeds through their digestive tract.



Keep all tack and equipment clean so it does not attract flies to your tack room and grooming area. Spray the tack room when you leave with a household flying insect spray for any residual flies.


Here are several rules to remember for good management and insect control around your own farm:

1) Feed the right kinds of healthy feed for equines and know the differences for mules and donkeys. This requires some research on your part. Do a quick body check at each feeding.

2) Keep all stalls, pens and sheds free of manure (clean every day!) and routinely harrow your pastures.

3) Keep manure collection piles well away from your house and barns (we have ours hauled away weekly).

4) Keep all water sources clean with a weekly cleaning schedule.

5) Practice good grooming practices at least once a week. When grooming, do a complete body check on your equine to look for any oddities that might arise and treat as needed. If certain body areas begin to get sores (like Jack sores), scabs, or bumps, use Neosporin or if they are severe…Panalog, also called Animax or Dermalone by prescription from your vet. And, know WHEN to call your veterinarian.

6) Use Tri-Tech 14 by Farnam fly spray weekly for bugs and insects that can pester your equine. This seems to be the best and longest lasting. Herbal remedies and other sprays will work, but will need to be applied much more often.

7) Never clip the hair inside of the equine’s ears! The hair will keep out most insects.

8) Do not clip the hair on the legs unless you absolutely must for showing! The hair protects the legs from insect bites.

9) Use fly masks for those mules and donkeys that have sensitive skin around the face. Farnam Super Masks will usually fit most animals. You can find them in most tack and vet stores.

These simple rules will help to keep all your animals healthy and happy, and will leave you with a fresh and clean-smelling, nearly insect-free facility.


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Mules at West Point


Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.41.14 AMMules have served as the loyal mascots at the United States Military Academy at West Point since 1899, as a symbol of heartiness and durability. This great video from Army Athletics details the history of mules both as mascots to the teams, as well as in service to the army at home and abroad. The video also follows the mules that are taking their place of honor at West Point, as the previous generation of the mule corp retires.

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Buckeye the Mule!

Photo by Jenny Majors and Pixel Pony Photography

Photo by Jenny Majors and Pixel Pony Photography


A recent article at the Chronicle of the Horse had us excited to share the story of Buckeye, an 8 year-old Appaloosa mule who has been showing off the versatility of mules with his skills in the arena.

When Buckeye first came to owner Christina Gregory, he was a little green under the saddle after being mostly used as a driving mule for an Amish family. After some initial work with Christina, he began training with 22 year-old Samantha (Sammi) Majors.

Sammi began him with dressage and earlier in the year he was impressing judges and scoring consistently in the high 60 and low 70 percents in recognized shows. This fall she decided to add jumping in preparation for a show.  “He loves jumping. For a long time we would work on dressage stuff and school him over cavalletti, and he always loved it. We’d be doing a 20-meter circle, and if we went anywhere near the cavalletti he would try to pull me to it,” said Majors. “As soon as we started jumping he took an immediate liking to it. That’s all he seems to want to do now is jump, jump, jump!”

Buckeye and Sammi Majors in the Hunter Hack class at the North Carolina State Fair Mule and Donkey Show. Photo by Shane Shiflett

He recently returned home from the North Carolina State Fair Mule and Donkey show with plenty of ribbons, winning Most Colorful Mule class, Hunter Hack class, Coon Jumping, Pleasure Driving-Single Mule, reserve champion Pleasure Driving, the Turnout Class and Reinsmanship.

Read the whole article here and visit Buckeye’s Facebook page.

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Veterans Day and Longeared Soldiers


Today we honor the sacrifices that our brave enlisted men and women have made to protect and serve our country. Throughout history, mules have also played an important part, serving alongside soldiers. One occasion where their value cannot be underestimated was the Burma Offensive of World War II. The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) or more commonly known as Merrill’s Marauders was a US Army long-range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit. In addition to its specially trained soldiers, it also included mules.

The mules came from Missouri, Texas and Tennessee and were shipped to Calcutta. They were then transported into Burma by aircraft, and later in the operations were dropped from planes with special parachutes that consisted of an inflatable dinghy (in which the sedated mule would be placed) and attached to a triple cluster of three 28-foot silk parachutes. Mules were capable of being loaded and packed within 20 minutes of landing.

The terrain of Burma (modern-day Myanmar) was almost impossible for vehicles to transport and deliver supplies. Mules are well-know for their sure-footedness, self-preservation and hardiness and were the perfect four-legged soldiers.  They packed weapons, ammunition, food and water, medical supplies, equipment and radios through a 700-mile trek of what was considered some of the harshest jungles on the planet.

The men switched between being muleskinners and soldiers and many bonded deeply with their mules by the end of the offensive.  One soldier remembered, “We couldn’t have gone half the distances we did and gone half the places we did without the mules.”

Click here learn more about Merrill’s Marauders.

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Goodbye to Lucky Three Sundowner



Foaled June 2, 1980, Lucky Three Sundowner was the last mule born at my mother’s Windy Valley Ranch and at two weeks old, the first mule to become part of my own Lucky Three Ranch. He showed successfully at Halter, English and Western Pleasure, and became the 1984 World Champion Reining Mule at Bishop Mule Days. However, his greatest accomplishment was to make it to Fourth Level Dressage after introducing Dressage to our Bishop Mule Days show, and after winning the World Championship at Third Level Dressage in Bishop in 1992 and 1993. (They did not offer Fourth Level.) He never really liked the Full Bridle and did all this in a Snaffle Bridle. Mules were not allowed to compete in the A.H.S.A.-sanctioned shows with horses during that time, so we were limited to schooling shows with horses to measure our progress. However, with his help, and with the help of other Dressage enthusiasts like Carole Sweet and Audrey Goldsmith, we laid a foundation with goals that were finally realized eighteen years later when mules were finally officially accepted into the Dressage Division of the United States Equestrian Federation. To date, “Sunny” is the only mule in history (that I am aware of) to be schooled at Fourth Level Dressage. He was working on Piaffe, Passage and Flying Lead Changes every two strides when he was retired at twenty-three years old…truly a remarkable friend and ambassador for his breed! This week, he finally crossed over the “Rainbow Bridge” due to a tumor that eventually prevented his ability to chew. He will be profoundly missed!


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