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Miniature mules Franklin and Francis and miniature horse Mirage show that good things come in small packages. Miniature equines need special handling, especially when they know they are “Little Big Shots” Enjoy the latest video with three of our miniatures of the Lucky Three Ranch!
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!
It’s hard to believe that I have already spent 35 years in the business with mules, donkeys and a vast array of equine-related activities. I have always loved horses and began riding when I was only two years old. I was about as horsey as a girl could be—when I wasn’t riding, I was reading horse books, drawing horses and engaging in anything that remotely resembled a life with equines. At one point, I even designed a 100-stall barn and vowed to rescue every horse in our country that was being abused. Little did I know then, my 100-stall barn would have been terribly inadequate.
I actually founded the Lucky Three Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, in 1980, although I had many years working with horses and six years working with mules before then. I had moved to Colorado with the intent of going to Colorado State University to get my veterinarian credentials, so I sought out places to live in Fort Collins. It was a fluke that a contract fell through and this tiny little 10-acre sheep ranch became available. I remember standing in the driveway, my vision crystal clear in my head, and told my mother, “This place HAS LOTS of possibilities.” She gave me a bemused nod and said, “It definitely has lots of possibilities.” I don’t think she had any idea of what was to come, but, I had a vision!
Over the past 35 years, Lucky Three Ranch has slowly developed into the vision I had in my mind that day. My involvement in the equine community has grown into something much more meaningful than a 100-stall barn, as I’m now able to engage with people around the world through my equine training series, online school, and even on my Facebook page. I would love to teach all equine owners how to appreciate and enjoy their equines as much as I enjoy mine in a multitude of different ways. It is so incredibly rewarding when I see happy animals with happy owners doing the things that they love together. This is the gift that I have been given in life by my Maker to share with others and their joy is my reward! Thank you to all of my friends and fans for your loyalty and support. I couldn’t have made it 35 years without you and the magnificent equines that color my life!
A lot has changed at Lucky Three Ranch since 1980—and sometimes the only way to see all that progress is from the sky! Luckily, aerial photographer Ryan Hofmeister, of Heaven’s View Photography in Sterling, Colorado, has had his camera focused on the ranch since the very beginning, and has captured some truly amazing images from the air throughout that time.
Ryan first met Meredith shortly after she moved in to Lucky Three Ranch. He had captured an image of the young ranch on one of his routine fly-bys, and stopped by to inquire if she wanted the photo. She did, and that image became the cover of Lucky Three Ranch’s first Christmas card. Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t print Meredith’s name on the cards that first year, and she had to sign all 300 cards individually by hand. “I never made that mistake again!” he joked.
For his most recent shoot, Ryan also included a rare bonus: nighttime shots of the ranch. All photographers know how challenging it can be to capture images in low light, as even the slightest shake of the elbow can cause a blurry image—trying to do the same from the air requires a special technique. “It can be done with a tripod,” Ryan says, “but that doesn’t do much good when you’re moving 100 miles per hour through the air.” Ryan flies with another pilot, and they position the aircraft in a way that the plane is almost suspended in motion as Ryan holds his breath and takes the photo, trying to keep as still as possible. Ryan takes each and every photo himself on a handheld camera, including manually focusing it for each shot.
This photo session took around three hours to complete, progressing from day to night, and resulted in more than 600 photos on Ryan’s trusty Nikon. By the end of the session, they were flying in complete darkness, but the day certainly resulted in some incredible photos.
For more information about Ryan Hofmeister and Heaven’s View Photography, please visit heavensviewphotography.com.
After two years, we finally finished our latest longears sculpture, a fountain called “Dreaming of Friends” by Robin Laws of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I couldn’t wait to share this with all of you! This piece was done to accommodate the twenty LTR longears (plus one miniature horse) that were not champions and did not have their own commissioned piece. We try not to play favorites here!
Tours are currently closed for the winter season, but make sure to book your visit to see the statue in person in the new year through our website.
Small figurines of the Spuds and Augie topper may be available for public purchase—please contact us for pricing, availability, and more details.
It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our courageous and talented 34-year-old Sire-Supreme, Little Jack Horner (1980 – 2014).
He is survived by hundreds of mule and donkey offspring, leaving an amazing legacy of performance in Gymkhana events, English and Western Pleasure, Trail, Reining, Driving, Dressage Driving, Second Level Dressage and Stadium Jumping to four feet in exhibition. He was an affectionate jack with impeccable manners right to the end. On the eve of his passing, I left him standing like a statue with ears pricked and a fixed stare toward the Rocky Mountains. I glanced over my shoulder and as the sun went down, it cast a halo around his entire body as if God was beckoning him home…I knew in my heart he would not make it through the night…he will be sorely missed!
When breeding for mules, a teaser stallion is needed to get the mares to show heat, as they will not show heat to the jack. In 1988, Lucky Three Ranch needed a good teaser stallion to use in our breeding program, so we began scanning the Colorado countryside for the right horse. I went out to a huge farm in Haxton that had 50 head of assorted horses on 2000 acres. The owner said I could have any of the 20 two-year-old stallions that I could catch. I strapped on my fanny pack full of oats and started walking into the field with horses all around me running away in all directions! It didn’t take long to spot the beautiful dun stallion in the herd galloping, leaping and rearing in the middle of the excited herd. I asked the owner his name and he told me, “Kip!” I hollered and showed him the oats. He immediately stopped what he was doing and began to approach me. He was a bit suspicious and a little shy, but soon came up and took the oats from my hand. “I’ll take this one,” I told the owner. I put on the halter, loaded him easily into the trailer and took him home.
A.Q.H.A. ROM registered, in his first two years here Kip received all the same kind of core muscle conditioning as the other Lucky Three equines, and at three years old began saddle training. When he was four, he became the teaser stallion for Little Jack Horner’s mares. At first, I had Kip and L.J. separated from all the other equines, but they both seemed lonesome, so I decided to see if stallion and jack could be penned next to each other. Lo and behold, my good manners training not only held true between me and the equines, but among the equines themselves as well! Kip and Little Jack Horner were both happier in each other’s company and would even play respectfully with each other over the fence. One day I came out and Kip had jumped into L.J.’s pasture and they were romping around, but clearly not hurting each other at all. I just called Kip, he came and I put him back into his own pen.
I realized then that a lot of the old stories I had heard about stallion management were not necessarily true. Eventually I had to move Little Jack Horner elsewhere during construction, and ran out of space near the other equines for Kip. But he was so stressed in this lonely living situation that he wouldn’t stop running the fence and was losing weight rapidly. I decided to reinforce the fence between a small pasture and the larger pen and pasture where we kept the mares, and put Kip in the small pasture. He calmed right down, and has been there ever since—a complete joy to be around now. Previously, he had been a little rambunctious during the teasing of our mares and the breeding of our neighbor’s mares, but once pastured next to the mares, his entire demeanor immediately changed.
No longer in solitary confinement, he appreciates the company of his girls and is not averse to leaving them to come with us upon request. His manners are always impeccable. He was trained the same way I trained the mules, and to this day, he is a perfect gentleman. I recently posted the first picture in this piece on Facebook and people seemed to think that the dangling lead rope was somehow attached to his feet, hobbling him to make him manageable. No such thing! We were doing some filming for our Equus Revisited manual and DVD and I left the lead rope on him so I could easily grab him when we were finished filming, and not have to fumble with catching him and putting on the halter. The entire film crew was in the background around him while he created his dramatic teasing segment upon command. When we were done, I just called his name and he stopped the drama immediately and waited for me to come and collect his lead rope.
Patience, kindness, respect and good manners go a long way! Your equines will mirror your demeanor and will behave in a confrontational way only if you do. When you treat the relationship with your equine as an equal partnership (with both of you taking turns being the leader), there is no end to what you can learn together and the joy of the relationship deepens with each new experience. It is not unusual for me to go out and stand between Kip and the mares while we all enjoy the “OATS FEST” and each other’s company!
Time to start making plans for your fall, your spring and the rest of your career—the application deadline for the upcoming 2014/2015 school year at TMD Equine University is July 15!
TMD Equine University is an online certificate course that gives a comprehensive overview of Meredith Hodges’ training and care methods for equines, as well as giving students a foundation of what it takes to work in the equine industry. This unique combination shows you how to manage, care for and understand all breeds of equine, from foal to senior.
The course also includes a special Immersion Clinic for students to get some hands-experience on site at the Lucky Three Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. This five-day clinic will take place in the summer following the completion of TMDEU’s academic program, and will allow students to work with and participate in the care of the Lucky Three animals and learn about the maintenance procedure of the ranch. Students will have one-on-one time with Meredith Hodges as well as working in groups, and will benefit from the experience of partnering with animals in varying stages of training for hands-on work, including horses, mules and donkeys.
The school is accredited by the Colorado Division of Private Occupational Schools, but classes can be taken from anywhere with an internet connection, on your own schedule. Find out more about the school here and remember to complete your applications by July 15.
Even though I know how well trained my equines are, they never cease to amaze me! I can be dog tired and know that this is the day they must be groomed, wormed and vaccinated…all thirty of them! The very thought is quite literally exhausting on occasion. Though my staff helps with maintenance doctoring what are now mostly older and geriatric individuals, I still basically train and manage all my equines by myself. When I am tired and a job must be done, I am repeatedly reminded of how well I have done with all of them. All the worry and stress about having to go out and work is washed away the minute I get out to the barn with their never ending affection, interactive neighs and brays and ultimate compliance.
Lucky Three Cyclone is a thirty-one year old, 14.2 hand Arabian mule, the very first mule born here at the Lucky Three Ranch. When he was first born, his mother dropped him on the ground and turned to look at him in total puzzlement. He had long fuzzy ears that she certainly did not recognize that caused Angelique to bolt away from him. Being her very first foal and a mule at that, she was not interested in him at all. I had to restrain her to get her to allow him to nurse. This was his first introduction to LIFE!
Cyclone was trained in English and Western Pleasure, Reining, Second Level Dressage and even carried my185-pound husband over two and eventually three-foot jumps for several years. He was kind of a spooky “Little Feller” as I affectionately called him and he used to scare our farrier half to death when he went to trim the back feet. Cyclone had a ticklish butt, so if you touched him on his behind and he wasn’t expecting it, he would quickly tuck his butt and scoot out of the way. Of course the farrier thought he was getting ready to kick, but he never kicked anyone ever. He was just trying to be polite and get out of the way.
Four years ago, Cyclone began to develop little nodules on his upper left front leg, on the right side of his neck and shoulder, and on his right cheek. The one on the cheek was the largest although with a simple application of Neosporin, they did not seem to be spreading or getting larger until just recently when four more popped up within three months. I was concerned that they could become too numerous to manage if we didn’t at least get a biopsy and find out exactly what we were dealing with. My amazing veterinarian Greg Farrand and I thought they were sarcoids and he later said he had done some research and that they could be “cattle warts” which is another name for certain sarcoids. He too was concerned that they had begun to propagate so quickly all of a sudden so we opted to do a biopsy. I apologize for not having photos of the biopsy surgery for you, but my staff photographer faints at the sight of blood!
We decided to biopsy the one on Cyclone’s cheek since it was the most mature nodule. Rather than sedate him, we opted to give Cy the opportunity to cooperate with our plan. Cyclone loves to give kisses and was busy giving me kisses in exchange for oats just before the surgery. Greg asked if I could get him to hold his head a little higher, so I carefully lifted Cy’s nose to my shoulder and set it there. He affectionately leaned his head into mine where we met eyeball to eyeball. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as Greg approached with a syringe of Xylocaine to numb the area locally.
As Greg poked and prodded the needle into the nodule, Cy never moved a whisker. I would open my eyes at intervals to find him comfortably relaxed upon my shoulder with not a hint of stress in his body. When Greg walked away to get the scalpel, Cy gave me another kiss and I responded with another handful of oats. Greg returned and began cutting, but Cyclone was still chewing. When Greg said, “It’s a little hard to do this while you’re chewing,” Cy abruptly stopped chewing and again stood stock still, returning his chin back to its place on my shoulder. Greg had to clamp a bleeder vessel, but even that didn’t bother Cy. When that was finished, he again gave me a kiss and I gave him more oats. As soon as Greg approached with his florescent pink stitches, Cyclone again stood like a soldier while Greg carefully stitched up the wound. Another kiss…more oats…and he was happily taken back to his stall. I am so glad I took the time to train slowly and develop this mutually satisfying relationship with all my equines. Being older and much more vulnerable than I was in my youth, I truly appreciate what I have learned from my equines so we can all grow old together and be safe, happy and healthy doing it!
Meredith is pleased to have contributed an anecdote to the first edition of a new book series featuring humorous, equine-related stories called Horse Tales for the Funny Bone, Volume 1. The tales were collected by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert at Whitehall Publishing, who also put together the Horse Tales for the Soul series. Horse Tales for the Funny Bone features stories about all breeds, all styles of riding, and all age groups—60 in all. This book is sure to brighten your day and put a smile on your face, and makes the perfect gift for all the equine lovers in your life! Also, the book will be used to help fundraising efforts for therapeutic riding centers. Get your own copy of Horse Tales for the Funny Bone, Volume 1, here!
My good friend, Tennessee mule artist Bonnie Shields, recently introduced me to sculptor Dennis Page from the Rocking Horse Ranch in Riverton, Utah. Dennis is working on a hand-carved “rocking mule” that is modeled after Bonnie’s ceramic sculpture of Kathleen Conklin’s Champion Driving mule, John Henry. I am so impressed with Dennis’s work that I decided to purchase the wood-sculpted rocker. What an amazing addition it will be to the Loveland Longears Museum and Sculpture Park here at Lucky Three Ranch!
Kathleen Conklin sent me some really nice pictures, his Championship cooler with his name on it, his driving harness and John Henry’s championship ribbons from the finest pleasure driving in the United States – Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition in Pittsford, New York. These will be on display here at our Loveland Longears Museum and Sculpture Park at Lucky Three Ranch. John Henry (1991-2011) and Kathleen Conklin competed at Walnut Hill for seven years in the Commercial carriage Division. They last showed there in 2010. John Henry died about three weeks before Walnut Hill. In the seven years they were there, John Henry was the only mule on the grounds and he had his own fan club of spectators who came to see him every year. He was Champion or Reserve Champion of the commercial Division six times showing under rated commercial driving judges from England! John Henry and Kathleen had a wonderful time together showing everyone just how great a mule can be…and he was TRULY A GREAT MULE!
We are very excited to announce that our gorgeous revised edition of Training Mules & Donkeys has won the GOLD medal in the Pets & Animals category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on the book, and it’s great to see it being recognized. Many congratulations to our hardworking staff and to the longears that inspired the book!
Lucky Three Ranch has partnered with Lefthand Graphics to create a public awareness campaign about the importance of equine welfare. And now we want YOU to help!
We have three amazing posters–and it’s up to you to choose which one will be the featured image in the campaign, which we hope to reach out to equine owners across the country.
Take a look at these three options, and make your choice in the poll below–and make sure to “share” your choice with your friends to help your favorite win!
THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED
It was one of our most frequently received questions… but today, we are very proud to announce that Meredith Hodges and her magnificent mules are officially making their return to television!
Starting April 7 on Rural TV (Dishnet channel 232), you’ll be able to catch classic episodes of the much-loved documentary show, Those Magnificent Mules on Saturdays at 7:00pm ET and Sundays at 9:30 AM ET. This series offers an insider’s perspective on many facets of the equine community—from the benefits of therapeutic riding, to the excitement of Bishop Mule Days, to tips on keeping your equine in shape, both physically and mentally! We’re excited to be able to share these great stories with you all on a regular basis once again.
This TV programming will also feature special episodes of the animated children’s series, “Jasper the Mule”—including the premiere of Jasper’s Independence Day adventure, “Jasper: A Fabulous Fourth.” It’s a hilarious addition to Jasper’s previous holiday adventures, many of which are also scheduled to air during this time.
So tune in to Rural TV on Saturdays and Sundays all year long for a look inside the lives of those Magnificent Mules—and the people who love them! Click here to find out how you can request Rural TV from your provider, and visit Rural TV on the web here.
Here at Lucky Three Ranch, we believe in “Tebowing” all year long!
Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy New Year, from all of us in the snow at the Lucky Three Ranch!
After a week of nominations, tabulations and excitations, we are very pleased to announce the winners of our book giveaway contest! The top 5 charities, which will each receive 10 sets of Training Without Resistance and Equine Management and Donkey Training are:
- Sunkissed Acres Horse Rescue, in Summerville, GA
- Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, with locations across the country
- Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, in College Station, TX
- Quantum Leap Farm, in Odessa, FL
- Horse Plus Humane Society, in Oroville, CA
Among the other clubs and organizations we will be making donations to are: Southeast Region of Florida Whips, Lucky Duck Rescue and Voice for the Horse.
Thanks to all of our readers who nominated a group to receive our donation, and for all of the wonderful work that these charities and clubs do on a daily basis! We hope our books prove to be a welcome resource for them.
We are already planning more twitter events and giveaways to come, so keep an eye out, and congratulations to all our winners!
Now that our brand new editions of Training Without Resistance and Equine Management and Donkey Training have hit the stores, we are clearing out our stock of the previous versions–and we need your help!
Do you know of a nonprofit equine rescue or shelter that could use some additional resources in their library? Or maybe a therapeutic riding or rehabilitation center that needs training materials to better aid their services? Do you represent a nonprofit equine club that wants to auction off our books to raise funds? We want to hear from you!
Nominate your favorite equine charity by tweeting their name to us @LuckyThreeRanch, or by commenting on this post, between today and
Wednesday, Nov. 30Friday, Dec. 2. Get your friends, followers and fans to Tweet, Retweet or Comment, because each one by a different user counts as another vote. The 25 charities with the most votes will each receive at least one set of both books –to use for training, libraries or auctions! Of those, the top 5 charities with the most votes will receive 10 sets of both books–a value of over $500!
We have lots of books we want to help find a better home, so get those nominations in and spread the word, so we can start giving!
Get in the holiday spirit–donate a tweet, and we’ll donate a book!
We are happy to announce that voting has now been extended through Friday!
*Limit one vote per user. All tweets must include @LuckyThreeRanch and be received by 11:59pm PST on Dec. 2, 2011. All charities must be registered as 501 (c) 3 nonprofits and must be verified prior to donation.
We are proud to announce that the brand new, updated versions of Meredith’s popular Training Without Resistance manuals are now available—in FOUR languages!
These gorgeous editions have full-color photographs, sturdy perfect binding, and have been entirely revised with Meredith’s consistent, reliable, and easy-to-read information on training and caring for mules, donkeys or horses. As before, these books serve as companions to Parts 1 – 7 of Meredith’s popular DVD training series, Training Mules and Donkeys: A Logical Approach to Longears, and provide in-depth explanations for all stages of training—and all stages of trainers. And all foreign versions were lovingly translated and proofed by native speakers!
We’ve updated the look and created a more interactive community for longears lovers. Some of the new features include the search function so you can find what you want easier and the entire library of Mule Crossing articles are available for download. We would love your feedback, so take a look around and let us know if there’s anything missing or things you’d like to see.