Ask Meredith – Breeding

 

Lucky Three Flossie and FeliciaBreeding equines is a responsibility and not just a way to obtain another animal cheaply—whether to keep or to sell. Educating yourself and paying attention to detail during the breeding process will assure that the animals you are breeding are healthy, well-mannered and safe during the breeding process and foaling. Breeding stock should be kept in the most stress-free environment possible to produce both happy and healthy parents and more trainable offspring. Good hygiene should always be practiced to avoid the spread of disease and other health problems.

Click on the title below to see the complete question and answer.

Breeding

Breeding

Animal Husbandry – Which To Cross?

Question: Hi, I was reading your FAQ while searching for information on mules on the internet. I have recently acquired two pony mules (minis) and am curious to acquire more and possibly start breeding mini mules.

It had mentioned that some mares (breeds) conceive more easily than others. What is your extent of experience with mule husbandry? I am looking at several pony stallions and jacks and not sure which way I should cross.

Should I want the female somewhat bigger in stature than the male in either case to birth the baby easily? If I try to get miniature horses (mares) their size would be limited to 36″, and it seems breeding and birthing might prove difficult.

Is a pony stallion or jack more manageable (one or the other)? Also, have you done any research on fertility of mollies? Thank you very much for any information and guidance you can provide.

Answer: There are a lot of factors to consider when breeding for mules. Most female mules are sterile and are not viable breeding prospects, though there have been 3 clearly documented cases in history where molly mules have conceived to a jack or stallion, and delivered at the 12-month term.

The mule (cross between a male donkeys and female horse) are typically the way to go since they seem to inherit the best characteristics from each parent. The mule foal is generally smaller than a horse foal would be, so birthing is easier for the mare. The reverse cross, or hinny, does not always inherit the best characteristics from their parents. Often the stallion is larger than the jennet and large foals can be a problem at birth for a jennet.

Another consideration is that the jack or stallion has to want to do this. If he doesn’t, no amount of training can force it. Jacks and stallions need to be trained to breed outside of their species.

The most important consideration is conformation and the traits you will be passing on to the offspring. People should not be coaxed into breeding inferior animals, or animals with hidden genetic problems for the sake of having babies around or obtaining a cheap animal. It’s cruel to do this as these inferior animals usually end up as dog food later.

The American Donkey & Mule Society (lovelongears@hotmail.com), PO Box 1210, Lewisville, Texas, 95067, (972) 219-0781, can help you further. They have breeder’s lists and a world of information available on this subject.

Breeding for Mini Mules

Question: I was looking in mules and more, found your column would like some information on breeding mini mules, we have 5 mares and 1 jack but none of them are bred.

The jack has been running with the mares since the end of February. He will mount them but is not dropped. All the mares have had babies with in the last 3 years; any info you can give would be appreciated.

Answer: If your jack is a young jack who hasn’t typically bred mares, he will be hesitant. Though jacks are usually aggressive in their behaviors towards jennets, this is not the case with mares. When cross-breeding species, the behaviors of a lot of mares can intimidate the jack.

If your jack is turned out with more than one mare in the beginning, he may find it too overwhelming. It is advisable to begin breeding jacks to mares by allowing him to be with one mare for the first and second year after weaning. Choose a mare with a calm and accepting attitude toward the jack. The companionship he develops with this mare will give him confidence and will set the stage for breeding more mares in the future.

In his third year, the jack should be housed alone and be taught to breed in hand (DVD #9).

Breeding Jacks – A.I. Collection

Question: I looked through several of your past Q & As and it was very helpful. However, I still have a few questions… I want to get a Jack for breeding to mares, but If I get one that has been raised with donkeys… will he have any interest in mares?

Can I train him to breed mares? Or collect on a dummy? I would prefer to teach him to collect on a dummy, and AI my mares. Should I get a young male (2 yrs old) and teach him to breed my way, or is that possible?

Or, should I get an “Experienced” Jack who has already bred mares and jennets, and then teach him to mount a dummy? Do you know anyone that has taught a Jack to mount a dummy? Is their fertility similar to stallions?

Answer: It is difficult to teach a jack to breed mares, and they should not be allowed to breed jennets until they have successfully bred mares for several years. A young jack who is to breed mares should be pastured with a calm and accepting mare during his second year. He may or may not conceive this early, but the real task is to build his confidence for this purpose. Jacks can be very timid with mares, so a regimented training process is necessary to keep him from being discouraged.

It is more difficult to alter the behaviors of the older jack and if they have already bred jennets, it is not impossible, but highly unlikely that they will breed mares. Jacks can be collected from a dummy, but that also depends on the personality and experience of the jack.

Breeding Stallion to Jennet

Question: I asked you a question a few weeks ago, regarding breeding a 15.2 hand racking stallion to a 50″ jenny. You recommended against it on grounds that she might not be able to have the foal.

I wanted to ask a few clarifying questions. Would this crossing result in a hinny closer to the size of the horse or the donkey? or somewhere in between? I have had the stallion since he was born and he was not much different in size than the two foals the jenny has had for us. I have also seen a mare that was out of his sire and a 48″ pony.

Although our jenny is only 50″ she weighs 650-700lbs and is very long bodied, Would this make any difference? My horse only weighs about 900lbs.

Answer: This is a case of knowing the possibilities of genetic makeup. Though your stallion was small as a foal, if his sire or grandsire had genes for more size, your stallion could pass this on to his offspring. If the jennet is only 12.5 hands and the stallion is 15.2 hands, there is a lot of difference in size to begin with. The offsping will generally mature to the height of the mare or jennet, 2″ taller or 2″ shorter depending on his genetic makeup.

The vast difference in size between the stallion and the jennet (without the genes of a taller sire or grandsire) still allows the stallion to contribute genes that would make the foal larger than the jennet would be able to manage. If the foal is too large, the smaller jennet would have problems at birth expelling the foal which could even result in the death of the jennet, foal, or both.

Determining Maturation Size of Mule Foal

Question: Could you tell us how you can determine the size that a mule foal will get at full height? Is there a tried and true method?

Answer: General rule of thumb is that the mule will mature to the mare’s height (50%), 2″ taller (25%) or 2″ shorter (25%) than the mare. The jack will determine the thickness of bone in the mule and rarely contributes much to the height. Of course, if you were to use a Standard (48″ to 56″) Jack, he may produce a slightly shorter animal than would a Large Standard or Mammoth Jack.

Diet-Fescue Pasture

Question: Hi! I am a first time horse owner. We recently purchased some land and a bred horse. She was already approx 9 months along when I got her. She is now at 11 months and I just found out that there is fescue in the pasture. I heard that this is bad for pregnant horses.

What type of problem does this cause and what do I need to do? I am feeding her 1 large can (dog food size) of Omelene100 one time a day. Also, I want to breed her to a Donkey next time, what do I need to look for in selecting a stud? Thanks for your time!

Answer: Documented cases of fescue related toxicity have included:

1) Mares carrying foals past gestation times.
2) Spontaneous abortion at foaling time.
3) Difficult births due to prolonged gestation.
4) Thickened placentas that are often retained longer than normal which could lead to infection, laminitis or founder and difficult rebreeding.
5) Mares produce little or no milk and the colostrum can be decreased.
6) The mare may not exhibit the normal signs before foaling (udder development, relaxation of muscles around the tail, and filling of the teats.
7) Research on the effects on young horses is inconsistent, but it seems to reduce growth.
8) It isn’t the fescue itself that is toxic, but the fungus that typically lives in fescue grass. Most fescue pastures have varying degrees of this endophyte fungus.

Mares in foal should have a balanced diet that is carefully monitored. To avoid incidence of colic or founder, it is advisable to take the mare off all grain and feed only grass hay, or timothy, six weeks before foaling to six weeks after foaling. Grain can be reintroduced safely after this in small increments at a time.

There are a lot of things to consider before choosing a jack for breeding. It would take pages to tell you them all. We have a lot of products available that can help you with this, beginning with DVD #8, #9, and our book Donkey Training. For general breeding information, see our book A Guide to Raising & Showing Mules.

General Breeding Info

Question: I want to breed my own mule baby. If I want a mule at maturity to be around 52 in. Do I need to make sure the mare is this size? And what about the jack? What size does he need to be? Rest assure I will be responsible for this baby as long as I live and the mare will have a permanent home I will pay stud fee for use of the jack.

Answer: When breeding for mules, the mare should be selected for the performance type of mule that you wish and for the approximate height of the mule. Mules will exhibit the athletic abilities of the horse he came out of and his height will be either the mare’s height, or somewhere between 2″ shorter or 2″ taller than the mare.

The jack contributes strength, intelligence and thickness of bone. He does make some contribution to the height, so it is important to consider the jack’s size as well.

For finer boned saddle mules, one would use a Standard jack (36″ to 48″), Large Standard jack (48″ to 56″). For heavier boned saddle or pack mules, a Mammoth jack (over 56″) should be used. For miniatures, we use miniature jacks and for draft mules, Mammoths are best.

Gestation

Question: I have a burro and I was wondering how long is there pregnancy period? I can’t find any information anywhere on burros and I was just wondering if you knew.

Answer: The gestation for pregnant jennets is 12 months. It is the same for mares with mule foals. Sometimes they can foal a few weeks earlier or later depending on the individual animals.

Help With Donkey Births

Question: I am 13 years old. I live in California and I will soon have 2 donkeys. I am going to have a baby donkey if everything goes right with my donkey. I need help with her because I had never dealt with delivering a baby. I need your answer soon. She can have the baby any day.

Answer: Most jennets will foal quite easily with little assistance. You can watch, but do not interfere unless it seems she is having difficulties. Most likely, she will foal while you are not there, which is fine if there aren’t any complications.

When she does foal, you should make sure they are in a clean and dry bedded stall and keep them there for a couple of days before turning them out. It helps with the bonding of the jennet and foal and allows them to get used to you as well.

You can help dry the foal with a soft towel if it doesn’t upset the jennet. Then you would put iodine on the umbilical cord. A “Fleet” enema helps the foal pass the meconium (first manure) more easily. Watch the foal and make sure it is able to nurse within the first two hours. Save the placenta after it is passed for the vet to inspect to make sure the jennet has not retained any pieces of it. Call your vet and have them do a post partum check.

Our book A Guide To Raising & Showing Mules has a lot of helpful information on breeding and foal care.

Hinnies-Jennet Heat Cycle

Question: Recently we purchased three Reg. Spotted Asses, one jenny just had her foal last week. We want to breed her back to one of our Paint Stallions for a spotted Mule. We have been watching her and putting the stallion in the stall next to her and she hasn’t come into foal heat like our horse mares do at 8 to 10 days from birthing.

What is the heat cycle for a jenny and will she come into a foal heat like a horse mare? We will be hand breeding her like we do our horse mares, the stallion seems to be interested enough in her, so seems like there will be no problem with him.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations for breeding horse stallion to donkeys, we would appreciate it very much. Thank you.

Answer: Stallions don’t generally have much interest in jennets and need to be taught to breed outside of their species. Some are aggressive enough and will try, but most won’t.

Jennets can be an enigma. They do generally cycle very much like mares, but they can show heat or not at will, so it is hard to tell when they are actually ready to breed. It is difficult even for a veterinarian to tell since many vets are unable to palpate a jennet due to their smaller stature. A jennet that is ready and in heat will generally “clack” her teeth at the jack in addition to sporadic peeing. Though some will exhibit this behavior for a stallion, many will not. They will generally cycle every 21 days and be in heat for 7-10 days.

It is also important to select animals that are similar in size. Horses tend to be much larger than most jennets and if you breed a smaller jennet to a larger stallion, the jennet could have a foal that would be very large, making foaling difficult.

How Long Are Jacks Fertile?

Question: Someone in our area is moving and wants to give me their old jack donkey that is in its 20’s. Do they tend to live longer than horses, and is he still able to be used for breeding?

Answer: Donkeys can live to 40 years or better, however, the jack’s fertility will depend upon the individual. Ask your veterinarian to do a semen test for fertility to see if he is still a viable breeder.

Is Donkey Pregnant?

Question: I have a 3 or 4 year old jenny donkey I’ve had for a year and a half. She has been with a jack ever since I’ve had her. She is showing no signs of being pregnant at this time. Is there any way to tell if she is pregnant or tell if she cannot get pregnant?

Answer: Donkeys are a very unique animal and seem to be able to get pregnant when they want to and will not get pregnant if they don’t want to. The only sure way to test for pregnancy would be to have your vet come out and test her.

Jennets can have a tight bag for quite sometime and if you do not know when she was bred, it can be difficult to determine when the 12 month gestation will be up. However, there are a few more signs that will manifest themselves as the time gets closer. The vulva will become loose and flaccid. The teats will begin to form milk droplets that will turn to waxy knobs within 2 weeks of foaling. The jennets should be carrying the foal slightly forward from the flanks. When she is closer to foaling, the “bulge” of the baby will shift lower and towards the rear.

It is not advisable to leave her with the jack all the time. It is better that she have her own space and that the jack is taught to be bred in hand. Jacks can be very aggressive and bothersome to the jennets and if they are pastured with the a jack and never get any relief, this could contribute to their inability to conceive and carry a foal.

Look for more information in our book A Guide To Raising and Showing Mules.

Late Breeding Training

Question: We have a mammoth jack that in the past would chase and mount whatever he could catch. I bred him to a jenny and a Quarter Horse mare over a year ago and we are empty handed today. I have put him up to a Paint mare that was definitely in heat and he would get close, curl his lip and walk around to see what else was going on around the property.

He showed zero interest in breeding. He is going to be 3 years in October, 05, and was born here. He is on pasture and the summer has been dry and fairly hot. I don’t know if this is a factor or maybe he has been injured by the gelding he runs with. They wrestle, chase, and kick, but not violently. Do you have any ideas of why he has lost his calling??

Answer: The mounting behaviors you saw at 1 and 2 years old are just play for the tasks to come when he is an adult. If you had planned to use him for breeding, he should not have been allowed to run with the other stock.

If they are to breed mares, weaned jacks should be pastured with a calm and sedate mare that will not retaliate when mounted to build his confidence. At 2 years old, jacks would not necessarily be fertile enough to conceive foals, but it is possible.

Once he turns 3, he should be trained to breed in hand and should be kept by himself. He can have a pen next to other animals, but you would need to run a hotwire around the inside of your fence, so he wouldn’t go through it (jacks will flatten about any kind of fencing). After breeding mares for several seasons, he is then ready to be trained to breed jennets. All of this is covered in DVD #9 of our resistance-free training series.

There is a slight chance that you may be able to correct this situation if he has an aggressive personality. Begin again by pasturing him with one docile mare. Just make sure he isn’t going to be too aggressive with her. It may take awhile and you might have to wait until next season, or the one after, to see any results, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

Mule Origins

Question: Where did the mule originate, and how are they reproduced? A student told me that mules were a mix between a donkey and a horse, and that mules were unable to reproduce. She claims that a horse breeder gave her that information. Please clarify this for me.

Answer: Mules go back as far as the Bible where they are mentioned a few times. In many instances they were considered an “accident,” but today we are purposely breeding for mules to use in all different equine athletics in addition to their common use as a draft or pack animal.

The mule is always a cross between a male donkey called a jack and a female horse called a mare. The reverse cross would be called a hinny and they have slightly different characteristics than the mule. A horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey has 62; the resulting offspring mule has only 63 and is sterile due to the uneven number of chromosomes for conception.

There have been a few documented cases of mare mules (mollies) having offspring by a jack or stallion, but it a rare exception.

Mule Reproduction

Question: Can two mules reproduce? Can a mule and a horse reproduce? Can a mule and a donkey reproduce? What are the differences between mules that result from mating a female horse with a male donkey and a male horse with a female donkey?

Answer: The horse has 64 chromosomes and the donkey has 62. The resulting offspring from this cross or mule normally has 63. Two mules cannot reproduce due to an uneven number of chromosomes in their make-up. Chromosomes need to be present in pairs.

There have been documented cases in history where molly mules have been impregnated by a jack and a stallion. The first was “Old Beck,” who first had a foal who looked horse-like by a stallion and the second foal who looked like a mule by a jack.

The second case was a mule named “Krause” from Nebraska who foaled twice by a jack with 2 mule-like foals, “Blue Moon” and “White Lightning.”

Mules are the cross between a male donkey and a female horse. Hinnies are the reverse cross. The mule seems to inherit all the best qualities from both parents with the overall size and stature closer to the horse. The hinny does not necessarily inherit the best qualities and though physically similar to the mule. Their attitudes are a little more horse-like.

Orphan Foal

Question: I need your help. My best brood mare just died last night from what the vet thought was milk fever. She milked really heavy and he thought she depleted the calcium in her body. We gave her an IV but nothing worked ….found her dead this morning. Here is the problem – she had an 8 week old filly mule baby, foaled 5/13 The baby is eating grass but won’t have mama for milk. What do you recommend for feeding……is 8 weeks too young to wean off milk and get it on feed?

Answer: Two months is still rather young to be weaned although it has been done before. If the filly would accept it, goat’s milk or one of the milk products produced for orphan foals fed from a bottle would be good for her until she is truly eating enough real food. She should get the goat’s milk every 4-6 hours. She should have the crimped oats mix we recommend and grass hay in front of her all the time to make sure she is getting enough to eat.

Pregnant Donkey with Club Foot

Question: I need your help! My Husband and I just got a jenny a few months ago and we were told that she was pregnant. Well when we got her home we found out that she had a very bad club foot left rear leg. I have been watching her and today she can hardly put any pressure on the hoof.

I also noticed that she looks like she is in labor. I never had to do this and I can’t get a vet to look at her around here. I have been doing a lot of reading on donkeys but have not found a site on them giving birth, pros & cons. I need to know what to look for and what problems she could be having.

Answer: Jennets and mares are very much the same when it comes to giving birth. They both exhibit signs of labor with an enlarged udder tipped with wax at the ends and sometimes leaking milk before birth. They will be restless and sometimes a little cranky. They will spend time as the birthing gets closer lying down, rolling and getting up frequently. You will notice that in the last two weeks before birth, the foal will shift and be carried lower and more toward the rear than before in preparation for birth. The vulva on the jennet will be more swelled and flaccid (loose).

If she has a club foot, it is conceivable that she may be experiencing pain in her hips from not being able to keep her bones and muscles aligned properly on that side because of the misshape of the foot. She has probably compensated for this all her life, but the added weight and pressure put on her body from the pregnancy is just compounding an already difficult problem. A vet should really look at her and make sure it isn’t anything serious like an abscess, or inflammation of some sort in the limb itself.

Chances are, she is just sore and this will work itself out. Unless the foal is too large, she will probably deliver quite easily on her own. Jennets are even more particular than mares when it comes to foaling. Mares will foal in front of humans, but a jennet seems to use every possible means to keep from birthing until no one is around.

Once she has foaled, be very careful upon your approach as they are VERY protective of their foals and will attack quite viciously to defend them, even jennets that have been handled all their lives. To minimize the potential problems, she should be kept by herself in an environment that affords minimal exercise (small pen) and preferably a stall, or loafing shed where she can keep the foal warm and dry after birth.

We have more on pregnant mare and jennet care in our book A Guide To Raising & Showing Mules.

Pregnant Mule Mare?

Question: I am a proud owner of a 4 year old mule named Lucy. In June, I moved her from the stable we purchased her from over a year ago to a stable closer to our home. At the previous stable, Lucy was put out in a corral with other mules and occasionally with horses, specifically a Mustang stallion.

In the three months since moving Lucy, the stable owners and myself have noticed Lucy put on some weight and looking pregnant. I can feel her ribs and see her ribs but she has rounded out like a pregnant horse. I know it is VERY, VERY rare but yet possible for Lucy to be pregnant.

I have a call in to the vet and I know statistically that it is improbable that Lucy is pregnant…but I wondered if you have been around a documented case that a mule mare has given birth?

Answer: There have been two documented cases in America where mules have conceived and given birth and even more in other parts of the world.

The first was “Old Beck,” who first had a foal who looked horse-like by a stallion and the second foal who looked like a mule by a jack.

The second case was a mule named “Krause” from Nebraska who foaled twice by a jack with 2 mule-like foals, “Blue Moon” and “White Lightning.”

I would call the vet and have your mule checked if you think this is true as she should have special care and documentation if she is to deliver a foal safely and easily.

Registering Donkey with Unknown Parentage

Question: Can I register my donkey even if I don’t know who the parents are? She is such a lovely donkey and pretty, too.

Answer: Yes you can. Below are guidelines for donkey registry with the American Donkey and Mule Society.

MDR – the Miniature Donkey Registry. Founded in 1958 by Bea Langfeld and now run by ADMS, this registry is exclusively for Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys. Up until 2009, any donkey under the height of 36” at the withers could be registered as long as it met basic type and conformation.

Since the numbers are now over 54,500, the book was closed to “untraced” donkeys in Jan 2009. This means that ONLY donkeys who have both parents already registered as Miniature Mediterranean donkeys will be placed in MDR.

If one or both parents are not registered as Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys, the donkey will be placed in the American Donkey/Jackstock Registry book.

ADR/ADJR The American Donkey/Jackstock Registry. Founded in 1967 by Paul & Betsy Hutchins, this book was open to donkeys of all sizes for many years. In the 1990s, Miniatures were put exclusively in the MDR book. However, a good number are still registered in ADR as “Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys.” Their offspring (providing both parents are MMDs) are eligible for inclusion in the MDR book.

Have a donkey of any size with no pedigree, but still want to register it? This is where they go! Unsure? Don’t worry, we’ll place them in the appropriate book.

(Remember, the key is BOTH PARENTS registered as Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys to go in MDR. Anything else goes in the ADR book.)

AMR – The American Mule Registry. Mules, hinnies, all sizes, all types. No pedigree? NO PROBLEM. However, any known pedigree or parent info is appreciated and will appear on the mule’s papers. Send a photocopy of the dam’s papers if you have them!

AMRR – for Racing mules. The American Mule Racing Registry covers anything (mule or hinny) that’s on the track. Slightly different registration form and rules apply. Ask for applications if you have a mule colt that’s destined to go into training for the track.

ZEHBRA – Zebras, Exotic Hybrids/Bloodstock Registry. For pure-bred zebras and their offspring, whether it is zebra x horse, pony or donkey.

Donkey Under 36” (or expected to mature so) – SIRE is registered Miniature Mediterranean Donkey, DAM is registered Miniature Mediterranean Donkey (MDR). Donkeys up to 38” at maturity will still be allowed with the Oversize rule.

Donkey Under 36” (or expected to mature so) – One Parent is registered Miniature Mediterranean Donkey, the other is registered American Miniature, European Miniature, British/English/Irish Miniature, or is unregistered. Donkey with untraced parents, or unregistered parents, under the height of 36″ at maturity (ADR). Larger Donkeys still go in ADR as well.

For more information about the ADMS, mail to P.O. Box 1210 Lewisville, Texas 75067, call (972) 219-0781, or visit www.lovelongears.com. Join the American Donkey & Mule Society to receive their bimonthly magazine with even more valuable information for a mere $23/yr.

Ride Pregnant Mare?

Question: I have a pregnant mare and my vet told me that I could still ride her until she makes a milk sack. But what I would like to know is how big does it have to be before you know when to stop? My horse is swollen and kicks at her belly but it is not really noticeable that she is making one even though you can tell a little bit of a difference.

And my second question is. Is it alright for her to canter with me riding her? She seems to like trotting once in awhile but sometimes when I try to get her in a canter she doesn’t want to go but other times she will. Can I hurt the baby or make her go into early labor riding her like that?

Answer: What your vet told you is correct, but there are other things to consider. If you have not ridden this mare regularly (2 or 3 times a week) and “in frame,” she can easily become sore and uncomfortable on top of the natural discomfort that comes with pregnancy. It may not affect the foal directly, but it wouldn’t be the best scenario for the mare’s overall health.

The reason she doesn’t want to canter is probably because she is experiencing soreness. I would suspect it is because she is not in good enough physical condition. It is better to just leave her alone until after she foals.

Spaying a Molly Mule

Question: What are the pros and cons of spaying a molly? We have a two-year-old molly that is very obvious when she is in heat. Even when we are working her, she squats and pees, makes “baby mouth” and it is very inconvenient, not to mention unsightly. We hope to show her under saddle, and her cycles may interfere with show dates and other plans!

Answer: I have had a lot of experience with molly mules in heat and also with animals who have been spayed. Spaying does not seem to help at all and, in some cases, has made things worse. The best course of action is to lighten up on the week they are in heat and lower your expectations. If you are sensitive to the fact that they really cannot control this (any more than a human woman can) and put less pressure on them at that time, they will be more apt to give you the best they can.

Our resistance-free DVD training series is designed to begin with DVDs #1 and #8 (feeding and maintenance, advanced showmanship) and take the training in sequence, whether you are training a foal, just getting acquainted with an older animal that has been previously trained or rehabilitating an abused animal. This will guarantee that you will be doing the right kinds of things in their proper order to insure that you get the best from the animal, making your time with him both safe and enjoyable. Even molly mules who are in heat will exhibit less aggressive behaviors during their cycle if they have the benefit of this training. You will just need to use good judgment and lower your expectations of mollies and jennets during these times.

The Donkey’s Cross

Question: I have a donkey at my stables. Someone had come and told me that my donkey was a Jerusalem Donkey, and had the perfect markings of the cross. I would love to find some information on this type of donkey. If you could help me to find a website or if you have any information on this I would appreciate it.

Answer: The cross over the back of some donkeys is largely due to Spanish breeding descent. Because donkey breeds have been unable to stay true and pure in this country, our donkeys are mixtures of these Spanish donkeys and others brought by different breeds brought by explorers from other countries.

The donkey that bears the cross is explained in the Bible when Jesus rode him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. What is significant is that he rode an ass, an animal that has no natural enemies and is put on this earth for the sole purpose of serving man. When you experience the affectionate character of donkeys, it is easy to see why they have been chosen. They are mirrors to our souls.

If you’d like more information, I suggest you contact the American Donkey & Mule Society, PO Box 1210, Lewisville, TX, 75067, (972) 219-0781, lovelongears@hotmail.com. They have an extensive Longears library that can help you.

Using Henderson drill method for gelding

Question: What is your opinion of using the Henderson drill method of gelding for donkeys and mules?

Answer: I had not heard of the Henderson drill method of castration until your email, but after reading about it, I’m not so certain that it would be any safer than a really good veterinarian, as tools are only as good as the person who is handling them. I think this could potentially pose a problem with certain vets who look for short cuts and may think it is a quicker way to get things done (to make more money). In the hands of an incompetent vet, the following potential problems are exponentially escalated. In a quote from an article on the website, TheHorse.com:

  • “In very young, small breeds, the spermatic cords will often slip through the pliers. The smaller bull clamp might be an option for these horses.
  • It is not recommended for retained testicles;
  • Dead or low drill batteries can be problematic;
  • If the clamp is not secure in the drill, it can’t be used;
  • Infection is a risk, as with any other surgery;
  • The spermatic cord can be torn if the practitioner places extreme tension on the cord;
  • Bleeding from large scrotal or skin vessels (more often seen in older males) is a potential complication of any castration, Reilly noted that cross-clamping the skin prior to removing it minimizes bleeding. Also, cross-clamping and removing the skin piece allows only one surgical site compared to two (one over each testicle) with other methods.”

When you employ good management and training skills so your equines accept things calmly and obediently, there is nothing better than using a skilled veterinarian who can make judgment calls right there on the spot. I feel the same way about mechanical trimming tools. They will never replace the care and knowledge of a well-schooled and competent farrier. Mechanical dental tools are often necessary, but again, they are only truly safe in the hands of a skilled equine dentist. In all of these cases, for the sake of the welfare of your animals, it is worth it to take the time to find and pay what’s necessary for a skilled, credentialed and professional individual.

Weaning Miniature Donkey

Question: I have a miniature donkey dam with her 6-month-old jennet foal at her side. Do I have to wean the jennet foal if I plan to keep both dam and foal? What are the advantages & disadvantages to me weaning the jennet foal as compared to allowing the dam to wean her naturally?

For how many months will the foal nurse, if permitted to stay with her dam? I have not bred the dam and do not plan to do so. Thank you for responding to my many questions.

Answer: It is advisable to wean a foal no matter what the circumstances. First, the foal will eventually be taking nourishment from the dam long after they should which will compromise the health of the dam.

The second reason is that the foal, like a human child, needs to become an adult at some point and learn to lead his own life with all that goes with it. An animal that is left with the dam indefinitely can become psychologically dependent and deficient as an adult and could manifest behaviors that might become dangerous.

The foal should ideally be weaned at six months and they should be separated for a year for the weaning to really be effective, after which you can put them back together. If you put them back together too soon, the foal could start nursing again and cause the milk to start flowing again in the dam.

Welsh Pony Stallion-Jennet

Question: I have a Welch pony stud. Can I breed him to a donkey? If so, will I get a small mule or another donkey? Please respond.

Answer: Yes, you could conceivably breed your Welsh stallion to a donkey jennet. The main concern would be his interest in the jennet and her acceptance of him. The resulting offspring would look very much like a mule, but is called a hinny. It is difficult enough to get a jack to breed a mare, but jacks are typically aggressive animals and will get the job done. Most stallions do not possess this same kind of aggression, which makes breeding for hinnies a little more difficult.

What To Expect Before Birth?

Question: What do I need to expect for my miniature donkey to do before she gives birth?

Answer: Your miniature donkey should be in a pen by herself so she is not stressed at the birth of her foal. If you know when she was bred, she will be due 12 months from that date. It is hard to tell exactly when they will foal, but she her bag should swell and there will be droplets of wax on the ends of the teats. Her vulva will be loose and flaccid. She may roll more often than usual in preparation for the birth and she may be a little more grumpy than usual. And, they will wait until there is no one around before they actually deliver.

When to Wean?

Question: As always thank you for your time and help with my mule questions. If you were buying a young mule colt, at what age would you consider optimum to take the weanling away from its mother to its new home? Would love the chance to start bonding and working with the colt as soon as prudent. Thank you again for your help. Look forward to using your videos.

Answer: We wean our colts at 6 months and that should be soon enough. Many people wean too early and that makes for adverse behaviors later. It is not necessary to take the mare off the property, but it is wise to choose a good companion for the foal during weaning to minimize anxiety behaviors. The foal and his companion should have a place where there is adequate shelter and a stout and safe kind of fencing to prevent injury.

The foal should not be penned right next to the mare and should be given a full year of separation to keep him from nursing when he is returned to pasturing with his dam. You can wean multiple animals together, but when he is pastured with an older animal, just pick one for him to be with, so he does not have to fight for a position in a pecking order. If you wean your equine before the six month period, they cannot grow properly and it will compromise the development of their confidence and a willingness to trust.

When you get your foal, just begin with DVD #1 of our resistance-free training series and take your time. Things will work out just fine.

Be sure you are feeding as per DVD #8 (to avoid hypertension and an inability to be attentive).It is also advisable to have the mule in a small pen and stall/shed for feeding. That way you can make the distinction between work and play more easily. You would feed in the morning in the smaller area, then, either turn out, or have a lesson (20-40 minutes tops) and then turn out. In the evening, you would bring the mule back in for feeding and keep him up overnight. This gives him a routine he can count on.

We limit lessons to every other day. It just gives them a day to think about what they learned and gives muscles a chance to relax. When you do this, they seem to come back to each new lesson and do what you ask more easily. Consequently, whether you let him out to play and graze, or if you decide to have a lesson, he still looks forward to seeing you because you are the one responsible for his pleasure.

Will Mare Reject Mule Foal?

Question: Hello! Would a mare reject a foal if she did not have prior contact with donkeys, if one used AI semen?

Answer:Mares seem to do just fine with mule foals regardless of how they were bred, if the situation is routine and relatively stress free. A mare will reject a horse foal if there is stress or anxiety in their living situation. If the situation they are in is calm, accepting and relatively stress free, anything is possible. Of course, certain personality types are just not made to be mothers, but these cases are relatively rare.

Aggressive Jack Hurts Jenny in Heat

Question: In all the years I’ve had donkeys and mules I have never had a tragedy like what happened in my little long ear kingdom yesterday. Seems my little standard donkey jenny, Rosita, came into heat and that big lug of a john mule, Skipper completely savaged her. I mean he darn near killed her. Found her last night when we brought them into the barn. My girlfriend, Chris wants to NOT believe that her mule is the culprit, but all the signs were there. From the roughed up butt fur to the savaged back and torn up ears – the evidence is incriminating. Rosita has no fur OR skin from her withers to her croup and the path of destruction is about a foot wide. She has deep nasty gashes from teeth on the backs of her ears. Those injuries don’t worry me as much as the back injury from the weight of that mule. She can hardly walk, she’s so sore. Needless to say, I have to find another place to put my two donkeys. I did notice whenever I see pictures of your mules and donkeys that they are never mixed together. Is my recent experience the reason?

Answer: Male mules will always have a certain amount of aggressive male behaviors particularly in the spring. Even when gelded, they are prone to “jump” the females during breeding season. Mules will also chase animals that are smaller than themselves and this is true of both males and females. This is why it is very important to make an evaluation of your animals before putting them in pens and pastures together. Certain behaviors are predictable and if taken into consideration can prevent a disastrous outcome. Mules will always LOVE their mothers, so when penned with horses, they can be content, but not always willing to leave them. Plus, if with mares, the male mules will mercilessly harass them in the spring. This is why I pen my horses separately from the mules. I do not put smaller animals in with the larger mules because they will also harass them whether male or female. The smaller ones can be penned with the larger horses provided you do not have an extreme alpha male or female in the herd. Mares seem to be more tolerant of the little ones. I do not pen younger and smaller mules with older mules (three years and younger). Once they have reached their third birthday, they can better withstand the pecking order ritual and can be added to the older group (mules from 3 – 15). Note that mules from 3 to 15 will exhibit aggressive sexual behaviors with their own kind, but the female mules are better equipped to fend off aggressive males in the spring where horse mares are not. Mules that are over 15 or 16 years old should be penned with a more sedate group of older mules, but still not with horses just to keep the peace. Older mules will be chased mercilessly by the younger and more aggressive male mules, especially if they are older males. Younger male mules will also mercilessly harass the older female mules in the spring and can injure them.

Generally, the best thing to do with a new animal is to put them in a pen of their own that is adjacent to the pens with your other animals for about two weeks just so they can be introduced “across the fence” before actually turning them in together. Jacks and stallions should never be turned in with other animals. When you finally do put them in together, they will have a ritual of developing the new pecking order, but as long as they do not get completely vicious with each other, you can be reasonably sure that they will work this out and things will calm down over another two week period. Of course, there may be irreconcilable differences in personality or size that will affect his behavior. If he is incompatible with the other animals, he may need to be kept by himself, or with a partner that is more suitable for him.

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