Ask Meredith – Care

 

There is much to consider when taking on the care and training of an equine. Contrary to popular belief, there is more to do than just provide grass to eat and a fence around them. They need regular maintenance for their health, such as trimming or shoeing, dental work, vaccinations, etc. They need to be contained with the proper kinds of fencing and provided with adequate shelter, as well as plenty of community time—with you and/or with other animals—in order to stay healthy and happy. Routine care is yet another integral part of their training. When these things are repeated year after year, the equine is given something he can count on that he knows will make him feel good. When he can count on his experience being pleasant and pleasurable, he will be a better and more-cooperative equine companion.

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

Care

Care

Am I The Right Personality For My Mule?

Question: Have watched your show many times and really enjoyed it. I also love your beautiful State. As a child I lived in what is now called Commerce City, CO. I also have a girl friend (from high school) that lives in Fort Collins (Bellvue). I don’t really know why I like mules so much but I do. My husband thinks I’m a little nuts but I would love to have one at sometime. My grandfather was the blacksmith during the WWII in D. C. and my Mom said he worked mostly with mules.

I have a rather different question for you. I was told by one mule trainer here in VA. my personality would not work with a mule. I only talked to him on the phone. He came to this conclusion because I’m not comfortable with my Morab gelding. I love Jasper but don’t feel we are a good partnership.

He is full of energy, rather jumpy and spooky. I had cancer then radiation therapy in 1999. Since then I have something akin to panic attacks but not that bad. I do take an herbal supplement for it and it works well.

I would say it’s more like nerves. Once I’m on and riding I calm down and take everything in stride. I’m planning on selling Jasper. My old mare may have to be put down, may have EPM. We are in the waiting time now to see what happens after she come of the meds. We also are selling our gaited mare which has a very ugly attitude.

We will be left with our 4 yr old Appy mare and my daughters Morab. So because I’m a little nervous at first would a mule not be suitable for me? Oh yes, I have an Aussie that brings the horses in to be paddock area in the p.m. She is a header not a heeler. Problem with this?

Keep up your wonderful show. Maybe on my next trip to CO I can take your tour. I wouldn’t be far from you ranch.

Answer: There are as many different personality types in mules as there are in people. Some personality types are compatible and some are not. If you really would like to have a mule and have a genuine attraction for them, then I think there should be a mule out there that would be right for you. The dog should not be a problem once you understand how to introduce them correctly.

A lot of times, people are nervous from a fear of what they don’t know and what they are not comfortable with. Knowledge can give you more confidence and help with the nervousness. It can help you to approach your equines (and other animals and people) with a more positive attitude that will result in safe and enjoyable relationships.

We have a very good resistance free training series that can help you discover the right kinds of things to do with your mule in any given situation. Check out the details throughout the “Ask Meredith” section and be sure to read the Mule Crossing articles “How to Use Meredith’s Products,” “Intro to Behavior Modification Part 1” and “Intro to Behavior Modification Part 2.”

Belled Tails

Question: I was reading your responses to questions about the practice of shaving tails. I am a retired Forest Service packer with thirty years professional experience. The practice of shaving the top of the tail and belling the tail did in fact start with the US cavalry as both a means of identifying training levels and to protect the base of the tail when using a crupper (secondarily the upper shave became an additional means of showing pride in the animal).

The bells were used as thus: no bell- un-broke/green, 1 bell-pack animal, 2 bells-broke to pack and ride, 3 bells-broke to ride, pack and drive. The Forest Service adopted many of these identification methods in the Northern Region when it had the breeding program early in the last century!

Answer: Thank you for your clarification on shaving the tails. We truly appreciate your taking the time to share this information.

Donkey Care Around the World

Question:
I am writing to you this morning to thank you for words of wisdom from our last email exchange earlier this month: “We do what we can with the help of others around the world.” So true. I found this to be the case while working on behalf of the homeless dogs in Baja California, Mexico, from 2005 to 2008.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I did not get very far with calls into the head offices of PBS in Arlington, VA, to express my concern over one short segment of the Haiti program in which a very heavy-set, U.S.-based chef is being carried up a hillside on a scrawny donkey—whose knees were angled out laterally in mid-stride. One gentleman, who monitors the ethical/integrity content of programs before they are televised, said, “I don’t see what the problem is.” I responded, “It looked inhumane.” But later that day, I received a return call from the Oklahoma PBS network president who, with greater compassion, noted, and this is a paraphrase: “It could have been the context—this is the way the people in Haiti do it, so the film crew followed their local custom.” He did watch the program again, he said, and I certainly thanked him for that.

Not to keep banging the pavement with a spoon, I just thought to write to say that your manuals teaching better treatment of equines are so necessary for many parts of the world. I did find, just by surprise, a donkey sanctuary in Bonaire, a small island off the coast of Venezuela, taking wonderful care of them there.

Answer:
Thank you for the update! I would expect that there are not very many people that see this as a problem, however, The Donkey Sanctuary (you can Google them) in the United Kingdom and various colleges throughout the United States have been sponsoring educational programs in third world countries to teach better equine management practices. Veterinarian Amy McClean took my foreign-translated training manuals to several foreign countries while she was on her mission educating people about donkey care and I believe (if I am not mistaken) that she went to Venezuela! The donkeys they use are critical to their economies, as is true in many third world countries, and keeping them healthy is to the benefit of the owners. So, I would say, we are doing what we can and appreciating anything that people can do to bring attention to this issue. Every little phone call helps, even if you don’t get the response that you expect!

The Donkey Sanctuary in Bonaire was one of the British Donkey Sanctuary’s international projects, and they are hard at work with similar projects across the globe, including places like Cyprus, Egypt and India. This is a vast world and we are but a drop in the bucket, but we are making some progress…if you look back and see how far we have come! All we can do is keep doing what we are doing…one small step at a time!

Donkey Scared of Fly Spray

Question: My donkey is terrified with fly spray and she won’t let me get near her with it. How can I get her to calm down?

Answer: It is important that your donkey trusts you. When fly spraying, first make sure your donkey is tied to a stout post. Then, give your donkey a treat (handful of oats), let her smell the spray bottle, then start slow and spray the front legs first and work your way up to the neck, Be sure to pet her and tell her it’s OK. Then, when you spray the face and head, make sure that there is no overspray to the eyes and ears. Then work your way back along the neck and cover the body from front to back.

When you have finished, give her another treat of oats, tell her she’s been really good and let her go. Make the fly spraying just another part of grooming, so it does not stand alone. If she is groomed in a way that is pleasurable, she will learn to enjoy it and will realize the fly spray keeps the bugs off. When you groom with consideration, your animal will appreciate it.

Donkey Teeth Different?

Question: I have 5 donkeys, 4 that needed a better home than they had, & one whose owner had too many donkeys. They get along well together, running loose on the 10 acres that surrounds our house.

My question… Is there a difference between horse & donkey teeth, when it comes to telling their age? I have one donkey that I know is over 15 years old, but my vet says his teeth look like he’s 10, or over 25. She’s an equine vet, but where I live in Arizona, burros are just burros, & usually don’t get vet services, so she hasn’t had that much experience with them. I thought you might have some information we could use.

Answer: It is my experience that equine teeth are all basically the same.They have either 40 teeth (in males counting the 4 canines) or 36 teeth (in the females where canine teeth are generally absent). They are born with both baby and permanent teeth in the jaws. The baby teeth will grow out first in pairs within the foal’s first year. The permanent teeth are growing, but do not begin to appear and push out the baby teeth until the animal is about 2 1/2 years old.

They will have a full mouth of permanent teeth by the time they are five years old, sometimes six years with mules. The tooth grows out and wears down, changing it’s appearance as new parts of the tooth appear. You can tell an equine’s age by the shape and markings of the teeth, but only to the age of eight years. After that, the changes in the teeth are not as constant and his age can only be estimated.

We have more about teeth in my book A Guide To Raising & Showing Mules.

EIA, Coggins, Founder, Laminitis

Question: Are donkeys susceptible to EIA, and therefore do they require a Coggins test? Also, does foundering refer to overeating or a medical condition involving hooves?

Answer: Yes, donkeys and mules are susceptible to EIA, and all equines are required to have a Coggins when traveling outside of their own farms. Some states do not require the Coggins if you are traveling within the state, however, many farms will require it and health papers before allowing an animal on the premises for events, etc. A Coggins is definitely required when traveling out of state! There are some states that do not require it, but you may need to travel through states that do and they will check!

Founder and laminitis are the names given to a foot problem in which the laminae of the hoof become inflamed. The laminae are delicate tissues and blood vessels that hold the hard shell of the hoof to the bones underneath. These may become inflamed with either infectious or non-infectious agents causing severe pain and lameness.

Founder is most often related to feeding problems. There are many types of founder: grain founder, grass founder, water founder, road founder and postpartum laminitis. In some cases the cause may be hormonal. Though mules and donkeys are less likely to founder than horses, it is still possible, and they should be monitored for it. The most obvious sign of founder is heat in the fetlock, pastern, and hoof. This happen most often in the front feet, but it can affect all four. See more in my book A Guide To Raising & Showing Mules.

Farrier Is Hard To Find!

Question: We own 3 mules and are looking for information such as books or videos about trimming mules and shoeing them. We would like to learn to do it ourselves because farriers in this area are scarce or have bad reputations. Please help!!!

Answer: Many farriers are afraid to work on mules, but trimming and shoeing is not something you can just learn overnight. You need to go to a farrier’s school to learn how to trim and shoe the correct way considering the angles of the animal’s bones, structure of the foot, etc.

I suggest going to the American Farrier’s website at www.americanfarriers.org. They have lists of farriers in different parts of the country and you might be able to find one in your area. You would want to look for a “journeyman farrier,” as they have more schooling and will be more competent. At the very least, you could contact one relatively close and ask if he could recommend someone nearer to you. They also have information about the different farrier’s schools.

Fescue Fungi

Question: I have enjoyed reading your Training Mules and Donkeys. Are Jennets susceptible, and to the extent as horses, to the fungus found in fescue when pregnant? What are the exact complications, and do they occur from fresh grass consumption or only the consumption of hay?

Answer: The fungus found in fescue is a major concern with all equines, not just Longears. 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 and jennets 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 or jennet 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.

Fly Masks-Girths

Question: Do you know of a source to buy a face & ear mask (to protect against flies, etc.) for a mule? Also, is it common for mules to have sores from their girth? What sort of girth would you recommend?

Answer: The fly masks I use on my mules are the Farnam Supermask II without the ear nets. Mules typically do not like their ears constrained and if you do not clip the hair out of the ears and keep a good fly spray on them, they really don’t need the netting. You can get these masks at just about any tack store or you can order them from www.statelinetack.com.

As for girths, we use cotton string girths that seem to work very well, but it is important that the girth be tightened snugly four inches back from the forearm and not over the sensitive skin just behind the forearm. Cruppers are necessary to keep saddles in their centered position on their back.

Fly Masks Made for Donkeys & Mules

Question: I may be the only person that didn’t know this, but I know you have the ability to reach out to so many mule and donkey owners with, what I consider the best news in a long time. Cashel is now making a fly mask with ears for donkeys and mules! The Cashel Crusader is a great mask and to think they went one step further to include our wonderful long eared friends is awesome.

So if you could pass the word that would be great! Take care and yes, I still am learning from my donkey. Your shows and books have helped me tremendously.

Answer: Thank you so much for your email and information on the mule fly masks! I get a lot of people who are interested in obtaining just this kind of item. I will post your email on our website so it will help others. If you come across any other things you feel that would be helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will always do what we can to help!

Foot Abscess Treatment

Question: I am at a loss. I have an 8 year old molly mule and she has a foot abscess that I have been treating for a week and still no improvement. I have been cleaning the hoof and applying iodine to the bottom of the hoof and icameyl (not sure of spelling – black tar substance) on the top at the point it should work it’s way out. (As you can tell I am not well versed on the hoof).

The hoof itself is damaged. There is about 2″ across the toe then down both sides she is missing about 1″ of hoof approximately 1/2″ thick. I have also been soaking her hoof in epsom salts.

Is there anymore I can do? I question the vet I have as far as antibiotics to fight the infection. She said no and put me on this regiment.

Answer: Hoof problems can be devastating. It is important to get the best care for your equine’s feet because literally, no foot, no mule!

Anytime we have hoof problems, we call in both the veterinarian and the farrier. The veterinarian will generally go in and in the case of an abscess, will pare it out and clean it with betadine (not iodine). Then he would prescribe 10 days of antibiotics and pain medication, if needed (usually phenylbutazone).

It is difficult to ask an equine to stand for soaking the hoof. I realize this has been a general practice, but I am not convinced that this couldn’t actually weaken the hoof over time. So, we usually wrap the foot and change the bandage every 3 days for 10-14 days, depending on the severity of the problem.

The farrier is there to make sure the hoof is trimmed properly and patched, if needed, before we wrap it. They can trim the hoof so the animal is most comfortable, thus, promoting healing. The animal should be kept in a stall, or small pen, for the first 3 days to decrease mobility during the critical part of the recovery period. Then they can have a little more room for the remainder of the recovery period, but nothing as large as a pasture.

Daily stall and pen cleaning and an ounce of Mazola corn oil in the crimped oats mix we recommend can help prevent these kinds of problems.

Founder Signs

Question: I just received your book on donkey training and I am really excited. I have two standard donkeys that have really nice build and temperament. I have only had them about 2 weeks. I had the farrier out and she says the 5 year old shows founder signs on her hind feet. The lamina being separated in a few places. From the outside of the hoof they look great except for a white line. The donkey shows no signs of tenderness whatsoever. Their hooves stand up straight and tall, not rotated at all.

My question for you is can this problem be corrected or is it a waste of my time to train these donkeys for saddle and trail riding? They have been on a strict diet since I got them.

Answer: It sounds to me like your donkey may have what is called White Line Disease. It is a complex makeup of fungi and bacteria. Research has isolated over 300 different fungi and bacteria found in different combinations in the hoof. Some are aggressive and hard to kill while others are treatable, therefore different rates of success.

You would know it is white line if there is a hollow area behind the hoof wall. There can be underlying reasons for White Line that are environmental problems as well as feeding.

Treating white line can be difficult and frustrating at best. You can get information on treating White line Disease from the American Donkey & Mule Society atlovelongears@hotmail.com. If you can get it treated, you will have years of fun with your donkeys and will certainly be able to ride them. Even founder can be treated and they would be able to be ridden after the problem has grown out, but I would not begin any stressful training until this problem is cleared up.

Daily stall and pen cleaning and an ounce of Mazola corn oil in the crimped oats mix we recommend can help minimize these kinds of problems.

Gelding Male Mules and Donkeys

Question: First I want to commend you on a wonderful website – I’ve been on for two hours and would stay for another two if I didn’t have to get up for work!! Others questions have answered several of mine. My question is on gelding-we have a very limited pool of vets here and none that have previous experience with mules. the first mule we gelded was yearling-vet seemed competent (vet I’d used for 25yrs on horses retired) but he bled for most of 24hrs then kept biting at wound and opening it up-had to use cradle to stop him and couldn’t turn him out for fear he’d get hung in something. Turned out ok but scary.

Second-also yearling-different vet-he was already 14.3h and vet was terrified of him-went through serious ordeal getting him tranquilized-vet insisted on lip chain and blindfold and though no problem with gelding the result was an already sensitive mule very traumatized. Read a lot online that mules should be gelded at about five mo-long enough before weaning to recover prior to it. So next mule had first vet out-he said opening was still too large and it wasn’t safe to geld him.

So back to yearling. Most of the sites I’ve looked at say mules should be sutured but neither of these vets seemed to know what I was talking about.

I’m going to use the first vet this time but can you tell me is it the cords for the testicles that should be sewn or the sack? I would like to be specific about what I want done. in 35 yrs of raising horses I’ve never had a problem with gelding but I’ve read about people losing their mule babies because they bled and the though terrifies me. Especially since I’m not as confident in the vet as I would have been with my old one. Thanks you so very much for your time

Answer: We recommend that you castrate your young mules and donkeys at five months and wean at six months. This gives their testicles time to develop to a point where the surgery can be done easily and at a time when they can still receive the emotional support from their dams. The older they get, after about 4 years of age, the more dangerous it becomes to have them castrated. It just becomes too hard on their system. Often, mules and donkeys will fight the effects of anesthesia giving the false impression that they have not been given enough. If they are fighting it and they are given more, they can overdose easily. It makes more sense to keep them calm, give them a normal dose and have their dam, or a buddy, present to keep them calm during surgery to minimize potential problems.

Male mules and jacks not used for breeding need to be castrated to be safe and dependable adults. Alert your vet that during castration, mules and donkeys need to be both tied and cauterized. Male mules and jacks that are not castrated can exhibit aggressive and unmanageable behaviors that can be very dangerous. It is my 30 year breeding and castration experience that mules and donkeys do not necessarily require more sedation, but rather the same amount as a horse of the same size. The trick is to be able to keep them calm during the process as it is the anxiety about it that will cause them to have the equivalent of an “adrenalin rush” that will pop them out of sedation. Then when given more, they often will overdose. We just keep the dam tied nearby during castrations, or if they are older and not with their dam, we tie a “buddy” nearby. This has worked like a charm.

In male equines, the testicles are often visible at birth, and in many cases, always dropped. The inguinal ring, the tissue band that anchors them in the scrotum, closes down at 24 months. If the testicles are above it at this time, the animal is a cryptorchid or monorchid.

During the summer months, he should have them dropped at some point. Keep looking behind him. Actually rolling him over to look tends to make them pop back up.

Do keep a close eye; if you don’t see any sign of them normally down in the scrotum at all, it’s likely a more complicated surgery is necessary. ANY jack with a retained testicle is not suitable for breeding.

Hazelnut Poisonous to Equines?

Question:
I have donkeys on our Big 40. My mom wants to plant some hazelnut in the Big 40. My question: Is hazelnut poisonous to donkeys?

Answer:
There is nothing definitive about hazelnut being toxic to equines, however it has been discovered (fairly recently) that black walnut is toxic to equines for sure and the other “nut” trees have not really been tested. The other thing is that equines, and especially mules and donkeys, are hazardous to the health of your trees. They will gnaw on them and strip off the bark, which will eventually kill the trees. They can co-exist with full grown trees, but still need to be watched, and often the trees need to be wrapped in chicken wire to keep the chewing down. So, if your mom wants to plant hazelnut in the Big 40, I would suggest creating a smaller place for your donkeys. They should not be left out on pasture for more than 5 hours a day anyway to prevent colic or founder.

Herdbound or Anxious?

Question: Is my mule herd bound or just anxious? I have a molly mule that I have had for a year. She is 13. She lived outside for most of the winter, but I wanted her to get used to living indoors in a stall, so we brought her inside in April. We put here in a large stall with big windows to the alleyway. At first she paced and brayed a lot but then she was fine.

She did go outside for part of the day, too. We then moved to another barn where she had a smaller stall where she was able to see outside, down the aisle and through the bars to the side. She went outside everyday with nine other horses. No problems.

We recently moved to a new barn where she doesn’t go out as long as before but she still goes out with two of her previous pasture mates. The other seven are in the aisle with her. She can’t get her head over the stall door to see and there are no windows to the outside. Lately, anytime we take her pasture mates out to go to a show, she gets upset. Is this anxiety because she can’t see out or is she really that herd bound? She doesn’t seem to have any problem when I take her into the arena to work her.

I understand she reared and tried to get her legs over the stall door this past weekend. This seems like strange behavior for a mule whose self preservation instinct is high.
Please help me with some insights. Thanks in advance.

Answer: It is important for equines to have plenty of exercise time in between their training sessions in order to remain calm and stress free. They need time to be who they are…a gregarious, grazing animal. It sounds like she was afforded this in the beginning, but is now suffering from acute anxiety.

She is not herd bound; she just doesn’t get the time with her friends that she used to, nor the exercise and she is now living in solitary confinement most of the time. It would affect anyone this way. You should either arrange for her to be turned out longer with her buddies, or find another place for her as these anxious behaviors will only get worse under the circumstances.

Hoof Care

Question: Here is a link to professional farrier talk on the BB#3 – Farriers Helping Farriers General Discussion Bulletin Board at horseshoes.com about your show that I think you would really enjoy.  http://www.horseshoes.com/fhelpf/bb3/messages/7972.htm. Keep up the good work!

Answer: Thank you so much for sending me the link to the chat the farriers had about my TV show. It is nice to know it prompts this kind of discussion. I have been researching equine behavior and athletic potential for some time now and though it wasn’t pointed out on the program, it should be that the more athletic animals would go “heel/toe” in their forward movement. Those who are going “toe/heel” are actually doing a backwards movement while going forward. The same principles apply in dancing.

Farriers would need to be careful about the shoeing of animals that are not moving correctly because it might be that the animal’s conformation is the real problem and not just the foot. If an animal is shod correctly, in balance, paying attention to the angles of the bones in his legs and feet, then training can help correct his posture and build the muscles evenly throughout his body. This will give him maximum efficiency of movement for his particular conformation without compromise.

If an animal is corrected in the feet without respect to his bone alignment, it can stress and compromise other parts of the body and eventually render the animal incompetent. I agree that there is a degree of correction that can be done to help straighten the animal’s feet, but it must be done without stressing the tendons and muscles in the legs. If there is stress, it will start with problems in the legs and can move to other parts of the body that are used to compensate for the incorrect alignment.

There will always be problems with those who have less than good conformation and one can only expect minimal success with those individuals. They can certainly be improved, but will never be as good as those whose conformation is more correct, are shod in balance, are conditioned properly and can initiate movement fluidly because they are anatomically structured to do so (Physics 101).

It is important to realize that each element of this conditioning is important to the overall picture and one element or another cannot make ALL the difference. In other words, the farrier may be able to get the animal shod correctly, but if the exercise program does not build the muscles properly, then athletic potential is lost. It is the conscientious use of a combination of elements that create the true athlete.

Thus, I would expect the true athlete to come forward like a dancer with a heel/toe action in the foot. When they back, they should back toe/heel. The animal that is flat footed is just that and no more. He does not possess the “spring” to allow the energy to move freely forward. The animal that tracks toe/heel” is moving out behind and is actually dragging the hindquarters like a trailer with the brakes on. I do appreciate your input and I would like to post this email on the website for others to see. I think it could help many people in a lot of different ways. Maybe they will appreciate the difficult job that farriers have to do. Like many jobs, it looks easy to the casual observer, but as I am sure you know, there are details to consider to be a good farrier. My hats off to all of you! Your job is not an easy one and is often gone unappreciated.

Hooves

Question: I have question on the degree to set the mule hooves. Amish say 62 for trail riding and 64 for pulling. Mules & More say 52 to 53, which is quarter horse settings. Do you have any information on this subject?

I have a sixteen-hand molly that goes about 1100 to 1200 pounds. She has bad hooves with white line infection. I had her shoes pulled three weeks ago and the trim is different on hooves. She has had a tendon problem which was treated with the help of my Vet. Has not been rode for five months.

She is not showing any limping as she did when I first got her, but at times she points the foot. Also keeps working the leg as if it might hurt on occasion. She is being treated for the weak hooves and white line. Hooves are at 54, 56, 57 and 59 degrees. With the one that had the problem being too much toe and not enough heels. Which would be putting strain on the tendon? I have a farrier friend that will help me with her but first wants to know the degree to use on mules.

Answer: All equines should be trimmed and shod at the angle that is already established by the structure of the leg that the hoof is attached to. The angle in the hoof will be predetermined by the angle and direction of the bones involved in the leg and quarters. Mules should be trimmed more upright than horses because their angles are more upright than horses.

The hoof should reflect the same angle and follow the same line as the bones involved to make sure that each leg is properly balanced, thereby creating a solid structure for the support of the body. This is difficult to explain without visual aids, but any variations in trimming to correct crookedness in the leg will result in overstressing some tendons and contracting others making for a weakened foundation for the animal.

Very mild corrections are acceptable, but if an animal has imperfect conformation (which they all do to some extent) trimming to correct this will only result in soundness problems. So, each leg on each animal has to be assessed individually and needs to be balanced to what would be the optimum angle for that particular leg, on that particular animal. The result should be that the equine can uniformly and easily balance equal weight on all four feet.

If your molly has been trimmed improperly in the past, this could account for her lameness and would explain why she is doing better now that she has been allowed to grow out a little.

How much weight can my mule or donkey carry?

Question: How much weight can my mule or donkey carry?

Answer: Mules can carry proportionately more weight than a horse of the same size. However, there have never been any in-depth studies on this issue, so it’s best to be skeptical of statistics and avoid making broad generalizations. Obviously, an equine that is not conditioned properly will not be able to efficiently carry as much weight as one that is. Also, a rider with better balance and riding ability is going to be easier for the equine to carry than one who is not balanced, regardless of their actual weight. The equine’s size and his proportion to the rider will also affect balance and carrying ability.

If an equine is fit, he will be able to carry more weight than one that isn’t, but conformational abnormalities also play a role. Deviations in bone structure (i.e., crooked legs) can compromise movement and put undo stress on certain areas depending on the defect.

The easiest way to test for weight tolerance is to watch the way the animal moves. If he is halted and seems to be have difficulty moving, the weight is obviously too heavy. If he is unable to trot, or is resistant to trotting, the weight is too heavy. The same is true in harness. If he cannot move freely, the load is too heavy.

So it’s not just a matter of age. Conformation and fitness at any given stage of training, as well as the weight and ability of the rider, dictate how much an equine can comfortably carry or pull.

Instilling Courage

Question: I have recently realized the importance of an independent attitude for mules used in endurance riding. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have my mule Maude until I rode some horses were extremely herd bound.

I have recently purchased a mule foal, and am waiting for delivery. I have received your foal training video. I wonder if you have any ideas that would help my foal to grow up with a courageous attitude. He will be living with others on pasture.

Answer: Mules and donkeys are rather like people when it comes to having different personality types, but you can instill confidence and independence in your foal if you follow the guidelines in our resistance-free DVD training series. Not only that, you will also minimize the incidence of undesirable behaviors that often lead to depression in the mule’s character and improper response.

Our series is designed like grade school is for children and it addresses the physical, mental and emotional well-being of your animal through the use of behavior modification and a good athletic conditioning program. We emphasize the importance of doing things that are appropriate for the level of understanding and the physical base of your animal for the best results.

If you don’t have the entire series yet, you may want to go ahead and get the rest of the tapes so you can see how one thing builds on the next and so you can see how what you do today will impact the tasks that are yet to come. I designed this training series as a solid foundation for whatever equine athletics you choose to do. The important elements in any athletic endeavor are clearly the same: good attitude, confidence and developing the physical athlete slowly and completely to avoid injury and breakdown.

It is important as your foal is growing that you do set aside a reasonable amount of time to spend with him so he can develop good habits and so you can mold his character in a positive fashion. It is also important that he get consistency in the way the training is practiced.

Setting up the environment for success is paramount for the best results. For example, you can’t really succeed with DVD#1 if the foal is always on pasture. He needs to have a smaller area that you can bring him in each evening and feed him, then feed in the morning and turn out when you are finished with him. This gives you a workable area for training and makes for a clear definition between his work and play.

Another factor is feeding. Mules and donkeys can founder on the feeds we give horses. Horse feeds can cause hypertension and an inability to concentrate for longer periods of time. When the feeding is not properly balanced, the animal is unable to get the most from what you are teaching. The premise of our resistance-free DVD training series is to set the animal up for success so training goes smoothly…and it really works when applied correctly. Those who try to take shortcuts will not see the same results as those who really put the correct time into each phase of training.

Male Mules in the Herd

Question: When can I turn my weaned male mule back into the herd with the other animals?

Answer: You can turn your weaned, male mule back into the herd when he is two years old. It should be fine to put him back in with the mare after weaning. Mules will always love their mothers, and that connection will always be there. During training, you want your mule to learn to think of you as his “other Mom.” If he does, he’ll enjoy being with you enough to go with you without getting stressed about being away from his equine friends.

I keep my mules separate from the mares, because the mules were driving the horses crazy with their need to be near them. A male mule will assert his dominance much like a stallion would. They can’t breed the horses because they should be castrated, but they can bother them enough to cause anxiety. My male mules were claiming certain mares for their own, so the mares were not able to peacefully graze together. They were at the mercy of these male mules. The molly mules did not pose this problem; they just grazed with the mares and, in some cases, kept the male mules from getting too obnoxious with the horses. My mares are much happier by themselves in the “retirement” pasture.

If you have a larger group, you should consider the aggressive behaviors of the male mules. You should not put any younger (2 years and under), older (18 years and older), or smaller animals in with your mules. The mules will chase them, possibly causing injury or even death. Cattle, goats, etc., should never be pastured with male mules and some molly mules. Mules can learn to accept the presence of animals such as dogs when you’re working with them or trail riding, and the smaller animals will learn to give the mule some space and not go into his pen. This is a mutual respect that develops with your help when the animals live in close proximity. The best companion for a mule is another equine of a comparable size and age.

Monthly Shoeing?

Question: My husband and I are hoping to buy a mule within the next year. We have been asking questions about raising, training, etc. Someone told us that mules require shoeing monthly!!!!! Is this true?

Answer: Equines in general need to be shod every 6-8 weeks. Mules hooves are tougher than horse’s hooves, so in many cases they do not require shoeing at all. They should still be trimmed or shod every 6-8 weeks.

Reasons for shoeing mules would be:
1) If they have light-colored (softer) hooves and are ridden regularly.
2) If they are ridden regularly for prolonged periods of time, everyday.
3) If they exhibit hoof problems such as cracks, frequent abscesses, etc.
4) If they participate in events such as Combined Training (cross country jumping, stadium jumping & dressage)or endurance events
5) If they are ridden as a work animal each day, as in the case of a cattle ranch.
6) If they are to be ridden in rocky terrain regularly.
7) If they are ridden or driven on hard ground
8) If they are competitive pulling animals
If the mule is an occasional riding animal, they generally will not need to be shod which is actually healthier for the foot.

Mule Attacking Horses

Question: I am an Equine Training Advisor on HorseCity.com. –I have 6 horses and 1 mule. We bought the mule about 4 mo. ago and he was kept in the pen next to the horses and they socialized over the fence during this time. When we put Festus in with the horses he attacked them so viciously that I cannot show my Arab mare in halter any more because of the scarring. He chased my paint mare into the fence and while she was in the wire, he actually bit a hunk of flesh out of her back and kicked her.

Festus terrorizes my gelding and almost crippled my yearling colt. He gets so “focused” on attacking them that you cannot catch him and he acts like he can’t hear you call him. This mule has been gelded and is so gentle with people that I can hardly believe he’s the same “Tasmanian devil” that terrorizes the horses. Could it be that he could be proud cut?

Answer: Male mules, gelded or not, between the ages of 4 and 12 are very male and full of themselves. What “Festus” is doing is asserting his dominance over the herd (not necessarily in a polite fashion!). Most young male mules are this way about females. I do not see him getting over this until he is between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

Because of this same problem, I pasture my horses away from the mules, even though the mare mules and some of the older males get along with the herd fine. I have even had to separate some of the older mules from these young “hooligans!”

Now, my young males just go after each other and have figured out their pecking order. The females are docile and submissive and hang with whatever male chooses them. The fights are not as brutal as they were before.

Male mules can be very sweet and extraordinary performers, but they are behaviorally quite different from horses. Their primary companions are not generally the animals they are stabled with, but rather their human counterparts. They can be reprimanded by their dams if they are present in the herd, but as they get older, even the dams may have trouble with the younger males. They are generally VERY MALE!

Mules Biting Tails Of Herd

Question: We have a herd of mules and horses. We started having trouble with the tails being chewed off. We have moved them around to different pens and have narrowed down the tail bitters to three different mule. Is there a way to get them to stop biting other mule and horse tails. Is it problem with their diet or a behavioral problem.

Answer: I think a lot of tail chewing is the result of boredom, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem and sometimes the solution could be impractical. I used to have this same problem until I began grooming everyone once a week, using Johnson’s baby oil on the manes and tails. It keeps the hair from drying out and discourages them from chewing on each other’s tails. It also keeps the manes and tails from getting too tangled to brush easily. If you go to a show, you just wash it out.

Normal Digital Pulse Rate

Question: Hello. I have been on your email list for years, but have never asked a question before. My question relates to my 13-year-old Thoroughbred molly mule, who suffers from laminitis. The question is: What is the normal range for the digital pulse of an adult mule? I take my mule’s digital pulses every morning (due to a laminitis issue), but I am being given very different ranges for the pulse from different veterinarians, and have had difficulty finding believable information on the Internet. That’s when I thought, “I wish I knew someone who had mules.” But here in Upstate New York, it is harder to find mules, and the veterinarians are not experienced in dealing with mule health issues.

Answer: The average pulse for an adult equine would be 26-40 beats per minute. Digital pulse is the same in rate (beats per minute) as the heart rate, unless there is some pathology with the circulatory system. We typically assess the quality of the digital pulse when worried about inflammation in the foot, such as an abscess or laminitis. With an inflammatory process, the strength of the pulse will increase. Again, this is a qualitative assessment, which can be difficult to interpret unless there is a unilateral condition (abscess), when the other side can be used as a “normal.” If the question is in relation to rate, then an average would be the same as the animal’s heart rate, which varies with age, temperament, athletic condition, etc.

You can find this information in my book A Guide to Raising and Showing Mules. Also, proper feeding and core muscle leading exercises can help strengthen and balance your molly in good equine posture and will help to alleviate the stress on her hooves and minimize laminitis symptoms. (Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, so I always consult with my veterinarian on the answers to these kinds of questions.)

Sedation – Hinny

Question: I have a 20-ish hinny that I adopted from a rescue. He was abused (?). He is attached to my 25-ish Belgian that I saved from New Holland auction and France. I have been working with him, Now he can get his feet trimmed, but it was difficult. Donkey and mule people have been giving me advice.

I have learned that the farrier needs to give him a little time and I need to bring him to the farrier not the farrier come to him. AND He is a lot smarter and much more aware then the horse. I can finally groom and hug him without the panic in his eyes and untied. I am concerned when the time comes for sheath cleaning and teeth floating. I am told by several sources that sedation does not work real well with donkeys and mules.

Answer: Your hinny just needs to settle in and get to know you. I would think it would be more beneficial to have the farrier come to him as animals usually do better at home with their friends. You can set up the situation so he is comfortable by tying his Belgian friend nearby during these sessions and by having a bucket of oats for him to eat while working on his feet. Keeping him comfortable and as stress free as you can will really help.

As for sheath cleaning and floating teeth, we set up a comfortable environment for them, a hitch rail near their “friends” and then use a mild sedative. The only danger in using sedatives with longears is when they are stressed to begin with and you try to solve the problem with the drugs alone. They can come out of sedation in an instant if their adrenaline starts to flow. When they do come out of sedation because of a rush of adrenaline in their systems, some vets have been known to give them another injection which can overdose them. This is why you would want them to be handled with their “friends” nearby.

Separate Foal From Dam For Show?

Question: I have just acquired a mule colt, 6 weeks old, and need advice on training him to be separated from his dam for a short period of time, or if this is advisable at all. His dam is trained to drive and her owner wants to show her in 2 weeks time. I am training him to tie and lead as you teach in DVD #1. Also working with him to pick up his feet. He’s just starting to eat Omolene 300.

When the dam’s owner goes into the ring, should we just try to hold him with her in his sight? We don’t want to do anything to mess him up at this young age. She wants to show in two weeks and we need your advice soon. Can you please help?

Answer: I can’t imagine anyone needing to show so badly that they would take a mare that just foaled six weeks ago to a show. Preparing for classes requires that the animal be in peak athletic condition in order to even place. It takes many months to get an animal in that kind of condition. They may be very good with their response, but a judge will see the lack of preparation and conditioning.

As for the foal, it really isn’t fair to him to be separated from his dam during this very important time in his life. Foals are generally weaned at six months for a reason. There is a lot of growing they need to go through both physically and mentally in that six months in order to grow up to be a healthy and well-adjusted adult. Even foal classes at shows don’t require the foals to be separated more than a few feet from their dams during judging.

In my estimation, new mothers and foals shouldn’t even be taken to shows and exposed to the possibility of disease brought in by animals from so many different places and the heightened possibility of injury in such a busy situation. They’re immune systems have already been compromised by the trauma of the birth and the chaos of showing is highly stressful. It’s just really risky.

In addition, mares should not be given grain of any kind six weeks before foaling and six weeks after, grass hay only. Then, grain should be introduced slowly and it should be a low protein grain to prevent possible post partum colic, or founder. Mules require less protein for maintenance and the Omolene grain mix is too hot for a mule of any age, let alone a foal (see DVD #8 in our series for feeding recommendations). I have my horses on the same feed program as my mules and they seem to be healthier overall as well.

You are doing the right thing in beginning to teach the foal some basic ground manners to complement what he is learning and really, that is about all you can do if this woman is determined to show this mare. Your idea of keeping the foal close during the class is really the best you can do. If he isn’t perfect, don’t worry about it. Just make sure that when the mare is away, you and the foal are in a safe place, one where he and you won’t get injured if he does become a little silly.

Sharing Important Farrier Information

Question: I think this would be great information to post, I totally agree with everything Meredith said. All the farrier can do is take care of the basics and should be careful about how much changes are done at one time, the best policy is to take it slow and give the rest of the body time to catch up. Farriers should establish a good foundation and balance the feet, keep up with the latest information and continue to improve there work.

The feet are the foundation “No Foot No horse” this is very important, but there are so many other variables, conditioning and ability are huge, I have seen horses with awful looking feet do amazing things just because there condition and natural ability is outstanding. Educating horse owners, trainers, Vets and Farriers is desperately needed, especially in the biomechanics of the horse.

It is very difficult to tell someone that there horse just does not have what it takes to do the job that they have asked them to do. Sometimes I think people are willing to try anything to solve problems that just might not be solvable. Reminds me of the Prayer that I learned a long time ago. “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can, to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.” Thank you for passing on the information and including me as part of the Team.

I enjoy helping out on the Farriers bulletin board, I been a student of the horse and involved with horses for over 20 years, I want to learn all I can so that I can do a better job. Horses are a major part of my family’s life. I have only been a full time Farrier 5 years, still learning all I can, sometimes there just is not enough time in the day to accomplish everything I want to do and learn.

Patty is the one with the most knowledge and experience, she has taught me a lot just by taking the time to share her knowledge on the Bulletin boards, I have met her twice at clinics and she is a great person with a lot of experience, knowledge and skill. I believe one of the best ways to help our friend the horse, is to help there owners.

Answer: I share your views and agree it is important that those of us who know should share with those who don’t for the benefit of our equines. I would like to post your comments on my website, so people will have the opportunity to read what you say.

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.

Teepee-backed Mule

Question:
My mule is about 22 years old and he has been trail ridden in the Mtns. all his life. I have always fed him a mixed grain feed that has minerals, vitamins and all the good stuff, about 3-6 lbs per day depending on how he is ridden and how cold it is, plus he is in a dry lot and has always gotten plenty of Bermuda hay, about 10 to 20 lbs per day. This year I noticed his back bone has not filled up as usual. He is not sway backed, but the top of the rib part around the backbone is like a teepee drops about 3″ before his big ole belly starts. I have wormed him several times, but can only use Safeguard because he has an allergic reaction to any Zymectrin products. What can I do for the poor ole fella? We still ride in the mountains and he seems to tire this year also, never has before. Please help!

Answer:
Your mule has never had any core strength development, as is indicated by the atrophied musculature along the supraspinous ligament that runs from head to tail over the top of the spine (the “teepee” effect). If you feed as I describe below (most of today’s feeds are just too “hot” for equines in general), and then do the leading exercises-paying special attention to your own posture, being consistent with the moves and his posture and straightness (and gradual arcs, not abrupt turns) while leading, asking him to square up every time he stops, etc.-things should improve. Start by only leading with the halter for a few weeks. Then you can add a bridle and surcingle with our “elbow pull” rigging, and continue to do your leading lessons through the hourglass pattern with that in place. With each change of the arc through the pattern, stop and have him square up and then you need to change sides so you are always leading from the inside of the arc and always asking him to plant his feet four square with every halt from now forward, not just during lessons. Do the pattern with three full rotations in each direction through the entire pattern, and then come up centerline and halt for each lesson. Be sure to measure your steps with his and maintain your own good posture throughout. You will soon see him regain his shape.

At Lucky Three Ranch, we do leading training for a full year to not only get our mules to learn to lead, but also to develop good posture and core muscle strength in preparation for the rider. Even an older equine with previous training would still need this for optimum performance and longevity. The time together during leading training and going forward builds a good, solid relationship with your equine and fosters their confidence and trust in you.

What your animal is eating can have a direct impact on his response to training. Many feeds can cause hypertension in longears and an inability to focus for any length of time. Mules and donkeys require a lot less feed than horses because they are half donkey and donkeys are desert animals. Too much feed or the wrong kind of feed and they can run the risk of colic or founder. For our average-sized mules, we feed an oats mix of 1-2 cups of crimped oats, 1 oz. of Sho Glo vitamins (by Manna Pro) and 1 oz. Mazola corn oil (for hooves, coat and digestive tract regularity). The oats must be “broken open” (crimped, steamed, rolled, etc.), as equines cannot digest whole oats. We feed this formula once a day in the evening, and grass hay twice a day, and we monitor weight gain with the hay and pasture intake. Miniatures get one fourth as much of the oats mix and grass hay, and a draft animal needs twice as much. For best results, do not alter or modify this procedure in any way. Also, make sure your equines have access to a trace mineral salt block for their salt and mineral needs. We worm our equines with Ivermectin in January, March, May, July and September, and then break the cycle with Strongid in November. We vaccinate in the spring and fall. You should never feed longears (donkeys or mules) any premixed sweet feeds or alfalfa products.

We feed the oats mix in the evenings for two reasons. First, in the spring, you should only let your equine out to a grass pasture for one hour a day for the first week, and then increase the pasture time by one hour per week in the weeks that follow. If your equine is getting oats in the evening, he will be more than happy to come in off the grass for the oats after such a short grazing time. Without the oats to look forward to, he probably won’t come back in until he feels like it, which could be never. Second, if your equine is getting nothing but grass hay in the mornings, he will be more likely to comply with your wishes to get extra oats during training lessons. Pasture time at its maximum should not exceed five hours on any given day.

Tendon Issues

Question: I have a 9 year old molly. I have had her 5 years. She has become a great pet as well as ridding companion. She does have a physical problem with the tendons that run from the top of her rump to the back of her legs. This causes her to step short when walking. I have had 3 vets look at it and all agree it was either a birth defect or result of training accident long before I got her. It appears to cause her no pain normally.

With a mule’s strong sense of self preservation will she let me know if there is something wrong? She has become a member of the family over the years and I don’t want her desire to please me to hurt her. Please help.

Answer: There may be some kind of physical therapy that can take place with your mule that would help the tendons to stretch and stay flexible. She may never be completely normal, but rest assured, she will let you know if there is any discomfort.

It is difficult to assess her any further without seeing her, but be careful of babying her too much as well as this could cripple her even more than she already is. She does need to do mild exercise to stay strong and somewhat flexible for her overall health. Our lead line exercises would be a great help to her overall core strength and could relieve some of the stress on her tendons.

To Geld or Not to Geld?

Question: I want to thank you so much for all of your help, your books and videos (which have been a life saver!!) and for being here for all of us, when we have all the questions and look up to you as the “Mule lady” A few weeks ago I had asked you a question about feeding, It helped so much that we told our friend who is a trainer and has a small ranch, and she has now switched all her animals over and is not experiencing colic anymore! So thank you, thank you.

Anyway, here is my new question…

I have 2 baby mules, 5 and 4 months old, half brother and sister (same jack, diff. moms) SWEET as can be since I have been handling them since day one. Part of the reason we bought them (before they were even born) was because of the jack. Honestly, we could do anything with him, touch him anywhere, walk him and love on him and he was as calm as can be. My mom fell in love with him and has always kept her eyes open for something “As sweet as Jake”. She wanted something she could hand walk along with my boyfriend and I with the two mule babies, something she could train to cart…and just something to love.

The Problem:
So that brings us to today,…our friend and the one who has been breeding for mules etc. has told us that if we would geld Jake, she would give him to us because she knows we are a good home. She said she thinks once he is gelded that he would be even more perfect than he is now and be a love. We love him, we really do, but I was on your site reading about a donkey that was gelded and still acting up. I posed the question to her and I’m pasting her reply here (you’ll see she says we should ask you in it)…..he’s a medium standard and is 15 years old, he is set to be gelded next week and I don’t want to do this to him if this would be the wrong thing to do. We have one large paddock where he would be turned out with his two offspring.

Now wondering if this is dangerous,…and wondering if we have him in parades even, if he would be ok gelded when another horse in heat walks by,…I want what’s safe for my mother as well…..thank you so much. This has really got my mom upset and she so values your opinion. Take care and thank you for your reply.

Letter from trainer:
“Without knowing how much breeding this jack (above story) has done, it is hard to say. I cannot predict what Jake will do. When I got him, he was in a huge pasture with a horse and of course he was still a stud. I think he will do fine. I have had him loose with mares and they give him a swift kick to remind him to mind his manners. We will get them used to each other before you try it. We’ll know before you take him home. It’s definitely a consideration and a good question. I think there should be a few months maybe before we leave them together but then the mules will be at your place by then. We can play it by ear.

One of the problems may be that they are small and not very strong yet. They need to be able to fend for themselves. Just an idea: Have you thought about separating the big pen, maybe 1/3 of it? Anyways, maybe ask Meredith if that is always the case with a late gelded jack. He live covered a donkey once and he was pretty rough with her.”

Answer: It sounds like Jake is a very well mannered jack already and this puts you ahead of the game. Castration would make him a safer animal to be around since he would not have the high testosterone levels after awhile that can make jacks aggressive and dangerous. Jacks are typically very sweet and affectionate. They just have moments where their instincts can kick in when they are not castrated.

I do agree with your trainer, however, that Jake should be kept by himself for awhile after castration and the young mules should not be turned in with him until they are at least three years old. They do need time to grow and be able to fend for themselves before they are turned in with any older animals with the exception of their dams or gelding horses. Even other equines, male or female could assert their dominance over these youngsters and possibly injure them, or worse.

As long as you and your mother practice safe horsemanship with Jake and don’t let him take advantage, he should be safe for your mother. Good ground manners should be practiced every time you take out your equines. They are like children and will learn to be polite and considerate as long as this is what is expected from them each time they are handled.

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.

Vaccines for Young Mules

Question: We have just purchased a two year old mare mule. I would like to know which vaccines you suggest besides the Coggins. She will be used primarily for trail riding on the property and national parks in the Tenn.

Answer: Thank you for your email. Coggins isn’t a vaccine. It is a blood test to make sure that the animal is not carrying any disease. You will need to consult a veterinarian to see what vaccines are needed for your area.

What To Use On Cuts Etc.

Question: My mule has cut the tip of his nose. I have tried to doctor it and he is good about it but the cut will not heal. I think that when he is grazing it keeps the cut open. Do you have any suggestions? Hope is well with you and your mules…love the show.

Answer: You can use Neosporin and it will clear up just about anything. If that doesn’t work, there is only one thing I know that seems to heal just about anything a mule or donkey can get and that is Panalog (sometimes sold as Animax). You will probably need a prescription, or get it directly from your veterinarian. If anything will clear up your mule’s problem, this will!

When To Geld?

Question: Have been unable to get consistent answers to my question about good/proper/correct time to geld our new john foal. I understand that mules/donkeys can be more prone to bleeding than a horse as a result of the castration procedure, and likely to remember the last person who handled them prior to the pain associated w/needles and or procedure. Especially the johns.

SO my question is left unanswered consistently, and have been advised of 2-3 days of age is best, (to get a more evenly tempered, no male-linked skittishness, more likely to mature quicker, like the molly) to 6 months of age and use sutures to ensure less bleeding. What are your feelings on this matter, and why?

Answer: I have raised a lot of mule foals and over half were john mules. I have worked closely with my veterinarian for more than twenty years and we both agree that it is best to castrate the john mules at five months when they are still with their dams, then wean at six months.

Castration is a traumatic event and if it is done at five months, it gives the testicles time to mature enough for the surgery to be effective and it lowers the stress level for the mule foal because he has his dam with him during the recovery period.

Mules have been known to come out of sedation because of stress and some who have been given more sedation afterwards have actually overdosed on the drugs. There can be excessive bleeding as you have mentioned, but taking the precaution of both “tying” and cauterizing makes for a clean castration.

After castration, it is important that the mare and foal are kept in a clean run with good shelter, so that the foal can get enough exercise to inhibit swelling and promote proper drainage for the site to heal properly, but not so much space that would allow him to over exert himself. Castration is ideally done after the first freeze of the year (October/November) so that bugs and insects are not a problem.

White Hooves

Question: We have found a beautiful mule weanling 4 and 1/2 months old that we would like to buy. She is out of a registered Tennessee Walker by a mammoth jack and should mature at 15 hands. Our concern is her hooves. They are white, which I know are softer than dark ones and they turn up. My first reaction was that they look like hooves of foundered animals. Can a baby that age have foundered?

We plan to have a vet check her out before we finalize the sale. However, we are trying to find out whatever information we can before that time. The stall’s floor was somewhat dish shaped from having been cleaned. Could it’s curvature plus the softness of a white hoof produce the curve? We would appreciate any information and advice that you could give us.

Answer: You are wise to have a soundness check done on this baby before you buy her. She sounds very nice, but you are also right about light colored feet being softer and more prone to chipping and breakage. They can, however, be protected with shoes when it comes time to ride her. Until then, she should be trimmed regularly.

I suspect the owners didn’t realize that it is important for foals to have their feet trimmed as early as two to three months and then maintained every 6-8 weeks to insure proper hoof growth. This is probably why her feet are curved and have the appearance of early founder. Since she is still nursing, it is highly unlikely that she has actually foundered. It is also conceivable that she has a genetic problem with the structure of her hooves which would not be good, but your vet should be able to determine whether this condition is genetic or not.

Why Do Donkeys Chase?

Question: We had two Jacks until today. We had 3 until 2 weeks ago and a neighbor wanted one for her herd of goats. We had a dad and his two sons. So they have grown up together on our 20 acres. The sons are about 4 and 5 years old. Just within the past 4-6 weeks the 5-year-old remaining son started chasing his dad to exhaustion but he does/did not chase his brother at all?

They don’t live on our place, but we go out 1-2 times a week to check on them, give carrots etc. About 2 weeks ago we separated the two sons from the dad, leaving the dad out in the open pasture and putting the sons in a fenced pen of about 4 acres (until we gave one to our neighbor leaving the one son).

Each time the dad would approach the fence the 5 year old would be nice a minute then aggressive. Sadly today we went and found that the dad had jumped the fence to get inside the pen with the aggressive son, and we think he was chased to death. The pen was bent inward from the outside pasture letting us know the jump was from the outside. (NOTE: The dad had done that before to get to the female but we no longer have the female, my brother has her on his farm).

Also, we had noticed a few T-posts were bent from the inside like he, the dad, was chased into the fence. We are really puzzled. Of course my heart is broken; the dad was my first donkey and was tame like a dog. We don’t know what started this chasing and if it is normal behavior? They are not gelded, we were planning to have that done in the fall when fly season is over. Any ideas what is going on with this 5 year old?

Answer: I would not recommend putting your stallion or jack in with any other animals…EVER. Being an intact male, he will be obnoxious and potentially dangerous to other animals and could possibly even kill them. Pasture breeding is not that safe as it is not like being in the wild where there is plenty of space and no fences to run into. To keep them safe and healthy, they need to be managed differently in modern day society. Stallions and jacks can be quite contented with a good feeding, a regular training program and a routine breeding program if used for that purpose.

All other jacks should be gelded and if they are gelded later in life, it is still not advisable to pasture them with anyone else, especially animals that are smaller or weaker, and cannot defend themselves as jack behavior will not change that much once they are adults.

Equines will typically chew on fences and that can become a real problem. Mules and donkeys are very clever and can get out of just about any kind of fencing. I have found that what works well is to line the inside of your fence with a hotwire and make sure all gates are chained shut with snaps that do not have a protruding catch in them (like truckers’ snaps). Jacks MUST be adequately fenced in.

There are some kinds of fence that you definitely want to avoid. That would be barbed wire or any other kind of wire that would allow them to get a foot caught in it. You can use just about any kind of fence as long as it is high enough (4 1/2′- 5 1/2′) but I haven’t used a fence yet that I didn’t have to line with hotwire to keep the mules and donkeys in! They’re ext in a lot of cases extremely smart!

We have vinyl fencing with a hotwire run through the posts at the top and between the first two rails that is attractive and works well. The only fencing that you wouldn’t need to use a hotwire on is one that is made from portable stock panels. Tube metal fencing can be okay, but it needs to be 4 rails high (at least 5′) and should not be spanned too far from post to post because they can bend these!

Get rid of any barbed wire on your place altogether! Even with the hotwire, barbed wire can still be very dangerous and if you have ever seen what it can do to an equine, you wouldn’t want it anywhere near them! It is better to fence with wire horse fencing and a top rail with the hotwire running along the inside of the top rail to prevent cribbing or contact with the fence. It may be a little more costly than barbed wire, but when you take into account the possibility of barbed wire vet bills, it is actually cheaper!

Winter Hair & Pear-Shaped Body

Question: Watch your show every chance I get. (love it) I have 3 questions.

First, we have a mule that doesn’t seem to loose his winter hair well. Seems like it takes until July! We live in Wisconsin where it is 80-90. Where he does have his summer coat, he is slick. He is getting about 2# of grain a day with 1 oz oil each time and 2 slices of grassy hay.

Which leads me to the second question: he has a pear shape body. I call him our cow!! Cuz that is what he reminds me of. (I come from a dairy farm). He has been wormed along with our horses.

Answer: Mules and donkeys do lose their winter hair a lot slower than horses and will usually only be really sleek for about a month, to a month and a half before growing in their winter coat again. Do not worry too much as this is their natural protection against bugs and parasites and their natural insulation against the heat and cold.

The pear shaped body is from a lack of proper exercise that would strengthen the core muscles over the back, around the rib cage, in the abdominal area and give it a more contoured look.

Worming and Riding With Confidence

Question: I just recently got a mammoth gelding, saddle donkey and a bred jenny and one with a new baby. In past with our mules, have used daily wormer/Strongid-C. I am curious if you recommend daily wormers for donkeys. The vets in our area are not familiar with donkeys and haven’t been any help. Have heard of this daily wormer causing soft hooves, white line disease by some people. I want to do everything right for our donkeys.

Any help would be appreciated. I do wish I could have learned as a child to ride instead of now but I figure it is never too late. Also, do you have any recommendations for overcoming my fears of riding following several bad experiences with misrepresented mules/horses in the past which resulted in many accidents with injuries?

My prayers have been answered and my new donkey is wonderful, has been well trained, is very gentle, patient with a middle aged lady/new rider who hasn’t ridden for any for past year due to broken shoulder/collar bone when a saddle came undone with me. Unfortunately, I still have some flashbacks when I get in the saddle in the round pen.

Answer: I would be suspicious about using wormer everyday. It is important to have a good worming program to keep animals relatively free of parasites, but worming every other month is sufficient and does not cause toxicity in the body.

There are different types of wormers for different types of worms. It is important not to use the same wormer all of the time, so the worms do not build up a resistance to it and so you can be sure to kill the broadest spectrum of worms.

We use ivermectin every other month until November. Then in November, after the first freeze, we worm with Srongid to break the predictable cycle of worming and to kill any worms that are not affected by the invermectin.

I can understand your fear of riding after the accident you described. If you take time to educate yourself about your donkey and get practice with groundwork and riding properly, you will become more adept, your confidence will grow and your fears will subside. Our resistance-free training series can help you. It is designed to begin with DVDs #1, #8 and #9, no matter the age or experience of the animal and take the training in sequence. We teach you how to develop a good working relationship with your donkey and how to develop good riding techniques.

Wounded Knee

Question: I am training two – a six-year old Molly and her ½ brother, a 5-year-old John. Earlier this summer Molly had a dislocated knee that went back in later in the day. We found her that way one day-dragging a hind leg. There were no marks, bumps or anything. I checked her again in a few hours and it was back in. She was not limping, trotting around and seemed normal.

She has not had a problem since, but I wonder if you have had any experience with this? The vet said this might happen again without warning. I had not ridden Molly for over a year so whatever happened to her was in the corral. Since this incident I have just done some groundwork with her. What is your advice?

Next question-I heard that you are having a ½ hour TV program series on training mules this fall. Please let me know what station, dates, and time. I’d be a faithful viewer. I have your book Training Mules and Donkeys and have read and reread it. I had previously put most of my time and effort into Molly but now don’t know what to think about her future.

This summer I have worked with John and he is coming along only too slow to suit me. After extensive groundwork this summer I have just started riding him in the round pen. Hope to hear from you.

Answer: Mules are very active participants in life and occasionally do injure themselves just as a young child does during the early years of exploration and un-coordination. They will get bumps, bruises and sprains that will come and go; some need treatment, some don’t. Your molly mule is an individual who hasn’t really ever been conditioned properly; her muscles around the joints are not strong and evenly strengthened. It is much the same as a person who does not exercise regularly, or properly. She is lacking core strength.

It doesn’t take much to cause a sprain or worse. If you are concerned about her performance in the future, she will need to begin an exercise program that will strengthen her body in the correct posture to lessen the chance of this reoccurring. Our training series can help you with this. Though your mule is already trained to some extent, it will be necessary to still begin with DVD #1 and go through the series in sequence. As in any exercise program, you should be prepared to go slowly. It takes time to condition the muscles and give the mule the strength to be able to carry a rider or pull a cart without putting undue stress on their bodies.

The mistake people make most often with equines is by trying to ride them too soon. Equines shouldn’t be ridden until they are at least three years of age and that should be light work only until four years old or better. Horses only live about 25-30 years on the average, but without core strength they won’t even last that long if they are started too early. Mules mature even slower than horses, but they live a lot longer, 40+ years. You can afford to take your time and do it right. If you do, you will have a happy, willing animal, with a considerably longer life span and there should be next to no resistance during training. This makes the whole experience, day-by-day, more enjoyable and fulfilling for both you and your animal.