Ask Meredith – General

 

Mules and donkeys are wonderful animals. They are intelligent and strong, and they make wonderful equine companions. However, they are different enough from horses that it is important that you learn as much as you can about them before actually interacting with them. The mule is half horse and half donkey. Each of these contributes to the overall character and physical attributes of the mule, so, in order to feed, maintain and train your mule properly, you must understand the donkey half of the mule as well as the horse half.

In this section, I’ll try to give you some general information to familiarize you with the differences between horses, mules and donkeys. The mule, in the past used primarily for packing and draft work, is now enjoying his status as a superior riding (as well as driving) animal. There are many old stereotypes about mules that are the result of impatient and demanding trainers. When the mule is treated fairly and with kindness, respect and consideration, there is no better riding and driving companion! Mules and donkeys especially need to be taught in a sequential manner that makes sense—much like grade school is for our children—to produce educated and well-behaved adults. This is why it is so important to educate yourself about donkeys and mules before obtaining them. Our sequential training program also produces the best results in ponies, horses and other hybrids.

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

General

General

Age in Mouth

Question: Does a mule mouth show the same age as a horse mouth?

Answer: There is not much difference in a mule’s mouth from a horse’s mouth. However, after five years of age, it becomes difficult to definitely age the equine by its teeth until much later in life (over 15). We have the information about teeth in our book A Guide to Raising & Showing Mules.

A Novel Mule

Question: Your website was very interesting and useful. Made me want a mule. Here’s my Novel Mule Question. A minor character in a novel I’m writing goes on Mountain Man trips in various locales in the West with his mule during his summer vacations.

Can you give me an idea of what size and breed of mule? He would be likely to have? He uses it mainly to carry his gear but I suppose he wouldn’t be opposed to riding it from time to time. My character, who goes by the name Diogenes on these trips, is a 220 lb six-footer.

Answer: I would imagine that your character would need a mule of steady temperament, good size and affection for his/her owner, as most mules would have. This would probably be a 15.2 hand Quarter horse type. Mules that are used for packing need good strength, thickness of bone, but not too much height, since they are often in the woods with low branches everywhere.

Depending on the character of the man in the story would dictate the sex of the animal. Mules become the “companion” of their owners. This is what differentiates them from horses. If you want this man to be a manly man with little reference to women, he might find the male mule to be a better companion; but if he is a man whose heart has been broken and had decided to avoid women, he may find solace with a female mule. You can choose for the development of your story.

Autographing Books

Question: I’m an old retired PRCA bullfighter and announcer now taking over my family’s ranch. We raise some real nice mules and quarter horses around Baton Rouge, LA. Our place is called Cactus Ranch and Retreat Center, We are an Ole West outreach. We are trying to tell people about how life really was 100 yrs. or so ago, and also tell them about Jesus.

We are very interested in your books and would love to get you to sign some for us. I would also like to know how I could get on your links page, Ma’am. Our website is cactusranchandretreat.com.

Please check out our website and give me a ring or an email, Ma’am. I surely would appreciate any help and assistance, God bless you, Miss Meredith, and we love your show and Jasper the Mule.

Answer: Thank you for your email and kind words of support! It is always nice to know our efforts are appreciated and it is fans like you who keep us on the air at RFD-TV. We really appreciate your taking the time to write!

You can request autographed books when you order either on the website or if you call in your order, 1-800-816-7566. We would be happy to do reciprocal links. I will copy this email to my webmaster and he will arrange to have you put on our links page and ours on yours.

Blanket Necessary In Cold Weather?

Question: When it’s snowing outside and it’s freezing should you put a
blanket on them?

Answer: Equines will usually acclimate to their environment, but in some cases, drastic changes in temperature will cause animals to become too cold and they may require a blanket. If they are standing in a perpetually “hunched” position with the tail tucked tightly to their rear, then they would probably appreciate a blanket.

Usually an unclipped equine will need the blanket only overnight. Take it off during the day (provided it warms up a little) to keep the hair coat healthy and doing its job of keeping them warm naturally.

Breeding-Training The Gaited Mule

Question: I have a TWH mare that is EXTREMELY pacey. I also recently acquired 1/2 interest in a jack who has produced gaited mules from MFT mares. Is it true that the swingier the mare the better gaited mule you will get? Lucky the Jack has an awesome disposition as does the mare. Both of them are people-oriented animals.

Answer: You would have a good chance of getting gaited offspring if both parents are truly gaited. Donkeys are generally not truly gaited, so predictions about the offspring are often dicey. It really isn’t a matter of being swingy, but rather, the pattern and regularity of the footfall pattern and sustaining it at different speeds determines if they are truly gaited.

The guidelines for the specific gaits will also be different from one type of gaited horse to another (i.e. Tennessee Walking Horse, Foxtrotter, Paso Fino, Saddlebred,, etc.). Pacing is not necessarily considered gaited. So, it is difficult to even predict whether the offspring will be truly gaited, or not. Some will be more strongly gaited than others. All you can do is pick a jack and a mare that you feel best exhibit the gait for that breed and hope they produce a strongly gaited mule. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.

Gaited or not, mules and donkeys are very gregarious and affectionate animals and have a need to really bond with their owners. It is important to know the steps involved in this bonding process to get the best from your mule or donkey, and even horses, whether you are starting with a foal or just beginning a new relationship with an older animal.

Our resistance-free DVD training series is designed to begin with DVDs #1 and #8 (feeding and maintenance) and take the training in sequence whether you are training a foal, or just getting acquainted with an older animal that has been previously trained. This will guarantee that you will be doing the right kinds of things to insure that you get the best from the animal, making your time with him both safe and enjoyable.

Even gaited mules need to develop good balance at all three normal gaits before they will be able to sustain their natural gaits efficiently and in good posture.

Remember, you are cultivating a friendship with your equine that should last a lifetime! This is why it is important to take it slowly and do the kinds of positive things that will enhance this friendship and result in a safe and enjoyable relationship, and to learn how to effectively set behavioral limits for your animal to avoid negative confrontations. At the same time, consider your animal’s posture, frame, balance, coordination and muscle development during this process. If he is comfortable in his body, he will be better able to perform.

Color Genetics

Question: I have a White Donkey. She’s a standard and I would like to breed her to a paint horse. But I’m not sure what size horse to use. My Donkey is 12 hands and the horse I’m looking at is 14 hands. Would that be too large for her? I’d like a Hinny, and I thought if I bred her with a paint horse I’d get a paint or medicine hat hinny. Is that possible?

Answer: Thank you for your e-mail. Color genetics is quite a bit different from horses when you are breeding donkeys and horses. Generally speaking, you need two spotted parents to get paints. One spotted parent will usually yield solid colors with white socks.

If you would like to know more about this type of genetics, you should contact the American Donkey & Mule Society, PO Box 1210, Lewisville, Texas, 75067, (972) 219-0781, Fax(972) 420-9980. They will be able to give you more details.

Color Genetics In Mules

Question: I also have questions about colors of mules. I study color genetics in horses, but donkeys, and mules are a whole new ball game. Is there any information available for breeding mules about color?

Can someone predict the colors of mules based on the colors of the Jack and the Mare? Bay mules seem to be the common color, but reds, blacks, and other colors are seen, too. Is the Mare or the Jack more responsible for the color of the mule? Is there any info. about this available?

Answer: We have a chapter (Chapter 2) in our book A Guide To Raising & Showing Mules that is all about color genetics in longears researched and written by Leah Patton from the American Donkey & Mule Society, PO Box 1210, Lewisville, Texas, 75067, (972) 219-0781, lovelongears@hotmail.com.

Differences in Breeds?

Question: I’ve looked all over your site as well as others to find an answer to this question and have been unable so I am going to have to trouble you with it.

How do donkeys, hinnies and mules differ in temperament, behavior and training one from the other? I am presuming there are slight differences between hinnies and donkeys as well as mules and donkeys. for your convenience you can make generalizations. I am most interested in the difference between hinnies and mules.

I have an additional question, what has been your experience with an offspring of an Arabian and a donkey? Would there be too much difficulty breeding a stallion Arab to a donkey dam?

Answer: Thank you for your email. There are really very subtle differences among donkeys, mules and hinnies. But, here is what I have discovered from my own experience (in general):

1) Donkeys do not respond well to horse training techniques. They are a very thoughtful animal and need purpose for what they do. They will eventually learn the same thing as horses if approached in a “donkey logical” manner which is often not in the same chronological order as horses and mules. They have varying personalities, but their response is always thoughtful and slow.

2) Mules have the donkey mentality in regard to intelligent thought coupled with the athletic ability from the horse. They respond basically the same as horses, but they need to be approached in a fair and considerate manner in order to perform the best. They have varying personalities, but take on a great number of physical attributes from the mare. They are said to inherit the best from the jack and the mare.

3) Hinnies appear to have a more horse-like response to things and they can often look more donkey-like through the body. Horses can be a little frantic and flighty in their response to fear. A mule will be more thoughtful and aggressive. Hinnies and mules are very difficult to tell apart physically. They are said to inherit the worst traits from the stallion and jennet.

Whether this is actually true, I do not really know since I can usually get the best from any equine. The main concern with breeding for hinnies is the size of the foal at birth. Most jennets are not large enough to birth a foal from a stallion easily. The mares have a much easier time birthing mule foals. Also, a lot of stallions will not show interest to a jennet. A jack is much more sexually aggressive and therefore, easier to breed to another species.

I have had 5 Arab cross mules and they are all just wonderful, both in temperament and athletic ability. The secret is in the way they are trained. They are too intelligent to be bullied into submission. As for the reverse cross (hinny), if the size was close, you may still have to contend with a more flighty attitude.

Differences in Sex of Mules

Question: Getting ready to purchase my first mule. What are your thoughts on the differences of attitude, physical abilities, trainability , endurance, strength and so on between a john and molly mule? Thank you very much for your time.

Answer: I believe that the questions you ask in reference to trainability, attitude and physical ability are better examined from an individual point of view.

Mules and donkeys are more like people than we sometimes care to admit. They have very different personalities and attitudes from one to the next and it is my experience that sex really doesn’t make that much difference.

Both males and females can become difficult during breeding season. That just requires a little more ingenuity and patience from the trainer at that time of the year, but it certainly doesn’t imply that males, or females, are better than one another. Certain individuals can be more difficult than others.

We have a chapter in DVD #9 of our resistance-free training series that addresses how to assess the trainability of individuals. There are three separate tests you can do that will yield certain personality types. There are also ways to measure the animal to assess their athletic strengths and weaknesses. We use donkeys to exhibit these tests in DVD #9, but they are the same for any equine.

Dispelling Old Mule Stereotypes

Question: I am interested in longears. They are beautiful animals, including their ears. However, I am wondering if it is wrong to be interested in them. It appears to me that many people have negative attitudes about them. For example, they seem to believe that longears are stubborn, when in fact they have a strong sense of self-preservation.

Many people consider mules and donkeys not as acceptable as horses and are prejudiced against them. Do you think lack of education about donkeys and mules leads to these stereotypes? Should I only be interested in horses? Is it wrong to like other equines? I have read on your website that they are wonderful animals.

I commend you for your efforts to increase people’s acceptance of longears. I hope that you do not mind my questions about donkeys and mules.

Answer: Mules are wonderful animals! They are smarter than horses, have much smoother and more forward gaits, they are more resistant to parasites and disease, they are more surefooted, require less feed for good health, are less likely to hurt themselves and are cheaper to keep.

Any animal can be misunderstood when they have problems doing what you ask of them. That is how mules have gotten such a bad image. Your animal needs the proper groundwork before riding to help strengthen muscles correctly for the stress you are putting on them. When you train for a task or sport, you need to do the same as they do in people sports and go through an exercise program to strengthen muscles for the task.

Don’t think that the task will condition the animal’s muscles properly. This is not correct as there are only certain muscle groups that are used in certain tasks, and the one’s that are not used in the task would be at risk. If you do exercises to strengthen the entire body, then they will be better able to perform at their best.

The old stereotypes have come from the need to get these animals broke quickly for work in the past. This often results in a confrontation with mules. They will object where a horse will submit. The trainer that can gently appeal to the mule’s sensitivity is going to get better results than the trainer who is hurried and tries to force the issue. Unfortunately, there was no time for this kind of gentle training in the old days without industrialization and technology.

Donkey Aggressive When Being Haltered

Question: I purchased an 8 mo. old male donkey 3 months ago who had never been handled. After viewing your videos and books and applying your methods, he has come along quite fast and I just adore him.

My problem is, he is in the same corral with my horse and when I go in to halter him or the horse, he pushes in between and tries to shove me or the other horse out of the way so he can get haltered first. He almost acts jealous. How do I correct this behavior? It’s cute now, but he’s getting bigger and stronger and it could be risky when he’s around my grandchildren. I did get him gelded right after I bought him.

Also, this sounds silly to me, but I just read in a magazine of trivia facts that more people are killed by donkeys than are killed in plane crashes in a year. Could this really be true? If donkeys are really that dangerous, I wouldn’t want to have my grandchildren around them.

Answer: I do agree that your donkey needs to be a little more polite about his approach for the sake of safety! Donkeys and mules will always be more this way than horses, but there is something you can do about this.

When he approaches too aggressively, he needs to be handled the same way as if he were biting. You just slap him hard on the side of his mouth (where it will make an impression), put your hand up like a stop sign and say, “No” very loudly in order to startle him. Then he will probably either step back or throw his head up and back and when he does, you step forward and give him a reward for giving you your space. He will soon learn that when you put your hand up like a stop sign it means stand back.

My jacks are very happy to see me, too, but they have learned that they need to stop when I put my hand up and they do. As he gets older, he will be less aggressive and more likely to behave than he is now, but he will always be very loving and affectionate if trained correctly. He will just learn to be more polite!

It is important to teach him good ground manners as much for him as it is for you, your safety, and the safety of others. Just be consistent and practice good horsemanship safety rules until he is older and don’t let inexperienced people in with the animals when they are not contained.

I don’t know if this trivia is actually true or not, but I think it falls into the category of more people are killed by “doing stupid things” than are killed in plane crashes every year. If you practice good safety rules around you equines, you greatly reduce the risk of injury and you will pass these attitudes and information along to your children and grandchildren, greatly reducing their risks as well. Many things in life can be injurious to your health were it not for the rules of safety that we learn. You really can’t live your life in fear of everything that might hurt you. That’s not living!

Donkey Gelding Attacking Herd

Question: I have a perplexing problem with my donkey gelding that is breaking my heart. I read about some similar problems on your website but none were exactly like mine.

Solomon is a 9 year old standard gelding. He was gelded as a 3 year old. Yes, I bred him just long enough to get 3 beautiful babies. He was a prolific breeder, not mean, just persistent and he did “service” my jennets for another 3 years after he was gelded. I have owned him since he was 6 months old and he has never been abused or mistreated in any way. Solomon has always been laid back and well behaved up until about a month ago.

A month ago I brought home a new weanling standard jennet. As I have always done with all my new donkeys, I let her get to know the others thru the fence. To my surprise, Solomon got the scariest look of the devil in his eyes, pinned his ears back and lunged at her thru the fence constantly. When I would take her back to her stall away from him, he would be the same old sweet boy he usually was. Thinking it was just a phase, I let her out of her stall everyday for two weeks and this went on everyday for two weeks.

By then, the rest of the donkeys (a jennet and another gelding) had accepted her and I was ready to let her be part of the group so I let the weanling run with the rest of the herd and put the gelding in the stall.

After a couple more weeks, I decided to let the gelding get re-acquainted with the rest of the donkeys thru the fence. He seemed to be calmer about the situation so I decided to let him in the fence to see what happens.

BIG MISTAKE!! After about 5 minutes of just standing there he decided to go after the weanling and got her down a couple times before we could get them separated. Then he decided he didn’t like any of the donkeys anymore and went after all of them with pinned ears and bared teeth chasing and biting. So, for now the gelding is back in a stall. I don’t know what to do with him.

Why would he act that way towards a jennet baby?
Why would he just start doing this when I have brought other donkeys home and he didn’t act that way towards them?
Why does he hate ALL OF THE DONKEYS now?

He normally loves people and kids but if it’s a territorial issue will I be able to trust him with children anymore?
His behavior is definitely unacceptable and:
I know it should not be taking this long for the gelding to get used to the jennet. There is definitely a problem I do not want him to live in a stall the rest of his life.

I don’t want to give him to someone else and risk him hurting another animal or maybe even a child. But I cannot let one animal tell me that I can’t bring another animal home.
Is there something I can do to help him or is it time to let him go? I want everyone to be safe. I value your opinion. Thanks for your time.

Answer: Mules and donkeys are very tenacious animals, more so than horses. When you geld a horse, he may try to breed afterwards for a time, but is easily discouraged after a few unsuccessful attempts and calms down into his new role.

A donkey jack is a whole different thing. A jack who has never bred anything (mares or jennets) will not have established his persona as a herd boss (sire) and will calm down after a time if he is gelded as an older animal. Your Solomon has already established himself as a herd sire and the “Boss.” He has bred jennets and his testosterone levels are high and behaviors have been established in this position. He is now very jealous of anything that appears to be taking his position of authority.

It may be that after some time of being kept separately, he may calm down provided he is given another significant role in his life as a riding or driving animal. Until then, he will be dangerous to be around to those who are not able to deal with his studdish behaviors. If he gets enough personal attention during training, he may eventually forget about being a breeding animal, but it will take quite awhile (in all honesty).

I think you would find our resistance free training series very helpful. It is foundation versatility training for any equine discipline. When you do things in this natural order it helps to build muscle in the correct frame so when you finally ride your longears, he is able to execute movements easily, including picking up leads with smooth, coordinated transitions and a balanced body.

Ground manners are also addressed in great detail and essential for a safe and enjoyable experience with your animal. The same is true with driving and at the very least you need to participate in the training process so that you learn the same things that your animal is learning to avoid confusion later. It is done in great detail and affords you the day to day exercises for training your longears from beginning to advanced levels.

Donkey Registry

Question: Thanks for your wonderful letter. I will use your suggestions on both my horse and the donkey. I was wondering If I can register the donkey even if I don’t know the parents. I think she should be [registered], she is such a lovely donkey and pretty too.

Answer: You can register your donkey with the American Donkey & Mule Society. Here is registry information directly from the American Donkey & Mule Society web site:

MDR – the Miniature Donkey Registry. Founded in 1958 by Bea Langfeld. 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 will close to “untraced” donkeys in Jan 2009. This means that ONLY donkeys that 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 “ADR” 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 registered in ADR as “Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys” prior to the 1990s. Their offspring (providing both parents are MMDs) will be 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 so it 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, 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, 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.

Equine Program Clinic?

Question: I would like to take a moment to thank you for teaching people that mules are not bad animals and they do not require brute force to train them.

I am an equine student at Los Angeles Pierce College. As you may or may not know we have a 2 year degree program in horse science and are starting to offer mule classes taught by Steve Edwards. I have been so offended by what I have seen and heard from other students I have not enrolled in any of the mule training classes as of yet. This is why I am contacting you.

Pierce College is in need of your enlightened mule training techniques. The horse program has been run with a “natural” horsemanship philosophy for decades however, the new mule program is living in the dark ages.

Our barn manager Bill Lander and our horse science director Ron Wechsler has asked me to contact you and find out what it would take to have you come out and do a clinic for us. I know you are VERY busy but these poor mules are in desperate need of help. Mr. Edwards is training people and mules and spreading the seed of brutality. Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not a “humaniac”. I have a 2 1/2 year old BLM mustang that I have started myself. I completely understand the need for discipline and the need to follow through at times with animals.

I also believe an animal needs to be given a chance, and you know the old saying, you can catch more bees with honey.

We have a brand new facilities that are nearly ready to be used. (including a covered arena) I hope you will consider my request. I have a feeling you will be getting more emails from my fellow students asking for the same. Just let us know when and how much and we can make it happen.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to call or email me at your convenience.

Answer: I totally understand your concern and there are a number of questionable trainers out there. I am also concerned about what people are being taught and am trying to reach as many of them as I possibly can. That is why I am not on the road doing clinics.

I found that when I went to clinics myself, there were a number of problems. First, the clinician could not give individuals much time and attention. Secondly, the information was only highlights and not the day to day training information that one really needs to get the job done. Then, once you get home, if you do run into problems and need to ask a question, you can never catch up with the clinician to ask them. The other reason is that I can get more work accomplished if I spend more time at the ranch. I can continue writing more educational books and producing more videos and TV shows for the general public. If I were on the road, I would not have the time.

This is why I do things a little differently. I know that mules and donkeys (and all equines really) bond to the person who trains them, so I first encourage people to train their own. I put all my training techniques in a DVD training series that is designed like grade school and takes these things in a natural order. I have people get the series and begin their work.

Each DVD represents about a year’s worth of training and can be used on any animal at any age… they all begin at DVD #1! Then, if they do run into problems I have them contact me here at the ranch with their questions via mail, email or phone and I can personally talk them through the problems. I have been doing this for many years with tremendous results!

People that have never even seen an equine before are training their animals! It is the first ever equine correspondence training course. This way I can really be available to people. Richard Shrake takes my brochures to his clinics and expos. We have worked together closely for more than 20 years. That way, I can still get the exposure in the field at his clinics.

I would suggest you consider having the library at Los Angeles Pierce College invest in this training series. I would be happy to make myself available to the students on a personal basis at any time I am needed via phone, mail or email. I would hope to inspire more colleges to pick up this program.

Full & Half Grade Draft Horse Registry Open

Question: Full & Half Grade Draft Horse Registry is open to all Draft and Draft crosses! We also take Draft mules! It’s ok if you don’t know the name of the Mare and Sire! This registry is open to all grade horses! So PMU horses are welcome too!

We will be having shows with this registry in a few years! Free classifieds for selling and for stallion standing at stud.
We are also putting together point award system and horse shows for all full and crossbred draft horses! The shows will be open to all disciplines of riding styles and driving horses. We are hoping to put on shows, trail rides all over the United States for both registries! That is or goal for the next few years.

Please pass the word out to other people know about this registry! Please feel free to e-mail or call me at 434-634-7807 Monday- Friday 9am to 5pm eastern time with any question! FHGDHR has moved to www.gradedrafthorseregistry.webs.com

Answer: We are happy to post this information for those who might be interested.

Funny Faces & Antics

Question: Just wanted to relate the fun interaction between my 18 month old Morgan mule “Dooby” and my 8 year old, pinto gelding “Chico”. Dooby and Chico are buddies and some days “like today” they like to play grab the halter. Now Dooby is 1/2 the size of Chico but when Dooby grabs Chicos halter under the chin Dooby takes his “stubborn mule stance” and Chico can’t move! It’s very funny to watch.

When Dooby finally lets go Chico will try and grab his but Dooby is shorter and too fast and Chico can’t catch him! Then they run around biting each others legs and Dooby makes a funny face where he pulls his lips back and grinds his teeth, “Not Fleshman’s that horses do” but something I have only seen him do. Is this some trait of mules? Do donkeys do it too?

Answer: The playtime activities of your two are really comical and yes, typical mule and donkey behavior! They will do things to amaze you on a daily basis if you are there to see it! That is one of the most endearing things about mules!

You should see my old dressage mule. He makes so many different faces, sometimes he reminds me of Jim Carrey! I am concerned, however, that these animals are turned loose with their halters on. I don’t know if you realize this, but a halter on a loose animal can become caught on any number of things and can cause severe injury and sometimes death. I knew a man who did this and he thought there wasn’t anything for the mule to become snagged on.

Well, she got her face wedged in the gate and subsequently pulled too hard to get loose. It didn’t kill her, but she is now paralyzed on one whole side of her face. Her ear and lips droop on that side; she drools out that side and has virtually no response to the bit on that side. Her owners are keeping her and making allowances for her condition, but not many can afford that kind of care. Its better just to prevent this kind of heartache from the beginning. There is no equine that cannot be taught to come to you if they are hard to catch. It just needs to be done the right way.

Please don’t feel badly. We all make mistakes until we know better. I know you love your animals and want the best for them. Chico and Dooby sound like a riot! Keep up the good work!

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.

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.

Socializing New Mules

Question: We have a new mule and would like to know how we should socialize him with the others that we have. What should we do?

Answer: Generally, the best thing to do with a new animal is to put him in a pen of his own adjacent to the pens with your other animals for about two weeks, just so they can be introduced “across the fence” before you turn them in together. Jacks and stallions should never be turned in with other animals. When you finally do put your mule in with the others, they will establish a new pecking order. 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 your mule’s 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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