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  • MULE CROSSING: Dancing with Mules

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    By Meredith Hodges

    Lucky Three Sundowner was foaled at my mother’s Windy Valley Ranch in Healdsburg, California in June of 1980. Two weeks later he and his dam, Candy Etta, an AQHA registered mare were shipped to the Lucky Three Ranch where we continued the superior mule breeding and training program that my mother had started. Sunny was a tall, gangly little bay mule foal with an affectionate and willing attitude.

    His show career began at halter and progressed to Western Pleasure and Reining by the time he was three years old. He won the World Championship in Reining at Bishop Mule Days as a four year old in 1984. Although he did really well in these events, he still seemed tense and nervous. For the next two years, I decided to focus on more relaxing events for him in Western Pleasure, Trail and English Pleasure. People were not easily accepting mules in these kinds of events anyway. They were thought of as stubborn and uncooperative.

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  • LTR Presents: Rein It In

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    Flying lead changes? Check! Sliding Stops? Check! Reining Class with mules? You bet! Watch the latest LTR Presents!

  • Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere

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

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

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

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

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

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  • MULE CROSSING: An Historical Lady Muleskinner 2017

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    By Meredith Hodges

    Mules have led me on the journey of a lifetime! My first introduction to mules and donkeys was in 1973 at my mother’s Windy Valley Mule Ranch in Healdsburg, California, where we raised and trained hundreds of mules and donkeys for a variety of uses across America. Many of them we sold to George Chamberlain and they subsequently went to work in the Grand Canyon. At first, I was truly afraid of these animals after hearing all the old myths, but as soon as I met my first mule, I was certain they had to be wrong. Apart from being stronger, tougher and more durable animals, they were also personable, affectionate and quite humorous! Although at that time they were primarily used for packing and driving, their incredible intelligence and conformation led me to believe that they could be trained to become amazing equine athletes! After all, with the addition of the jack’s strength and intelligence, they are always better overall than the horse out of which they were bred.

    In 1979, I witnessed my first Bishop Mule Days Sierra Nevada packer’s rendezvous. That was where my career in training mules and donkeys in every recreational equine event began. I was “ass-tonished” at the impeccable way these knowledgeable men and women handled their mules, wagons, packs and equipment with such grace and dignity…and not without a proper measure of good humor! I caught a very bad case of “Mule Fever” and began my own pursuit with Longears in ALL forms of equine athletics. Bishop Mule Days grew from the weekend packer’s rendezvous into the weeklong show over Memorial Day weekend that it is today, adding new classes each year to accommodate the accomplishments of a lot of Longears-lovers like myself along the way. Little did I know, the friendships I started then were to last a lifetime!

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  • MULE CROSSING: Basic Training for Foals Includes Common Sense

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    By Meredith Hodges

    “Imprinting” is a natural process by which an animal (most typically, when young) comes to recognize another animal or a person as a parent or other object of habitual trust. Imprinting is also the way any equine is touched when he is a foal and handled throughout his entire life. It is never too late to use imprinting with your equine, and the way you do it will determine whether or not he develops a lifelong confidence and trust in you. NOTE: Imprinting should not be utilized only when your equine is a newborn, and then never utilized again. Imprinting should continue throughout his entire life.

    Equine foals must be allowed to play—running, kicking and rolling. This is how they exercise so they can grow up to be healthy adults. Like any baby or toddler, a foal cannot be expected to have perfect manners, so keep lessons short (10-20 minutes every other day at the most) and use good judgment when you are with him to avoid being kicked or bitten. If he does kick or bite while you are doing things with him, use the flat of your hand and give him a quick thump on the rump for kicking or on the side of his mouth for biting, accompanied by a loud “No!” He will probably run off, but should be able to be coaxed back verbally and fairly easily with soothing language and an offer of crimped oats. When he finally does come back to you, reward him with a nice pat on the neck, and then leave him to play. By doing this, you are letting him know that it is okay to play, but not to kick or bite. He has learned that bad behavior will elicit an unpleasant touch while his good behavior will illicit kind touch and soothing words. You can resume more serious corrective lessons later.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Little Jack Horner

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    By Meredith Hodges

    Little Jack Horner, 13 HH sire-supreme of the Lucky Three Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, was the last jack born at the famed Windy Valley Ranch in Healdsburg, California. He was foaled June 11, 1980, by the renowned Windy Valley Adam (14.2 HH) and out of Windy Valley Maude (15 HH). His ancestry can be traced back to the original breeding stock of George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

    In 1984 and 1985, Little Jack Horner captured second place in the Bishop Mule Days World Show Halter class for Standard Jacks. His impeccable show record consists of first and second place standings at Halter in his home state of Colorado, and in 1986, he placed first at Halter in the A.D.M.S. Registered Jacks class at the A.D.M.S. Nationals in Dallas, Texas.

     

    In 1984, he made his debut in performance at the Colorado Classic Horse Show, placing first in Donkey Driving and Donkey Pleasure. His willing disposition held him in good stead, placing him first in Donkey Pleasure and Donkey Driving at Bishop Mule Days in 1989. Little Jack Horner by his own request was trained in Dressage and Jumping along with his numerous offspring mules. He reached Second Level Dressage over three years and jumped four feet in exhibition at Bishop Mule Days in 1991 where he received a Specialty Award for his efforts. In 1993, he placed first in Donkey Pleasure, Donkey Pole Bending and Keyhole.

    Although Dressage proved difficult (as it would be for any donkey), it helped to set the stage for his incredible athletic ability in jumping. He soared over fences to 4’6” without a rider and worked up to 4’ with the rider on board. In keeping with traditional Dressage, Little Jack Horner worked on a Pas de Deux in Jumping with another Colorado Standard Jack, Blue Zebulon owned by Fran & Larry Howe of the Bitterroot Mule Company. Those who know the difficulty of working jacks should be able to appreciate the dispositions and good manners of these two unique and very special individuals! Little Jack Horner proved himself not only a well-conformed jack, but also a true athlete! He was inducted into the Bishop Mule Days Hall of Fame in May of 2014.

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  • LTR Presents: Double Time

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    See our draft mules, Rock and Roll at work and play in the latest LTR Presents video!

  • MULE CROSSING: Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue: Part 2

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    By Meredith Hodges

    In Part 1 of Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, we learned about the discovery and rescue of Belgian draft mules, Rock and Roll, by Meredith Hodges and her team of experts. As the pair’s rehabilitation continues, the road to recovery gets tougher. But for every health setback, there is a personality breakthrough with these courageous and now-trusting gentle giants—and always a reason to hope.

    By May of 2011, both mules were beginning to bond well with me and I was able to separate them during workouts. I knew I would have to develop a strong bond with Roll in case Rock didn’t make it, and we all knew the odds were not in Rock’s favor. Being alone with me in the round pen helped Roll to concentrate on the tasks at hand. His way of going was markedly improving with each new lesson.

    Both mules could now square up properly and move in a much more balanced frame, although holding that balance was intermittent. The personality of each mule began to emerge and they became more willing to play games and to be touched and kissed about their heads. Rock was much more overt about his pleasure during the massages, and we could finally tell that they were beginning to trust us.

    By mid-June, we were able to take the pads off Rock’s back feet and reset the shoes without the pads. He had grown three-eighths of an inch of sole on both hind feet and the rotation began to improve in one back foot. Both mules were feeling much better and were actually engaging in play during turnout. Next, we discovered that due to the concussion to his rear feet from improper use during driving in the past, Roll had side bones in his right hind foot. This caused him to twist that foot as it grew out between trims, so we put shoes on his back feet as well.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, Part 1

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    By Meredith Hodges

    I first saw Rock and Roll at the National Western Stock Show in January of 2010. The two Belgian draft mules looked enormous in the 12′ X 12′ stalls in the holding area. They had been rescued from slaughter at an auction in Kiowa by my two friends, Fran and Larry Howe, owners of the Bitterroot Mule Company in Bennett, Colorado. My friends explained why they couldn’t resist trying to help the two draft mules. They were the largest mules any of us had ever seen. Roll was supposedly 16 years old at 17 1/2 hands and Rock supposedly 17 years old at 18 hands. Both mules were severely underweight. Rock had recently been treated for abscesses, which required the removal of two molars. The two draft mules stood quietly, seemingly unaffected, as we stared in total amazement. A rescue attempt was certainly worth trying.

    In August of 2010, I saw Roll again at the Larimer County Fair. Larry drove him in the single hitch classes and, when I was able to speak to him, he and Fran told me Rock could not come to the show. He had come up lame. Roll had put on weight and was looking better than he had looked in January; however, he still appeared to be stressed. Longears have been known to die from depression, so one of my main concerns was if Rock died, Roll could become depressed and might not live very long. Fran and Larry decided that this rescue was more than they could handle and asked if I would be interested in taking the pair. I agreed, and after we had quickly made a suitable space for them, Rock and Roll were delivered to the Lucky Three Ranch on December 5th, 2010. One look at the way Rock was moving and we knew this was going to be difficult at best.

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  • LTR Presents: Because We Can

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    Who says dressage is just for horses? We know better! Watch some amazing mules and riders show what they can do, including Lucky Three Sundowner and Buckeye!

  • MULE CROSSING: Contemporary Mules

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    By Meredith Hodges

    Artillery Pack Mule, 1940_CCMules played an important role in our country during the Reconstruction Period: they patiently worked the fields, packed necessary artillery for the army, and served as a durable riding and driving animal in the westward movement. With the coming of the industrial age, their uses were minimized and they were faced with the possibility of extinction in the march of progress. Today, through the persistent determination of mule enthusiasts, mules are once again emerging as a conceivable asset to our economy and a unique form of athletic achievement and entertainment.

    With new and improved training techniques, the mules of today are known for their beauty and outstanding athletic ability, their durability and their intelligence. Their uses are limited only to the imaginations of their owners. It is now commonly known that with proper training, a mule can perform better than the horse it was bred from. Subsequently, mules are not only competing in mule shows, but horse shows as well—in events from cutting to dressage. Cattle ranchers have discovered the mule to be an important asset in their business. He can go all day without tiring and can cover terrain that might discourage a horse, not to mention that the ride is much more comfortable. Hunters caught in the heavy snows of the Rocky Mountains praise their mules for carrying out heavy game and blazing trails through treacherous snowy ground, leading them and their horses to safety. Sales persons are grateful to both mules and donkeys for their humorous contributions in advertising and children appreciate the companionship and affection that mules can offer. Even the army has conceded that mules could make their contribution to the economy through their use in mountain light infantry divisions. The only problem that arises is educating people on mule psychology so that they can train them properly.

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  • Little Big Shots!

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    Miniature mules Franklin and Francis and miniature horse Mirage show that good things come in small packages. Miniature equines need special handling, especially when they know they are “Little Big Shots” Enjoy the latest video with three of our miniatures of the Lucky Three Ranch!

  • Compassionate Training – A Historical Example

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

  • What’s New? Roll

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    December 2, 2016 

    Roll’s bout with White Line Disease began on December 31, 2015 and did not look very promising considering we were dealing with a 3000 lb. animal with two-thirds of his hoof wall detached and full of fungus.

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  • The Borax Wagon Replicas are on the Move!

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    Congratulations to the team who built the Borax Wagon replicas that are on their way to the Rose Parade. I am honored to have sponsored the creation of these phenomenal wagons. Click the photo below to see the news story from KTVQ and watch a video of the wagons!

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    The following is an excerpt of a story about the painstaking process of the creation of these magnificent wagons from Last Best News by Ed Kemmick:

    JOLIET — Dave Engel has been making and restoring wagons, coaches and other horse-drawn conveyances for almost 40 years, but the commissioned project he’s working on now is likely to be seen by far more people than anything else he’s done.

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    Working out of Engel’s Coach Shop on Joliet’s Main Street, just off Highway 212, Engel and one employee have been laboring since last February to build replicas of two of the wagons once used to haul borax in California’s Death Valley.

    The massive wagons, made entirely of iron and wood, will be hauled by 20-mule teams in the Rose Parade preceding the Rose Bowl game—among the best-known games in college football—in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 2. The parade is televised around the world and watched by millions.

    And on Jan. 20, the mule train and wagons will be California’s official entry in the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., which will proceed from the Capitol to the White House after the swearing-in of the nation’s 45th president—whose name, in case you hadn’t heard, is Donald J. Trump.

    The Death Valley Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that works to promote and support Death Valley National Park, commissioned Engel to build the wagons. The last time one of the famous wagons and 20-mule teams took part in an inaugural parade was 100 years ago, in 1917, when Woodrow Wilson was sworn in for his second term in the Oval Office.

    Engel’s wife, Diane, said the conservancy originally wanted Engel to build the two borax wagons and the water wagon that traditionally brought up the rear, but the third piece will have to wait.

    “He’s only building two,” she said. “They only gave him 10 months. He’s been working double time.”

    Click Here To Read The Full Story

     

  • A Very LTR Christmas!

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    We feel pretty blessed here at Lucky Three Ranch and want to share our good wishes for safe and happy holidays with you and your family. Merry Christmas!

  • Let’s Roll!

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    When draft mule, Roll, arrived at Lucky Three Ranch, he needed some special attention and rehabilitation. Watch what happens when Meredith Hodges sets out to help the gentle giant.

  • What’s New with Roll? Everything!

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    Roll continues to improve after a bout with White Line Disease that began in January 2016. The White Line Disease in his left hind foot is almost completely grown out now!

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    He is maintaining conditioning pretty much on his own with turnout since I did not want to add any stress to his routine while the hoof was still badly compromised. I was pleased to see that all the lessons that Roll has had for the past six years are firmly engrained in his brain.

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  • Spuds & Augie Go Exploring!

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    “It’s a beautiful Fall day, Augie! Where do you think we are we going this time?”

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    “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked!”

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    “It wasn’t really THAT bad, was it, Spuds?!”

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    “Hey, Spuds, come look in here! It’s pretty cool!”

    “Has she finally lost her mind, Augie?! We can’t fit in there!”

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  • Mules and Donkeys in the Bible

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

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

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

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

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