What’s New

  • What’s New? Roll Comes Up Lame


    Roll was doing better and then all of a sudden he was very lame in his left hind foot again on February 10th. The only thing we could think of was that he must have twisted it and maybe even caught the boot on something in his pen when he was trying to get up.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Mules of Molokai


    By Meredith Hodges

    It is no secret that mules, due to their innate sensibility and incredible surefootedness, are the equine of choice for packing and riding into untamed wilderness areas. Dependable mules carry thousands of tourists down the steep trails of the Grand Canyon each year. This enables many to take in the splendor and beauty of an otherwise nearly inaccessible corner of the world.

    Not limited to Mainland activities, mules are also used on the island of Molokai in Hawaii to carry tourists on a memorable ride down the Kalaupapa Trail to the Makanalua Peninsula and the settlement of Kalaupapa. Years ago, before it was discovered that leprosy was not highly contagious, afflicted persons were taken to the Makanalua Peninsula by boat and left there. The sheer cliffs on the landside of the peninsula prevented them from leaving. Father Damien de Veuster of Belgium built the first church and brought hope to the old settlement of Kalawao.

    Today, people are allowed to come and go, and the settlement is permitted to delight in some of the modern-day conveniences. Though the settlement is only 12 square miles, there are cars and mini-buses to aid in transportation. After the mule ride down the cliff trail, mini-buses give personal tours around the settlement where you can learn about everyday life then and now. You’ll see their homes, general store, dock, medical facilities, lonely graveyards, the old settlement of Kalawao, and Father Damien’s church, St. Philomena.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Racing Mules


    By Meredith Hodges

    Racing, the sport of kings has intrigued people for hundreds of years. Perhaps it’s the beauty of running horses, or maybe the way your heart swells with excitement as they come down the home stretch; or it could be the money. But whatever the reason, millions flock to the racetracks each year to enjoy this magnificent sport. Over the years, racing has expanded to include not only the Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, but Appaloosas, Arabians, and Quarter Horses as well. During the past three decades, mules have emerged onto the racetrack to take their place in making racing history.

    Although mule racing has just begun to take hold as a national sport, it had its beginnings in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California in 1851, when Captain Boling’s cavalry troop was forced to halt for two months in the Yosemite Valley. Horse racing was one of the major sports used to keep up the spirits of the men during this unexpected respite. Army mules were included in these races to add to the entertainment. Much to the chagrin of some of the horse owners, the mules could actually beat some of the cavalry’s favorite mounts. Captain Boling purchased one Maltese, Kentucky-blooded mule (known as the Vining mule) he was particularly impressed by for one thousand dollars in gold from Lee Vining. He then went on to make many more thousands in match races with this mule against horses. To quote from the official racing program: “The Indian war of 1851 was the catalyst that started the first running of mules in California.”

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  • MULE CROSSING: LTR Training Principles Philosophy


    By Meredith Hodges

    No training series would be complete without examination of the principles and philosophy behind the training techniques. The philosophy of my training techniques is based on the principle that we are not, in fact, training our equines, but rather, we are cultivating relationships with them by assigning meaning to our own body language that they can understand. Since our own level of understanding changes and grows over time, we must assume that so does that of our animals, and we must gauge our explanations accordingly. In the beginning, the emotional needs of the young equine are quite different from that of an older animal. They need to overcome a lot of instincts that would protect them in the wild, but are inappropriate in a domestic situation. In this case, our focus must be on developing friendship and confidence in the young animal, while establishing our own dominance in a non-threatening manner. We do this through a lot of positive reinforcement in the beginning, with gentle touch, reassuring voice, and lots of rewards for good behavior. Our expressions of disapproval are kept at a minimum. As he grows with us, the equine will realize that we do not wish to harm him, and will next develop a rather pushy attitude in an attempt to assert his own dominance–once that he is confident that his behavior is acceptable. When this occurs, we must re-evaluate our reward system and save excessive praise for the new things as he learns them and allow the learned behavior to be treated as the norm, praised more passively, yet appreciated. This is the cultivation of a delicate concept of give and take in a relationship from the emotional standpoint. As in any good relationship, we must learn to be polite, considerate and respectful of our mules, donkeys, horses, ponies and hybrids. After all, as my grandmother used to say, “You can catch more flies with sugar that you can with vinegar!”

    From the physical standpoint, there are also a lot of things to consider of both mule and trainer. In the beginning, unless you are a professional trainer with years of proper schooling, you are not likely to be the most balanced and coordinated of riders, lacking absolute control over your own body language. By the same token, the untrained equine will be lacking in the muscle coordination and strength to respond correctly to your cues that guide him to perform certain movements. For these reasons, we must modify our approach to fit each new situation and modify again to perfect it, keeping in mind that our main goal is to establish a good relationship with our equine and not just to train him! It is up to the trainer to decide the cause of any resistance, and to modify techniques to temper that resistance–be it mental or physical. For instance, we had a 3-year-old mule learning to lunge without the benefit of the round pen. The problem was that she refused to go around you more than a couple of times without running off.

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  • What’s New? Roll


    February 3, 2017

    Roll came up lame in his left hind again today, so we called our veterinarian, Greg Farrand to come and check him. He had swelling in the fetlock joint and it appeared to have just begun. I supported his joint with a wrap so is would be easier for him to walk to the Tack Barn work station.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Understanding the Use of Cruppers and Breeching


    By Meredith Hodges

    The purpose of tack and equipment has always been to give man leverage against the equine’s resistance during training, but I believe that the equine is “talking” with his resistance and this is a cue to find another alternative to achieve harmony when something isn’t working. There is an ongoing discussion about the use of cruppers and breeching when riding mules and donkeys, and even some horses. The purpose of both is to keep the saddle from sliding forward when the equine is in motion, whether he is tracking on flat ground or going up and down hills. Inappropriate use of both devices could give the equine problems. Whether or not to use a crupper or breeching is not an either/or decision. My equines taught me that in order to make an educated decision about which to use, one needs to take into account the anatomy of the equine and the effect that each has on his body in motion during different activities.

    Good conformation is important in allowing the equine to perform to the best of his ability, but the tack we use has an effect on the equine’s movement in spite of his shape. In order to obtain freedom of movement, the elements of the equine’s anatomy must be allowed to move freely through every joint of his body. Energy and blood circulation finds open tracks throughout the body and when unobstructed, will run freely from the core of the body to the extremities in a healthy equine. Core and bulk muscles that are developed symmetrically support the skeletal frame, the cartilage and ligaments that surround the joints, and the tendons that tie the skeletal frame together. All work to support the proper internal organ functions and when the equine in good posture with symmetrical strength, they are unobstructed.

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  • Help Bring the 20 Mule Team to Washington!


    America’s iconic 20 Mule Team consists of three giant wagons, pulled by a long line of 20 mules, driven by a single man using only voice commands and a jerk line.

    This 20 Mule Team will represent the American pioneering spirit in the 2017 National Independence Day Parade in Washington, DC, and will mark the 100th anniversary of the Team being in the 1917 Presidential Inauguration Parade!

    But we need your help in getting the team from Death Valley, California, to Centreville, Maryland, where they will be hosted at the Grove Creek Mule Farm.

    Schedule of events

    Friday, June 30: Sponsor Party at 6:30 PM

    Sunday, July 2: Meet the Mules and Muleskinners Public Event from 12 noon to 4 PM at the QAC 4H Park

    Tuesday, July 4: National Independence Day Parade, Washington, DC: 12 noon

    Become a sponsor and be a part of history! Contact Donna Stutzman at 410-707-1406 or click here to email.

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  • LTR Presents: Rein It In


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

  • Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere


    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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  • LTR Presents: Double Time


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

  • LTR Presents: Because We Can


    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!

  • Little Big Shots!


    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


    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


    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!


    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!



    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.


    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!


    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!


    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!


    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!


    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!



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


    “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked!”


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


    “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


    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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