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  • MULE CROSSING: The Importance of Good Manners When Training

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    By Meredith Hodges

    When I was growing up, my grandmother constantly reminded me of the importance of good manners. She would say, “You will never get anywhere of any consequence in this world without good manners!” And she would add, “Without good posture and proper dress, you won’t live long enough to enjoy it!” She made me read Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette from cover to cover. In retrospect, although reading the entire book was a real chore, the respect for good manners that she passed on to me has been an extremely valuable gem in my training experience with equines.

    I think that the concept of combining equine training techniques with lessons in good manners is one that many people do not pay as much attention to these days as they probably should. Putting an equine in good posture with respect to his physical comfort is the most obvious form of good manners when communicating with your equine. When you apply the elements of good manners during the training process, you facilitate body and verbal language that equines really appreciate, and when you apply your own good manners and teach good manners to your equine from the very beginning of the training process, you can continue to move forward much more easily than if you do not incorporate good manners between you and your equine. When you run into resistance from your equine, take it as a red flag that you’re missing something in your communication with your animal and change your approach.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Fine-Tuning the Aids

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    By Meredith Hodges

    While doing the exercises in balance by riding without the aid of your reins as described in DVD #5, you probably discovered a lot more shifting of your own balance than you imagined. This nearly imperceptible shift of balance, however, can grossly affect the balance of your equine. Until now, I have always given the rider a visual point of reference by allowing you to glance down at the outside front leg. Now you will want to be more inwardly conscious of your own body position.

    You need to repeat many of the previous exercises to cultivate this kind of sensitivity, but this time, close your eyes for brief periods of time to get the “feel” of each movement in your own body. Do not simply allow your equine to travel freely in any direction, because this will not give you an accurate feeling for any specific gait or task—you must plan your course of action. If, for instance, you set up your equine to bend through and come out of a corner with impulsion, you can close your eyes for a few seconds down the long side and feel the balance that comes out of that corner when the movement is executed correctly. In this particular situation, once you’ve closed your eyes, you may notice that your animal is starting to lean slightly to the inside. A squeeze/release from your inside leg, sending your mule forward and catching that balance with the outside rein, corrects the balance and keeps him going straight and erect down the long side.

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  • MULE CROSSING: LTR Training Principles Philosophy

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    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. In fact, 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.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Equine Behavior: Look Who’s Talking! Part 3

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    By Meredith Hodges

    In Part 1 of Equine Behavior: Look Who’s Talking, we discussed the evolution of man’s self-discovery and how he applied this to his approach to equines. If we want to manage our equines in a healthy way and accomplish even the most basic performance with them, there is much to consider during the training process. In Part 2 of Look Who’s Talking, we learned that equines are honest in nature and produce quick and honest reactions to a stimulus. Therapeutic Riding provides an exemplary teaching experience for both human and equine, and those of us with our own equines can now derive much more from the relationship than we ever thought possible.

    During centuries of use, equines have been asked to perform many tasks, as they have always been essential tools in agriculture, for transportation in cities and as a fighting partner in the military. People who worked regularly with these animals had an appreciation for their general health and longevity. Although people were limited by their own experience, they would generally provide the best possible care because the equine was an integral part of their economy. Many horses and most mules and donkeys worked hard to build this world and support people in their endeavors. It is always amazing when one realizes just how much these animals have contributed to our wealth and welfare.

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  • MULE CROSSING: Equine Behavior: Look Who’s Talking! Part 2

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    By Meredith Hodges

    In Part 1 of Equine Behavior: Look Who’s Talking, we discussed the evolution of man’s self-discovery and how he applied this to his approach to equines. If we want to manage our equines in a healthy way and accomplish even the most basic performance with them, there is much to consider during the training process. In the not-so-distant past, the prevalent belief was that, if you had a reasonably large patch of grass with a fence around it, you could have a horse. We now know it takes much more than this!

    Following the assessment of Characterology and body-type, Structuralism developed from the concept that man’s attitudes and behaviors were not just a product of the things he experienced, but also the sensations he felt and the images that were produced in his consciousness. This expanded his understanding of ways to explore himself. From his own introspection, man began to perceive the equine in different ways that would be most beneficial to him, but failed to examine what would actually be most beneficial for the equine.

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  • What’s New? Roll: “Happiness is getting back to good health!”

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    10/26/17: It is MULE APPRECIATION DAY today and the perfect time for an update on Roll! Roll has recovered nicely from his bout with White Line Disease in 2016. He had no workouts during that year, but surprisingly, he retained his core strength and balance throughout 2016 and came into 2017 still in good posture and balance. This leads me to believe that core strength does not necessarily deteriorate as rapidly as does bulk muscle.

    Roll had his most recent “leading for core strength postural workout” on May 23rd this year. However since then, I have been unable to pursue any more lessons during the entire summer due to business obligations.

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  • What’s New? Roll: “Happiness is a Fanny Pack Full of Oats!”

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    Roll is standing quietly as he usually does while I was speaking to a tour group with the gate wide open, but this was not always the case with him. He used to hide behind Rock and snort at me when he first arrived with Rock in December of 2010.

    Behavior Modification is a reward system of training that requires that the trainer has the ability to distinguish between good and bad behaviors, to reward them promptly and appropriately…and, to do it politely with respect for the animal. The oats are a reward that is both safe and enjoyable for equines, and is something that they will continue to work for.

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  • What’s New? Roll

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    After being off last week, Roll was more than happy to come with me today. The air was brisk with a bit of a breeze and Roll was even a little snorty walking up to the work station. We spent a good amount of time with the Goody hairbrush getting the undercoat loose and I then went over him with the shedding blade to get the excess on top. He was still shedding hair all over, so I decided to go ahead with the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner serves a dual purpose: it pulls the remaining loose hairs from his coat while stimulating the capillaries to come to the surface of the skin. This increased circulation makes for an extremely soft and healthy coat. He still has a lot left to shed, but his hair now feels silky to the touch. I then put Roll in his surcingle, Eggbutt Snaffle bridle and “Elbow Pull” for his core muscle, postural leading lessons.

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  • What’s New? Roll

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    Roll missed his exercises last week, so we thought we had better get out there today. Both of us were a bit tired of the arena, so we opted for a walk down the hayfield road. It was a rainy day and Roll had rolled in the mud, so we just did the hairbrush and shedding blade routine without the vacuum cleaner this time.  Then we were ready to go.

    Although he missed his exercises last week, he was still a bit better on the right hind foot. He did not want to put full weight on it, but I was sure he would do better after his walk in his core muscle building gear: the snaffle bridle with the dropped noseband, his surcingle and the “Elbow Pull” to make sure that the topline and abs would be engaged during the workout.

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  • What’s New? Roll

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    Roll was a muddy mess when I went to get him today. He had been lying down and decided to roll in the wet dirt and pea gravel. Thank heavens it wasn’t all mud! I did my best to get most of it off of him, but clearly, the vacuum cleaner was not going to work for anything but getting the hair off the floor. I first went over his body with the hairbrush, then the shedding blade and afterwards, the dandy brush. Then I baby-oiled his mane and tail, put on his gear and we were good to go.

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  • What’s New? Roll

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    Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength, postural leading exercises and today, he got his tail washed after a long and dirty winter. he seemed to enjoy getting his tail cleaned before his exercises.

    Roll’s attitude is always good and he lets me know when he doesn’t want to go back to his pen afterward his lessons. He would prefer to stay with me all day long if he could.

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  • What’s New? Roll

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    Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength exercises. And after having to leave animals without their exercises for long periods of time, I cannot believe how quickly they can come back to good posture and overall strength. Roll had been off his exercises for over a year during his bout with White Line Disease.

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  • What’s New? Roll Gets a Workout

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    Roll is feeling much better and has not exhibited any lameness in a couple of days. I have been concerned about the muscle atrophy that he has experienced since he had the White Line Disease and the lameness that has prevented him from exercising much at all for almost a year. When he walked up to the Tack Barn work station, I noticed that although he was not lame, he was dragging his toes in front. I groomed him with the vacuum cleaner (circulation therapy) and then put on his bridle, surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and started for the indoor arena.

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  • What’s New? Roll Gets Massage Therapy

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    Roll has had a tough time with his left hind foot first with the White Line Disease last year and now with an abscess in his foot between the bulb of the heel and the hoof wall. Although we have been keeping a poultice on his foot and he seems to be improving, we thought it would be important for him to have a massage with his equine masseuse, Joanne Lang after his chiropractic adjustment with Dave McClain.

     

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  • What’s New? Roll Comes Up Lame

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    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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  • What’s New? Roll

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    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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  • Help Bring the 20 Mule Team to Washington!

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    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.

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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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  • 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!

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