LTR Blog

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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.”

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.

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What’s New with Roll? White Line Disease Update


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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Dean Geesen, our farrier dug out all the fungus from the compromised hoof and cut away the seriously detached hoof wall.

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Roll has recovered in record time with our due diligence and willingness to change up the program as needed. There is no cure-all for White Line Disease. It does have some protocol, but if you look back at our postings about Roll’s battle on my Facebook pages and in “What’s New?” on our website, you will see that things can change abruptly in a day.

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When dealing with something like this, one needs to think “outside the box” to keep up with the changes and keep the foot on the right track to grow back properly. It takes a whole team: the owner, the handlers, the vet and the farrier working together. We were constantly assessing the shape of the foot, tissue condition, pressure points and balance in the affected foot and hid overall mental and physical health.

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We watched the way he moved carefully each and every day. We had to assess how much he was compromising with weight distribution to his healthy feet and trimmed and shod them so they did not become damaged in the healing process.

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We did supplement his feed with Hoof Power and would recommend it above all other hoof supplements to help accelerate hoof growth. Dean Geesen, our farrier was certain that it would take better than a year to grow back the foot, if it could even be done. After the first three months, he wasn’t sure that Roll would actually make it.


After today’s trim and a sound diagnoses, Dean admitted that he really didn’t think back in the beginning that he would recover like this. Thankfully, with the conscientious and diligent help from his management team, Roll got full hoof growth back in exactly one year and is now sound with four healthy hooves!



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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).”

LTR Presents: Spuds & Augie in “Spa Days”



Our miniature donkeys, Spuds & Augie, have a day in the “spa”. Watch the adorable music video compilation of their grooming sessions.

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Dressage Mule Slate Helps Spread Awareness of Working Equines


This is a repost from Brooke USA.

Lexington, Ky.  – November 15, 2016 – Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Vicky Busch and her mule “Slate” continue to spread awareness of the plight of working equines in the developing world and the work of Brooke USA. Most recently Slate and his young rider, Busch’s student Isabella Rodwig won their Training Level Test 3 class at the dressage schooling show at Amen Corner Farm in Folsom, LA.

Isabella Rodwig and Slate Compete at the Amen Corner Farm Schooling Show

The pair did so in style and with a nod to Brooke USA, with a large Brooke USA heart painted on the mule’s rump. Busch uses Slate’s engaging personality and the novelty of seeing him at a dressage show to educate the crowds he draws about the mission of Brooke USA. She hopes that Slate and his young rider will continue to compete in more dressage shows this year with the goal of qualifying for the USDF Region 9 Championships sponsored by the Houston Dressage Society.

Since learning about Brooke USA, Busch and her husband Eric have been generous supporters. For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of equines who work in some of the poorest communities on Earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous equine welfare challenges actively improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them. Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world.

Slate and Isabella Ready to Spread the Word About Brooke USA

Owning Slate has made the work that Brooke USA does – helping working equines including mules around the world – a cause close to Busch’s heart. She hopes that she can use the attention that Slate attracts to bring more awareness to Brooke USA, and put a personal touch on it. Busch is eager to tell Slate’s admirers at shows about the important work of Brooke USA and how they can help improve the lives of working equines around the world who are not as lucky as Slate to have such a wonderful home.

About Brooke USA

Brooke USA is a 501(c)(3) charity located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which exists solely to support the overseas work of Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare charity.  For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of horses, donkeys and mules who work in some of the poorest communities on earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous welfare challenges improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America.  Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world. To learn more, visit

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Laura Hermanson & “Behold the Desert” to Compete in USDF Finals


While dressage has long-been regarded as a horse and Pony Club sport, Meredith Hodges opened the doors to mules in dressage in the United States Dressage Federation Schooling Shows in 1986. With the help of Carole Sweet and Leah Patton of the American Donkey and Mule Society in Lewisville, Texas, they were formally accepted by the United States Equestrian Federation at their convention in Los Angeles in 2004. Laura Hermanson has since taken full advantage of this amazing opportunity. In 2015, she qualified for the United States Dressage Federation Finals with her own mule, “Heart B Dyna”, that is to be the subject of an upcoming documentary. The film is titled ”Dyna Does Dressage,” and is produced by Sarah Crowe and Amy Enser, who describe it as an “Underdog story [that] follows Dyna and her owner/rider, Laura, as they defy the odds to find their place among this elite world of horse riding.” Laura Hermanson is breaking through the stigma that dressage is only for horses and ponies as was previously defined by the USEF Rulebook. Much like Meredith Hodges herself, what began as a love of horses evolved into the championing of the noble MULE, an equine ambassador that truly deserves our respect. This year, Laura is competing Behold the Desert (aka Beasley) owned by Troy and Carol Delfino of Bakersfield, California and bred by Candace Shauger of Genesis Farms in Bremen, Ohio, in the upcoming U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, November 10-13. Let’s all give our support to this amazing team!

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Breeding Letter from George Washington


A letter from George Washington, written in 1786, was recently put up for auction by bookseller William Reese. The letter is in regards to a donkey sent to Washington’s Mount Vernon ranch for the purpose of breeding. Washington is well-known for his agricultural brilliance and for breeding the first American mule. The correspondence was written a during a breif period of retirement and a few years before Washington became president. washington-letter

Washington writes: “Dear Sir, When your favor of the first inst., accompanying the she ass, came to this place, I was from home – both however arrived safe; but Doct. Bowie informs me that the bitch puppy was not brought to his house. Nor have I heard any thing more of the asses at Marlbro’, nor of the grass seeds committed to the care of Mr. Digges. I feel myself obliged by your polite offer of the first fruit of your jenny. Though in appearance quite unequal to the match, yet, like a true female, she was not to be terrified at the disproportional size of her paramour; and having renewed the conflict twice or thrice it is to be hoped the issue will be favourable. My best respects attend [Mrs. Sprigg] & the rest of your family. With great esteem & regard, I am Dr. Sir Yr. most ob. serv. Go. Washington.”

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Because It’s There



“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!”


“It’s okay Fellas! We aren’t really going to try to climb in there! I was just kidding!”


“Guess the joke was on us this time, eh Augie?…Hmmmm…what’s this?”

“THIS is a big ditch full of water with a floating culvert, Spuds!”


“Oh fun!…Another mountain! I’m get to go first this time, Augie!”


“Boy, are these guys BIG, Augie! They are all really nice though!”


“Oh good, we get to see even more of our BIG friends, Spuds!”


“Where are we headed now, Augie!”


“It looks like we have some gate-training going on here, Spuds!”


“Remember to stand quietly while she shuts the gate, Augie!”


“She’s really proud of this new bathroom they are building, Spuds, so be sure to seem interested so you don’t hurt her feelings!”


“Okay, I’m in Augie, but I am also ready to exit stage right!”


“Wait a second, You Guys, I have a rock in my shoe!”

“Wait, Spuds, Mom has a rock in her shoe!”


“Isn’t this a cool statue, Spuds?”


“Yeah, that one was cool, but this one is my favorite, Augie!”


“Hey, Spuds! This one is just our size!!!”


“More gate training and we’re home again! What a great time we had on such a gorgeous Fall day!

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What’s New with Roll? Progress Update


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.


Over the past ten months, I have watched him doing his straight forward walking exercises in good equine posture and he continued to square up every time he stopped to rest.


It truly has become his natural way of moving and kept the weight evenly distributed over all four feet during his recovery with the help of shoes on the other three feet to keep the hooves on the healthy feet from wearing unevenly from added weight-bearing.


After the initial onset that lasted about four months, we did use product on the hoof (betadine solution, hoof supplement, etc.) as it was growing out, but once we got past the “critical” stages, we just kept it clean and trimmed properly to promote even growth.


Everything looks great now, Roll is happy and he should be able to begin his lessons again soon!



All Turnouts Must End


The Lucky Three mules willingly come off the grass pasture at any time of the day that they are beckoned. This is the result of routine management, humane training practices and an ample reward system. Not one equine here is herd-bound as we have become as good friends with them as their equine buddies!

URGENT ACTION ALERT: Stop the Mass Killing of 45,000 Wild Horses & Burros


Update: The Bureau of Land Management responded to public outcry on Wednesday, saying that the department has no current plans to kill the horses and will continue caring for any horses that are not sold at auction. The department has not yet formally replied to the advisory board’s proposal, but will do so at its next meeting, Reuters reported.


Please take the time to make your voice heard and stop this tragic decision. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign has information to contact your Senators and Representatives.

On September 9, the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted to recommend the killing of as many as 45,000 captured wild horses and burros in government holding pens as an “emergency” measure. The agency wants to clear the holding pens so that it can round up 40,000 more wild horses and burros from their homes on the range.

The danger is imminent, but can only become reality if Congress and the Administration authorize this mass killing.

Take a Stand Today! Tell Congress and the Administration NO killing or sterilization of America’s mustangs and burros.

Our innocent and iconic wild horses and burros should not pay the ultimate price for the BLM’s continued mismanagement. Please send your emails today!

Take Action!


What’s New: Spuds & Augie in “Learner’s Permit”


Everyone loves learning to drive and miniature donkeys, Spuds & Augie are no different! Watch their progress as Meredith puts them through their paces.

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The History of the Missouri Mule


The Missouri mule is a well-known symbol of American strength and perseverance, thanks to its significant contributions both within the state and throughout the country. Today, the mule still serves as Missouri’s official state animal, so the connection remains strong. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has put together a great photo slideshow about the history of these iconic equines and their role in the Show-Me State—click here to see the full slideshow!



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What’s New with Roll? Comparisons


When Rock and Roll came to me in 2010, they were both in dire straits. We were able to keep both of them sound from December 2010 to December 2011 and although Rock had a shattered hip, with our core strength postural training exercises, he only needed Bute 3 times during that year for a five-day stretch. Roll was able to graduate from the postural leading training to lunging in the round pen and later ground driving. He met his final goal of being ridden around the hayfield, but had a set-back with White Line Disease in his left hind foot that began in January 2016. Roll is now 23 years old and the White Line Disease is practically all grown out now.

I could not be happier with his progress! Today Roll got the shoes replaced on three of his weight-bearing feet and a trim on the left hind.


We put shoes on the three feet so that the balance of the feet would not be compromised as he tried to keep the weight off the injured foot. Our concern was the other three feet could become unhealthy if the weight was unevenly distributed.

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The affected foot is growing out nicely and we figure we only have two more trims until he is completely grown out.

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By paying attention to the weight-bearing surfaces, we were able to control not only the way the feet were growing, but the musculature in his body as well. He could very well have developed uneven muscle conditioning over the past seven months. Because of his core strength leading exercises and the changes we made in his body before he got the White Line, he was able to sustain his strength and good posture. At twenty-three years old, he continues to improve with each new day!


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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Ground Drive Hayfield



“Hey, Augie! The sign says, ‘Beware of the Ass,’ but I say, ‘Beware of the Ass Trainer!’ We might actually have to do some work!”


“It’s nice to have a “Header” to follow right out of the Tack barn! That way we can start out on the right “feet!”


“One, two, three, four…one, two, three, four…I wonder where we are headed today, Spuds?!”


“Oh, WOW! We get to go to the hayfield, Spuds. Wide open spaces are FUN!”


“Be sure to stay in sync, Spuds! One, two, three, four…one, two, three, four…”


“Gotcha, Augie! Boy is this grass GREEN!”


“Great halt, Spuds! Now remember we can’t move or we won’t get our oats reward!”


“Aah, what’s this, Augie!”

“It’s just a culvert so we don’t have to jump the water in the ditch anymore, Spuds!”


“This is A LOT easier, Augie!”


“I guess we’re headed for home now, Augie!”

“Another wonderful adventure, eh Spuds?! Maybe we really don’t have to ‘Beware of the Ass Trainer’ after all!”

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Prey or Predators?


Are equines prey or predators? Although some trainers base their methods on the idea that equines should be approached as “prey,” this blog post by Sara Annon explains that the answer may not be that simple.

An excerpt:

The real lesson in this is that the predator/prey model of horsemanship is inaccurate. Rodents are prey animals. Horses are herd animals.  Their enemy is the weather (click here  and here). Horses die from hypothermia in winter, drought in summer, and starvation when grazing is scarce. Weakened animals are picked off by the occasional courageous wolf pack or lion. I say courageous because it only takes one quick smack with a hoof to break bones, and for a predator that is a death sentence.

Read The Full Post

Sadie Wins PATH Intl. Equine of the Year Award


HUGE congratulations to Sadie who has won the prestigious PATH Intl. Equine of the Year Award for Region 10 (CO, UT, WY, AZ, NM) and is also up for the International Equine of the Year award! We are so proud of Sadie who’s been one of our four-legged therapists since 2006! Next time you’re at Hearts And Horses, be sure to give her an extra pat!Sadie



An Ode to Days Past, Colorado Burro Racing in Full Swing


The following story is an excerpt from The Gazette.

IDAHO SPRINGS – Long ago before his long beard and long hair turned white, Bill Lee thought about what to be.

An oral storyteller, yes, because that, he felt, was a noble profession. That was needed in the ever- urbanizing West. But what to be?

“I decided on the mountain man,” said Lee, 67, reflecting in his log cabin, “because it was a really short-lived era in history.”

So he would go as the mountain man, fur coat and musket and all, to schools and libraries in towns up and down Interstate 70, to tell the kids about what used to happen in these mountains. And inevitably he would talk about the burro – Spanish for donkey – and he’d tell of the animal that was relied upon for toting supplies through the surrounding wilderness.

Toward the end, he would jump two centuries to the present. And he’d tell the kids about what they might decide to do with the burros one day:

Run with them.

Read the full Gazette article here.

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