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Mules and donkeys have a way of bringing folks together no matter where you are from. Here are our friends from Criadero Villa Luz in Colombia riding in the Cabalgata feria de las flores parade on their lovely Paso Fino mules, with friends from the British Mule Society. There were 8,333 horses and 1,600 mules in the parade–wow!
We are very excited to announce that our gorgeous revised edition of Training Mules & Donkeys has won the GOLD medal in the Pets & Animals category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on the book, and it’s great to see it being recognized. Many congratulations to our hardworking staff and to the longears that inspired the book!
Roll has been off for several months during the Christmas season and then during inclement weather throughout the winter and early spring. His physique has maintained its core muscle strength and his good posture continues to be strong. He has maintained this good posture and musculature over these five months on turnout alone. When an animal’s posture is truly changed and improved, he should reach a point where this becomes the norm and his way of standing and moving will reflect that. He no longer requires formal lessons to strengthen the muscles in good posture because he can now do it himself as long as he is given the room to move on a daily basis.
Roll stands stock still while he is being worked on and always seeks the four-square balanced position. He doesn’t ever have to lean on the farrier because his good posture and balance is so strong.
“Hey, Augie…watcha doin’?!
“I’m practicing my halter stance…you know, four-square!”
“Good idea, Augie! I guess I’ll practice my halter stance right here!”
“And I will wait for my turn at the hitch rail…I wonder what’s up today.”
Very little has been written about Hinnies–most of the time it is unfavourable comments and myths due to lack of knowledge about them. Until now, very few people have bred Hinnies because of speculation about their size and behavior; they are said to be very small and difficult. Typically a breeder or a farmer may only have one Hinny and several mules; consequently his opinion is based on limited experience.
A Hinny is a domestic equine hybrid that is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. It is similar to the more common mule, which is the product of a female horse and a male donkey.
Most of the times Hinnies are the result of an accident, which is why they are less common than mules and there is a lack of information about them.
At our Stud Farm, Villa Luz, in Colombia, South America, we have been breeding mules and donkeys for more than fifteen years. There has been a big demand for our Paso Fino male donkeys (Jacks) to produce gaited mules through the years. But we were left with many female donkeys (Jennies), and nobody would buy them to produce mules even though they have the same good genetics and Paso Fino gait of their brothers. So we thought, let’s breed Hinnies–and the project began! This was twenty months ago.
First we selected twelve of our beautiful female donkeys (Jennies), 13 hands height average, with good womb and physical conformation. Then we needed a horse, so we bought a three and a half year old Paso Fino stallion and called him Romero. He is 14 hands. But it wasn’t easy; he didn’t like the Jennies to start with. This is normal, as horses prefer mares and donkeys prefer Jennies. But with much patience and after three hours waiting, Romero finally went for his first Jenny. Now he loves his harem of twelve, four of which have given birth to beautiful Hinnies and six are pregnant! So we expect to have at least ten Hinnies at the end of this year.
Hinnies are thought to be smaller because female donkeys are, for the most part, smaller than mares, but like mules, Hinnies come in many size–it depends on the size of their dam and also the sire.
Female donkeys range from miniatures to Mammoth Jennies that may be over 15 hands at the withers. At Villa Luz farm the Jennies are 13 hands average and the horse stallion is 14 hands so we are expecting the Hinnies to grow around 14 hands in height.
We now have four Hinnies, two females and two males: Romance, Romancera, Ronaldo and Rosarito. They are seven, six, five and four months old respectively. Their mothers had good deliveries without any problems.
The pregnancy time differed a little; Romance was born after 12 months, Romancera after 12 months 21 days, Ronaldo after 11 months 19 days and Rosarito after 12 months and 23 days. The pregnancies of Jennies are normally longer than mares.
We do the imprinting process as soon as they are born; it allows us to mould their personality and make them friendly and well-trained adult Hinnies!
It is said that Hinnies often have shorter ears, although they are still longer than those of horses, and more horse-like manes and tails than mules. Well, our Hinnies certainly have the ear shape of their sire–they are beautifully pointed at the top just like his, but bigger. Up until now the behavior and characteristics of our Hinnies don’t differ much from the mules, they are lovely animals. It is our goal to study Hinnies and help to understand them better.
The good news is, the Paso Fino gait has passed to the Hinnies! This gait is natural and we have seen it in our baby Hinnies shortly after birth! Paso Fino is a lateral gait, four beat footfall, which provides a constant, rhythmic cadence. The rider should not experience any bumping or jolting. They say you can carry a tray with a glass of champagne on a Paso Fino equine as they are so smooth!!
We don’t know if they got the Paso Fino gait from the sire or the dam because both have it, but we certainly will have Paso Fino Hinnies! Very smooth, intelligent and well behaved!
An article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that one-third of recreational riders are too obese for their equines, putting the animals at risk for health problems including lameness and back pain, citing a study from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
This is a big issue for equine health, as an equine expected to carry a rider that is too heavy for him can cause both physical and behavioral problems. Rules like “the rider’s weight should be 10% of the equine’s” are often used as a general guideline, but are by no means absolute–there are many other factors to consider. Below, Meredith offers her advice in how to choose the correct equine for the rider.
The maximum weight a horse or mule can carry will depend on a lot of variables. Mules and donkeys can carry proportionately more weight than a horse of the same size, because of the unique muscle structure of the animal. However, you do need to be careful about making broad generalizations. Obviously, an equine that has not been conditioned properly will not be able to efficiently carry as much weight as one who has been conditioned properly, so it is all relative to the situation. Also, the 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 the difference in actual weight. The size of the equine and the proportion of the equine to the rider will also affect balance and carrying ability.
The amount of weight an equine can comfortably carry or pull depends on many things, beginning with the animal’s overall fitness. If he is fit, he will be able to carry more than those who are not, but conformational abnormalities will also have an effect. If he has any deviations in his bone structure (i.e. crooked legs), it can compromise how he moves and put undue 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. This would be the same in harness. If he cannot move freely, the load is too heavy. So, it’s not just a matter of how old he is, but rather how he is conformed and how fit he is at any given stage of training and the weight and ability of the rider that will dictate how much he can carry, or pull. Be careful about generalizations, because there are always hidden variables to be considered.
For instance, it is commonly believed that an equine should be able to carry 10% of his weight. But if a 2000 lb. animal is carrying the 200 pounds over a back that has not been physically developed correctly, it could be very difficult for him. If he possesses more strength over his topline and through the croup, then he may actually be able to carry more than 10% of his body weight. Any additional weight (as with saddle bags) also needs to be considered. If he is weak over the topline and in his back, then he shouldn’t be carrying even a 150 lb. person, much less anything behind the saddle. The weight does need to be placed and balanced over the bearing areas and the shoulder and hips do need to be kept clear for optimum movement. Anchoring the saddle with a crupper is always a good idea to keep loads from shifting and placement and security of the foundation tack to which you secure all these things needs to be assessed as well. When you add weight to the saddle, check to see if the girth you are using is adequate to keep the saddle in place without rubbing sores on your animal’s body.
We love seeing people with great relationships with their equines, and here’s a thrilling example of what training and teamwork can really accomplish. Ray Woodside and his mule, Willie, made a great showing in the Extreme Cowboy Race at the Washington State Horse Expo–check out the video below, and thanks to Jehnet for passing it along!
To the untrained eye, “Caramelo’s” performance might seem quite amazing! However, to those of us who know the elements of dressage training, it is evident that this jack is not doing all these amazing movements correctly. The saddle has not been placed properly over his center of balance, so the rider is putting undue stress on his front quarters. This is why you can see over-development in the neck and shoulders while the hindquarters show some comparative weakness. The rider’s position is actually prohibiting correct engagement from the hindquarters.
It is evident that Caramelo’s temperament is outstanding to be able to attempt all these moves and perform them for his handler obediently though incorrect. Because the movements are not originating from the hindquarters and ample time has not been initially taken to develop good forward impulsion with regard to rhythm, regularity and cadence, the joints and muscles in his body are being compromised and will show wear and tear as he ages. Through the movements, he is exhibiting obedience, but is very tense throughout his body.
In the Spanish Walk, Caramelo’s hind legs are coming in a split second behind the front legs and he is thus, not able to push the front legs into the uphill balance that would be a more impressive display. His body carriage is on the forehand at all three gaits and his lateral work is wobbly. Caramelo is obviously moving away from the whip in the Spanish Walk and when asked by the handler from the ground to pick up the hind feet, the handler is tapping the hind feet backwards instead of forward. The jumps he did were not initiated from the hindquarters and were therefore more of an uncontrolled launch over what should have been an easy and graceful jump. There are many more things wrong with this performance that tell me that this handler does not understand how much time and effort it takes to cultivate a strong body in good balance and posture for the movements that are being asked of him.
With proper dressage training, it took two years just to establish a good working trot with our own Little Jack Horner when he was in his prime. After establishing good forward impulsion, regularity, rhythm and cadence at all three gaits, two more years of practice insured that his lengthenings and lateral movements were done in an uphill balance with his hindquarters fully engaged.
When little Jack Horner was retired at twenty years old, he was beginning to “offer” the more complicated movements of half pass and pirouettes. He became the only formal jumping donkey to clear four feet in exhibition while jumping with the alacrity and grace of a hunter. Had I opted to continue with him, it would have taken several more years to develop these kinds of movements and many more years to go beyond to piaffe and passage as I did with Lucky Three Sundowner, Little Jack Horner’s mule half brother.
Though impressive at first sight to the untrained eye, I am making this post to warn people of the dramatic effects that incorrect and hurried training can have on the equine’s body. Be patient, take your time to do things correctly and the joy you will experience will genuinely include the health and longevity of your equine companion! Today, Little Jack Horner maintains good health with no physical problems. He and I still enjoy each other’s company at his ripe old age of 33!
Miniature donkeys Spuds and Augie tried out some new moves in the indoor arena!
Check out the rest of the pictures below!
With heavy hearts, we at Lucky Three Ranch say goodbye to our good friend, Cliff Uber. Cliff was an inspiration to everyone who knew him. His grace, courage and sense of humor will be missed.
A selection of the official statement from Hearts and Horses is below:
It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we announce the passing of our rider, volunteer, trainer and dear friend Cliff Uber. For ten years he has graced us all with his beautiful presence, infectious smile, sense of peace and patience and a wonderful sense of humor. The grief we are experiencing can not be described.
This world was a better place with him in it, and saying he will be missed dearly just doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg of love we have for him.
Rest in Peace our dear friend…
A Celebration of Cliff’s life will be held at Hearts and Horses on Saturday, December 8th at 3:30. Attire is casual western wear. We will have a potluck dinner, please rsvp to email@example.com with what you are bringing.
The family has requested that In lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to Hearts and Horses. Details can be found under the giving tab on their website: www.heartsandhorses.org.
Over the summer of 2012, Roll was doing better than ever. All the lead line work, lunging and ground driving in good posture solidified Roll’s core muscle strength and coordination and he began to hold his good equine posture automatically. What was once difficult and awkward for him has become his normal way of standing and moving, so we finally moved from the round pen work and into the open arena. Roll was happy to be working in a new place. We first walked the hourglass pattern around the cones which was familiar for Roll and he was able to see everything he would encounter on the perimeter of the arena. He stayed smartly in step just as he had done in previous lessons.
Roll wore his elbow pull to continue to remind him of his good posture. Repetition and having the elbow pull to lean on further solidified his way of standing and moving. If he did make a misstep or stumble, he was able to regain his balance easily with the help of the elbow pull. The elbow pull is for an equine what a balance bar is for a ballet dancer.
At first, Roll had to perfect and strengthen his own balance in good posture and now he will need to retrain and balance with a rider on board. Once the initial balance is corrected over a period of about two years with the elbow pull, it will only need to be used occasionally for tune-ups. Learning to measure his steps and maintain good rhythm and cadence on the lead line will help Roll when he finally does have a rider on board.
All the work Roll has done for the past two years is finally paying off. Though Roll has substantial side bones and ring bone in all four feet, it is a wonder he stays sound. The reason for his soundness is that his good posture is keeping his joints in line and the ligaments and musculature around them solid and supportive. His gaits are regular and his halts square.
Roll’s attitude has changed dramatically and the once spooky and twice shy Roll is now exhibiting confidence and overt affection. At twenty years old, this is quite a change to make for an equine. His face reflects a calmness and serenity he has never before experienced. He’s a very happy mule!
Roll stood quietly while this old gal crawled up onto his back for the first time in the open arena. Steve stood by for safety, but wasn’t really needed as the entire routine was done exactly the same way we had done in the round pen…no surprises here!
There was a feeling of elation as I sat on his back for the first time in the open arena. I gave him his oats on both sides before asking him to move to make sure he was fully aware that I was on his back and to make sure he was comfortable about it.
After a couple of steps backward, we were on our way through the hourglass pattern with no incidence of nervousness or negativity at all. He was more than happy to comply!
Roll was so comfortable in his new-found posture that he never missed a step and the elbow pull stayed loose throughout the pattern.
By the time we had reversed the pattern, his balance had shifted upwards and he was actively engaging his hindquarters and raised his shoulders with no trouble at all.
His halt was perfectly square and relaxed.
And his reinback was straight and true.
A handful of oats was my show of appreciation for a job well done before dismounting.
Roll stood patiently waiting for my somewhat awkward dismount…it was a LONG WAY down! The routine and repetition during all of his lessons made it easy and comfortable for him to comply.
By the time I put him away, Roll was already looking forward to the next time!!!!
“Hey, Augie! Vacuuming isn’t scary when Mom is the same size as us!”
“That is so true! And she is really careful not to hurt us!”
“Say Spuds, what are the long lines for?”…”Who cares, Augie, when there’s oats on the floor?!”
“Okay Augie, you get to go first! Walk on!”
“I get it! This is why she wanted us to go ahead of her the last lesson!
“And Gee means go right! Wow! This is easy and even kinda fun!”
“I see what you mean, Augie! Haw means go left!”
“And then we just keep on walking ahead of her! This really is fun!”
“Okay, now she has us tied together again. What do you suppose she’s going to do now?”
“Hey Spuds, Now we get to walk on together. I think I like the games she plays with us!”
“And now a back up…we can do that!”
“You little guys are the best! Thanks for a great job!”
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2012, 2017 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Cliff Uber has been recognized as the 2012 PATH Intl. Independent Adult Equestrian award winner! He will be honored as a special guest at the PATH Intl. Awards Banquet held at the 2012 PATH Intl. Conference & Annual Meeting on November 2, 2012 in Bellevue, WA. Thanks to Purina Mills for providing travel schloarships for the equestrian award winners. As the Independent Adult Equestrian National Award Winner he receives scholarship reimbursement funds of up to $1500.
You may recognize Cliff from his appearance on the “Walk On, Part 1” episode of Those Magnificent Mules, and we are extremely proud of his success!
Bud (Sir Rocko) has earned the PATH Intl. Horse of the Year for Region 10 and will also be honored at the awards banquet. As a regional winner, he is a finalist for the 2012 PATH Intl. National Horse of the Year Award, which will be announced and celebrated at the awards banquet. Bud has been with Hearts & Horses since 2005 and is a most deserved recipient of this award!
As a proud representative of the American Donkey and Mule Society, Lucky Three Ranch is deeply saddened to say goodbye to our close friend, and co-founder of ADMS, Betsy Hutchins. She was one of a kind and shared our love for longears. We will miss her very much.
Statement from the ADMS:
It is with great sadness that the ADMS announces the loss of one of our co-founders, Elizabeth “Betsy” Hutchins. For over forty years, Betsy devoted her life and her home to the promotion of longears around the world. She and her family spent time not only in the daily operations of the ADMS (originally housed in their hundred-year-old farmhouse in Denton) but raised, trained and showed donkeys and mules as well. All four of her children were brought up with the animals and can be found in pages of the older Mr Longears and Brayer magazines.
Betsy and husband Paul converted part of their home into the operations center for ADMS. The BRAYER magazine used to be hand-typed and copy pasted up on the dining room table. Large built-in shelves all around the house were filled with donkey and mule figurines of every type. As the ADMS grew over the years, it began to encompass the sun porch of the house, gaining more equipment and taking up more time. Betsy and Paul ran it solely for many years, with the occasional volunteer for help. Betsy wrote many articles on donkey and mule care, much of it taken from her own experiences dealing with the longears living in their large acreage property.
While Betsy always maintained she loved air conditioning, if animals needed care, she was outside taking care of them. If a friend came by needing a place to unload a donkey for the night, she’d make sure the gates were closed, the water tubs full and the hay brought out. She would stack hay if needed, hold heads or hooves for hoof trims, give medicines or baths to the animals, whatever was needed. She truly loved all animals, whether longears, dogs, cats, or guinea pigs, which she raised for years as a hobby.
When Paul and Betsy retired some 12 years ago, her involvement in ADMS slowed, but never stopped. She still joined the staff (by then hired on to continue to run ADMS) at shows, sitting at the information table and talking to everyone with a smile. She often handed out ribbons at shows, while husband Paul was judge or ring steward. Even though she had retired, she could still be counted on to answer questions that just couldn’t be solved, except through experience.
She loved to travel the world, and went on cruises over the years, the latest just last month. With a passion for gardening, she found lovely plants and had over 160 cuttings potted at last count. A friend recounts that she heard the news of Betsy’s passing while watering cuttings from tea roses Betsy had
Betsy is survived by husband Paul, children Scott and wife Tammy, Melissa “Missy” and S.O. David, Melinda “Mindy” and husband Steven, Patrick and wife Katie, grandchildren Clayton and Audrey, and friends around the world too numerous to count.
Long time friend Becky perhaps has put it best in her note to ADMS: I know there is an ass or two in heaven braying in happiness that Mom has come over the Rainbow Bridge to be with them. And no, that was not thunder. It was a stampede of critters running to meet their Mom. Godspeed, Betsy.
Our mini donkeys Spuds and Augie got all dressed up and went for a little turn in the round pen, as they successfully completed their first attempt at ground-driving. Check out what they had to say:
Roll was devastated at the loss of Rock on December 27, 2011. He really didn’t know how lucky he was to be in our loving care at the time, however continuing his well established maintenance and training routine gave him some solace and in two weeks he began to reciprocate our unconditional affection for him. We moved him into Rock’s stall which also gave him a sense of security. He seemed to find comfort in Rock’s scent.
Like Rock, Roll spent many lessons on the lead rope doing his core muscle exercises and measured time in the round pen for further strengthening in hopes of re-balancing his body enough to do some light driving and riding. In March, he was doing so well I figured it was time to mount him and start doing balancing exercises from the saddle. We had our vet come out and x-ray his feet to make sure he would be sound enough for those kinds of activities. He had not exhibited any lameness in the year and a half he had been with us.
We were all surprised when we discovered that he not only had side bones in the right hind as we had palpated, but in all four feet! As if that wasn’t enough, he also had some traces of upper and lower ringbone. The vet agreed that with his core muscle and balance training he had not aggravated the conditions in his feet and that was why he never exhibited any lameness…only a slight twisting in the right hind. When I asked about riding him, my vet agreed with me that he could probably carry my weight safely at walk and trot, but that the canter could pose problems. He also agreed that light driving after his new posture had been more securely established by riding that he would be able to do some light driving while hitched to my Meadowbrook cart.
Roll had 3 weeks off after the x-rays and that turned out to be a bad decision. He lost some conditioning and got a little depressed because now the other mules were not turned out next to him anymore. So, we resumed his regular activities and allowed him turnout in the lane between the two spring turnout pens. He could have walked right through the low plastic gate, but never offered to do so. He was just happy to be near his new friends.
On Wednesday May 9, Roll seemed ready to be mounted and ridden for the first time. I carefully reviewed all his pre-riding lessons: grooming, tacking up while standing stock still, mounting in the tack barn, asking him to take the oats from both sides, repeated the same in the round pen after I ground drove him through the pattern I would ride with my assistant nearby mirroring his movements…
and then brought in the mounting block.
I then asked him to bring his head around to acknowledge that I was now on his back.
Roll was all business and absolutely perfect! He walked quietly tracking right for one rotation around the round pen, did a perfect reverse…
and tracked two more rotations to the left. He knew what to expect and responded accordingly right down to the rein back at the end of the lesson!
I told him it wouldn’t be long before he would be able to take treks with me around the farm fields like the other mules. He just beamed with pride and enthusiasm! It’s wonderful to see him truly happy again!
It’s a special time in any young equine’s life, when he makes the transition from boy to… gelding. Our brave mini donkeys Spuds and Augie recently made the switch, thanks to the steady hand of our trusted veterinarian and a little something to encourage their naptime. When they woke up, the procedure was already done… perhaps it was only a dream?
Remember last month when Spuds and Augie tried on the smallest harness we had—and it was still a bit too big for them? Well, lucky for these little guys, their new harnesses have now arrived! Check out the adorable photos below, as they get the first fitting of their new gear…
These boys are doing GREAT! Totally resistance free!
The Telly Award statuette is produced by the company that makes the Oscar and Emmy awards. They receive over 13,000 entries annually from some of the finest agencies and corporations in the world, so it is a remarkable achievement to be selected for recognition by their judging committee. The Silver Telly Council is comprised of many top industry professionals, including past winners of the Silver Telly, which is their highest honor. We previously received Silver Tellys in 2005 and 2007 for the “Lucky Three Ranch” and “Walk On” episodes from our documentary series, Those Magnificent Mules.
We’re proud of you, Jasper! Make sure that you’re part of the fun by checking out all of Jasper’s adventures On Demand!
Spuds and Augie had another fine adventure this morning! Here is what they said…