WHY you are doing the exercises in my Training Mules and Donkeys DVD training series. My manual and DVD combo, Equus Revisited, answers these questions for you and your equine athlete, and will make a huge difference in your training success. I’ve broken down all training tasks into small, understandable and doable steps, with solid
explanations as to WHY each step is necessary.
So whether you are a novice or a professional equestrian, this combo gives you the ultimate in equine conditioning BEFORE a rider is even introduced. Give your equine that athletic edge so that he will be truly capable of doing what you request!
The hay is in and the kids are back in school. But just when you think you can relax…here come the holidays! Why not get a jump on your Christmas shopping this year?
Jasper the Mule books or DVDs are the perfect gift and will give you a lifetime of fun and entertainment
for the whole family.
Join Jasper, his pal Moxie and the rest of the gang as they get in and out of scrapes, go on big adventures and share lots of fun and laughter, all while celebrating our country’s most important and treasured holidays!
Jasper: A Christmas Caper Ownthe book or DVDtoday!
Click on photo to see full image.
Thank you for your newsletter—I love it and really look forward to it. Although I’m from the other side of the world, here is a photo of my precious 10.2hh mule that I drive in harness and have recently started doing Combined Drives with. She is one in a million and my “right-hand girl.” You have given me generous advice about her training over the years, so thank you.
All the best always and thank you for all that you do for mules and donkeys.
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My, how time flies! I can’t believe the summer has gone by so fast! We have had record moisture this summer, which made getting up our hay a little tricky. There is a real art to putting up clean, dry, barn-stored, horse-quality grass hay and we have 112 acres we had to get done. Those who do hay know that you must have reasonably dry ground before cutting and allow adequate drying time before baling. It all depends on temperature and moisture content in the air, but, to avoid mold, mildew and fire risk, bales must contain less than 14 percent moisture before being stacked into the barn. We were right down to the wire on timing and did not get to cut until about a month past the usual time. This resulted in a record crop of hay for us. Where we usually yield 6000-8000 bales, we got 11,000 (with the potential of a second cutting…again depending on the weather)!
There was a lot of snow late in the season that piled up on the north side of our feed barn. We had just remodeled a year ago, but the snow melted so quickly with the hot weather that it flooded the whole feed barn and rotted out the north wall! We have been in reconstruction and raising the foundation of the feed barn in between all of our other summertime responsibilities ever since, and we still have a long way to go in order to finish. Since the feed barn had to be done all over again, I decided to enlarge it by two feet on two sides, since it also doubles as my ranch manager’s office and houses the employee break room and handicapped bathrooms. There were not as many tours this season, but I believe that was a Godsend, given all the other things we had to deal with. We will now have a new and improved feed barn. Of course, the mules had to make their inspections at every turn!
Miniature donkeys Augie and Spuds continue to improve in their driving training and I expect to hitch them to their competition cart in a few weeks. They are really amazing little fellows and I have not had any problems of any significant nature from the very beginning. I truly believe that the bad behavior that you see in so many minis is driven by their need to make eye contact with their human handlers. Since I have “gotten down” with all my minis (on their eye level), the schizophrenic-type reactions like suddenly rearing or bolting away have ceased. Sometimes they will still walk away, but soon turn around and come right back. Check out my series of articles called “Getting Down with Minis” in the Mule Crossing section of my website.
All you fans of Roll, the rescue draft mule, will be happy to know that he continues to stay sound and enjoys his workouts. This is particularly extraordinary because he does have upper and lower ringbone and side bones on both sides of all four feet.
Roll is very much the “Fabio” of the mule world, with his beautiful flaxen mane and tail that just keep getting longer and longer! Truly unique! Typically, the mule’s mane and tail hair are very coarse. The mane hair tends to grow straight up and then fall over on both sides of the neck, and the top of a mule’s tail is almost always very frizzy. But with the use of Johnson’s baby oil, I have had great results training the hair to fall over nicely to one side on all of my mules. The bonus factor is that it also keeps the mules from chewing on each other’s tails!
I hope you have all had an enjoyable summer and look forward to a colorful fall.
Best wishes and Happy Trails,
Question: I have two mini mules I have had for nine months. They are one-year-four-months old and one-year-three-months old. They were never handled when they were born so they are very much “don’t touch me.” I have sat in their paddock for hours on end trying to be able to approach them. At first they would come up and eat oats. Now they are not much interested in any oats or treats, so they keep their distance. I was able to get a halter on the molly a while back, which she still has on. No halter or lead on the little john as of yet. They are in a paddock together that is 50 feet x 100 feet. Do I need to separate and put them in smaller enclosures to regain some trust or do you have any suggestions as to what I should try? They have never been abused by me or the previous owner, and have a danger-free environment next to my two big mules’ paddock. I raised my big mules from 10 months old and have broke them to ride and pack myself and never had this much trouble with them and they are now both five years old. Any advice or reading that you could share with me would be greatly appreciated. I also am doing this by myself and do not have any outside help that I can rely on (which could be helpful in some instances). I have tried all I have learned on my big mules and am at a loss. I really need to handle them so I can give them the best of care that they require. Thank you for your time and anything that you can share.
(I DO LOVE MY MINIS and I have read your series of articles on MINIS in Mules and More and Western Mule magazines.)
Answer:Everything you do with your mini mules should be carefully structured and have purpose. Mules calm down and submit when they have a predictable, routine lifestyle and training program, and a reward system that is carefully used and does not include bribery, only rewards for tasks that are done (even just for coming to you willingly). The leading training is very specific. The leading exercises should be done in a small fenced area and should not incorporate any bending and such exercises, only straight lines, smooth arcs, halts, turns and backs. While doing these, it is important to hold the lead rope in your left hand, stay in a good upright posture yourself, point in the direction of travel and match each of their front footsteps with your feet. If you are always ready to get out of the way, you are subliminally telling them there is something to be afraid of. I have found that when things go wrong for any reason, it is ALWAYS the fault of the handler and the way in which the animal is being approached. When approached in a purposeful, considerate and routine manner, they are always honest in their response. When they don’t react as you think they should, just make sure you are clear in your communication. Even mollies that are in heat are no problem if you follow my guidelines as intended and don’t put your own spin on it. Just sitting in a chair and waiting for them to come to you and feeding them with no specific purpose will result in disinterest as you have experienced.
It will take self-discipline on your part to make sure you don’t fall into old habits that you might have learned from other trainers, but if you notice, they don’t train mules and donkeys as a rule because their techniques will not always work with them. If you are feeding the crimped oats as I described (with the Mazola corn oil and Sho Glo vitamins as directed, and dispensing the rewards diligently from a fanny pack that you should ALWAYS wear around your waist), both of your mini mules should be motivated by the food reward. Change positions in your work area so they are prompted to follow you to the different locations and can be rewarded for that. If you are feeding anything else and using anything else for reward and not dispensing the rewards consistently yet lavishly for a task well done, it will elicit a much less desirable response. Consistency is key. You can reread my series of articles entitled, “Getting Down with Minis” in the Mule Crossing section of my website and it might help you to restructure your approach so you can get the right kinds of responses.
Although enrollment for TMD Equine University is now closed for the 2014-2015 season, Lucky Three Ranch is proud to announce that a four-day immersion clinic will be given in mid-July of 2015. This exciting, hands-on clinic will be held here at Lucky Three Ranch, at the foot of the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Each guest will work hands-on with Meredith and her own animals, while they learn about equine management and training for a variety of disciplines including: English, Western, Dressage, Donkey training, Driving and Jumping.
In this one-of-a-kind clinic, participants will get to attend lectures, presentations and Q&A sessions with Meredith, and demonstrations on everything from proper leading training to advanced foundation training to senior animals, to information on equine management careers. Under Meredith’s careful supervision, participants will be able to put into practice all they have learned throughout their TMD Equine University school year. Stay tuned to see if auditor (non-student) openings will be available!
Training miniature equines is similar to their larger brethren, but often requires special approaches to make them comfortable. Find out how to best work with your mini in "Getting Down with Minis."
For more information on how to work with a new equine, check out Episode 2, "The Mule Foal," onTMD On Demand.
From Our Readers
I would love to come for a visit. I usually get to catch up on all your cool new activities and equines at your annual Christmas Party. I do read your newsletter and that helps. My heart sunk when I read about LJ’s accident (ed. note: LJ was cast overnight). That boy is endearing to me. You and he are my heroes. I was so inspired by you and him and all you accomplished when I first worked with donkeys. “Can Do!” My Cactus is long gone now (the donkey that trained me). He benefited by you and your work. By the way...Cactus lived until he was past 43 years. Long live our beloved L J!!!!! Stay Dry. P.
Our Guest Writer: Jan Pollema
Balance and Grace By Jan Pollema, Executive Director, Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center
We were thrilled to have Meredith Hodges spend the day at the Hearts and Horses ranch this week, and what an incredible experience it was for all of our Hearts and Horses staff!
Meredith started with a discussion about her philosophy, and shared her wonderful training videos with us. She then worked with the two Hearts and Horses mules, Allie and Sadie, which Meredith and Lucky Three Ranch have generously donated to the Hearts and Horses program over her years of support. Meredith’s training focuses on posture and balance, for both rider and equine. In order to tone and condition the whole body properly, an individual needs to be carrying him or herself well, and in proper posture. The same is true for our equine partners, and many equines need support throughout their training in order to do this.
Sadie the mule joined the Hearts and Horses herd in 2006 after only three weeks with Meredith, and Allie followed in 2009 after three months with Meredith. Even though these mules had limited time with Meredith before coming to Hearts and Horses, and have not worked with her directly since joining the program, it was truly incredible to see how much of their training they have retained and how connected to Meredith they still are. The bond of trust and understanding beautifully created by Meredith through a working partnership, positive reinforcement, repetition, and working to make the “right” or “successful” thing easy carries over throughout the equine’s career. Meredith’s focus on balance shows in the way the equine moves and carries itself, and this is incredibly important in the Hearts and Horses program.
As equine therapists in the Hearts and Horses herd, Allie and Sadie, along with nineteen other equines, work with individuals with a wide variety of disabilities, as well as able-bodied riders. While all equines will ideally carry themselves in a balanced posture in partnership with a balanced rider, many of the Hearts and Horses herd work regularly with unbalanced riders. The balance of the equine is a crucial part of therapeutic riding, especially when, due to muscle weakness or other physical deficits, the rider is unable to carry him or herself in proper posture. Thus, it’s extraordinarily important that the training work we do with our equines emphasizes the importance of balance and good posture. This foundation of training that Meredith implements with her equines makes them incredible partners in therapeutic horsemanship and we are appreciative of her generosity in giving her time and sharing her expertise with us!
Thank you Meredith for your clinic this week and thanks to you and Lucky Three Ranch for all of your support over the years, and of course for our incredible mules, Sadie and Allie!
Warm Regards, Jan Pollema, Executive Director - Hearts and Horses, Inc.
My big adventure for the summer of ‘14 was my nine days in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana with my mule, Iris.
I learned about an artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation last winter when my friends, the Padelfords, who volunteer for this outfit in the summers, told me about it. So I got my act together and applied (like the idiot I am), and behold! I GOT a position for this July. Well, I was kinda jazzed over it, as I think it is, first of all, an honor to be chosen, and, second of all, it was ten days in an old CCC cabin in the Wilderness on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. What was required of me was three or more gallery-quality art pieces for a fund-raiser show for the Foundation the following July. No sweat.
I had my choice of several cabins and I chose “Shaw” cabin on the Owl Creek Trail about 14 miles into the Wilderness. It was on a spot on Shaw Creek where two trails met and it came with a corral, running water and an outhouse. Whooo—eeeee! For someone who has usually had to sleep in a tent on the ground and move camp all the time, it sounded like the High-Country Hilton to me.
I was “allowed” one companion. Usually folks pick a dog or a boyfriend or someone who can do all the work, but I didn’t have anyone like that handy, so I picked my mule. Oh my! The govt types nearly had a cow over that one. “It’s never been done!” So they had to get their pencils out and come up with a bunch of rules for the mule. I kid you not. Luckily, we do all that stuff whenever we take our critturs across state lines out here, so it wasn’t a big thing and Iris was able to comply. Good Mule.
The pass we were to ride over was not free of snow until July 2, so they kinda kept me hanging for a week until they were shure we could do the trail. Then, there was a mix-up over if any hay had been delivered (by pack mule) to the site for Iris, but it kinda worked itself out between my packer friends, and the word was go.
It’s a five-hour trip by trailer to the trailhead, and my great friends, Bob and Sue Padelford, had volunteered to pack me in (and out, I hoped). We traveled together and got to the trailhead on a Sunday night, July 20. That night it rained like a son-of-a-gun and all was soggy and grey that next morning when we were supposed to load up and go. We put it off for an hour or two and finally said, “Let’s do it,” and we packed up and rode out about 11AM. They each rode their horses but packed three of their experienced mules. Tigger carried my two panniers and top-pack.
It was a very rocky and hard trail for most of the uphill to the pass and then a hard drop down for maybe two miles until things kinda leveled out a bit. Iris was in the lead most of the way—until she came to a back-packer, then it was booger-time and pull in behind Cookie, the pack mule for safety. She DID get better as the trail wore on. We got to Shaw Cabin about five that afternoon and that ground shure felt good.
To make this short, Iris and I survived just fine on our own and we thoroughly enjoyed all the pack strings and fishermen and Boy Scouts and hikers that came by our camp. Met some awesome folks, experienced many mice in the cabin and deer by the door, but NO BEARS, thank goodness. It coulda happened, as the hillside behind the corral was thick with huckleberries and you know bears and berries. That was a big reason I high-lined Iris by the cabin every night. She was my “early-warning system” and I was her protector. Worked out just fine.
I tried sketching on the spot for two days, but I had to finally give that up. As soon as you got quiet, the flies and mosquitoes and “no-see-ums” swooped in and ATE you. So I did some fast ones and took lots of photos and saw things worked out in my head. I will spend lots of time this winter doing the artwork—and the cartoons—about my cabin-in-the-wilderness experience. Oh, by the way, riding OUT on that trail, Iris ignored the back-packers. She was ready to go home!
Now, I'm covered in company and working on a fundraiser for our county fair next week and doing an article for Range magazine on a family up here in north Idaho. Those sweet and lazy days at Shaw Cabin look mighty good right now. This might be a lot harder to survive than the “Bob.”
Wish me luck. Hugs and Grins, Bonnie
Check out the
American Donkey and Mule Society today!
For breed registration information, breeder listings, copies of The BRAYER magazine and much more, contact:
The American Donkey & Mule Society, P.O. Box 1210
Lewisville, TX 75067 (972) 219-0781
Or visit their website atwww.lovelongears.com.
The statements, views, and opinions by contributors are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of Lucky Three Ranch and Meredith Hodges.