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The Mule Whisperer

MerMuleWhisperer_CCI have been called “the Mule Whisperer,” but I must admit that the mules have been whispering right back at me for over forty years now! Mules have taught me practically everything I know about training equines and for that, I am eternally grateful…and so are the people and their equines who learn from me! I am so proud of my fans and the successful accomplishments they’ve had with their equines! Thank you all for your kind updates and correspondence! Keep up the great work!

Fun in the Sun—er, Snow… with Roll

So what do you do together when it’s snowing outside? Roll looked like he was wearing SNOW boots when he first came into the tack barn. So, first we had to remove all of the icicles, but I had to be very careful because they don’t exactly come off easily. Roll let me know when I tugged too hard on the shedding blade and suggested that I warm them with my hand before I pulled! Good plan!



By the time I got to the back end, they had all melted!

We then decided to mess around with halters. Roll much prefers the fit and action of his nylon halter…and, it’s comfortable to wear!

The snugger fit allows him to feel the tug on the halter almost immediately and he can then comply promptly and without fear of reprisal. His ears indicate he is concentrating on stepping back with the slightest indication.

The fit and action on a rope halter is much different and it takes Roll a minute to figure out what I am asking. Note his questioning and confused look!

The halter puts uneven pressure across Roll’s face and he doesn’t seem to be confident about what to do…” Would you like me to stretch or just take a step forward?”

Because we have worked solely in the nylon halter except for the demonstration with the rope halter, he is happy to stand quietly and wait for me…no pain, no fear!

Even when we were interrupted by a loud noise, Roll remained engaged in his stretching activity. We both just turned our heads calmly to the side to see what it was!

…and then we resumed our stretching exercise in a sea of oats!

Making our way back to the paddock, Roll happily matched me stride for stride, staying in balance with good equine posture!

Sad Loss for Longears Industry: Goodbye to Crystal Ward

A professional trainer, judge and animal inspector, Crystal Ward owned the Ass Pen Ranch in Placerville, California, where she raised and trained horse, mules and donkeys. The first year she came to Bishop Mule Days was in 1979. She happened to be coming through Bishop on vacation and it really intrigued her. She thought the mules were simply outstanding. Crystal had a show career with horses, but the following year she decided she had to own a mule. She showed up the next year with a horse trailer in tow, and at that point Bishop Mule Days was still offering an auction. She swiftly bought a mule at the auction and had been coming back ever since.

Her first mule was a wild little critter that didn’t make much progress. So the following year she bought a mule named Skeeter Sea from George Chamberlain, a dealer in mules in Los Alivos, California; the mule was previously owned by Slim Pickens. When Slim Pickens showed up as Grand Marshal in the Bishop Mule Days Parade, he told Crystal, “We used to own that mule.” She showed him with 55 mules in the class and won the Western Pleasure class that year. Although he was nice in the Western Pleasure classes, she couldn’t see owning this mule for the long term due to his generally bad manners. Later, she picked up a mule in Northern Montana and brought him back and started training him…his name was Final Legacy. He was a good honest mule and she kept him for the long haul.

Back in the early ‘80s, Crystal got really interested in riding side saddle, so she joined the International Side Saddle Organization and ultimately rode in the Presidential Inaugural Parade with Final Legacy in 1993, hauling him from California to Washington, DC, in the middle of January. He was a good honest mule and she loved him. She showed him in many classes at Bishop Mule Days over the years…from Western to English, dressage, driving and side saddle.

In more recent years Crystal switched to raising and showing donkeys. She had a variety of donkeys, from miniatures to mammoths. She fully understood that you have to take a different approach when training a donkey and produced training videos with Napa, California, videographer, Video Mike. She truly appreciated a good donkey: “Donkeys are like potato chips—you can’t have just one.”

In our interview in 2009, Crystal told me: “We call them [donkeys] ‘desert canaries,’ but that goes hand-in-hand with donkeys. They do like to talk and it can be loud, but you know I’ll still take a donkey any day. I live with the noise, but then again, I’ll have peacocks, barking dogs and roosters in my backyard. Donkeys are just one more noisy farm animal that I can certainly live with.”

For Crystal, it was always a matter of learning…English, Western, Side Saddle…the whole nine yards! She always performed to the best of her and her mule’s ability and she believed a lot of it was a matter of finding just the right mule!

Crystal enjoyed her interview for my documentary series, Those Magnificent Mules; she appeared in “The Bishop All Stars” episodes. (We have all of these episodes available to watch online.) She said: “We were showing back in the early ‘80s, beating the paths to Bishop Mule Days. The one thing I know about mule and donkey people is that it’s fun competing…nice rivalry. When you come out of a class, your fellow competitors will shake your hand and offer you a bit of encouragement. It’s like family when you show at a mule or donkey show. It’s something you always look forward to until the next time.”

You are so right, Crystal! You will remain in our hearts, forever a part of our longears family… we will miss you!

Augie and Spuds in Sync

“Hey, we haven’t seen you guys in a while! How have you been?! We get to go for another adventure with Meredith today!”

“What do you suppose she has in mind for us today, Spuds?”
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John Henry: Rocking Mule

My good friend, Tennessee mule artist Bonnie Shields, recently introduced me to sculptor Dennis Page from the Rocking Horse Ranch in Riverton, Utah. Dennis is working on a hand-carved “rocking mule” that is modeled after Bonnie’s ceramic sculpture of Kathleen Conklin’s Champion Driving mule, John Henry. I am so impressed with Dennis’s work that I decided to purchase the wood-sculpted rocker. What an amazing addition it will be to the Loveland Longears Museum and Sculpture Park here at Lucky Three Ranch!

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Jasper: A Christmas Caper on Rural TV

Jasper the Mule stops by your TV screen once again this Christmas! Celebrate Christmas with Jasper and all his friends as Jasper: A Christmas Caper airs on Rural TV (Dishnet Channel 232) on Christmas Eve.

It’s the Christmas season and Jasper and his human family are in high spirits as they travel to visit far-away friends a few towns over. When Jasper and his pal, Moxie the dog, get out of the yard and wander down a strange alley, the two friends are headed straight for one big adventure!

Presents disappear, mysterious strangers appear and friends go missing. But junior detectives Jasper and Moxie are on the case. With the clock ticking, Jasper has to use his “mule smarts” to tackle this puzzle of a mystery and put the pieces together before the big parade. But will he solve the mystery in time?

Airing on Rural TV (Channel 232 on Dish Network or check your local listings).

Tuesday, December 24 at 7pm and 11pm ET (4pm and 8pm PT)

If you don’t get Rural TV or miss the airings, all Jasper episodes are also available for rental on demand.

Colorado Gives Day – Hearts and Horses

Colorado Gives Day is an initiative to increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving. On this one day–Tuesday, December 10, 2013–Coloradans will come together to raise millions of dollars for nonprofits. Last year, $15.7 million was donated. Presented by Community First Foundation and FirstBank, Colorado Gives Day has taken place during a 24-hour period each winter since 2010. Donations are accepted through the website, with a goal to inspire and unite Coloradans in supporting local nonprofits.

This is Hearts and Horses’ first year as part of Colorado Gives Day and their goal is to raise at least $10K for their amazing programs.

Why contribute through Colorado Gives Day? There are no fees, so 100% of your donation goes to Hearts and Horses. Donations of $10 and above are accepted, empowering MANY to participate. Hearts and Horses will also be vying for thousands of additional dollars to be awarded to Larimer County non-profits based upon unique donors, social shares, and dollars raised. This prize program is available in addition to the statewide Incentive Funds and exclusive to the 94 participating organizations in their region.

And this year, Meredith Hodges will match dollar for dollar all funds raised for Hearts and Horses on Colorado Gives Day, to continue helping them attain the resources necessary to become one of the premier therapeutic riding programs in the country.

Click here to schedule your donation to Hearts and Horses, or bookmark the link to donate on Tuesday!

Jasper: A Turkey Tale on Rural TV

Jasper the Mule returns to your TV screen this holiday season! Celebrate Thanksgiving with Jasper and all his friends as Jasper: A Turkey Tale airs on Rural TV (Dishnet Channel 232) this week.

As the gang prepares for the big Thanksgiving celebration, Jasper the Mule and his pal, Moxie the Dog, are hot on the trail of adventure! A mishap with a truckload of turkeys turns into a real live mystery, as the boys solve the case of “The Beady Eyes in the Bushes!”

When they make a new friend who is lost and alone, Jasper’s mule-y sense of loyalty kicks in and he is determined to help, no matter what. Will Jasper and Moxie save the day? Will their new friend find his “forever home?” All the fun and warmth of Thanksgiving come to life in Jasper: A Turkey Tale.

Airing on Rural TV (Channel 232 on Dish Network or check your local listings)

  • Monday, November 25 at 7pm ET
  • Wednesday, November 27 at 7pm and 11pm ET

If you don’t get Rural TV or miss the airings, all Jasper episodes are also available for rental on demand.

Goodbye to Homer

Our hearts go out to Connie Bartels for the loss of her beloved Homer, longtime friend and loyal companion. He will be missed.

“Sunday when we rode while I was taking his tack off I was talking to him telling him what a good boy he is and what a good ride we had. Then I hugged him tightly as I always do….he knew me, and he liked me a lot. To think that I will never ride him again is heart wrenching to me. He was my good friend and buddy…..and I would never find another Homer. I am very sad today, but I am thankful for the many years we were friends. Only mule people would understand this.”


Roll Rehab: Back in the Saddle Again


Roll continues to be a happy camper and always looks forward to any time he can spend with us outside of his pen and pasture areas. It has been several months since he has been worked because we have been busy with construction all summer, however, the core muscle, good posture training that he had for the past three years has drastically changed his overall health.


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Modern Day Mule Train

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, artist Lauren Bon, in collaboration with Metabolic Studio and the LA Department of Water and Power, is retracing the steps of the aqueduct’s original construction, from Owens Valley to LA–with a 100 mule pack train. Their journey started on October 18, and the convoy is expected to arrive at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Griffith Park on November 11, with stops along the way at the Lone Pine Rodeo Grounds, Jawbone Canyon, and the Hansen Dam.

Photo from LA's Water Future Facebook page

The mules are being cared for by Jennifer and Lee Roeser, who run the McGee Pack Station in the Eastern Sierra range, and who received the “Most Honored Packers” award at Bishop Mule Days in 2010. They are utilizing one wrangler per 10-mule string, with about 35 people total on the support staff and 10 support vehicles to supply the mules with food, water, gear, and medical care.

The pack train will be passing through three counties and over 50 California communities before reaching their final destination. It’s appropriate that this project will be sharing and celebrating mules’ contributions to the country, especially in anticipation of Mule Appreciation Day on October 26.

For more information, check out the LA Times article about the project.

Spuds and Augie Get “Tired”

Mini donkeys Spuds and Augie are always up for a new challenge–like adding a new element to their round pen workout routine!

“Hey, Spuds! What do you think she has in mind to do today with all these straps?”
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Romulus and Remus, a big pair of asses…

(Equus africanus asinus, to be exact!)

This is a special entry by Phil Yellott, owner of Romulus, who has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Donkey.

Cara and I wanted to get a couple of donkeys for guard animals. We saw a couple of mammoth donkeys on Craigslist, who were very skinny and underfed. We contacted the owner, and were able to negotiate a price so we could get them. We named them Romulus and Remus after the legendary founders of the Roman empire. Romulus is 9 years old, and his little brother Remus is 7.

The two brothers are very close, most of the time it is like having one donkey with eight feet! We love them very much. We have been working very hard to get them healthy. We contacted the American Donkey and Mule Society (ADMS) about whether they were registered, and were told that if they were as tall as we thought, that they might be a candidate for the world’s tallest donkey. After researching the record, we saw that Oklahoma Sam was 15.3, and it seemed like Romulus was a good bit taller than that.

At about 3:30 PM on Friday, February 8th, 2013 at 4C Stables, Dr. Valerie Jaffe, D.V.M., measured Romulus three times, each time finding his height to be 17 hands, or 68 inches tall. This is 172.72 centimeters in height.

His brother Remus was also measured, and he was measured at 16.2 hands, 66” in height.

If you would like to have them at your event, please contact us. -Phil

Romulus’s information:
Size: 17 Hands (68 Inches, 172.72 CM)
Weight: about 1200 pounds
Age: 9
Breed: American Mammoth Jackstock

The tallest donkey living is Romulus, a 9-year-old American Mammoth Jackstock, who measured 17 hands (172.72 cm; 5 ft 8 in) tall on 8 February 2013, and is owned by Cara and Phil Yellott of Red Oak, Texas, USA.

Cara Barker Yellott and Phil Yellott
Proud owners of Romulus and Remus
3708 Ovilla Rd.
Red Oak, TX 75154
Romulus’ Website
Romulus’ Facebook
214-724-8527 (Cara)
903-399-6851 (Phil)

A Place in Your Heart for Hearts & Horses

Our friends at Hearts & Horses, the non-profit therapeutic riding facility located in Loveland, CO, need your support. They have organized a few great events coming up–see below for more information on how you can help, whether you’re in Colorado or beyond!

The Power of the Horse Extravaganza is a rider showcase, open house and concert to support Hearts & Horses and encourage community growth. The event will also include activity booths and delicious local food truck vendors. Hearts & Horses is looking for riders, sponsors and volunteers for this event as well, if you have the time and skills to contribute more.

This day of fun starts at 11:30am on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Find out more information about the event here.

If you can’t make it to the party, you can experience the concert at home by listening to and purchasing the album of songs here. All of these great songs were written especially for this event!

Hearts & Horses’ annual gala is also coming up, and this year the theme is: Lucky Hearts Casino Night. This event will be held on Saturday, October 5, at the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology in Loveland. This is a great way to support Hearts & Horses while also having a fun night out. For more information on this event, and to purchase tickets, become a sponsor, or donate any items to the silent auction, click here.

Spuds and Augie: Under Construction

There’s a lot of construction going on at the ranch, but Spuds and Augie sense the opportunity for adventure!

“Hey, Spuds, what’s with all this junk? It looks a little iffy to me!”
“Just chill, Augie! It’s just another great adventure…no sweat!”
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Rolling with the Routine

Roll has learned so much since he came to us in December of 2010 and he continues to learn more each and every day. When he first arrived, he was spooky and hid behind Rock almost all the time. Since, he has learned about how important good manners are and that he will always be treated with kindness and consideration being a part of the Lucky Three Ranch. Roll enjoys his studies of “Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette!”
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Goodbye to Buddie Stockwell

We were sorry to hear about longtime mule skinner Buddie Stockwell. We appreciate all the work that Buddy put into mules in Colorado with the Rocky Mountain Longears Association. Here is one of my favorite stories about Buddy.

In the fall of 1984, Loveland, Colorado muleskinner Buddie Stockwell and horseshoer Jerry Banks, along with a few friends, decided to make a hunting trip into the Rocky Mountains. Packing in, the weather was beautiful with warm temperatures, calm breeze, and nary a hint of what was to come. After setting up camp and tending to their horses and mules, the hunters went about the business of tracking elk. Hunting was good, but after a few days, one evening brought with it an unpredictable storm of incredible severity. The hunters awoke the following morning to find their camp buried in four feet or more of snow, and with no chance of the storm lifting.

Quickly, the hunters packed up what they could on the horses and mules; tents and a lot of gear had to be left behind since time was of the essence. As they left the campsite, snow deepened and the terrain underneath was steep, rocky, and treacherous. They had only gone a short distance when the snow became so deep, and the terrain so hazardous that the horses refused to go one step farther–the horses would not blaze the trail out! Anxiety was high and the hunters were fearful of never making if off the mountain.

In the face of great danger, Buddie asked his trusted mule, Goliath, to break trail for the others, and with slow, careful, deliberate steps, Goliath led them all safely down the mountain to their trucks and trailers, which were also buried in snow. In bitter cold, they freed the vehicles, loaded them up, and made their way back to the lowlands to safety. The storms on the mountain worsened, and it was spring before Jerry and Buddie could return for the rest of their gear–but both men and their friends were grateful to Goliath for leading them down the mountain to safety.

What’s the Big Deal? Hay There, Spuds and Augie!

It’s summer time, and there are tons of adventures to be had for two mini donkeys on a bustling ranch like Lucky Three. Today, Spuds and Augie explore the hay field with Meredith and test their bravery against a fearsome, loud machine.

Hey, Spuds! I hear Meredith calling…what’s up?

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Pedigreed Mammoth Donkeys Looking for Good Home

The following is a very special announcement from our friends at Windy Ridge Farm. To view more mules and donkeys for sale or to post your own, please visit our classifieds section.

Dear Fellow Mammoth Jack Stock Breeders,
It is not without sadness that we write to inform you that we are starting the search for a very special home for our small select herd of dual registered Mammoth donkeys.

While the Windy Ridge Donkeys numbered some 30 – 40 head at one time, we have been slowly undergoing a herd reduction over the past decade. Now our population numbers eleven donkeys with another jennet left to foal during early July. Most recently we have come through a very long, hard winter and are glad to see spring! At this time of writing all donkeys are out and enjoying themselves in sunny outdoor pastures.

As we age (Carl 78 and myself 69), we do not wish to keep animals that we may not be able to care for properly. Therefore we invite you to view the Windy Ridge Donkeys on our web site which will be revised and updated in June/July 2013: and write or telephone us with any questions you may have. Should you not have access to the website, then let us know and we will send descriptions of the donkeys. Photos of both foals should be on the website by August 2013.

Our herd is the product of over forty years of work in the donkey breeding business. Since we purchased our first Mammoth jennet in 1979, Mammoths have figured prominently in our breeding program. The remaining small breeding herd, (Blackhawk and six jennets), are all registered in Canada (CLRC) and USA (ADMS), and are all DNA tested and on file with Dr. Gus Cothran at Texas A & M as part of a study on Mammoth stock (contact Dr.Cothran at: (979) 845-0229 or email: ), and have also been sent to ADMS.

These donkeys may be sold individually or in a package such as Blackhawk and 2-3 jennets or young stock for example. Note that we believe this herd is best used to outcross the Black Bart bloodlines which is the step we have started in using Blackhawk, on Bart daughters, and granddaughters. Blackhawk offspring may cross well with your current jack if you are looking for athletic working bloodlines. Extended pedigree information to 5 to 7 generations is available for each animal because registration papers often only have space for 4 to 5 generations.

We request that only serious inquiries be made from either yourself or those to whom you may pass this letter. We would hope such people would desire to conserve these special top performance bloodlines and faithfully believe in registration to document same. We believe it is our duty to find the donkeys the best home possible where they will be well cared for and trained to reach their full potential.

Therefore we ask that you provide the following information to help us know you better and make the right decisions:
#1- Please explain the reason you wish to purchase any of our donkeys, and how these bloodlines might fit into your breeding program.
#2- What are your current goals in breeding mammoth donkeys ?
#3- Of what importance is registration to your breeding program?
#4- Explain your breeding program, e.g. How often do you expect foals from your jennets (every year, every second year etc.) and why do you choose to breed this way? Do you use pasture breeding, live cover (in hand breeding), or equine A.I. and why did you choose this method ?
#5- How do you utilize a qualified equine reproduction vet in your breeding program ?
#6- Do you foal out under supervision or allow jennets to foal outside alone ?
#7- At what age do you wean foals?
#8- When weaned, what type of “kindergarten”(early) training / handling have they received ?
#9- Describe your facilities (shelter, water, paddocks, barn etc.) for keeping Mammoth donkeys in summer and in winter.
#10- Please add any further information that you feel would help us know you better, and appreciate your care and conservation of this rare breed of donkey.

By initiating this search we hope to find a like minded breeder to continue the dream of producing quality athletic Mammoth Jack Stock and saddle mule jacks. This will not be a hasty decision, nor will these donkeys be sold at public auction.

In the mean time we expect to foal out the two bred jennets : Windy Ridge Bart’s Betsy already foaled a healthy, superb 36’’ tall 80 lb. black jennet foal May 5, 2013 and Windy Ridge Cinnamon is due to foal July 8 to 14, 2013. We will also use Windy Ridge Eagle’s Blackhawk this summer to breed Windy Ridge Bart’s Babydoll, Windy Ridge Marcela, Windy Ridge Red Rose and Windy Ridge Millicent. The latter two are older jennets whom we have been watching carefully and Millicent has already been covered on a good, strong heat the last week of May.

If necessary, we may consider the recent offer of an option to stand Blackhawk for equine AI of jennets or mares at a new stallion station due to open in the area next year. And it is possible that we may decide to keep a couple of donkeys back for ourselves.

When the decision to sell has been made, registration papers will be transferred, and extended pedigrees provided as well as individual health records etc. to the new owner according to the sales agreement.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Carl & Sybil Sewell
Windy Ridge Farm.
email: windyridgedonkeys[AT]

Spring Update: What’s New with Roll?

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.
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