Here comes our nation’s birthday! And just in time for the Fourth of July, here comes everybody’s favorite little longears, Jasper the Mule in his very own cartoon! Jasper and his pal, Moxie, really cause fireworks this time when they decide to test what freedom is all about and crash the big party at Happy Valley Ranch! With lots of thrills and spills and great music by Grammy®-winning Western band, Riders In The Sky, on the DVD, the whole family can join in the fun as laughs, highjinks and the beauty of our American holiday light up the skies!
“Meredith Hodges’ comprehensive curriculum of DVDs and textbooks are a beautiful example of teaching the equid with a fair-minded, patient, direct approach. Her methods bring the mule, donkey, or horse together with the owner to establish a very safe, rewarding, but most of all, fun and enjoyable relationship.”
Jeannette Havens, DVM
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When I was at Bishop Mule Days I was fortunate enough to meet up with my dear friend, Luzma Osario from the Criadero Villa Luz in Colombia, South America, where they produce some of the finest mules, donkeys and hinnies on the planet! She was anxious to fill me in on a variety of projects she has been involved with in the past few years, including the South American TV shows that she is producing about longears, her participation in some of the largest equine parades in the world as shown here in the Brazilian Grand Entry, and the production and training of exceptional gaited longears (including hinnies) that are bred from gaited donkeys and Paso Fino horses.
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It seems that this year we had a REAL winter and are now having a REAL spring. It has been cool and wet, with rain and sleet and lots of snow in the mountains. Here in Colorado, we hope it doesn’t melt too fast and flood everything like it did last fall!
There are always lots of things to do to get ready for the summer projects. All the equines got their vaccinations in April and we have kept up with worming every other month. Regular grooming at least every other week (and preferably every week) is keeping their hair coats soft and shiny and optimizing the shedding process.
It is amazing to me that we now have so many truly healthy older equines, but I am eternally grateful to be able to share my later years with the same equines I showed for eighteen years prior to the year 2000. We have eight animals over 30, fourteen between the ages of 20 and 29 and eight under 18 years old. I have learned so much in the course of my equine training career and I am now learning still more about what it takes to manage and care for older equines, past champion performance equines and rescue equines. It just goes to prove that there really is so much to learn in the course of a lifetime that you will never stop learning new things if you continue to challenge yourself!
I am thrilled to be able to offer private clinics here at the ranch, where people can actually see and experience the results of my comprehensive training and management program. Lucky Three Ranch tours offer much more information than can be presented during the typical crowded four-day group clinics that are only able to offer the highlights of training and often generate more questions than they can effectively answer. My carefully designed tours provide a unique and personal learning experience and practical training tips that you can take home with you. Even after your tour ends, I am here to personally support you and answer your questions, as you continue to hone your own equine management and training skills. Lucky Three Ranch is also home to an incredible collection of exquisite life-sized bronze longears sculptures for you to discover as you tour the ranch.
Once again this year, we attended the unique and spectacular Bishop Mule Days and once again Bonnie Shields, Jasper and I joined Bobby Tanner with his twenty-mule team and rode in the old Borax wagons during the largest non-motorized parade in the United States. In keeping with this longears lovers rendezvous, we once again connected with all our friends from the U.S. and around the world!
Jasper really enjoyed participating in the “I Want to Be a Packer” program that was developed for children at Bishop Mule Days by the Roeser family. Those who were not able to compete on live equines rode stick mules in many events that were staged in a round pen outside the main arena during the afternoons. Jasper loved being a part of the festivities. His favorite class was barrel racing and pole bending the cones!
After their afternoon practice, the kids were asked to perform their stick-mule drill team exhibition at the Saturday and Sunday night performances. A great time was had by all!
Best wishes and Happy Trails,
Question: Hi. A week and a half ago, I brought home our first mule! She is 10 and getting along well after an initial break-in across the fence with my two geldings (a horse and small pony). There are many things I really like about her, but after her arrival here, about five days after just letting her be in a stall or pasture, I cross-tied her and she weaved quite persistently. I tried gentle reprimands to re-guide her. Nothing worked.
Later I tried just a single tie. She still was weaving. This molly showed NO EVIDENCE of this previously, and upon calling the previous owner, her response was, “Really?” I’m hoping there is just an acclimation period, and that this molly’s “nervousness” will stop! She has already come up to me in the fence, and I think we’re on our way to a bond. However, I am quite disappointed to see her weave! Is there any hope that this may truly be temporary, due to an acclimation period, etc.???? I had hopes of taking her to shows, trail rides, parades, etc. Now I’m concerned about her ability to “handle” such things. Thank you for your feedback.
Answer:There is no reason this mule can’t work out for you, but you need to be willing to forego any shows, parades, etc. this year and maybe even half of next year so you can build a good relationship with the mule first. She obviously is nervous and that is because she was “hurried” through the training process. The information below will give you the guidelines you need to build a better foundation for activities and will help to build a solid relationship between you! I am here to help along the way with any questions you might have.
No matter how old or how well trained the equine, they still need time doing the simplest of things to get to know you before they will learn to trust and have confidence in you. The exercises that you do should build the body slowly, sequentially and in good equine posture. Just as our children need routine, ongoing learning and the right kind of exercise while they are growing up, so do equines. They need boundaries for their behavior that are clearly outlined to minimize anxious behaviors and inappropriate behavior, and the exercises that you do together need to build their strength and coordination in good equine posture. The time spent together during leading training and going forward builds a good solid relationship with your equine and fosters his or her confidence and trust in you because you actually help your animal to feel physically better. A carefully planned routine and an appropriate feeding program are both critical to healthy development.
We do leading training for a full year to not only get them to learn to lead and to develop a good relationship with them, but also to develop good posture and core muscle strength in preparation for carrying a rider. Even an older equine with previous training would still need this for optimum performance and longevity. During the time you do the leading training strengthening exercises, you should NOT ride your animal, as this will inhibit the success of the preliminary exercises. If you ride while you do these exercises, it will not result in the same proper muscle conditioning, habitual behavior and new way of moving. The lessons need to be routine and done in good posture to acquire the correct results. We are building NEW habits in their way of moving and the only way that can change is through routine, consistency in the routine, and correctness in the execution of the exercises. Since this requires that you be in good posture as well, you will also reap the benefits from this regimen.
Overall, today’s horse training techniques do not generally work well with mules and donkeys. Most horse training techniques used today speed up the training process so people can ride sooner and it makes the trainers’ techniques more attractive, but most of these techniques do not adequately prepare the equine physically in good posture for the added stress of a rider on his back. Mules and donkeys have a very strong sense of self-preservation, and need work that builds their bodies properly so they will feel good in their new and correct posture, or you won’t get the kind of results you might expect. Forming a good relationship with your equine begins with a consistent maintenance routine and appropriate groundwork. Most equines don’t usually get the well-structured and extended groundwork training on the lead rope that paves the way to good balance, core muscle conditioning and a willing attitude. But this is essential if an animal is truly expected to be physically and mentally prepared for future equine activities. With donkeys and mules, this is critically important. When you take the time to do this, your animal will be pleased that you have her best interests at heart and will not engage in the anxious behaviors that you describe.
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Hearts & Horses Finds New Job for Beloved Mule By Jan Pollema, Executive Director, Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center
In October 2012, Hearts & Horses started a pilot program in interactive vaulting, and fully integrated the program this year.
Interactive vaulting involves games with the horses in the arena and the other vaulters, in addition to the gymnastic and dance moves on a horse’s back in traditional vaulting. Unlike traditional vaulting, interactive vaulting does not involve competition and has as its goals, improving motor planning skills, flexibility, communication and teamwork.
Interactive vaulting encourages teamwork, teaches respect for the horse, fosters independence, builds confidence, encourages social interaction and offers individualized instruction while mounted, introducing all gaits in a short period of time.
To begin, the vaulters learn vaulting moves on a barrel, starting with seven basic moves of positioning on the horse. “They practice everything on barrels before they practice on a horse,” says Program coordinator, Stefani Viktora Anderson, who is certified as a program riding and interactive vaulting instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
Hearts & Horses currently has one vaulting horse named Temple Bar and another equine in training—Allie the mule! Meredith Hodges of Lucky Three Ranch donated Allie to Hearts & Horses in 2009. Allie began her training in February of this year and is handling all aspects of this new role with ease. While only experienced vaulters are practicing on her at this time, she is learning fast and will make a great addition to the vaulting program and allow us to expand vaulting lessons to taller youth and adults.
Allie the Mule with “Vaulter” Hannah Perkins-Smith (PATH Intl. Riding Instructor) and Stefani Viktora-Anderson (PATH Intl. Riding & Vaulting Instructor) at Allie’s head.
Below is a link to a video showing some of Allie’s Vaulting training:
Recently an article was published about this program in our local newspaper. Click here to read the article, or view the photo gallery associated with the article.
Warm Regards, Jan Pollema, Executive Director - Hearts and Horses, Inc.
I never know where to pick up these notes from, but I will start with March. Got the illustrations for the children’s book that was written by a real cowboy over in Montana done. It is being printed up as we speak and I will try to keep you good folks posted on when and where to get a copy when they are ready. I know Amazon will have it, as they are the ones printing it. Then I tackled the ten color illustrations for the fella in CA with the story about the “singing” sewing machine. They are done and in the author’s hands as he searches for a publisher. It is such a sweet and uplifting story—I think this guy can write! I hope he can do more stories and let me illustrate them.
April was a mixed bag of catching up with other obligations and cleaning up the “winter mess.” We didn’t have that much snow this winter, but there was still the usual mess on the ground to clean up and manure to move. Lizzy the dog developed a slight heart problem and my dear and good vet made her better—BUT he left me with PILLS to get down her twice a day. Simple? I don’t think so. We are talking a Jack Russell bitch here. She can smell a pill at 50 yards and refuses to “eat” anything with medicine in it. Chucking them down her gullet is risky to the fingers if you have no one holding those JR jaws open for ya. So twice a day she makes things just awful for me and so very frustrating. We have tried everything. Steak WILL work, however, until she filters out that little pill. Anyway, I had to take her with us to Bishop this year, as I knew husband would not be able to do this. I certainly love my old dog (she is 15) but she sure did complicate Mule Days. What a character! In case you didn’t know it, Elizabeth the dog (Lizzy) is the basis for Moxie the dog in the Jasper series.
So, we are safely home from Mule Days and trying to catch-up with assignments, and a dirty house and a NEW PUPPY! Yeah, just the thing, huh? Well, she is a three-month-old Airedale named Cleo and she is such a clown and a happy girl. My sweet husband bought her for me, as I had an Airdale years ago on the farm in Tennessee and was always wanting to have one again. But having lost two dogs to the road in front of our place last year, we knew this situation called for a tall, dog-proof fence, so poor hubby had to shell out for a yard fence. “No good deed…”
Some big news is that I have received the honor of an “artist-in-residence” spot in the Bob Marshall Wilderness this July. That means 10 days packed in 16 miles to an old CCC cabin, where I can sketch and write and just soak in the wild country.
I am allowed a “companion” and I chose my mule, Iris, which has made the government workers’ heads explode! “It’s never been done!” Well, I bet Iris has had as much time in the mountains than lots of the paper-pushers, and since I know the packers well, I think we will get this OK’d in the end. Gad! You’d think a mule had never been in the “Bob.”
So, those are the things going on at the Brass Ass this summer. I won’t be bored. You all have a great summer and love on the ones in your life.
Happy Trails, Bonnie
Greetings from the ADMS:
Thus we roll into summer, and for some, the busiest of schedules. School gets out, kids are no longer little, graduation and college thoughts are here. In the pastures, green grass is towering, and foals are frolicking.
For parts of Texas, we are having unusual weather. RAIN! It’s May and we still have temps in some areas that are far below normal. This means that some other patterns may be “off” as well. Owners should be aware, and not change their routines too far.
For a start, this means keeping up with regular vaccinations, worming and trimming routines. More grass might mean more parasites, so be sure to consult with your vet about the best programs for your areas.
Watch feet in this kind of weather. Too wet, and you can get soggy hooves, thrush and fungal infections. Too dry and you get chipped, hard, brittle hooves. Adjust trimming schedules as needed. Remember that both donkeys and mules LOVE wallowing in sand, and having a dry, sandy patch in the pasture will result in a happier longear. (And of course, they must show you just how much they appreciate that hard grooming you just gave them by showing you how they do it on their own!)
Trail rides in these lovely temperatures are the best kind. If you and your equines haven’t been out yet, take a few moments to check over your tack. Make sure you don’t have rotted leather, brittle nylon, or loose stitching. Also, be sure that your equine hasn’t changed shape so that the saddle doesn’t fit! A little extra fitness training before hitting the trail goes a long way in keeping things comfortable for you both.
As always, on a rainy day or one just too hot to do anything else, sit down and make sure your paperwork is organized. We know how hard it can be with cluttered schedules, desks and tack rooms. A little organizing each day can do wonders for the room and for your mind.
We hope everyone has a good summer!
Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS
The Am. Donkey & Mule Soc. PO Box 1210, Lewisville TX 75067 (972) 219-0781. Newsletter: the BRAYER magazine, 100+ pgs 6X/yr, $27 US, $37 Canada, $50 overseas. We now accept Paypal, Visa/MC (+$1 courtesy fee appreciated). Reg info, forms, fees on our website at www.lovelongears.com.
Crystal Ward October 16, 1955 – March 7, 2014
This year saw the passing of one of our community’s most dedicated and passionate longears lovers, and a dear friend to so many.
Professional trainer, judge and animal inspector, Crystal Ward first came to Bishop Mule Days in 1979. She happened to be coming through Bishop, California, on vacation and was immediately intrigued by the longears world—she thought the mules were simply outstanding. Crystal already had a long show career with horses, but after experiencing Bishop Mule Days, she decided she had to own a mule.
She picked up a mule in Northern Montana and began training him. His name was Final Legacy. He was a good, honest mule and the first one she owned. She kept him for the long haul, showing him in many classes at Bishop Mule Days over the years, from Western to English, and from dressage to driving to side saddle.
Back in the early 1980s, Crystal got really interested in riding side saddle, so she joined the International Side Saddle Organization and participated in numerous side saddle events with Final Legacy, with Teaspoon (another mule of hers) and with her horses. She rode in numerous Pasadena Rose Parades with her side saddle mounts, and in 1993, she rode in the Presidential Inaugural Parade Washington, DC, hauling all the way from California in the middle of January.
Crystal truly appreciated a good donkey, too. She summed it up like this: “Donkeys are like potato chips—you can’t have just one.” In recent years, she switched to raising and training donkeys on her own Ass Pen Ranch in Placerville, California, and she had quite a variety, from miniatures to mammoths. She fully understood that a different approach must be taken when training a donkey and, with well-known videographer, Video Mike, she produced training videos specifically tailored for the donkey.
For Crystal, it was always a matter of learning and teaching others: English, Western, Side Saddle…the whole nine yards! She always performed to the best of her ability and her mule’s ability, and she believed a lot of it was a matter of finding just the right mule!
And Crystal really understood the generous spirit of the longears community. She once told me: “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 were so right, Crystal! You will remain in our hearts, forever a part of our longears family. We will miss you!
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.