HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with your Longears or even without animals! Many of us are not in the warmer climates, but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the company of your animals if you do have them. I wouldn’t trade the four seasons that we have here in Colorado for anything. My equines all love to go out during any season and especially in the wintertime to play with me in the snow! I avoid using blankets at all to keep their hair healthy, so it will insulate their bodies as it is designed to do. When it gets below 20 degrees, we just put them in the barns and close all the doors. Their breath will heat the barn enough so they do not get too cold.
We do have to pay attention to the areas that get icy and try to avoid them, and I don’t turn them out in those areas during the day. As my equines began to age, and got a bit clumsier in their play, we decided to line the indoor arena with steel. That way we could use that for winter turnout when it gets really snowy and icy to keep them safe and fit. The arena is 180’ X 60,’ so it is plenty large enough for them to really exercise, and even roll to get in a good scratch in the sand! When it is warm and sunny with snow on the ground, they are able to be turned out in the outdoor turnout areas. My equines are now mostly between the ages of 25 and 30, but with all the work I have done with their bodies and core strength, they still look young, spry and happy! Visits from the vet are rare!
The donkeys’ and miniatures’ areas afford them winter fun as well. They are typically not as active as the mules, but they find all kinds of ways to amuse themselves! We have a sandy bottom in our outdoor dressage arena (180’ X 60’) that doesn’t get icy, so there, I can actually do most of their normal workouts at liberty.
They really enjoy this! If I were to put them on a lunge line, I could inadvertently pull them off balance on the circles. After all their extensive postural core strength work, it is easy for them to stay erect in their bodies, bend through their rib cage on the circles, and reduce and enlarge the circles at will while at liberty. We can also do stretching exercises that keep them agile and prevent arthritis at their age.
I am always energized by the way my animals can help things to remain happy and positive throughout the colder months. Although we sometimes have to forego cleaning the pens when everything freezes outside, we still keep the areas we are able to cleaned every day. Then as soon as there is a thaw in the pens, we go after the previously frozen manure. The good thing is that keeping the stalls and runs cleaned every day has taught all of our equines to pick a spot and not spread the manure throughout the whole area! It keeps maintenance much more manageable and makes for a happier herd and a happier ME!
We had 120 people at our annual Christmas Party on December 3rd, followed by our employee gift exchange get-together and other holiday activities. Our main concern is always to maintain happiness and joy, to spread it around and to put smiles on as many faces as we can! Most of all, we continue to share the things we have learned with other Longears-Lovers so that they can enjoy their animals as much as we enjoy ours! Spring is on its way with NEW BEGINNINGS!
Best wishes and Happy Trails,
| || |
| || |
|ASK MEREDITH A QUESTION|
|Have a question for Meredith or want to give us feedback? |
|LTR Training Tip #36|
Using the Elbow Pull During Leading Training
The elbow pull will stop your equine from raising his head to the point where he hollows his neck and back, and will keep him in reasonably correct posture. For more information on leading, check out the Training Mules and Donkeys DVD series at http://ltran.ch/tmddvd, or TMD Episode 4: Preparing for Performance: Groundwork 1 at http://ltran.ch/tmdvod, and download the Training Tip Tutorial at http://ltran.ch/ttt036
View many more training tips on our YouTube channel.
Question: My mule keeps raising his head and grabbing the bit. Sometimes he will even run off with me under saddle and even when he is just being led from one place to another. Is there a way to fix this problem? I have seen your Elbow Pull being used and it looks like a Chambon, or Draw Reins, that pull the mule’s head down. Does it work like other restraints? What is different about the Elbow Pull?
Answer: In my TRAINING MULES & DONKEYS DVD #2, in the TRAINING WITHOUT RESISTANCE manual (2003) and in the SPECIAL FEATURES of my EQUUS REVISITED DVD (2009), I talk about using a postural aid called the "Elbow Pull." In the EQUUS REVISITED DVD, we teach you how to measure it for your individual equine and how to make it. The “Elbow Pull” puts your animal into your equine's ideal posture. He will have full range of motion in every direction when it is adjusted correctly. He will just not be able to raise his head so high that he hollows his neck and back. He will be able to balance and adjust his body position, and encourage the hind quarters to come underneath his body when he is walked, or driven forward. Allowing the equine to take short steps, front and back, would let the back sag (swayback-Lordosis) and does not engage the abdominal muscles. The “Elbow Pull” encourages the equine to stretch his spine, round his back and neck upwards (not "hump" it!) and elevates the shoulders when he steps underneath his body. The elevation (or suspension) in the shoulders allows him to increase the “reach” in his front legs. I use the "Elbow Pull" for Leading Training, Ground Driving and when he is ready, Lunging in the Round Pen. The Leading Training on flat ground through our HOURGLASS PATTERN, positively affects his overall postural balance, and Leading through Obstacles adds coordination. How do you know when he is ready to go on to each stage of Leading Training on flat ground and then through obstacles? When you can throw the lead rope over his neck and do the exercises with verbal commands, hand signals and body language alone. This is building a new habitual way of traveling all in preparation for lunging correctly…keeping his body erect and in a symmetrical balance while he bends to the arc of the circle without leaning like a motorcycle. It will prevent muscle compromises throughout his body that could cause soreness. I continue to use the "Elbow Pull" with each new stage of training to help him maintain his good posture throughout the different tasks. It is a supportive device and when he has problems with his posture, it will become tight. He can "lean" against it for a few strides without going totally out of good posture which gives him relief from trying to hold his good posture, which is often difficult in the beginning. When he is again able to hold his good posture, the aid becomes loose all over. Even people have problems maintaining good posture without the reminder of a book on their head until it becomes more habitual.
None of us were born in good posture. It is something that must be taught. If we are allowed to "slouch" our posture, it WILL create soreness and physical problems over time, especially when we get much older. After Lunging in good posture for several months, the equine's habitual way of going will be changed. He will begin to travel in good posture automatically. Changing habits takes a long time of repetitive behavior to evolve into a new habitual way of acting. As you teach your body through these stages to stay in sync with your equine's steps, YOUR body becomes more in tune with his way of going and prepares you to be a better rider. This is all a matter of re-programming brain-muscle impulses. The equine will be Ground Driven in the "Elbow Pull" as he adjusts to learning rein cues, and when the weight of the rider is finally added, it is advisable to ride in the "Elbow Pull" until it remains loose all the time. When it does, you can be sure he is strong in his core balance and truly ready to support the rider in any kind of athletic pursuit. The equine learns to carry the rider on top of an upward arc in their spine with the abdominal muscles engaged. This is the same as teaching people to use their whole body correctly and lift with their legs and not their backs. These kinds of exercises make sure that the animal travels symmetrically, allowing the joints to work as they were designed to do (according to the laws of physics) with no compromises, and promotes optimum function of their internal organs.
With an equine that is over two years old that has not had the benefit of developing core strength in good posture, it is advisable to first use the “Elbow Pull” during detailed and extensive Leading Lessons. Both on the flat ground and later over obstacles. An equine under two years of age will not need the "Elbow Pull" support while working on his way of going since repetitive habits have not yet been fully established. Lunge the equine in the Round Pen for several months until the animal exhibits an erect posture and self-body carriage habitually. When you finally begin riding, you should use the "Elbow Pull" while you are riding our Hourglass Pattern under saddle as he adjusts to the added weight and new balance. When the “Elbow Pull” is adjusted correctly and the equine is in good posture, it will not put any pressure on the animal at all. When he is out of good posture, it puts pressure on the poll, the bit rings, behind the forearms and over the back. He will go back to his good posture as soon as he is able in order to release the pressure points.
TRAINING QUESTION CONT.
Place the "Elbow Pull" over the poll, through the snaffle bit rings, between the animal's front legs and over the back, then snap the two ends to a surcingle D-ring or D-rings on the saddle you are using. It should be adjusted so he can only raise his head approximately 3-4 inches above the level of the withers (just before he hollows his neck and back). The “Elbow Pull” needs to be adjusted loosely enough so that he can relieve the pressure at the poll, bit rings, elbows and back without having to drop his head below the withers. When lunging, if the “Elbow Pull” is correctly adjusted and he still wants to carry his nose to the ground, encourage him with the whip to speed him up a bit. This will encourage him to engage his hindquarters and raise his head into the correct position. The only way he can really go forward with his nose to the ground is if the hindquarters are not engaged. As soon as the hindquarters are engaged, he will have to raise his head to the correct position to maintain his balance. When being led in the “Elbow Pull,” lowering the head is not a problem because you will have control of the lead rope attached to a ring underneath his noseband (not attached to the bit!). Doing stretching-down exercises during leading training helps to stretch the spine and alleviate any soreness that could be developing with the new postural position. Breaking old habitual muscle positions can cause soreness to begin with, but as the better posture becomes more evolved, it also becomes much more comfortable (as it does in humans).
In the Round Pen, the “Elbow Pull” helps the animal learn to travel in good equine posture without the added weight of a rider first. In doing so, it increases his core strength and the ability for him to carry a more balanced posture of his own volition. The added weight of the rider under saddle will challenge the animal again to maintain this good posture. This will take further strengthening of the muscles. The "Elbow Pull" will keep the animal in the correct posture while carrying the rider, so he doesn't ever build muscle out of balance and out of good equine posture. When you do this, you are changing old habitual movement into good equine posture and a balanced way of moving. This eventually (after two years) will become his habitual way of moving and playing, even during turnout.
Your equine should stay in the “Elbow Pull” when working for two years to make sure that the muscles are indeed conditioned around correct equine posture through correct repetition. This means that when your year of Lunging, then Ground Driving is over, and he begins to work with a rider or while being driven, you would still use the “Elbow Pull” to help him stay in good posture for another year with the added weight of the rider on his back. If driving your equine, you should also use it during the first two years in your driving arena to promote good equine driving posture and engagement of the hindquarters while pulling. This assures that the muscles are becoming correctly and symmetrically strong (supporting the skeleton), over a balanced and physically aligned frame.
The "Elbow Pull" postural aid does not pull their heads down. Rather, it gives them full range of motion (up, down, and sideways), but keeps them from raising their heads so high that they hollow their back and neck during initial training. It is a fully self-correcting restraint that gives them something to lean on when they are not yet strong enough in the core (elements that support the skeletal frame) to maintain their ideal balance. It encourages them to step well underneath their body, round their back upward from head to tail and puts the spine in a position to allow space between the vertebrae (and avoid "Kissing Spine") and to prevent the rider from injuring their spine (according to the laws of physics). The "Elbow Pull" provides support much like a balance bar does for a beginning ballet dancer, and the principles of good posture are the same as with humans. Repetition and consistency during training can change habitual bad posture to habitual good posture over a long period of time, usually about two years. Good posture and correct movement can enhance longevity by as much as 5-10 years, enable internal organs to operate efficiently and prevent arthritis and other compromises that can create soreness in the body.
You can buy my books and videos in the STORE and I would be happy to send you a lot more detailed information if you email me at email@example.com.
READERS and VISITORS
“I just finished your amazing ROCK AND ROLL: DIARY OF A RESCUE DVD and I am writing this with tears and a snotty nose. What a fantastic job you all did and what a great story! It’s fantastic what a great life both of those giant mules had with you and it seems like they knew it. It’s sad Rock had such a short time to enjoy the good life but I hope the things that you guys learned during his life and that folks can learn from his skeleton and his story will be of great help to future animals and their caregivers and handlers. The way you told the story, all the good information and great video made for a very entertaining and educational show. You and your whole crew should be VERY proud of an excellent job on the script, video, interviews and music!” ~ M.F.
“I just watched "Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue" and want you to know how moved and inspired I was by your efforts, those of your staff and equid health care team and, especially, by those 2 amazing mules -- Rock & Roll. Thank you for providing them with such compassionate care and so much love! Thank you for producing this doc to teach others about mule rescue and welfare. It truly does take a village. Lucky Three Ranch is one special village in a million. Bless you, for your strength, determination and tenacity. Run free, Rock & Roll!” ~ R.H.
“You are awesome, Meredith, and I, like others, appreciate all of your contributions to the long ear community. We too have a Process every day. We bring our 2 riding mules out and they get tied and given their supplement. They get groomed and feet cleaned then we do stretches with them and then they go into their large corral. Then they are treated. I have a blower, not a vacuum but might have to look into the vacuum.
Thank you for All you do.” ~ K.N.
“I am new to donkeys, I have 2 minis. I sent you an email about my 4 month old jack was hard to handle. You wrote me back and sent around 10 pages of information for me! I will never forget that! TatorTot was gelded at 7 months and is a joy! Thank you for being you and for your love for donkeys and mules! I recommend your FB page to everyone. You, Meredith Hodges, are the gold standard for equine!” ~T.L.B.
“I think you are fabulous in your care and training. You do what I tried to do with my 2 horses. When you love something you try your very best. I truly admire you and your ethics. Thank you.” ~ J.M.
LONGEARS HAVE A PROFOUND EFFECT ON PEOPLE’S LIVES! At one point during a move, Elvis had gone to Los Angeles to shoot a new movie, so Billy’s father Travis Smith, the brother of The King’s mother Gladys, oversaw shifting belongings and some of the incoming animals. The King’s uncle, who became Head of Security, was wondering where to put the donkeys and realized that Graceland’s swimming pool had already been dug. So the asses were lowered into what was an empty space at the time that they couldn’t wander off from.
Memphis Mafia member Billy remembered: “They put them in the pool and kept them in there for a while!” He also dispelled the myth that Elvis’ swimming pool is guitar-shaped when actually it’s more like a kidney.
Lisa Marie Presley (February 1, 1968 – January 12, 2023) was an American singer and songwriter. She was the only child of singer and actor Elvis Presley and actress Priscilla Presley, as well as the sole heir to her father's estate after her grandfather and her great-grandmother died. Presley developed a career in the music business and issued three albums: To Whom It May Concern in 2003, Now What in 2005, and Storm & Grace in 2012. Her first album reached gold certification with the Recording Industry Association of America. Presley also released non-album singles, including duets with her father using tracks he had released before he died.
Presley was born on February 1, 1968, to Elvis and Priscilla Presley in Memphis, Tennessee, nine months to the day after her parents' wedding. After her parents divorced, she lived with her mother in Los Angeles, with frequent stays with her father at Graceland in Memphis.
Presley's parents divorced when she was four years old. When her father died in August 1977, nine-year-old Presley became joint heir to his estate with her 59-year-old grandfather, Vernon Presley, and Vernon's 87-year-old mother, Minnie Mae. Upon the deaths of her grandfather in 1979 and her great-grandmother in 1980, she became the sole heir; on her 25th birthday in 1993, she inherited the estate, which had grown to an estimated $100 million. Presley sold 85 percent of her father's estate in 2004.
God bless and RIP.
BONNIE SHIELDS – Tennessee Mule Artist
You have to be crazy to draw mules! At least that was a popular opinion, but one Bonnie Shields chose to ignore. “I love mules. That’s why I draw ‘em.” It’s as simple as that. Born and raised in Southern Indiana, Bonnie wasn’t around mules until she moved to Tennessee in 1965. But, the meeting has proven to be remarkable. A longstanding member of the Cowboy Cartoonists Association, her wide variety of “mule art” can be viewed at numerous venues, mule and draft horse shows, Western arts and crafts shows, Western trade shows and on the internet on her website at www.Bonnieshields.com. Her talents include drawing, painting and sculpture. She has done a wide variety from ink drawings to acrylic painting to bronze sculpture, from commissioned work to originals, all revering the mule. She has also written a multitude of articles for such publications as The Brayer, a bimonthly publication put out by the American Donkey & Mule Society, Mules and More Magazine, Western Mule Magazine and the “Bishop Mule Days” program.
People are truly impressed with this amazing 400-page Coffee Table Book, produced by Lucky Three Productions, L.L.C. It is the most complete collection on record of Bonnie’s numerous artistic accomplishments. Longears lover or not, you will be amazed at the wide diversity of her work and will be entertained by her unmatched sense of humor!
This is a MUST HAVE for your personal library!
well-known trainer and author of an extensive library on mules and donkeys has produced an important supplement to her video training series with this detailed look at Athletic Conditioning
. Equines will always conjure images of power, freedom and beauty. Although they thrive in the wild, man has interfered and put them into an artificial environment by domesticating them. They were not really designed structurally to be ridden, yet we ask them to perform stressful athletic activities with riders on their backs! To ensure good health through postural core strength development and to obtain the best possible relationship with your equines, learn to care, maintain and train them in a complete and responsible way. This four-part series will identify crucial issues, pose in-depth solutions and introduce a team of experts that can help provide a happy and healthy lifestyle for you and your equine.
This is a MUST HAVE for your equine library!
JASPER THE MULE
and his friends’ adventures are now featured on Meredith’s Video on Demand TV Shows
, and in a variety of books and animated videos available in our STORE. In addition to the Lucky Three Ranch website at www.luckythreeranch.com
, she also designed www.JasperTheMule.com
, a website especially for children that provides a fun, child-friendly environment in which they can learn to appreciate, love and care for equines and all living things.
The passion that Meredith Hodges
feels for the equines that she has fought for all her adult life is still as fresh, inspiring and infectious as it was when she first discovered the world of horses, donkeys and mules. She has never wavered in her devotion to them and in her mission to carve a lasting and honored place for them in our world. They are lucky to have her as their champion, but Meredith
actually sees it a bit differently. She feels honored and privileged to be a part of their world.
It has been a strange winter up here so far. We got dumped on with snow the last of November and some more the first of December, so Santa had NO trouble getting stuff to us this year.
My sweet IRIS, my last mule, is doing famously so far. She is 32 this year, doesn't look it or act it. I feed her as my hero, Meredith advises. But, with 3 ft of snow to start out with, she and her horse neighbor shure don't move around much. Their path by their common fence is about it, AND I'm running out of places to dump the manure. Maybe I should start some kind of sculpture with it? Whadda ya think???
My poor husband just gets worse and worse with his pains and inability to walk. It is hard to watch. Laura and I are kept busy taking care of his needs and they pretty much run our days, along with the weather. It is such a blessing to have her here with me and Terry loves her dearly.
Not much on my business scene. I am working on the logo for this year's Hell Canyon Mule Days. It is the ONLY show I can make it to anymore. Luckily, it is my favourite, too. Hope I can encourage you mule-nuts to come check it out this year. It is just FUN and kinda laid-back like those shows with the mules and their people are supposed to be. And AND-- there are some wonderful mules to see perform and show-off their "stuff." AND--BS is there with HER stuff!!!
Got some art things to do for Meredith yet but kinda need to do part of them outside, so they are yet to start on. Bring ON that global warming!!! Some sunshine would help, too.
OH, I DO have a little something to share.
Our neighbor feeds the wild turkeys around here and now there must be 60 or 70 of them in that bunch. There is ONE hen that caught-on to my feeding Iris her grain early every morning and she started coming over to "Help Herself" when I got out there. I found it annoying and I do hate their crapping all over the place and into her grain pan.
In other words, she has created an enemy in me. And she is crafty and devious about it, too.
SO, it is WAR.
Right now, I am WINNING!!! Stay tuned.
Visit our Lucky Three Ranch WEB STORE to view or purchase Bonnies art and apparel.
And visit Bonnie's website to find out more about the Wild and Wonderful World of Bonnie Shields,
Tennessee Mule Artist, Cowboy Cartoonist and True Artist!
Stories from the Saddle: Cori & Coleten
Cori's life was changed in more than one way on the day eleven years ago when her four-year-old son, Coleten, was first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. When she went to drop off the diagnostic report at Coleten’s preschool, the occupational therapist on-call happened to be Liz Ampe, a Hearts & Horses volunteer who would later become one of our staff members.
Liz looked at Cori and asked, “Has he ever been on a horse?”
Cori couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing. "No," she responded. "I can barely take him to King Soopers!”
Liz convinced Cori to stop by Hearts & Horses and the rest, as they say, is history. Eleven years later, Coleten still rides weekly at H&H. From that first lesson, when he was terrified to get on the horse, to today, Coleten has made tremendous gains in his communication skills, confidence, emotional regulation and his riding abilities.
Liz Ampe has worked with Coleten for the entire time that he’s been at H&H, and his sidewalker, Phil, and horse leader, Bianca, have been with him for nearly nine years as well.
“The fact that there’s been the same people on his treatment team has been transformational for him and for us,” Cori says. "To have people he can count on to be there and see how far he’s come – that’s huge for any kid, but especially kids with special needs.”
For Cori and her husband, Hearts & Horses has become more than a place they can take Coleten for lessons. It’s become, in her own words, “an extended family.”
This family includes four-legged members! Coleten has been riding with our Gypsy Vanner horse, Varsity, for nearly eight years now. In that time, Varsity has formed an indelible bond with not only Coleten but also Cori.
“Varsity is so attuned to not only his rider but also the people around them,” she says. “He can pick up on my stress and anxiety as well as Coleten’s.” You only have to be around Cori and Varsity for a short while to see how palpable their connection truly is.
Over the years, Cori and Coleten have formed many unforgettable memories at Hearts & Horses, but one sticks out in her mind particularly. Recently, Cori was able to get special permission to ride Varsity herself, and Coleten got to act as horse leader. For once, he was able to guide her rather than the other way around. It was an unforgettable experience for everyone on the team, but especially for the two of them.
At Hearts & Horses, we provide hope and healing for not only our participants but also those who love them. We are so grateful for Lucky Three Ranch for helping to move mountains for families like Cori and Coleten!
“There’s always hope. Ask for help, even when you think it’s hopeless.”
Leila Einhorn, Communications Manager
Hearts & Horses - 163 N. CR 29 - Loveland, CO 80537
Phone: (970) 663-4200 x 307 www.HeartsAndHorses.org COVID-19 Updates
Hearts & Horses is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and we are proud to be a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center
Give the Gift of Joy and Healing
Through an incredible depth and breadth of programming, Hearts & Horses impacts every life we touch. Support the wonderful effects of therapeutic riding for individuals by supporting Hearts & Horses
Ever feel like the roller coaster has by-passed the station and just keeps going? That's one of the definitions of animal ownership, right? If you have everything perfect, then something happens out of the blue: a horse gets a hoof stuck in the fence, a limb drops on the barn, the hay blows away in a raging wind storm, or the tractor is stuck axel deep in mud!
Some days, it hardly seems worth dragging yourself out to feed, but then you stop and take a moment and smell the hay. The odor that a horse/donkey/mule has. They whuff at you, point those big soft ears and eyes your way, and some of that tension just goes away.
Two weeks ago we had to put down our last longear, Rabbit the donkey. He was 29 years old, and just told us he was old and tired. That's the hardest part about owning animals, making that decision. But we made that promise to them, to keep them in good health and as free of pain as possible. We made sure he had a full tummy, lots of hugs and ear scratches. Over 40 years of having equines, more than 30 of that with Longears, and it still hurts. We guess that might be why we were sent a starving kitten to care for... the world moves in mysterious ways.
Through all the ups and downs, good times and bad, ADMS remains here, 56 years strong, to be able to register your longears and give help in general. We hope that in pairing with Meredith and her invaluable knowledge, we can help to continue to educate people around the world about the donkeys and mules that have been our sidekicks, servants and friends for thousands of years.
Take that moment to give your critters an extra hug and pat, then take a few minutes to put your feet up, breathe, and enjoy a glorious sunset.
Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS
The Am. Donkey & Mule Soc. | PO Box 1210, Lewisville TX 75067 | (972) 219-0781. | Newsletter: the BRAYER magazine 76+ 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 http://www.lovelongears.com/main.htm