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MULE CROSSING: A Miracle For Excalibur

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By Meredith Hodges

It was the first week in December. The trees had long since lost their brilliant fall colors, the grass had turned to brown, and the air held the chill of winter. The mules, donkeys, and horses of the Lucky Three breeding farm basked in the peaceful morning sun, awaiting their morning feeding. We made the rounds, checking each animal and were surprised to come upon our jack, Lucky Three Excalibur, otherwise known as “Zee,” in a very depressed state. This was not normal for him and caused us some concern. Zee was a very special Mammoth donkey jack. His grandsire, Little Jack Horner had been famous for the production of refined, attractive and horse-like saddle mules. For years, we searched for just the right jennets to begin producing Mammoth jackstock that would carry on this tradition. However, Little Jack Horner kept producing daughters from the jennets. Finally, we bred L.J.’s three daughters to another fine jack, Blue Zebulon from the Bitterroot Mule Company and each of them had a jack colt. Lucky Three Excalibur was the finest of the three jack colts. He was tall, refined, black, and beautiful! He was the successful culmination of years of breeding research and implementation of the knowledge we gained.

zeephotosrobin10-22-130013_ccNo other was as loving, affectionate, and willing as Zee! His ground training went smoothly and he was trained to breed in hand with no difficulties. Clients were exceptionally pleased with his offspring and he went on to become a star. Zee was actually broke to ride while shooting the donkey training videos for the Training Mules and Donkeys video series. Zee’s career soared when the videos were revised for television and he obtained a starring role in the making of the Discovery Channel’s “The Ultimate Horse.” If he was born handsome, he grew to be even more magnificent. In adulthood, he matured to 15.2 hands sporting the shiniest black coat and incredibly good conformation for a Mammoth donkey.

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When I saw him standing so depressed, I thought about the years that went into his making and hoped this wouldn’t be more than a mild colic. We called our vet who came out and did a complete checkup. He said he wasn’t really sure what was going on with him, but it wasn’t colic and after a week with no change, he suggested that we take him to Colorado State Veterinary Teaching Hospital for further examination. Trooper that he was, Zee loaded easily, but it was evident that he was in distress.

cropmerzee2007-8Zee was presented to the Colorado State Veterinary Hospital in Fort Collins with a history of being off his feed for almost a week. At the hospital, they did a barrage of testing and diagnosed him with “idiopathic hematuria and interstitial nephritis.” At this point his prognosis was only fair. Physical exam findings and laboratory results revealed that Zee initially was presented with “signs of mild hematuria and azotemia (decreased renal function). His kidney enzymes were increased in his blood and he had an inflammatory complete blood count. He passed blood-tinged manure on several occasions, but this resolved itself. He was treated with antibiotics, anti-ulcer medications and intravenous fluids. Over the course of his hospitalization, his attitude and appetite improved as his azotemia improved. He was removed from intravenous fluids when his creatinine stabilized at about three.”

“Shortly thereafter, the hematuria worsened and he was urinating large amounts of frank blood. Bladder endoscopy initially revealed urine coming from both ureters, but over time, the hematuria worsened endoscopy revealed that the blood was originating from the left kidney and the right kidney was not producing much urine. A biopsy of the right kidney revealed an interstitial nephritis (inflammation) with signs of regeneration. The bleeding continued and Zee’s pack cell volume fell to 10% necessitating a transfusion.”

Back at the ranch, Little Jack Horner knew something was really wrong. My face and demeanor must have said volumes. I had been to the vet hospital everyday, spending at least an hour with Zee, brushing, massaging, talking and doing everything I could think of to keep up his spirits. He was nearly immobile, but on good days, we could take a short walk. He was so weak, even the short walks were laborious. He would stop and put his head down to consider nibbling the dried grass, but quickly gave up the effort. He would have to stop and rest after only a few steps. He had dropped over 100 pounds of body weight. It was apparent…he was dying.

croplj11-16-11-005I told Little Jack Horner that this day he would have a very important mission. He was the best choice for the blood transfusion to his grandson. L.J. seemed to understand and gave me no trouble when I loaded him into the trailer and took him to the vet hospital. When we arrived, they asked if we needed to sedate him. All I had to do was look at him to know he was going to be a trooper, too. No sedation was necessary. L.J. stood like the champion he was while they extracted pints and pints of blood from him. I let L.J. know how grateful I was for his contribution to his grandson’s health. He was quietly appreciative.

The days immediately following the transfusion, Zee seemed to improve, and then crashed again. A renal nuclear scan revealed that the left kidney was producing the majority of the urine, but that the right kidney was functional. This made removal of the left kidney impractical.

The vet hospital told me that there wasn’t much hope and that I would probably have to make “a decision.” I knew what they meant, but I wasn’t ready to give up quite yet. I believe in miracles and I also believe in exhausting every possible avenue of hope. I had but one last long shot left. I asked the hospital if they would mind if I brought in my equine chiropractor/acupuncturist, David McClain. Since there was no more they could do for Zee, they agreed. Dr. McClain treated Zee three different times at the hospital over a period of days. Zee was monitored daily for a falling hemocrit and periodically creatinine measurements and complete blood counts were performed. Zee was removed from antibiotics when his blood count normalized. On January 11, 2000, Zee’s urine no longer contained frank blood and he was observed for two more days and then discharged.

It was almost comical the day he was discharged. When I arrived with the trailer to take him home, doctors, vet techs, students and a hoard of others emerged from the hospital to see him off. It was incredible to see the number of friends that Zee had made during his stay. Each of them had tears of happiness on their faces knowing how close to death he had come.

cropzeeshrakeclinic2006We monitored Zee very closely for the next year and he steadily improved. We can really only guess what caused all this, but the most reasonable assumption would be that he wrenched his back after covering a mare, pinched the blood supply to the kidneys and caused a secondary infection. Manipulation and acupuncture by the equine chiropractor relieved the pressure and promoted healing. There was a great deal of trauma to his body and we still weren’t sure he would really make it back to normal with his kidneys being so compromised, but did make it through and was happy and healthy for several more years. You would never know he had been through so much.

Zee’s illness brought a lot of people together, sharing the things that each had to offer. If I had learned nothing, I had learned to value what others have to offer, no matter how insignificant it may seem. When we share who we are, we can create miracles. Zee shared his miracle with all of us and it resulted in the donkey training books and videos that I have produced to share with the world!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her new accredited equine university at TMDEquineUniversity.com and her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

© 2003, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: SnowPlay

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12-4-19

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MULE CROSSING: Basic Training for Foals Includes Common Sense

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By Meredith Hodges

“Imprinting” is a natural process by which an animal (most typically, when young) comes to recognize another animal or a person as a parent or other object of habitual trust. Imprinting is also the way any equine is touched when he is a foal and handled throughout his entire life. It is never too late to use imprinting with your equine, and the way you do it will determine whether or not he develops a lifelong confidence and trust in you. NOTE: Imprinting should not be utilized only when your equine is a newborn, and then never utilized again. Imprinting should continue throughout his entire life.

Equine foals must be allowed to play—running, kicking and rolling. This is how they exercise so they can grow up to be healthy adults. Like any baby or toddler, a foal cannot be expected to have perfect manners, so keep lessons short (10-20 minutes every other day at the most) and use good judgment when you are with him to avoid being kicked or bitten. If he does kick or bite while you are doing things with him, use the flat of your hand and give him a quick thump on the rump for kicking or on the side of his mouth for biting, accompanied by a loud “No!” He will probably run off, but should be able to be coaxed back verbally and fairly easily with soothing language and an offer of crimped oats. When he finally does come back to you, reward him with a nice pat on the neck, and then leave him to play. By doing this, you are letting him know that it is okay to play, but not to kick or bite. He has learned that bad behavior will elicit an unpleasant touch while his good behavior will illicit kind touch and soothing words. You can resume more serious corrective lessons later.

The most important thing to learn when training your equine is to dispense the crimped oats reward promptly and generously in the beginning of training, and only when your equine is complying (do not use anything but crimped oats for rewards). This will solidify the connection between the two of you and begin to establish a strong and mutually satisfying relationship. If, when haltered, your equine tries to pull away from you, just let go of the rope, reach in your fanny pack and offer the crimped oats to coax him to return to you. Remember not to try to progress through lessons too quickly, as this is usually what causes disobedience. Never chase your equine! Whenever at all possible, allow him to come to you of his own free will.

Before you begin your equine’s leading lessons—and during “tying” lessons—your equine should be rewarded frequently and whenever he is not pulling against the rope. This will help him to understand that he will be rewarded when the rope is loose so he is more likely to follow you when you do untie him and try to lead him. This concept is the same for each new task in each new lesson. Each time he easily complies, he should be rewarded. At this point you can move on to new lessons, but, in order to set him up for success, be sure to break down each process into small steps. Remember to always be generous with the rewards. An equine that learns to take the oats reward politely from your hand is less likely to bite you than one who has not had enough practice getting rewarded with the oats from your hand. When the correction for biting is done properly, your equine will learn not to be aggressive toward the reward and will learn to take them more delicately and gently from your hand.

If, as an adult, your equine gets too close or pushy, slap him on the side of the mouth with an open hand and a very loud “No!” Then put your hand up like a stop sign in front of his face. He should then step back or fling his head back, at which point you immediately step toward him and say, “Good Boy (or Girl),” and give him a reward for giving you your space. The next time he gets too close or pushy, simply put your hand up like a stop sign with a loud and abrupt “No!” This should be sufficient. Your equine should then be willing to back up and wait for the reward. You still need to be very consistent about when the rewards are given and when the correction is truly needed. “No” is the only negative verbal command you should ever give and should be the only word that ever denotes your displeasure so there is never any confusion (do not use any other negative verbal words or noises).

NOTE: Never leave a halter on an unsupervised equine. This is very dangerous! The halter can easily become snagged on something and can result in severe injury, a broken neck, or even death.

When thinking about the way horses, and particularly mules and donkeys learn, consider the way human children learn: They cannot accomplish many different tasks all at the same time. When tasks are not taught one by one and in a natural and logical order, confusion and failure are almost certainly guaranteed. If you want to have good results, you need to be working in a natural and logical order, with small enough steps that make sense to your equine. When training your mule or donkey, use a fanny pack filled with crimped oats, but do not offer a bucket of oats.

You should not even try to put on a halter and lead until your equine lets you touch him all over. Then you can approach with the halter. For instance, before you even halter your equine, ask him to come to you and then reward him with crimped oats when he does come. When he is consistently coming to you, the next step is to carry the halter with you without put it on him. Reward his approach toward you and his acceptance of the halter being present. Let him sniff and investigate the halter as much as he wants. Once he shows no sign of being at all bothered by the presence of the halter, you can then put the halter on him. When doing so, remember to always be polite and gentle. Reward your equine for the acceptance of the halter, and then try to loop your arm over his neck while feeding the crown strap of the halter from your left hand (from under his neck) to your right hand that is looped over his neck. This way, even if he starts to slowly move away, you can pull him back towards you with the loop around his neck and finish the process by putting his nose through the noseband of the halter. However, if he quickly jerks away, just let go of the rope. Then show him the oats and encourage him to return and try again, but do not give him any oats until he comes all the way back to your hand. Anytime he moves away, just ask him to return, but never chase him. Always make sure he comes all the way to you for his reward.

If you find that you are having difficulty during leading training, your own body may be out of good posture, causing you to take too many steps before stopping to square up. First, make sure you are in good posture. Then give the verbal command to “walk on.” Walk a straight line, pointing to where you are going with your right hand and keeping the left hand securely on your left hip. Make sure your steps mirror his front legs. Then stop, face your equine, reward him for stopping, make him stand squarely, make sure you are still in good posture and reward him for squaring up. Now just stand still for a few minutes, giving your equine time to settle and process what has just happened. Then reward him for standing quietly for a few minutes.

Next, turn and face the next direction in which you will be going, point with your right hand, give the command to “walk on,” and repeat the exercise. If done correctly, there will be many chances to hesitate a bit or stop between actions. All of these hesitations and stops will force your equine to pay attention and be ready for your next move. If you are performing each task in these smaller increments, he will be less likely to forge ahead. It will also give you the opportunity to do things slowly enough to get it exactly “right” and through repetition, your equine will be able to transform learned behaviors into automatic behaviors. If you try to hold a move too long or, on the other hand, do things too fast, your animal may not have time to properly comply, causing him to get confused, lose interest and engage in avoidance behavior.

You should not need to tug, pull or push. Just stand still in good posture when you stop and immediately stick your hand into the fanny pack and offer the reward. If you are doing all of this correctly, your equine might turn his head into your hand and swing his hindquarters around so that he faces you instead of stopping in his tracks. Not staying straight in his tracks is a temporary problem that you can fix by simply squaring him up after he has stopped and been rewarded. If he is forging ahead, one or more things are going on; either you are not doing things in small enough steps, not rewarding promptly enough to make him turn into you, or you are not using the fanny pack. These problems can be fixed by being more attentive to your own good posture and your movements, and to the times when he does cooperate. Keep lessons in small enough steps so he can be rewarded. This is called “setting up for success.”

You need to lead your equine with your left hand and shorten the lead rope, so he carries his head next to your right shoulder and cannot slip his head behind your back. He may try to walk ahead of you, at which point you can use your right hand to push his nose back into position. This will be very awkward at first and it will take time for you both to learn to do it properly. If he knows you are carrying a fanny pack of oats, he will be more apt to go in front of you than to follow you from behind or pass you, because he will be looking for the fanny pack. Again, use your free right hand to push him back into the correct position.

Without the reward, there is no incentive for him to do a task correctly, so always remember to dispense the reward promptly and appropriately, accompanied by a verbal “Good Boy!” whenever he correctly does what you ask. Do not spend more than 15 to 20 minutes every other day on lessons, as your animal can get bored and frustrated if you drill. At first, just practice “walk” and “halt.” When he has learned to stay at your shoulder, you can progress to the next step of halting and setting him up to stand squarely. Once he does this correctly, you can move on to trotting and turns. Remember—breaking the lessons into small steps, maintaining good posture and quickly rewarding will help your equine to achieve small victories because you are setting him up for success!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her new accredited equine university at TMDEquineUniversity.com and her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 2016, 2017, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Boundaries at Play with Augie and Spuds

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11-24-19

Getting down to your mini’s eye level so that he can make eye contact with you will foster good behavior and produce a willing relationship of trust between you. Learning how to begin the relationship with your miniature equine in a positive and natural way, and setting reasonable boundaries for behavior, discourages striking, jumping on you and other undesirable and abrupt behaviors that are common when working with miniature equines. The results of using this safe approach to miniature training have been amazing! My minis are always calm, happy to cooperate, play safely and continue to learn! Learn more about this gentle and effective way to manage and train YOUR mini on my website at www.luckythreeranch.com under TRAINING and in the STORE.

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MULE CROSSING: Benefit of Organizational Skills

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By Meredith Hodges

People have often asked me how on earth can only three people—my daughter, my husband and myself—manage to prepare and show as many as 18 head of mules and donkeys for one show?! They say that we must be crazy, and maybe we are a little crazy, but a few simple rules of organization have made this possible.

The first consideration is the grooming of the animals themselves. Anyone who has had to body clip an animal knows how tedious and time-consuming this can be. Mule and donkey hair does not appear to grow back as quickly, nor as radically, as does horse hair, so you can clip your mule, or donkey, as far as 2-3 weeks in advance of your show and do touch up work just before the show. If you have no shows until summer, you may want to body clip in mid-April anyway. It is at this time that the winter hair begins to shed and the summer hair starts to come in. If you clip off the winter hair and blanket him for the remainder of the spring, the hair that grows in will be much more manageable than the heavy winter hair and will greatly reduce grooming time before the show.

Once the heavier coat is eliminated, a weekly grooming will keep his coat nicely maintained. Daily grooming before a show, or every other day, is even better. Each time you groom him before riding, check and clip as needed the muzzle hairs, around the eyes and ears, and around the coronet bands. Leave the hairs inside the ears to prevent irritation from bugs and flies, but trim the outside edges and backs of the ears. An ounce of corn oil in his feed daily will assure a healthy sheen in his coat on show day without the use of artificial highlighters. Trimming, or shoeing, your mule on a regular six-eight week schedule will assure that his feet will not need attending at the last minute. A routine vaccination, deworming, Coggins testing and a permanent brand inspection will make sure he is ready for transport to any show anywhere at any time. Then, all that remains to be done right before the show is minor clipping, bathing, and polishing hooves.

Each individual mule, or donkey, should have his own personal show halter and bridle for convenience. Driving animals should each have their own set of harness. This will help to reduce the time between tack changes while at the show.

Dress rehearsals before the show at home are quite beneficial. Prepare as if you are about to enter each class, one at a time. First, pick the clothing you will need to wear and store it in a designated place in your house. You do not have to actually wear them for the rehearsal. As you pick out the items, take note of the things that need to be cleaned or polished, and set them to the side of the rest of your other clothes.

Then, tack up your animal, checking each piece of equipment to make sure that it is in working order. Go ahead and practice the class. Then, as you unpack your mule, set the tack aside from the rest in your tack room for cleaning later. Do this for each animal in each class. Your animals will do better at the show if they get plenty of rest before the show, so it is wise to spend the day before the show cleaning your tack, clothes, and equipment. Before you begin to clean, load all the items into your trailer that are all ready to go without cleaning. Then, as you clean the remaining items, load them directly into the trailer as you finish them.

When the basic gear for you and your animal is loaded, make a checklist for feed, buckets, hoses, brushes, forks, brooms, and shovels, etc., that you will need for general care, load them, and check them off. When you have finished, lay out all the items that you will need for transport (i.e. sheets, blankets, shipping boots, etc.), so they are easily available. If you proceed in this manner, the risk of forgetting any important items is minimized. It is best to make sure that your trailer is fully loaded (except the animals) the night before you leave as this gives you overnight to think of anything you might have missed. Items such as your ice chest can be left until morning, or last minute, provided that you put them in a highly visible spot with a list of what is to be put in attached. Do not try to rely on your memory, as it will be clouded by the excitement and anticipation of the show.

If you are taking a number of mules and donkeys to the show, it is wise to bathe with soap at home the day before; then, cover the animal with a sheet or blanket and leg wraps. The day of the show, you would then only need to rinse, or vacuum, any excess dirt. This will minimize grooming time at the show.

Post the show schedule where you will be tacking up for each class and organize your clothing and equipment such that it is ready to go and easily accessible. Once the show actually begins, you will not have time to go hunting for misplaced items. Take note of your clothing changes and wear things that are easily changed. For instance, if your Western classes are before your English classes, you can wear your breeches underneath your Western slacks and chaps. Changing from English attire to Driving and Side Saddle attire is easily done by wearing your English clothing, then, simply change your headgear and add a lap rug for driving, or an apron for Side Saddle. Changes of your boots are pretty much optional, as English boots are easily hidden beneath properly fitting Western chaps and are appropriate footwear for English, Driving and Side Saddle.

If classes are spaced fairly close together and you are using more than one animal, it is wise to tack up the other animals ahead of time so they are ready to go. If you are using only one saddle for more than one animal, the other animals can still be bridled with the halter slipped over it, so they can be tied and waiting. Be sure to tie up the reins so they will not be chewed or stepped on. If you are using the same mule throughout the show, tacking and stripping should not be too time-consuming if your equipment is well organized.

Shows should be fun and exciting, but it can easily turn into a nightmare when things are out of place and chaotic. Make your motel and stabling reservations early and leave for the show well ahead of schedule to allow for breakdowns or other unforeseen emergencies. By all means, bring friends to help you, but give them a briefing and a list of jobs they can do. They won’t be much help if they have to keep asking what to do the day of the show! If you are going any distance at all, have your truck and trailer checked over thoroughly before you leave. There is nothing more frustrating than a major breakdown on the roadside with a trailer full of animals!

In summary, with routine grooming, farrier care, vet care, regular Coggins testing during the show season and permanent brand inspections, you can greatly reduce your show preparation time. Dress rehearsals, individual tack for each animal and organized loading will assure that all your tack and equipment will be readily available. Advanced motel and stabling reservations will afford you and your animals much needed rest when you arrive. Having your truck and trailer checked before you leave will make sure that you arrive in plenty of time. And, organization of tack and equipment when you do arrive will heighten the chances for an enjoyable and relaxing show!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 1991, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Quality Time With Augie and Spuds

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11-15-19

Miniature horses, donkeys and mules all have one thing in common; everyone else is taller than they are! As the saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul so it is understandable that they would become anxious if they are unable to look into a person’s eyes to decide whether they are friend or foe. With safety always as my first priority, I work with my minis from a lower position whenever it’s safe to do so. That way, I can make eye contact with them, and I make certain they are always lavishly rewarded with an oats reward for their compliance. You can make fun of me if you want to, but another thing that is important is the way you talk to them. Baby talk INVITES their interest where a perpetually firm voice, or a clicker, does not invite the same kind of intimacy. The results of using this safe approach to miniature have been amazing! My minis are always calm and happy to cooperate and learn! Learn more about this gentle and effective way to manage and train YOUR mini on my website at www.luckythreeranch.com under TRAINING and in the STORE.

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How a Sturdy Mule Triumphed Over 198 Champion Horses in the Great American Horse Race of 1976

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We hope you enjoy this intriguing and inspiring article that was submitted by one of our contributing writers, Tara Edwards, Trimepil:

Leroy (left), Virl Norton and Lady Eloise pose for a photo. Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Endurance Riders.

Sometimes, miracles do happen. Such was the case in the not so distant 1976, when a proper underdog proved to be better than the competition. The competition being over 198 champion horses who were gunning for the title. A simple mule came out on top when put against some of the most treasured horses from all over the world.

But was this outcome truly miraculous, or was it a result of something else? Could this result be predicted? Let’s find out.

The Setup

In the days when America enjoyed their two hundred years of independence, the beauties of the country were put on display. Simple celebration of the country and its treasures wasn’t quite enough though, because patriotism reached its peak and had to be expressed properly. This lead to the organization of a few very interesting and unique events. One of these events, or setups was the Freedom Train. This train was practically a museum which moved along on the railways. It went through 48 states on its journey across the state, allowing millions of people to see it and enjoy its presentation. Another kind of event that took place often in these times were nautical parades. Some of the most fascinating and biggest ships, along with their smaller partners set out and traveled along the coastline, all the while carrying large patriotic flags. Love for the country and its freedom didn’t end there, every company that could, tried their best to express their unwavering loyalty to the flag. Railroad companies decided to paint their entire trains into red, white and blue so that state flags could go all around the railroads, bringing joy to any who see them.

Amidst all this commotion, a competitive event took place. One which allowed anyone with a couple of horses, $500, and a resolute adventurous spirit to try their luck. The Great American Horse Race, as it was called, was brought to life by a pair of horse loving salesmen, Chuck Waggoner and Randy Scheiding. The prize was pretty generous, reaching $25,000, but that wasn’t the greatest motivation for most competitors. This was a chance to prove the worth of a horse, and to gain fame and reputation. But to achieve that, one would have to travel 3,500 miles over fourteen weeks across America on the back of their trustworthy steed. Some of the trails the contestants would experience were the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express Trail, and the Donner Party’s doomed journey. This journey presented a unique possibility to get familiar with the wild beauty of 13 states up close while enjoying a bit of healthy rivalry against the opponents.

The Competition

This race turned out to be very appealing and fascinating, attracting people from all over the world, not just America. Such a result wasn’t surprising though, because this competition was in fact a chance for horse breeders of all sorts to demonstrate their horse’s worth, beauty and uniqueness. Over 90 teams applied (each allowed two horses), most of them hoping and believing they will prove that their horse was indeed, the best of the best.

Of course, some were in it just for fun, having entered without much hope of winning. Others were really serious about the race, bringing treasured horses with great heritage behind them. From 18 year old singer, to 69 year old horse trader, with pediatricians, students, cowboys, nurses, and at least one university president, they all tried their luck on this race.

The only Russian Orlov stallion in America, called Nature’s Ballet, descendant from a horse that belonged to Nikita Kruschev entered the race, being ridden by one Californian. Iceland  sent over ten Viking high born horses to compete, but only after they had altitude training in San Francisco. France sent over a dozen horsemen dressed like Marquis Lafayette’s soldiers. Competition came from Australia, Denmark and even Japan, all believing that their horses would came out on top.

The Feat

One contestant was a bit different than the rest because he did not come with horses that were high born or had great descendants. All rides were allowed to enter the race with two horses, one being a backup horse in case the main steed couldn’t ride anymore. Virl Norton, a 54 year old steeplejack from San Jose, California, decided that both of his horses would be his loyal mules. He considered them precious just as much as any other contestant considered their horse to be special. With great confidence, he entered the race strongly believing that his mules were the most adequate choice for this exhausting long race. Norton was a kind hearted man, with no grudges with the other competitors. A few days before the race, he gave his second mount, Deacon, to a contestant whose horse got injured.

The race was unbelievably demanding, burning through 18,000 horseshoes in total. Despite the slow pace and the obligatory vet checks every 10 miles, some of the main mounts went lame and were swapped for the backups. Some of the backups also went lame.

Most riders considered Norton an honorable man because he wouldn’t think twice about helping other contestants when they had troubles. He let people take photos with his mule Leeroy and he’d make up the time lost by skipping water stops. Leeroy was considered a puppy dog mule due to his calm temper and composure. After some time, Norton’s backup mule Lady Eloise suffered an injury and had to withdraw from race, but Leeroy and Norton kept riding, taking it slow and easy during their journey.

Norton was the 31st rider to pass the finish line, but that didn’t mean he was far from victory. In fact, Leeroy even flapped his ears as they reached the goal, celebrating their success long before the results came out. After the judges calculated the total score of all contestants by measuring their riding time and applying the penalties, the winner was declared. Norton and Leeroy came out on top with 315.47 hours in the saddle, ahead of an Arabian in second place with 324.6 hours riding time. Top ten horses were basically show steeds, with two exceptions, Leeroy and Deacon, who were mules.

Norton wasn’t surprised by this result, stating that the other horses had no chance against his mules. He took the grand prize and henceforth called himself The Great American Horseman. Lord Fauntleroy, which was Leeroy’s full name, was known as The Great American Horse after that.

Sometimes the underdog is in fact the favorite, but only they know that. Norton and Leeroy proved that.

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From the SWISS BULLETIN: The Mule as a Workhorse in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

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By Elke Stadler

The history of mankind is closely connected with the use of the working force of animals. Animal power was of special importance in transport and traffic – before motorization it was the only available movable driving force, almost at any time and versatile. What people themselves could not wear or pull; oxen, mules, horses and donkeys carried or pulled. In the past, despite their essential importance for working life and the economy, the working animals were hardly noticed in literature.

The work of the animals was so natural to the people of that time that it was not considered necessary to describe their characteristics or the circumstances of their use for people in more detail. Thus, in historical scriptures, animals appear even rarer than slaves and farmhands; they stand at the end of the hierarchy of values and remain mutely. But there is much to be learned from the late antique veterinary writings about their living conditions. The “Mulomedicina Chironis” – the most significant surviving ancient scripture about medical treatment of equids – was used until the Middle Ages and, as copies prove, further into the late Gothic period.

Cattle and Horse

At that time, cattle were the most important draft animals, less for meat production, and milk was also of little importance. Cattle were mainly used in agricultural traction work or heavy transports with wagons. Oxen were indispensable for long-distance transport. No person, no matter how much they preferred mules, camels or even elephants, could do without cattle. They were much less demanding of food and care than the sensitive horse, which was expensive to keep. The mule took a special position because of its outstanding qualities. Horses are hardly mentioned in the old writings as draft animals for heavier loads. Mostly, they were used for light wagons. Horses were the mount of the high-ranking men, both civilian and military, and also served as a pack animal.

The most important limitation of the horse’s work in the draft service was technical difficulties. The shoulders of the horse protrude only very little, thus, the use of a shoulder yoke becomes impossible; the animal must pull with a neck harness, or a yoke sitting very high at the neck. In this way, the draft-horses and mules are represented also on Roman reliefs. Larger loads were not possible since they strangled the breathing of the animal with this tension. So, the animal could only use a small part of its body weight for pulling. The collar was unknown in Antiquity and late Antiquity, it was used for the first time in the Middle Ages.

Mule Breeding

In ancient times the mule played a special role in transport and traffic. On the road, it is the most popular draft animal due to its optimal characteristics. Although it is weaker than an ox, it is much faster than the ox. At the same time, a mule requires less food and care than a horse. It is also easier to use because of its general calmness. Thus, mule breeding yielded more profit than the usual breeding of medium-value horses. Their value was even compared to that of noble racehorses.

High quality mares were used for breeding at the age of four to ten years, and donkey stallions between three and ten years. We can read that the Arcadian or Reatic donkey stallions should be preferably black or spotted, but not of grey color. Onagers, Asian wild donkeys, were also used for mating. Particularly appreciated were donkey stallions descended from a donkey that had been mated by an Onager. The wild nature was then broken and the begotten animal possessed the tameness of the mother as well as the dexterity of the Onager. The one-year old foal was separated from its mother and kept on rocky, mountainous terrain, so that it got hard hooves as a condition for profitable use in transport.

Use of Female and Male Mules

Female animals were used primarily for pulling wagons because of their agility, while male mules were used to carry loads. Various documents show this division for different purposes. Emperor Serverus Alexander gave his provincial leaders six female mules, two male mules and two horses. It is obvious that the female mules were intended for specific use as draft animals, the male mules as pack animals and the horses for mounts. The female mules were reserved for pulling which is evident from the fact that they were normally traded as a team. If one had a flaw, the seller had to take back both animals. It was especially popular when all the animals in front of a cart had the same color. The veterinarians gave recipes for dyeing the hair of the draft animals when it was not appropriate. To make white hair black, three ‘scripula’ (Roman unit of weight) cobbler’s blacks, four ‘scripula’ oleander’s juice and some goat fat are mixed, crushed and then applied. To make black hair white, a pound of wild cucumber root and twelve ‘scripula’ soda are crushed into powder, a cup of honey added, and then applied.

Most mules were not used as valuable draft animals in private passenger transport, but in public transport by rental car companies or by cargo. The provisions of Codex Theodosianus (late antiquity collection of laws) the ‘cursus publicus’, can give an approximate impression. Two car types are mentioned, the four-wheeled ‘raeda’ and the two-wheeled ‘birota’. The ‘raeda’ was fitted with eight mules in summer and ten in winter, 1000 pounds could be carried. When used by people, this corresponded to seven to eight passengers. For the ‘birota’ on the other hand, three mules and a maximum load of 200 pounds were prescribed, for a person’s use, this was two passengers. 

Adventure by Road

The journey with such public transport was accompanied by wild screams, whip cracks from a drunken coachman and clouds of dust, reports a letter writer named Eustathios: A trip with mules that were boisterous by doing nothing and feeding too much he avoided – and prefered to walk.

Cross-country journeys were quite risky, as Roman poet Vergil describes, especially because of the daring overtaking maneuvers of competing truck owners. But sometimes a driver had to go under the yoke himself when a mule had got stuck in the mud of the soaked and crushed road. During overtaking maneuvers on the narrow country roads there was damage to the gravestones on the roadside, as an inscription proves. This also shows that mules were used in long-distance traffic to Gaul. Emperor Julian tells about the dangers on narrow Alpine roads, to which both passengers and draft animals were exposed, so does a rock inscription for remembering a road construction from the year 373 A.D.

In the Jungle of Cities

In the mostly narrow cities, the mule-drawn heavy wagon traffic caused great difficulties. Since the early imperial period, carriage traffic and riding in the city during the first ten hours after sunrise were therefore forbidden. Trips in connection with construction measures were permitted, and these were already enough to endanger the lives of pedestrians on the roads with their big wagons and high stacked loads.

A case story, described by a lawyer, shows what could have happened. Two mule-drawn ‘plaustra’ (load carts) drive up the Capitol slope in Rome. The mule leaders of the first one are pressing against the ‘plaustrum’ so that the mules could pull easier. However, the first carriage begins to roll back anyway, and the mule drivers jump out between the carriages. The first team then rolls onto the second, which now also rolls down backwards and crushes into a boy. The lawyer blames the leader of the first carriage for this accident, as he would be responsible for the overloading of the first carriage. Such incidents were as other sources show not uncommon.

Medical Care

This hard use of mules in driving is reflected in the treatment instructions of late antique veterinarians. The neck injuries caused by the yoke, which Pelagonius expressly refers only to mules, are of special importance. It was recommended that in order to prevent neck injuries of mules or to heal after damage has occurred, was to use an ointment made from fresh pig fat boiled with vinegar. For injuries of the neck and back of the mules, a remedy made of boiled wax, hot resin, verdigris and oil is used. Another remedy for neck treatment is described in this way; rotting chips from the middle of a fig tree are to be dried and burned to ashes in a clean place. This is sieved and then mixed in a mortar with wine, old oil and the protein of two eggs.  To make the neck supple – this is the prerequisite for clamping it in the yoke – the neck is thoroughly washed with soap and then rubbed with a carefully beaten mixture of rainwater and protein. Mules were considered less valuable than horses or assessed to be more tolerant of injuries – such as an injury that is indicated by a crossed gait and an insecure step, where the animal trips over stones and a contracted hip.

A horse should be treated carefully and immediately to prevent major damage. However, if the suffering animal is a mule, it should first be stretched tighter in the yoke, so that sweat and pain will smash all pain. After work, it should be treated with the following remedy; twenty laurels are finely crushed with soda and heated with a handful of green rue, vinegar and laurel oil. Then they rubbed this on the center of the head between the ears, they also took a remedy-soaked piece of wool and laid it on this area. Another agent is made from barley flour and resin. These treatments are accompanied by the application of a general strengthening agent made from crushed crayfish, goat’s milk and oil.

Pack Mules

Male mules were used to carry less extensive loads in cities and agriculture because of their greater strength. The typical work was the transport of pole wood for plantations. Traders kept their mules directly in their shops. There is a case described in the Digests (scripts of ancient legal scholars) where a horse was led into a shop and was sniffing at the mule there. It kicked and broke the back of the horse’s leader. In the troop, each centurion had one such pack mule, which had to carry the heavier parts of the equipment on the marches.

 

Drudgery in the mills

Mules were often used, as donkeys and horses were, to drive mills when they were no longer usable for other services. They were harnessed with a hard grass rope in front of the mill beam, the head was usually masked. They trotted in a furrow, always pushed by blows in the circle around. The bad condition of the animals corresponded to the gruelling work. In the “Methamorphoses”, Apuleius describes that the necks were swollen of wound rot, the nostrils were flaccid and dilated from coughing and dusty air. The body was disfigured by the constant blows and mange, the feet clumped by traveling permanently in a circle. These sufferings are also reflected in the veterinary writings, but the mill animals were certainly no longer treated.

Mounts

The mule was used rarely for riding in Antiquity, it was the simpler mount. Horace (poet) illustrates a simple but also free life in this way: He could bridle a mule at any time and head all the way to Taranto, even if the loins of the animal were rubbed sore by the heavy coat bag and the sides by the weight of the rider. The veterinarians list these specific injuries caused by riding, as well as, by loads being too heavy. The wounds are treated with ointments mixed from salt, wine, oil, raisin wine, pork fat and onions. In more severe cases, blood is taken from the veins of the groin area and mixed with salt, pork fat and oil. This is applied, and if necessary, plastered with ointment. For wounded skin caused by pressures, a dough-like mixture made of fine wheat flour, incense dust, egg yolk and vinegar is applied to the sore spots.

A special feature in those times were dwarf mules, called ‘mulae pumilae’, a curious luxury object of which the roman poet Martialis ironically states, that one often sits higher on the floor.

In the Middle Ages

Although mules were regarded by the church leaders as originating from an unnatural connection, and thus had a bad reputation, the mule nevertheless experienced a great appreciation in the early Middle Ages. Since Spanish mules are a noble gift, Emperor Charlemagne sent them to Caliph Harun Rashid. Mules and their Saracen guardians were bestowed by Robert Guiscard (Norman leader) to the Abbot of Montecassino. The mule is often mentioned as a mount of clergy. Gallus, for example, uses a mule for his journey to the Swabian ducal court. Also, for the journey of Goar (Priest, later holy spoken) to the royal court, a mule or a donkey is intended. Bishop Gregory of Tours, mentions mules among the farm animals of the monastery St. Martin, which were obviously riding animals. Because of the clergy’s preference for mules, the devil – as Notker (poet and scholar) tells us he turns into a mule to tempt the bishop to buy him, seduces him and kills him on the way out. A degree accordingly acts against the excessive dealing of clergy with mules. Of course, mules were often used as pack animals in the early Middle Ages, just like horses. Already Isidor from Sevilla (Archbishop) speaks about the ‘mulus sagmaria’ (Latin: pack mule) beside the ‘caballus sagmarius’ (packhorse). Some of the mules and horses with which the Irish bishop Marcus returned from his trip to Rome must have been pack animals as books, gold objects and robes are mentioned as transported goods. In the Vita Hludovici (anonymous biography of Louis the Pious) mules are also mentioned beside horses, working a mission as they transported ship parts through the woods. Mules are also considered a pack animal in custom regulations.

The existence of humans and the development of all processes, political and social, were marked by the importance of the working animals, not only in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also far into modern times. In the beginning it was mainly cattle that carried the workload. Over time there were shifts, the cattle were substantially relieved first in later Antiquity by the mule. Finally, in the Middle Ages the horse, caused by changes in animal technology – horseshoe fittings and collar – became more universally applicable. However, the donkey’s services remained to limited use.

Excerpt from: “Animal laborans – Das Arbeitstier und sein Gebrauch im Transport und Verkehr in der späten Antike und im Mittelalter” (The work animals and its use in transport and traffic of late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages) in: L’uomo di fronte al mondo animale nell’ alto medioevo; Settimane di studio del centro italiano di studi sull’alto medievo XXXI, 1983, 2 vol., Spoleto 1985; vol.1, p.457-578 (essay monograph)

Picture references:
Official Delegation The Helvetia Float

From the SWISS BULLETIN: Opening of the Swiss National Museum in 1898

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Please enjoy this historical post about their Longears from our friends in Switzerland!

Opening of the Swiss National Museum in 1898

By Josefine Jacksch

This year (2018) the Landesmuseum (Museum of the Country) in Zurich will be 120 years old. It is the most visited historical museum in Switzerland. Since January 2011 it has been part of the Swiss National Museum. Due to an increasing lack of space, it was extended from 2013 to 2016 with a modern extension that offers space for exhibitions, a library and a lecture hall.

A “central collection of art objects” was thought of as early as 1799, but the idea failed because of resistance from the cantons, which wanted to maintain their own historical collections. In 1890, however, the Landesmuseum was founded by law and then built as a castle-like building by Gustav Gull next to Zurich’s main railway station.

On 25 June 1898, the opening ceremonies took place, including a large parade. In 20 pictures the Swiss cantons passed by with 70 richly decorated carriages, 200 riders, groups in traditional costumes and various animals. The procession was led by a “magnificent carriage with Helvetia*”, followed by a carriage with “Turica, the protector of art”. In the group of the Canton of Valais, besides horses and Saint Bernard dogs, mules also passed by.

“It’s as if the parade of the traditional costume doesn’t want to end and the impression of the pictures is still increasing. The Valais is a true gem of a group, it shows a military picture, the festive parade in the Lötschen Valley, in addition come the women from Savièse village with her strangely (gorgeous/special) beautiful type, the gentle women from the Evolène Valley with their white delicate lace bonnets under the flat hat, the women from the Illiez Valley, who wear a dark man’s costume on Sundays, the monks of St. Bernard with their dogs and wandering people, which are today in the Rhône Valley in the vineyards, tomorrow on the mountain pasture. How the lovely little one laughs, strapped to a mule in his cradle, on which the mother rides. And everything is so wonderfully real, the pictures are talking books, the enormous originality and diversity of Swiss folk life, and the people of Valais are in first place, the strange people, where cheerfulness and deep seriousness merge into the most surprising nüances.”

Sources:

https://blog.nationalmuseum.ch/en/2018/06/the-national-museums-opening-parade-in-1898/https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landesmuseum_Zurich

* Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, officially Confœderatio Helvetica, the Swiss Confederation.

 

 

Umzug In Torbel 2

From the SWISS BULLETIN: The last packer of Zermatt Belvedere

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Please enjoy this article from our friend, Josefine at the SWISS BULLETIN. Mules have made their mark helping people with their tasks all around the world and their stories are nothing short of amazing!  Loving Longears is something special that we all have in common despite our different languages. Read it, below:

The last packer of Zermatt Belvedere

Mules in the service of transport and travel in ancient times

 By Alban Lorenz

The Valais lies in the southwest of Switzerland and is our little California. This canton is known for much sun, little rain, high mountains, good wine, sweet fruits and many tourisms. The main valley with the river Rhône, which flows into the Mediterranean, has many side valleys. A great number of  mountain villages there were still without roads until the middle of the 20th century. The inhabitants had to transport everything by their own or they used pack animals (oxen or mules). Therefore, the Valais was the region in Switzerland that had the most mules until the 1960s.

Me, Alban Lorenz (*1939) and my brother Elias (*1932) grew up in Törbel, a mountain village high above the Matter Valley. At this time there were still 40 mules living in Törbel, before motorization also arrived there in the middle of the 20th century. The last mule in Törbel, Apollo, died in spring 2010, shortly before his master Bruno Hosennen. Bruno’s girlfriend, the artist Helen Güdel, has illustrated and published a children’s book about Apollo and Bruno.

After my apprenticeship, I moved to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, where I worked for the police until my retirement. Elias remained in his homeland and worked as a packer for many years. My family had his own mule. Some poorer families had to share a mule.

During the summer season some mules from Törbel were employed for transports up to mountain huts and hotels. The Hotel Belvedere in Zermatt is located high above the village at the foot of the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most famous mountain. From the very beginning, all material, drinks and food for the hotel had to been transported up there by mules. The stable for the animals was near Lake Black (Schwarzsee), right next to the cable car station, that led up from the village Zermatt.So the mules could be packed right next to the station and led up to the hotel.

Goods had to be transported every day in all weathers, and the climb took three hours. The track was well worked out and led through steep rocky terrain to the hotel.Thewaste and empties of the hotel had to be transported on the same route back to the cable car station.

Mid 50s, early 60s, Elias worked some summers there as a packer with two mules on contract for the municipality of Zermatt. The mules he worked with were his own and a rented one. I had to replace him once for two days in the summer of 1963 and was able to make my own experiences.

There were times when Elias managed the transports only with his mule Belli. So it happened that one autumn day an early onset of winter arrived. The snowfall was so heavy that a walk back to Zermatt with the mule was impossible. However, the cable car could still run. This made it possible to load the mule into the cabin and drive Belli and Elias down to Zermatt, where the cable cabin and its contents arrived without any damage.

With Belli, Elias was also active as a packer for various other transports. When the Dom Hut of the Swiss Alpine Club was constructed high above the village Randa, mules were also used. During the construction of the earlier Monte Rosa Hut, the building material had to be transported by mules from the Gornergratrailway station over the glacier to the construction site. Belli had no trouble crossing the ice.

In Saas Grund was a transport company that often received larger transport orders. Therefore, the boss had to rent additional mules with their packers in addition to his own animals. Elias and his Belli were also mostly involved.

Unfortunately, Elias couldn’t avoid unpleasant transports. Among those were dead people who were fatally injured on the mountain. Once he had to bring down the body of his best friend on a mule, who had worked as a hut keeper in the Hörnli Hut.

One autumn day I was at home in Törbel, when my brother came home from Zermatt with the mules after a long time. By chance, I looked out the window of my parents’ house and saw Belli coming up the path. When the mule saw the house, she brayed loudly and ran the last part of the way to her place in front of the stable. This observation showed me that even a mule can be happy to finally come home after a long absence. 

Photos of the Lorenz Family

In Saas Grund, in the background packer Edelbert Juon

Elias Lorenz with two mules on the way to the Hotel Belvedere

Elias Lorenz with 2 mules on the descent from Hotel Belvedere

Mule Belli with tourists in Zermatt

Parade in Törbel during a village festival in the 70s

Parade in Törbel during a village festival in the 70s 

 

Additional photos from the internet

Riffelberg walk and view on the Matterhorn ca.1950
Photo: Fernand Perret, www.mediatheque.ch

Hotel Gornergrat with packmules

Going leisurely to Zermatt with a Mule for the luggage in the olden days.

Passage of the mules, Lomatten near Saas-Fee (1800m) 1972. The man in front, Christian Lorenz, is the father of Alban and Elias. He worked also as packer.

Swiss Bulletin PHOTO Nr 1 2018

Mule Finds at Theodul Pass

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Swiss Mule Magazine 2018-1

This article is written by Elke Stadler and from my friend, Josefine, editor of the Swiss Mule Bulletin in Switzerland! Since we share a love for Longears, we like to share each other’s respective mule historical experiences with our friends and fans. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did! Thank you so much, Josefine! In the future, we look forward to more news from Switzerland in support of Longears:

The Theodul Pass

The name is derived from St. Theodul, the first known Valais bishop from the 4th century Walser German, it is called Theodul Yoke. From the 16th to the end of the 18th century it was called Augst Valley Pass (Augst = Aosta, Latin Augusta Praetoria), later, until the beginning of the 19th century, simply also called Valais Pass, then Matter Yoke. The special feature of the glaciated pass is its great height: 3,295 m above sea level (as of 2009). It is located in the Valais between the Matterhorn and the Breithorn. The pass, which crosses the border between Italy and Switzerland, connects Zermatt in the Matter Valley with Breuil-Cervinia in Valtournenche.

No other Alpine pass of comparable importance is higher than 2,900 m above sea level. The Theodul Pass has always been an important crossing point in the Valais Alps. A stone axe found in 1895 comes from Brittany and dates back to the Neolithic period (4000 to 3500 BC). It suggests that the pass was already in use at that time. Near the top of the pass, a Roman coin treasure dating from the 1st to 4th century AD was found. You can see it today at the Alpine Museum in Zermatt.

The Mule and the Theodul Pass

The Theodul Pass was probably commemorated with mules from the Roman period, possibly as early as the end of the late Iron Age. The oldest evidence for the use of mules in the Theodul Pass region can be found in late-medieval text sources that report on trade relations between the Matter Valley and the Aosta Valley. The “horses” repeatedly mentioned in this article can only be mules. From the early 20th century onwards, the use of the mule for the transport of goods over the Theodul Pass, represented only a rarity in view of increasingly difficult climatic conditions and the emergence of a modern transport network.

Dangerous conditions at the glacier pass 

The historic pass consists of two sections: From Zermatt to the edge of the glacier a path on the grown soil; from there to the pass, as a rule, a track across the glacier. As a glacier pass, the transition to those altitudes in which passability is highly dependent on climatic conditions is sufficient. Daily fluctuations (hard snow, soft snow), seasonal influences (summer, winter, avalanches) as well as climatic changes over the centuries have an impact here.

The crossing of such a high pass was not safe for humans and animals. In the oral tradition of the Matter Valley there are numerous stories and legends that tell of mishaps of traders or farmers accompanied by their mule. In Zeneggen, for example, it is said that a farmer who went out with two mules to get wine in Italy got caught in a storm. The mules, who are known for keeping calm in all situations, came back to the village on their own and vice versa, while the owner, who was believed dead, followed a few days later.

Mule bone finds and a whole skeleton

The mules whose bones have been found in the pass region since 1985 did not have that luck. However, its skeletal parts are direct witnesses to the important role played by the animal, which is important for Alpine culture, in the regional economy. Even though the mules are known to us as indispensable human helpers until the transport connections of the mountains, little is known about the beginning of mule maintenance in Valais.

Until the discovery of a complete skeleton on the ice surface in the eastern area of the Upper Theodul glacier in autumn 2013, bone remains, i. e. individual fragments, were salvaged exclusively from the areas cleared of the ice. Most of the pieces come from the eastern edge of the Upper Theodul Glacier. From 1985 to 2013, 247 equine bones were collected, including 122 pieces belonging to the same individual.

At archaeological sites, remains of the bones of equidae are a rarity, and their identification also fails due to the extreme difficulty of distinguishing donkeys, horses and their hybrids (mules) from skeletal parts, which are usually isolated and fragmented. With the exception of the fully preserved mule skeleton discovered in 2013, every single piece of bone remains discovered in Valais was definitely assigned to a hybrid. The discovery of the complete skeleton can therefore be regarded as the first reliable evidence of mules in Valais. The Upper Theodul Glacier, was systematically prospected for the first time in 2010. This is part of a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation for the archaeological study of glaciated pass crossings between Valais and Italy.

In autumn 2015, the youngest find, belonging to a mule, was found in the interesting search area like a brown jellyfish on the ice: woven cords of a mule saddle sewn into a fine piece of leather. What will the melting glacier release in the coming years?

The archaeological discovery of the Theodul Pass is inseparable from the retreat of the Upper Theodul Glacier and the alpine, and tourist development of the Zermatt Alps from the second half of the 19th century onwards. Many objects were accidental findings of tourists. The oldest finds date back to Roman times. The numerous mule bone finds bear witness to the movement of goods and persons, which is regularly mentioned in textual sources. Up to 10,000 year old finds, in the immediate vicinity of the Theodul Pass and the Upper Theodul Glacier, indicate a prehistoric ascent of the pass. In the future, a more targeted archaeological investigation of the Theodulpass area will be possible thanks to the research project of the University of Freiburg i. Ue., which was completed in 2014 and calculates archaeological suspected find areas.

An ice free mule saddle made of cords and leather.

Sources: Mules and rock horses: animal bone remains, In: Providoli S., Curdy P. and Elsig P. (2015) 400 years in glacial ice. The Theodul Pass at Zermatt and his “mercenary”; NZZ: Glacier archaeology, stories from the freezer, Caroline Fink; www.ivs.admin.ch  ; https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodulpass

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Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere

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This article is a repost of Valerie DeBenedette‘s article at Mental Floss.  

“… the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive …”

Yes, the famed Paul Revere set out on horseback on this day in 1775 to raise the alarm that British troops were on their way from Boston to Lexington.

Revere rode about 20 miles through what is now Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Massachusetts, knocking on doors to raise people to defend Lexington. Another rider, William Dawes, was sent by another route to do the same thing. A third, Samuel Prescott, was also pressed into service. Only Prescott completed the night’s work and reached Concord; Revere was captured and Dawes was thrown from his horse while evading British soldiers, forcing him to walk back to Lexington.

It was a good ride for Revere, and it was good for the revolution. But a little over two years later, a 16-year-old girl did the midnight riders one better. Sybil Ludington rode twice as far as Revere did, by herself, over bad roads, and in an area roamed by outlaws, to raise Patriot troops to fight in the Battle of Danbury and the Battle of Ridgefield in Connecticut. And did we mention it was raining?

Sybil was the eldest of 12 children of Col. Henry Ludington, the commander of the militia in Dutchess County, New York. Ludington’s farm was a receiving center for information collected by spies for the American cause.

In April 1777, Colonel Ludington and the members of his militia were at their homes because it was planting season. But about 9 p.m. on the evening of April 26, he received word that the British were burning Danbury. The man who brought the news had worn out his horse and he didn’t know the area. Ludington needed to stay where he was to help arrange the troops as they arrived.

Who could he send? He turned to his daughter, who knew the area and knew where members of the militia lived. Sybil rode her horse from her father’s farm in Kent, which was then called Frederick. She first headed south to the village of Carmel and then down to Mahopac. She turned west to Mahopac Falls and then north to Kent Cliffs and Farmers Mills. From there, she rode further north to Stormville, where she turned south to head back to her family’s farm. All told, she rode nearly 40 miles through what was then southern Dutchess County (which is now mostly Putnam County).

Sybil spent the night traveling down narrow dirt roads in the rain with nothing but a stick as protection. To add another element of danger, there were many British loyalists in the area and more than a few “Skinners,” a word generally used then to describe an outlaw or ruffian who had no real loyalties to either side in the war. One account of her ride says that Sybil used her stick to pound on a Skinner who accosted her.

By dawn, Sybil had made it back to her family farm where the militia men were gathering with her father. By this time, the British had gone south from Danbury to Ridgefield. The militia of Dutchess County, led by Colonel Ludington, marched 17 miles to Ridgefield and took part in the battle there, which some considered a strategic victory for the American forces.

Sybil’s hard riding earned her the congratulations of General George Washington, but it seems she got little recognition for her feat after that. She married another revolutionary, Edmond Ogden, in 1784 and had a child. At one point she and her husband ran a tavern in Catskill, New York, but she spent the last 40 years of her life as a widow until her death in 1839. She is buried near the route of her ride in Patterson, New York, with a headstone that spells her first name as Sibbell.

So why do we all learn about Paul Revere in our American history courses and not Sybil Ludington? In more recent times, Sybil has received a bit more acclaim for the ride that she made—there have been books written about her, a postage stamp near the bicentennial honoring her, and even a board game where players follow her overnight path. And in 1961, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a larger-than-life statue of her on her horse in Carmel, New York.

Revere, of course, is justly honored as a man who served the Revolution in many capacities, including as a messenger and engraver (by trade, he was a fine silversmith). Perhaps his place in history was secured because he had Henry Wadsworth Longfellow serving as his publicist, with Longfellow’s famous (and famously inaccurate) poem—it leaves out both Dawes and Prescott—turning Revere into a legend. Sybil has no such fabled poem, no “one if by land, two if by sea” catchphrase. But perhaps as children we all should hear of the midnight ride of a teen with no fear.

All images courtesy Valerie DeBenedette.

 

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Compassionate Training – A Historical Example

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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017! Let’s go forward loving and learning together with our equine companions! When kindness is used in training, greatness can happen. That is the story of Beautiful Jim Key. The sickly colt was adopted by “Dr” William Key, a freed slave and self-taught veterinarian. Using his veterinary skills and training with no force, the colt grew into a healthy adult with some special abilities – he could read, write, spell, do math, tell time, sort mail, cite Bible passages, use a telephone and cash register. Together, they were seen by an estimated 10 million Americans and hailed as the “Marvel of the Twentieth Century”. Dr Key died at the age of 76, being universally praised for his service to humanity and Beautiful Jim followed three years later at the age of 23. As TIME magazine declared, “This wonderful horse has upset all theories that animals have only instinct, and do not think and reason.”

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Mules and Donkeys in the Bible

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When I posted this on Facebook about mules in the Bible…

Origins: The mule is mentioned in mankind’s earliest records. Consider this passage from the Bible: “And Absolom met the servants of David. And Absolom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the Heavens and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away.” (II Samuel 18:9). If you choose to ride a mule, you will need a good sense of humor!!!

…we were asked about mules really being in the Bible.  We sent an email to a Rabbi inquiring about the translation of the ancient Hebrew word for “mule” or “pered.” Here is the reply:

“Solomon rode on a mule (1Ki 1:38) because his father David told Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to “cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule” (v 33). This is the word for a “she-mule” (BDB, TWOT). Its three Old Testament uses are all in this passage (see v 44), referring to one mule, David’s. Solomon’s riding on David’s mule in company with David’s advisors gave a clear message: he was the successor David had chosen. Years later in secular history, female mules became preferable for riding and males for bearing burdens. That may have been a factor in David’s having this special mule. Second, an observation. David’s sons all rode on (male) mules (2Sa 13:29) and Absalom rode a mule at the end of his life (2Sa 18:9). Since a mule is crossbred between a mare and a male donkey, and since crossbreeding was prohibited in Israel (Lev 19:19), mules were likely imported (TWOT), and were thus more valued. They (along with horses, silver, and gold, etc.) symbolized the wealth that other kings brought to Solomon annually (1Ki 10:25). Third, a suggestion. The greatest reason for David’s choice of a mule rather than a horse may have been God’s prohibition for kings (Deu 17:16): they were not to multiply horses to themselves. David was careful in this. Solomon, to his own destruction, was not (1Ki 10:26, 28).”

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Dressage Mule Slate Helps Spread Awareness of Working Equines

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This is a repost from Brooke USA.

Lexington, Ky.  – November 15, 2016 – Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Vicky Busch and her mule “Slate” continue to spread awareness of the plight of working equines in the developing world and the work of Brooke USA. Most recently Slate and his young rider, Busch’s student Isabella Rodwig won their Training Level Test 3 class at the dressage schooling show at Amen Corner Farm in Folsom, LA.

Isabella Rodwig and Slate Compete at the Amen Corner Farm Schooling Show

The pair did so in style and with a nod to Brooke USA, with a large Brooke USA heart painted on the mule’s rump. Busch uses Slate’s engaging personality and the novelty of seeing him at a dressage show to educate the crowds he draws about the mission of Brooke USA. She hopes that Slate and his young rider will continue to compete in more dressage shows this year with the goal of qualifying for the USDF Region 9 Championships sponsored by the Houston Dressage Society.

Since learning about Brooke USA, Busch and her husband Eric have been generous supporters. For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of equines who work in some of the poorest communities on Earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous equine welfare challenges actively improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them. Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world.

Slate and Isabella Ready to Spread the Word About Brooke USA

Owning Slate has made the work that Brooke USA does – helping working equines including mules around the world – a cause close to Busch’s heart. She hopes that she can use the attention that Slate attracts to bring more awareness to Brooke USA, and put a personal touch on it. Busch is eager to tell Slate’s admirers at shows about the important work of Brooke USA and how they can help improve the lives of working equines around the world who are not as lucky as Slate to have such a wonderful home.

About Brooke USA

Brooke USA is a 501(c)(3) charity located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which exists solely to support the overseas work of Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare charity.  For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of horses, donkeys and mules who work in some of the poorest communities on earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous welfare challenges improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America.  Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world. To learn more, visit BrookeUSA.org.

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Laura Hermanson & “Behold the Desert” to Compete in USDF Finals

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While dressage has long-been regarded as a horse and Pony Club sport, Meredith Hodges opened the doors to mules in dressage in the United States Dressage Federation Schooling Shows in 1986. With the help of Carole Sweet and Leah Patton of the American Donkey and Mule Society in Lewisville, Texas, they were formally accepted by the United States Equestrian Federation at their convention in Los Angeles in 2004. Laura Hermanson has since taken full advantage of this amazing opportunity. In 2015, she qualified for the United States Dressage Federation Finals with her own mule, “Heart B Dyna”, that is to be the subject of an upcoming documentary. The film is titled ”Dyna Does Dressage,” and is produced by Sarah Crowe and Amy Enser, who describe it as an “Underdog story [that] follows Dyna and her owner/rider, Laura, as they defy the odds to find their place among this elite world of horse riding.” Laura Hermanson is breaking through the stigma that dressage is only for horses and ponies as was previously defined by the USEF Rulebook. Much like Meredith Hodges herself, what began as a love of horses evolved into the championing of the noble MULE, an equine ambassador that truly deserves our respect. This year, Laura is competing Behold the Desert (aka Beasley) owned by Troy and Carol Delfino of Bakersfield, California and bred by Candace Shauger of Genesis Farms in Bremen, Ohio, in the upcoming U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, November 10-13. Let’s all give our support to this amazing team!

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Breeding Letter from George Washington

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A letter from George Washington, written in 1786, was recently put up for auction by bookseller William Reese. The letter is in regards to a donkey sent to Washington’s Mount Vernon ranch for the purpose of breeding. Washington is well-known for his agricultural brilliance and for breeding the first American mule. The correspondence was written a during a breif period of retirement and a few years before Washington became president. washington-letter

Washington writes: “Dear Sir, When your favor of the first inst., accompanying the she ass, came to this place, I was from home – both however arrived safe; but Doct. Bowie informs me that the bitch puppy was not brought to his house. Nor have I heard any thing more of the asses at Marlbro’, nor of the grass seeds committed to the care of Mr. Digges. I feel myself obliged by your polite offer of the first fruit of your jenny. Though in appearance quite unequal to the match, yet, like a true female, she was not to be terrified at the disproportional size of her paramour; and having renewed the conflict twice or thrice it is to be hoped the issue will be favourable. My best respects attend [Mrs. Sprigg] & the rest of your family. With great esteem & regard, I am Dr. Sir Yr. most ob. serv. Go. Washington.”

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The History of the Missouri Mule

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The Missouri mule is a well-known symbol of American strength and perseverance, thanks to its significant contributions both within the state and throughout the country. Today, the mule still serves as Missouri’s official state animal, so the connection remains strong. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has put together a great photo slideshow about the history of these iconic equines and their role in the Show-Me State—click here to see the full slideshow!

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Prey or Predators?

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Are equines prey or predators? Although some trainers base their methods on the idea that equines should be approached as “prey,” this blog post by Sara Annon explains that the answer may not be that simple.

An excerpt:

The real lesson in this is that the predator/prey model of horsemanship is inaccurate. Rodents are prey animals. Horses are herd animals.  Their enemy is the weather (click here  and here). Horses die from hypothermia in winter, drought in summer, and starvation when grazing is scarce. Weakened animals are picked off by the occasional courageous wolf pack or lion. I say courageous because it only takes one quick smack with a hoof to break bones, and for a predator that is a death sentence.

Read The Full Post

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An Ode to Days Past, Colorado Burro Racing in Full Swing

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The following story is an excerpt from The Gazette.

IDAHO SPRINGS – Long ago before his long beard and long hair turned white, Bill Lee thought about what to be.

An oral storyteller, yes, because that, he felt, was a noble profession. That was needed in the ever- urbanizing West. But what to be?

“I decided on the mountain man,” said Lee, 67, reflecting in his log cabin, “because it was a really short-lived era in history.”

So he would go as the mountain man, fur coat and musket and all, to schools and libraries in towns up and down Interstate 70, to tell the kids about what used to happen in these mountains. And inevitably he would talk about the burro – Spanish for donkey – and he’d tell of the animal that was relied upon for toting supplies through the surrounding wilderness.

Toward the end, he would jump two centuries to the present. And he’d tell the kids about what they might decide to do with the burros one day:

Run with them.

Read the full Gazette article here.

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