For general posts to go under LTR blog
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.
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.
Lucky Three Ranch knows a thing or two about elderly equines—miniature mule Lucky Three Franklin just celebrated his 40th birthday on April 1, and we’ve been happy to celebrate many of our other equines through their 20s and 30s.
That’s why we’re very happy to acknowledge Tootsie, a resident of the wonderful Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland, who is an incredible 54 years old—making him one of the oldest mules ever. The Donkey Sanctuary rescued Tootsie in 1992, and he is part of their “Super Grannies” group of equines that are all over 30 years old, who receive special treatment, feed, and love from the Sanctuary’s volunteers.
Curious about other historically aged equines? Longears have the opportunity to live particularly long lifespans, so there may be many out there, but here are a few we know about: Suzy, Rosie and Eeyore, donkeys who lived to be 54; Flower, who is believed to have reached the age 70; and Joe, a 45-year-old full-sized mule from Colorado Springs who’s still around today.
Wishing well to all of these sweet seniors!
It’s always great to hear from people who have used our training materials successfully with their equines, so we loved getting an email recently from Becky of Becky’s Homestead, showing off a video of her formerly hard-to-catch mules, Emma and Charlie. Using Meredith’s methods, the mules now come to the gate and exit quietly, and turn to Becky to await further instructions—no chasing required.
Becky writes: “I love your method because you don’t have to be a tough, roping cowboy to train your problem mule. I also really like that you say people need to train their own mule so they develop a relationship. I have seen it countless times, where someone sends their horse or mule out to a trainer and the animal is perfect for the rough, tough cowboy or cowgirl trainer—then it goes home to the middle-aged woman and acts the same old way. Bottom line, there is no short cut to developing a good relationship with your animal.”
One of the keys to Becky’s success was that she did not try to modify or rush the exercises, and did them exactly as laid out in the training program. Although it can be tempting to quickly move to more advanced lessons, like riding, your equine needs to build those skills—and muscles—on the solid foundation provided by beginning training. And as Becky experienced, these methods can produce amazing results!
Years ago, I believed that all I needed to have an equine was a halter, bridle and saddle, a water bucket and a patch of grass with a fence around it. I didn’t even think about shelter until much later when I finally decided that a garage would do. I now know that there is a lot of responsibility in taking care of equines and that it is an ongoing learning experience. Like most of us, I was a little lazy and wanted shortcut ways to deal with my equines so I could get right to the pleasure of riding. After many heart wrenching experience, I discovered that I did not have to be overwhelmed with management and training responsibilities, just more organized and practical. Finding simple, logical and appropriate answers to management and training questions became my mission.
Mules and donkeys, contrary to popular belief, are sensitive to colic and founder when left on pasture. They can develop fat rolls and patches all over their bodies when allowed to graze freely. This eventually will become a very expensive and potentially devastating condition if left unattended. Muzzles have been developed to keep equines from grazing too voraciously and hopefully, this can prevent the incidence of colic and founder, but I can’t help but think that there will be a certain amount of frustration involved when using such short cut devices that can manifest itself in other areas of interaction with your equine. The animal will take to the muzzle because there is a reward of grazing to follow, but to be prevented from fully enjoying their grazing has to be frustrating at times.
Beyond the incidence of possible frustration is the simple threat of them getting the muzzle caught on something with no one around to help them if they do get caught on anything. One of my strictest safety rules is to never leave a halter on an unsupervised animal for the same reason. I have seen too many animals maimed, paralyzed and even killed by leaving anything around their neck and head.
The muzzle encircles the delicate muzzle of the equine where the skin is very thin and sensitive. The lips can become scabby and sores can develop on the tongue.
A muzzle can chafe and burn these sensitive areas with prolonged use and create a very sore mouth. Again, if they do get sore, using a bit can become painful and cause resistance in training.
It is easier to employ simple management practices to keep your equine healthy and happy. Your equine should be kept in a smaller area for evening feedings, overnight and for morning feedings. This has several benefits: 1) Each animal can be checked every day for any injuries or anomalies, 2) He will not have to fight for his food, he can sleep uninterrupted and be more calm and fresh each day, 3) You will then be able to turn him out at specific times for grazing during the day and he will willingly come back from the pasture each night. This way you can monitor his grazing intake so he will not be able to overgraze and colic, or founder, 4) the smaller area affords you a confined space for beginning training so there is no need to chase him, or be interrupted by other animals.
If you feed only grass hay in the mornings and feed his oats mix in the evenings with grass hay, you can monitor his pasture time easily. In the spring when the grass is growing and very rich, you can begin to turn him out an hour before feeding time and he will happily come back in to get his evening oats. Then add an additional hour each week to slowly accustom his digestive tract to the new grass until you have worked him up to a maximum grazing time of five hours. This will generally produce a healthy, happy animal of any age that can maintain his ideal weight and body condition.
When you feed only grass hay in the mornings, he will look forward to his lessons with you and be waiting at the gate, knowing there are oats rewards to be earned. What your animal is eating can have a direct impact on his response to training. Many feeds can cause hypertension in Longears (and horses, too!) and an inability to focus for any length of time. Mules and donkeys require a lot less feed than horses because they are half donkey and donkeys are desert animals. Too much feed or the wrong kind of feed and you run the risk of colic, or founder.
We feed an oats mix to our average sized mules of 1-2 cups of crimped oats, 1 oz. of Sho Glo vitamins (by Manna Pro) and 1 oz. Mazola corn oil (for hooves, coat and digestive tract regularity). The oats must be broken open in some way (crimped, steamed, rolled, etc.) as equines cannot digest whole oats. We feed this once a day in the evenings, grass hay twice a day and we monitor weight gain with the hay and pasture intake. Miniatures get one fourth as much of the oats mix and grass hay, and draft animals will need twice as much. Do not alter or modify this with other products in any way for the best results.
Also, make sure they have access to a trace mineral salt block for their salt and mineral needs. We worm our equines with Ivermectin in January, March, May, July and September and then break the cycle with Strongid in November. We vaccinate in the spring and fall. Consult your veterinarian for the types of vaccines you will need for your area. You should never feed Longears (donkeys, or mules) any pre-mixed sweet feeds, or products high in alfalfa. This is actually a very easy and inexpensive way to manage the feeding and grazing of your equines without the worry of muzzles. It’s just a matter of getting into this healthy routine.
Meredith is pleased to have contributed an anecdote to the first edition of a new book series featuring humorous, equine-related stories called Horse Tales for the Funny Bone, Volume 1. The tales were collected by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert at Whitehall Publishing, who also put together the Horse Tales for the Soul series. Horse Tales for the Funny Bone features stories about all breeds, all styles of riding, and all age groups—60 in all. This book is sure to brighten your day and put a smile on your face, and makes the perfect gift for all the equine lovers in your life! Also, the book will be used to help fundraising efforts for therapeutic riding centers. Get your own copy of Horse Tales for the Funny Bone, Volume 1, here!
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, artist Lauren Bon, in collaboration with Metabolic Studio and the LA Department of Water and Power, is retracing the steps of the aqueduct’s original construction, from Owens Valley to LA–with a 100 mule pack train. Their journey started on October 18, and the convoy is expected to arrive at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Griffith Park on November 11, with stops along the way at the Lone Pine Rodeo Grounds, Jawbone Canyon, and the Hansen Dam.
The mules are being cared for by Jennifer and Lee Roeser, who run the McGee Pack Station in the Eastern Sierra range, and who received the “Most Honored Packers” award at Bishop Mule Days in 2010. They are utilizing one wrangler per 10-mule string, with about 35 people total on the support staff and 10 support vehicles to supply the mules with food, water, gear, and medical care.
The pack train will be passing through three counties and over 50 California communities before reaching their final destination. It’s appropriate that this project will be sharing and celebrating mules’ contributions to the country, especially in anticipation of Mule Appreciation Day on October 26.
For more information, check out the LA Times article about the project.
(Equus africanus asinus, to be exact!)
This is a special entry by Phil Yellott, owner of Romulus, who has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Donkey.
Cara and I wanted to get a couple of donkeys for guard animals. We saw a couple of mammoth donkeys on Craigslist, who were very skinny and underfed. We contacted the owner, and were able to negotiate a price so we could get them. We named them Romulus and Remus after the legendary founders of the Roman empire. Romulus is 9 years old, and his little brother Remus is 7.
The two brothers are very close, most of the time it is like having one donkey with eight feet! We love them very much. We have been working very hard to get them healthy. We contacted the American Donkey and Mule Society (ADMS) about whether they were registered, and were told that if they were as tall as we thought, that they might be a candidate for the world’s tallest donkey. After researching the record, we saw that Oklahoma Sam was 15.3, and it seemed like Romulus was a good bit taller than that.
At about 3:30 PM on Friday, February 8th, 2013 at 4C Stables, Dr. Valerie Jaffe, D.V.M., measured Romulus three times, each time finding his height to be 17 hands, or 68 inches tall. This is 172.72 centimeters in height.His brother Remus was also measured, and he was measured at 16.2 hands, 66” in height.
If you would like to have them at your event, please contact us. -Phil
Size: 17 Hands (68 Inches, 172.72 CM)
Weight: about 1200 pounds
Breed: American Mammoth Jackstock
Proud owners of Romulus and Remus
3708 Ovilla Rd.
Red Oak, TX 75154
Mules and donkeys have a way of bringing folks together no matter where you are from. Here are our friends from Criadero Villa Luz in Colombia riding in the Cabalgata feria de las flores parade on their lovely Paso Fino mules, with friends from the British Mule Society. There were 8,333 horses and 1,600 mules in the parade–wow!
We are very excited to announce that our gorgeous revised edition of Training Mules & Donkeys has won the GOLD medal in the Pets & Animals category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on the book, and it’s great to see it being recognized. Many congratulations to our hardworking staff and to the longears that inspired the book!
Very little has been written about Hinnies–most of the time it is unfavourable comments and myths due to lack of knowledge about them. Until now, very few people have bred Hinnies because of speculation about their size and behavior; they are said to be very small and difficult. Typically a breeder or a farmer may only have one Hinny and several mules; consequently his opinion is based on limited experience.
A Hinny is a domestic equine hybrid that is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. It is similar to the more common mule, which is the product of a female horse and a male donkey.
Most of the times Hinnies are the result of an accident, which is why they are less common than mules and there is a lack of information about them.
At our Stud Farm, Villa Luz, in Colombia, South America, we have been breeding mules and donkeys for more than fifteen years. There has been a big demand for our Paso Fino male donkeys (Jacks) to produce gaited mules through the years. But we were left with many female donkeys (Jennies), and nobody would buy them to produce mules even though they have the same good genetics and Paso Fino gait of their brothers. So we thought, let’s breed Hinnies–and the project began! This was twenty months ago.
First we selected twelve of our beautiful female donkeys (Jennies), 13 hands height average, with good womb and physical conformation. Then we needed a horse, so we bought a three and a half year old Paso Fino stallion and called him Romero. He is 14 hands. But it wasn’t easy; he didn’t like the Jennies to start with. This is normal, as horses prefer mares and donkeys prefer Jennies. But with much patience and after three hours waiting, Romero finally went for his first Jenny. Now he loves his harem of twelve, four of which have given birth to beautiful Hinnies and six are pregnant! So we expect to have at least ten Hinnies at the end of this year.
Hinnies are thought to be smaller because female donkeys are, for the most part, smaller than mares, but like mules, Hinnies come in many size–it depends on the size of their dam and also the sire.
Female donkeys range from miniatures to Mammoth Jennies that may be over 15 hands at the withers. At Villa Luz farm the Jennies are 13 hands average and the horse stallion is 14 hands so we are expecting the Hinnies to grow around 14 hands in height.
We now have four Hinnies, two females and two males: Romance, Romancera, Ronaldo and Rosarito. They are seven, six, five and four months old respectively. Their mothers had good deliveries without any problems.
The pregnancy time differed a little; Romance was born after 12 months, Romancera after 12 months 21 days, Ronaldo after 11 months 19 days and Rosarito after 12 months and 23 days. The pregnancies of Jennies are normally longer than mares.
We do the imprinting process as soon as they are born; it allows us to mould their personality and make them friendly and well-trained adult Hinnies!
It is said that Hinnies often have shorter ears, although they are still longer than those of horses, and more horse-like manes and tails than mules. Well, our Hinnies certainly have the ear shape of their sire–they are beautifully pointed at the top just like his, but bigger. Up until now the behavior and characteristics of our Hinnies don’t differ much from the mules, they are lovely animals. It is our goal to study Hinnies and help to understand them better.
The good news is, the Paso Fino gait has passed to the Hinnies! This gait is natural and we have seen it in our baby Hinnies shortly after birth! Paso Fino is a lateral gait, four beat footfall, which provides a constant, rhythmic cadence. The rider should not experience any bumping or jolting. They say you can carry a tray with a glass of champagne on a Paso Fino equine as they are so smooth!!
We don’t know if they got the Paso Fino gait from the sire or the dam because both have it, but we certainly will have Paso Fino Hinnies! Very smooth, intelligent and well behaved!
An article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that one-third of recreational riders are too obese for their equines, putting the animals at risk for health problems including lameness and back pain, citing a study from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
This is a big issue for equine health, as an equine expected to carry a rider that is too heavy for him can cause both physical and behavioral problems. Rules like “the rider’s weight should be 10% of the equine’s” are often used as a general guideline, but are by no means absolute–there are many other factors to consider. Below, Meredith offers her advice in how to choose the correct equine for the rider.
The maximum weight a horse or mule can carry will depend on a lot of variables. Mules and donkeys can carry proportionately more weight than a horse of the same size, because of the unique muscle structure of the animal. However, you do need to be careful about making broad generalizations. Obviously, an equine that has not been conditioned properly will not be able to efficiently carry as much weight as one who has been conditioned properly, so it is all relative to the situation. Also, the rider with better balance and riding ability is going to be easier for the equine to carry than one who is not balanced regardless of the difference in actual weight. The size of the equine and the proportion of the equine to the rider will also affect balance and carrying ability.
The amount of weight an equine can comfortably carry or pull depends on many things, beginning with the animal’s overall fitness. If he is fit, he will be able to carry more than those who are not, but conformational abnormalities will also have an effect. If he has any deviations in his bone structure (i.e. crooked legs), it can compromise how he moves and put undue stress on certain areas depending on the defect. The easiest way to test for weight tolerance is to watch the way the animal moves. If he is halted and seems to be have difficulty moving, the weight is obviously too heavy. If he is unable to trot, or is resistant to trotting, the weight is too heavy. This would be the same in harness. If he cannot move freely, the load is too heavy. So, it’s not just a matter of how old he is, but rather how he is conformed and how fit he is at any given stage of training and the weight and ability of the rider that will dictate how much he can carry, or pull. Be careful about generalizations, because there are always hidden variables to be considered.
For instance, it is commonly believed that an equine should be able to carry 10% of his weight. But if a 2000 lb. animal is carrying the 200 pounds over a back that has not been physically developed correctly, it could be very difficult for him. If he possesses more strength over his topline and through the croup, then he may actually be able to carry more than 10% of his body weight. Any additional weight (as with saddle bags) also needs to be considered. If he is weak over the topline and in his back, then he shouldn’t be carrying even a 150 lb. person, much less anything behind the saddle. The weight does need to be placed and balanced over the bearing areas and the shoulder and hips do need to be kept clear for optimum movement. Anchoring the saddle with a crupper is always a good idea to keep loads from shifting and placement and security of the foundation tack to which you secure all these things needs to be assessed as well. When you add weight to the saddle, check to see if the girth you are using is adequate to keep the saddle in place without rubbing sores on your animal’s body.
We love seeing people with great relationships with their equines, and here’s a thrilling example of what training and teamwork can really accomplish. Ray Woodside and his mule, Willie, made a great showing in the Extreme Cowboy Race at the Washington State Horse Expo–check out the video below, and thanks to Jehnet for passing it along!
Remember Chuchureña, the mule who gave birth to a healthy baby mule last September? Our friend Luzma Osorio sent us this update from Colombia, on the mule mama and her daughter, “La Bien Querida”:
I took some new pictures of the mule and her offspring last week, the baby is now three months old and she has grown a lot! They are gorgeous!!
Photos by Luzma Osorio, Criadero Villa Luz
What a beautiful, loving pair! Chuchureña truly proves that mules are good mothers, too!
An excerpt of an amazing story from a friend of Lucky Three Ranch, Luzma Osorio, on the birth of a new mule in Colombia–and her mule mother!
They say mules cannot give birth and are hostile to foals, but the mule Chucurena has proved completely the opposite. On 25 September 2011, she gave birth to a beautiful baby mule in Colombia, South America, and she is proving to be a great mother!
Chucurena is a 3 ½ year old black mule from Hacienda El Cerro in Bucaramanga. She is very affectionate, produces lots of milk and she is always looking after her baby.
This miracle was achieved thanks to the Embryo transplant technique. An eight day old embryo was extracted from a mare and implanted in the mule’s womb to develop it. Embryo transplants are a complicated process that requires synchronizing the ovulating time in both females, in this instance it was carried out by the specialized Colombian veterinarian Hector Mendez.
The embryo was from a Paso Fino Mare called La Querencia and the Paso Fino Donkey Cosaco XVI de Villa Luz. The pregnancy was 11 months and the delivery was normal with no complications. The mule knew exactly what to do and behaved as an expert mother even if it was her first time! The baby is a female and it was called “La bien querida” (The much loved).
For more information on the Criadero Villa Luz, visit their website here.