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After two years, we finally finished our latest longears sculpture, a fountain called “Dreaming of Friends” by Robin Laws of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I couldn’t wait to share this with all of you! This piece was done to accommodate the twenty LTR longears (plus one miniature horse) that were not champions and did not have their own commissioned piece. We try not to play favorites here!
Tours are currently closed for the winter season, but make sure to book your visit to see the statue in person in the new year through our website.
Small figurines of the Spuds and Augie topper may be available for public purchase—please contact us for pricing, availability, and more details.
Can you believe it? A mule has made it to the US Dressage Finals! Laura Hermanson and her champion mule Heart B Dyna are heading to Kentucky to represent longears in the national competition—for the first time ever. But they are asking for your help to make it there. Here is their story in Laura’s own words:
A MULE makes it to the US Dressage Finals in Kentucky! I am Laura Hermanson and I have been training and working with mules for over 10 years. I have enormous passion for these incredible equines and believe anything is possible with them. This has been proven true! My own dear mule Heart B Dyna competed throughout the year at 3 star sanctioned shows earning scores up to 75% and qualifying for both the CDS state and USDF regional championships. We had an incredible time at the Championships educating people about mules and being able to ride along side Olympians! I was thrilled to be living my dreams, and then my dream became even greater. The US Dressage Finals invites the top two equines at each level from every region throughout the country as well as a wildcard based on scores. It all comes together for an incredible showcase of the best Dressage horses in the US. And then the unbelievable happened, Dyna and I received an invitation!!! This is the first time in history a mule has been invited to the USDF Finals! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expose people to mules on a huge national platform. I have put this together to ask for help making this possibility become a reality. Anyone that knows me is aware of how hard I work and how extremely dedicated I am to mules and the sport of Dressage. It is VERY hard for me to ask for help, but the expenses to travel across the country and attend this show are beyond my reach. I would GREATLY appreciate any financial help to make this pioneering journey possible!
Congratulations and best of luck to Laura and Dyna! If you would like to help them make it to Kentucky and make us proud, check out their GoFundMe page here.
It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our courageous and talented 34-year-old Sire-Supreme, Little Jack Horner (1980 – 2014).
He is survived by hundreds of mule and donkey offspring, leaving an amazing legacy of performance in Gymkhana events, English and Western Pleasure, Trail, Reining, Driving, Dressage Driving, Second Level Dressage and Stadium Jumping to four feet in exhibition. He was an affectionate jack with impeccable manners right to the end. On the eve of his passing, I left him standing like a statue with ears pricked and a fixed stare toward the Rocky Mountains. I glanced over my shoulder and as the sun went down, it cast a halo around his entire body as if God was beckoning him home…I knew in my heart he would not make it through the night…he will be sorely missed!
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.
When breeding for mules, a teaser stallion is needed to get the mares to show heat, as they will not show heat to the jack. In 1988, Lucky Three Ranch needed a good teaser stallion to use in our breeding program, so we began scanning the Colorado countryside for the right horse. I went out to a huge farm in Haxton that had 50 head of assorted horses on 2000 acres. The owner said I could have any of the 20 two-year-old stallions that I could catch. I strapped on my fanny pack full of oats and started walking into the field with horses all around me running away in all directions! It didn’t take long to spot the beautiful dun stallion in the herd galloping, leaping and rearing in the middle of the excited herd. I asked the owner his name and he told me, “Kip!” I hollered and showed him the oats. He immediately stopped what he was doing and began to approach me. He was a bit suspicious and a little shy, but soon came up and took the oats from my hand. “I’ll take this one,” I told the owner. I put on the halter, loaded him easily into the trailer and took him home.
A.Q.H.A. ROM registered, in his first two years here Kip received all the same kind of core muscle conditioning as the other Lucky Three equines, and at three years old began saddle training. When he was four, he became the teaser stallion for Little Jack Horner’s mares. At first, I had Kip and L.J. separated from all the other equines, but they both seemed lonesome, so I decided to see if stallion and jack could be penned next to each other. Lo and behold, my good manners training not only held true between me and the equines, but among the equines themselves as well! Kip and Little Jack Horner were both happier in each other’s company and would even play respectfully with each other over the fence. One day I came out and Kip had jumped into L.J.’s pasture and they were romping around, but clearly not hurting each other at all. I just called Kip, he came and I put him back into his own pen.
I realized then that a lot of the old stories I had heard about stallion management were not necessarily true. Eventually I had to move Little Jack Horner elsewhere during construction, and ran out of space near the other equines for Kip. But he was so stressed in this lonely living situation that he wouldn’t stop running the fence and was losing weight rapidly. I decided to reinforce the fence between a small pasture and the larger pen and pasture where we kept the mares, and put Kip in the small pasture. He calmed right down, and has been there ever since—a complete joy to be around now. Previously, he had been a little rambunctious during the teasing of our mares and the breeding of our neighbor’s mares, but once pastured next to the mares, his entire demeanor immediately changed.
No longer in solitary confinement, he appreciates the company of his girls and is not averse to leaving them to come with us upon request. His manners are always impeccable. He was trained the same way I trained the mules, and to this day, he is a perfect gentleman. I recently posted the first picture in this piece on Facebook and people seemed to think that the dangling lead rope was somehow attached to his feet, hobbling him to make him manageable. No such thing! We were doing some filming for our Equus Revisited manual and DVD and I left the lead rope on him so I could easily grab him when we were finished filming, and not have to fumble with catching him and putting on the halter. The entire film crew was in the background around him while he created his dramatic teasing segment upon command. When we were done, I just called his name and he stopped the drama immediately and waited for me to come and collect his lead rope.
Patience, kindness, respect and good manners go a long way! Your equines will mirror your demeanor and will behave in a confrontational way only if you do. When you treat the relationship with your equine as an equal partnership (with both of you taking turns being the leader), there is no end to what you can learn together and the joy of the relationship deepens with each new experience. It is not unusual for me to go out and stand between Kip and the mares while we all enjoy the “OATS FEST” and each other’s company!
Even though I know how well trained my equines are, they never cease to amaze me! I can be dog tired and know that this is the day they must be groomed, wormed and vaccinated…all thirty of them! The very thought is quite literally exhausting on occasion. Though my staff helps with maintenance doctoring what are now mostly older and geriatric individuals, I still basically train and manage all my equines by myself. When I am tired and a job must be done, I am repeatedly reminded of how well I have done with all of them. All the worry and stress about having to go out and work is washed away the minute I get out to the barn with their never ending affection, interactive neighs and brays and ultimate compliance.
Lucky Three Cyclone is a thirty-one year old, 14.2 hand Arabian mule, the very first mule born here at the Lucky Three Ranch. When he was first born, his mother dropped him on the ground and turned to look at him in total puzzlement. He had long fuzzy ears that she certainly did not recognize that caused Angelique to bolt away from him. Being her very first foal and a mule at that, she was not interested in him at all. I had to restrain her to get her to allow him to nurse. This was his first introduction to LIFE!
Cyclone was trained in English and Western Pleasure, Reining, Second Level Dressage and even carried my185-pound husband over two and eventually three-foot jumps for several years. He was kind of a spooky “Little Feller” as I affectionately called him and he used to scare our farrier half to death when he went to trim the back feet. Cyclone had a ticklish butt, so if you touched him on his behind and he wasn’t expecting it, he would quickly tuck his butt and scoot out of the way. Of course the farrier thought he was getting ready to kick, but he never kicked anyone ever. He was just trying to be polite and get out of the way.
Four years ago, Cyclone began to develop little nodules on his upper left front leg, on the right side of his neck and shoulder, and on his right cheek. The one on the cheek was the largest although with a simple application of Neosporin, they did not seem to be spreading or getting larger until just recently when four more popped up within three months. I was concerned that they could become too numerous to manage if we didn’t at least get a biopsy and find out exactly what we were dealing with. My amazing veterinarian Greg Farrand and I thought they were sarcoids and he later said he had done some research and that they could be “cattle warts” which is another name for certain sarcoids. He too was concerned that they had begun to propagate so quickly all of a sudden so we opted to do a biopsy. I apologize for not having photos of the biopsy surgery for you, but my staff photographer faints at the sight of blood!
We decided to biopsy the one on Cyclone’s cheek since it was the most mature nodule. Rather than sedate him, we opted to give Cy the opportunity to cooperate with our plan. Cyclone loves to give kisses and was busy giving me kisses in exchange for oats just before the surgery. Greg asked if I could get him to hold his head a little higher, so I carefully lifted Cy’s nose to my shoulder and set it there. He affectionately leaned his head into mine where we met eyeball to eyeball. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as Greg approached with a syringe of Xylocaine to numb the area locally.
As Greg poked and prodded the needle into the nodule, Cy never moved a whisker. I would open my eyes at intervals to find him comfortably relaxed upon my shoulder with not a hint of stress in his body. When Greg walked away to get the scalpel, Cy gave me another kiss and I responded with another handful of oats. Greg returned and began cutting, but Cyclone was still chewing. When Greg said, “It’s a little hard to do this while you’re chewing,” Cy abruptly stopped chewing and again stood stock still, returning his chin back to its place on my shoulder. Greg had to clamp a bleeder vessel, but even that didn’t bother Cy. When that was finished, he again gave me a kiss and I gave him more oats. As soon as Greg approached with his florescent pink stitches, Cyclone again stood like a soldier while Greg carefully stitched up the wound. Another kiss…more oats…and he was happily taken back to his stall. I am so glad I took the time to train slowly and develop this mutually satisfying relationship with all my equines. Being older and much more vulnerable than I was in my youth, I truly appreciate what I have learned from my equines so we can all grow old together and be safe, happy and healthy doing it!
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!
I have been called “the Mule Whisperer,” but I must admit that the mules have been whispering right back at me for over forty years now! Mules have taught me practically everything I know about training equines and for that, I am eternally grateful…and so are the people and their equines who learn from me! I am so proud of my fans and the successful accomplishments they’ve had with their equines! Thank you all for your kind updates and correspondence! Keep up the great work!
A professional trainer, judge and animal inspector, Crystal Ward owned the Ass Pen Ranch in Placerville, California, where she raised and trained horse, mules and donkeys. The first year she came to Bishop Mule Days was in 1979. She happened to be coming through Bishop on vacation and it really intrigued her. She thought the mules were simply outstanding. Crystal had a show career with horses, but the following year she decided she had to own a mule. She showed up the next year with a horse trailer in tow, and at that point Bishop Mule Days was still offering an auction. She swiftly bought a mule at the auction and had been coming back ever since.
Her first mule was a wild little critter that didn’t make much progress. So the following year she bought a mule named Skeeter Sea from George Chamberlain, a dealer in mules in Los Alivos, California; the mule was previously owned by Slim Pickens. When Slim Pickens showed up as Grand Marshal in the Bishop Mule Days Parade, he told Crystal, “We used to own that mule.” She showed him with 55 mules in the class and won the Western Pleasure class that year. Although he was nice in the Western Pleasure classes, she couldn’t see owning this mule for the long term due to his generally bad manners. Later, she picked up a mule in Northern Montana and brought him back and started training him…his name was Final Legacy. He was a good honest mule and she kept him for the long haul.
Back in the early ‘80s, Crystal got really interested in riding side saddle, so she joined the International Side Saddle Organization and ultimately rode in the Presidential Inaugural Parade with Final Legacy in 1993, hauling him from California to Washington, DC, in the middle of January. He was a good honest mule and she loved him. She showed him in many classes at Bishop Mule Days over the years…from Western to English, dressage, driving and side saddle.
In more recent years Crystal switched to raising and showing donkeys. She had a variety of donkeys, from miniatures to mammoths. She fully understood that you have to take a different approach when training a donkey and produced training videos with Napa, California, videographer, Video Mike. She truly appreciated a good donkey: “Donkeys are like potato chips—you can’t have just one.”
In our interview in 2009, Crystal told me: “We call them [donkeys] ‘desert canaries,’ but that goes hand-in-hand with donkeys. They do like to talk and it can be loud, but you know I’ll still take a donkey any day. I live with the noise, but then again, I’ll have peacocks, barking dogs and roosters in my backyard. Donkeys are just one more noisy farm animal that I can certainly live with.”
For Crystal, it was always a matter of learning…English, Western, Side Saddle…the whole nine yards! She always performed to the best of her and her mule’s ability and she believed a lot of it was a matter of finding just the right mule!
Crystal enjoyed her interview for my documentary series, Those Magnificent Mules; she appeared in “The Bishop All Stars” episodes. (We have all of these episodes available to watch online.) She said: “We were showing back in the early ‘80s, beating the paths to Bishop Mule Days. The one thing I know about mule and donkey people is that it’s fun competing…nice rivalry. When you come out of a class, your fellow competitors will shake your hand and offer you a bit of encouragement. It’s like family when you show at a mule or donkey show. It’s something you always look forward to until the next time.”
You are so right, Crystal! You will remain in our hearts, forever a part of our longears family… we will miss you!
My good friend, Tennessee mule artist Bonnie Shields, recently introduced me to sculptor Dennis Page from the Rocking Horse Ranch in Riverton, Utah. Dennis is working on a hand-carved “rocking mule” that is modeled after Bonnie’s ceramic sculpture of Kathleen Conklin’s Champion Driving mule, John Henry. I am so impressed with Dennis’s work that I decided to purchase the wood-sculpted rocker. What an amazing addition it will be to the Loveland Longears Museum and Sculpture Park here at Lucky Three Ranch!
Kathleen Conklin sent me some really nice pictures, his Championship cooler with his name on it, his driving harness and John Henry’s championship ribbons from the finest pleasure driving in the United States – Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition in Pittsford, New York. These will be on display here at our Loveland Longears Museum and Sculpture Park at Lucky Three Ranch. John Henry (1991-2011) and Kathleen Conklin competed at Walnut Hill for seven years in the Commercial carriage Division. They last showed there in 2010. John Henry died about three weeks before Walnut Hill. In the seven years they were there, John Henry was the only mule on the grounds and he had his own fan club of spectators who came to see him every year. He was Champion or Reserve Champion of the commercial Division six times showing under rated commercial driving judges from England! John Henry and Kathleen had a wonderful time together showing everyone just how great a mule can be…and he was TRULY A GREAT MULE!
Jasper the Mule stops by your TV screen once again this Christmas! Celebrate Christmas with Jasper and all his friends as Jasper: A Christmas Caper airs on Rural TV (Dishnet Channel 232) on Christmas Eve.
It’s the Christmas season and Jasper and his human family are in high spirits as they travel to visit far-away friends a few towns over. When Jasper and his pal, Moxie the dog, get out of the yard and wander down a strange alley, the two friends are headed straight for one big adventure!
Presents disappear, mysterious strangers appear and friends go missing. But junior detectives Jasper and Moxie are on the case. With the clock ticking, Jasper has to use his “mule smarts” to tackle this puzzle of a mystery and put the pieces together before the big parade. But will he solve the mystery in time?
Airing on Rural TV (Channel 232 on Dish Network or check your local listings).
Tuesday, December 24 at 7pm and 11pm ET (4pm and 8pm PT)
If you don’t get Rural TV or miss the airings, all Jasper episodes are also available for rental on demand.
As the gang prepares for the big Thanksgiving celebration, Jasper the Mule and his pal, Moxie the Dog, are hot on the trail of adventure! A mishap with a truckload of turkeys turns into a real live mystery, as the boys solve the case of “The Beady Eyes in the Bushes!”
When they make a new friend who is lost and alone, Jasper’s mule-y sense of loyalty kicks in and he is determined to help, no matter what. Will Jasper and Moxie save the day? Will their new friend find his “forever home?” All the fun and warmth of Thanksgiving come to life in Jasper: A Turkey Tale.
Airing on Rural TV (Channel 232 on Dish Network or check your local listings)
- Monday, November 25 at 7pm ET
- Wednesday, November 27 at 7pm and 11pm ET
If you don’t get Rural TV or miss the airings, all Jasper episodes are also available for rental on demand.
Our hearts go out to Connie Bartels for the loss of her beloved Homer, longtime friend and loyal companion. He will be missed.
“Sunday when we rode while I was taking his tack off I was talking to him telling him what a good boy he is and what a good ride we had. Then I hugged him tightly as I always do….he knew me, and he liked me a lot. To think that I will never ride him again is heart wrenching to me. He was my good friend and buddy…..and I would never find another Homer. I am very sad today, but I am thankful for the many years we were friends. Only mule people would understand this.”
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
We were sorry to hear about longtime mule skinner Buddie Stockwell. We appreciate all the work that Buddy put into mules in Colorado with the Rocky Mountain Longears Association. Here is one of my favorite stories about Buddy.
In the fall of 1984, Loveland, Colorado muleskinner Buddie Stockwell and horseshoer Jerry Banks, along with a few friends, decided to make a hunting trip into the Rocky Mountains. Packing in, the weather was beautiful with warm temperatures, calm breeze, and nary a hint of what was to come. After setting up camp and tending to their horses and mules, the hunters went about the business of tracking elk. Hunting was good, but after a few days, one evening brought with it an unpredictable storm of incredible severity. The hunters awoke the following morning to find their camp buried in four feet or more of snow, and with no chance of the storm lifting.
Quickly, the hunters packed up what they could on the horses and mules; tents and a lot of gear had to be left behind since time was of the essence. As they left the campsite, snow deepened and the terrain underneath was steep, rocky, and treacherous. They had only gone a short distance when the snow became so deep, and the terrain so hazardous that the horses refused to go one step farther–the horses would not blaze the trail out! Anxiety was high and the hunters were fearful of never making if off the mountain.
In the face of great danger, Buddie asked his trusted mule, Goliath, to break trail for the others, and with slow, careful, deliberate steps, Goliath led them all safely down the mountain to their trucks and trailers, which were also buried in snow. In bitter cold, they freed the vehicles, loaded them up, and made their way back to the lowlands to safety. The storms on the mountain worsened, and it was spring before Jerry and Buddie could return for the rest of their gear–but both men and their friends were grateful to Goliath for leading them down the mountain to safety.
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.