What's New: Mule Crossing

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MULE CROSSING: Hoof Differences in Horses, Donkeys and Mules

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By Meredith Hodges

The old saying, “No foot, no mule” is literally true, as it is in any nomadic animal. If the hooves are not trimmed and balanced properly, it will offset the balance of the equine’s entire body and can compromise longevity in the animal because his entire internal structure will be compromised. Most equines will need to be trimmed or shod every 6-8 weeks whether horse, mule or donkey.

Horse’s hooves in general are proportionately larger, rounder and more angled than that of the donkey or mule. The sole of the foot is flat on the ground promoting good circulation in the foot through the frog.

Regardless of the size of the animal, the hooves of the mule will be smaller and more upright than that of a horse of equal size, and should be well sprung and supported, not contracted. They should have a smooth appearance and look sleek and oily. No ribbing should be apparent and the frog should be well extended, healthy and make adequate contact with the ground for good circulation to the hooves. The shape of the mule or donkey foot is more oval and the bottom of the foot is slightly “cupped” which accounts for the surefootedness in the mule and donkey. When being trimmed, the mule should be left with more heel than the horse to maintain the often more upright position that complements the shoulders and hips. If the mule or donkey has a better slope to the shoulders, he might have an angle that is similar to the horse, but he will still grow more heel than the horse. The shape and condition of the hooves of the jack and the mare are both equally important when considering foot development in the mule.

Because donkey and mule hooves are different from a horse’s hoof in that they are more oblong, cupped in the sole, they need more heel left during a trim than the round, flat sole and low heels on a horse. There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule as there are in most generalizations. Most donkeys are relatively inactive and live on moderate ground, so they do grow out in that time period. Some donkeys, like my own Little Jack Horner, are much more active and will wear their feet down naturally.

Miniature Horse

 

Miniature Mule

 

Miniature Donkey

 

Saddle Horse

 

Saddle Mule

 

Saddle Donkey

 

Draft Horse

 

Draft Mule

 

Mammoth Donkey

 

Of course, those that do not have the benefit of good training and conditioning would still wear unevenly and would still need to be trimmed, however, with the correct training and conditioning, they may wear evenly and may not need to be trimmed more than once a year! The same goes for those who would live in rough terrain. They may wear their feet down, but they would still need to be trimmed for balance. Those who are moving correctly may wear down evenly and would not require trims as often.

Failure to have your mule’s hooves regularly trimmed in order to maintain their balance and shape can result in an imbalance in your mule’s feet, which will then cause an imbalance throughout his entire body, inhibiting his performance. However, if trimming is done consistently, the risk of imbalance, accident or injury will be greatly reduced.

There are a lot of things to consider when trimming and shoeing all equines. If the animal is to have shoes, for instance, then they would need to maintain the flat surface of the sole for the shoes to fit properly. It is important that the equine have relief from shoes when they are not being ridden as much. We usually take any shoes off during the winter which keeps the heels from becoming contracted from wearing shoes and promotes good circulation to the foot as the frog can then make contact with the ground more consistently than it can with shoes. A good understanding of the anatomical differences among horses, mules and donkeys is essential for healthy hoof care.

When your farrier is trimming your equine, he should take into account the angles of the shoulder, the forearm, the knees, the cannon bone, fetlock, pastern and the general angle to the entire body when at rest, not just trimming off the excess. This is an anatomical call and only people who are schooled and skilled in this profession should even attempt it or you could run the risk of injuring your animal.

It is commonly known that, when it comes to horses and mules, light-colored hooves are softer and more likely to break down under stress than are the darker, black hooves. Even though the black hoof is naturally harder than the light-colored hoof, if it does not contain sufficient moisture, it can become brittle and can chip away as destructively as can the lighter hoof. Whichever breed of equine you own and whatever the color of their feet, remember that good hoof care is essential for all domesticated equines.

For better or worse, an equine inherits his hooves through his genes. If your equine has inherited good feet—black, oily-looking, and with good shape—then you are fortunate and hoof care and maintenance should be relatively simple. If he has inherited a softer or misshapen foot, you will need to discuss more specialized care with your farrier. Beware of generalizations as they can often be misleading! Each animal should ultimately be assessed individually.

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.

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

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MULE CROSSING: Making History with Mules, Part 3

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By Meredith Hodges

There was a time before the industrial age when one-third of all fifteen million mules on earth were being utilized by the United States. Mules worked in the fields, carried our packs, pulled heavy barges on the canals, plodded through darkness in the mines, guided supply wagons and streetcars about the cities, carried tourists to exotic places like the Grand Canyon and transported army supplies and light artillery for the government. And to help with all the back-breaking labor he faced, man’s invention of the hybrid mule was truly a stroke of creative genius. “No cultural invention has served so many people in so many parts of the world for so many centuries with energy, power and transport as the mule.”

During the surge westward, heavy Conestoga wagons laden with all the possessions one could carry were often pulled by teams of mules that were either leased or owned by the early settlers. When cattlemen developed breeds like Texas Longhorns that could endure the harsh climate of the Great Plains, their mules pulled the chuck wagons that followed the large herds as they were driven the long distances to market. Improved farm equipment beckoned farmers to tame the West and what else could manage the vast land and long work hours save the mule? During these times, little thought was given to the possibility that this coveted land was already occupied by numerous Indian tribes.

The soldiers were caught in an impossible situation. They were bound by duty to protect and serve the early ranchers, miners, farmers and their families, but were unable to derive any profit from their duty. Indian attacks raged at every turn and mules helped carry the artillery and supplies the army needed to protect its citizens. The armies had been used to fighting in an entirely different climate and, when faced with the gale winds, plunging temperatures and blizzards on the Great Plains like they had never seen, it was often the mule that provided the perseverance and determination to see it through. On rare occasions, the mule served as the only source of food, saving the lives of desperate families and often – hungry Indians.

People are generally surprised to learn of the loyal and affectionate nature of the mule. For some reason, they want to believe in a stubborn and vengeful character, but when one reads accounts from individuals, one finds mules to be quite the opposite. In the mid-1800s, the U.S. government, in its infinite wisdom, recognized the value of the mule, yet made foolish provisions for its soldiers in their regard. It was clear that they did not fully understand this animal that resembled the horse but acted nothing like it.

In training mules to harness, they often cut traces to the harness so short and hung so low that the mule’s heels would be clipped by the swingle trees when they walked forward. Not wanting to injure itself, the mule would stop when it became sore. This act was acknowledged as laziness. It was only through the good sense of the real mule teamsters that these kinds of errors were corrected. Swingle trees were hung higher between the hock and the heel to allow for a full stride, and traces were subsequently invented with larger chain links at the ends of the drawing-chains to allow for adjustments in length.

The American government purchased many mules that were two and three years old—entirely too young for use. If they had purchased mules all over the age of four, it would have saved a lot of heartache and expense. Contractors and inspectors seemed to be more concerned with the numbers they could sell to the government than the quality and usefulness of the animals. When purchased for use, this invariably resulted in the mules being put onto a train with teamsters who knew nothing of their character. Those who know mules know the deep affection they develop for human beings with whom they spend much time. Thousands of young mules were rendered useless by the government’s incompetence and ignorance as to their maintenance and training.

Harvey Riley, author of The Mule, published in 1867, recounts, “While on the plains, I have known Kiowa and Comanche Indians to break into our pickets during the night and steal mules that had been pronounced completely broken down by white men. And these mules they have ridden sixty and sixty-five miles of a single night. How these Indians could do this, I never could tell.” Maybe it’s as simple as, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar!”

Packing was of great importance to government mules, as they were required to carry a wide variety of heavy items over treacherous terrain. In the Northern and Western territories and in Old and New Mexico, nearly all business was done with pack mules and pack donkeys.

The Indians adopted the Spanish way of packing, as the Spaniards were noted experts. The Americans developed their own American pack saddle, but it was abandoned soon after its creation.

“While employed at the Quartermaster’s depot at Washington, D.C. as superintendent of the General Hospital Stables, we, at one time, received three hundred mules on which the experiment of packing with this saddle had been tried in the Army of the Potomac. It was said this was one of General Butterfield’s experiments. These animals presented no evidence of being packed more than once; but such was the terrible condition of their backs that the whole number required to be placed at once under medical treatment…yet, in spite of all his skill, and with the best of shelter, fifteen of these animals died from mortification of their wounds and injuries of the spine,” Harvey Riley remembers.

In 1942, while in the service of the U.S. Army, Art Beaman became familiar with mules in a most curious way. He was working as an Operations Sergeant for a Headquarters in Northern California that determined whether troops were ready for combat. The troops consisted of 204 enlisted men, two veterinarian officers, four horses and 200 mules. Being a non-rider, Art was on and off his horse three times in the first ten minutes of the trip into the mountains. The First Sergeant finally decided to put him on a mule and open his eyes to the redeeming qualities of his mount. The next day, Art was able to say, “That mule and I were really a team…by this time, I trusted my mule so completely that I could have stood up and sang the national anthem as we slipped and skidded along!”

The aftermath of this story is really funny. About a week before his pack troop was to be deployed to the South Pacific, some sideways thinker in the Quartermaster Corps sent 200 green-broke replacement mules for his troop. Not wishing to trade the now fully broke mules for the green-broke mules, Art left the 200 mules on the train overnight while he pondered this dilemma. When he returned the next day, he told the men in charge, “There are the old mules and we have the new ones! Evidently, they believed me, or they didn’t care one way or the other, and the green mules were on their way back to Washington!”

Those who have experienced the spiritual connection with mules all have their own individual stories to tell. From The Black Mule of Aveluy, by Charles G.D. Roberts, comes one of the most amazing World War I battlefield stories I’ve ever heard. It is the story of a man and a big black mule on a rain-scourged battlefield. “The mule lines of Aveluy were restless and unsteady under the tormented dark. All day long a six-inch high-velocity gun firing at irregular intervals from somewhere on the low ridge beyond the Ancre, had been feeling for them. Those terrible swift shells, which travel so fast on their flat trajectory that their bedlam shriek of warning and the rendering crash of their explosion seem to come in the same breathless instant, had tested the nerves of man and beast sufficiently during the daylight; but now, in the shifting obscurity of a young moon harrowed by driven cloudrack, their effect was yet more daunting.”

A second shell screamed down into the lines, scattering deadly splinters of shell ropes, tether-pegs and mules. When it was all said and done, one lone black mule stood back, still tied to the picket line, unable to free himself. With eyes wide in terror, he sought respite from the onslaught, but was unable to find any. Suddenly, a man with tousled, ginger-colored hair appeared at his nose and put his arms around the mule’s neck, as the mule coughed and sputtered, still stunned from the blast. The man quickly untied the black mule and another that was left from the blast and got them to safety.

After the attack at Aveluy, the black mule and his new driver were given the job of carrying up shells to the forward batteries. Early that next afternoon, they were plunging deep into rugged territory along a sunken road, muddy from perpetual rain showers, when suddenly the inexplicable happened and there was an array of star-showers that blinded the mule. “When he once more saw daylight, he was recovering his feet just below the rim of an old shell-hole. He gained the top, braced his legs, and shook himself vigorously.” His panniers were still heavily loaded and his driver was not in sight. He soon saw his driver clinging to the far edge of the shell-hole, sinking rapidly in the mud. “He reached down with his big yellow teeth, took hold of the shoulder of Jimmy Wright’s tunic, and held on. He braced himself and, with a loud, involuntary snort, began to pull.”

Jimmy Wright remembered the blast and saw where he was. He was afraid his shoulder had been blown off, yet he could move both arms and discovered something was pulling on him. “He reached up his right arm—it was the left shoulder that was being tugged at—and encountered the furry head and ears of his rescuer! Reassured at the sound of his master’s voice, the big mule took his teeth out of Wright’s shoulder and began nuzzling solicitously at his sandy head.”

For centuries the mule loyally traversed the course of history with man, though he was never given credit for his valuable contributions. In fact, men perpetrated stories to the opposite and the mule’s legacy became one of laziness, stubbornness and disobedience. Only those humans who were of a character to willingly explore the spirit of the mule were there for its redemption. We are thankful that their stories have withstood the test of time. Throughout history, man believed that he was making progress with each new age, but the blind farmer will tell you, “There’s no such thing as a seeing-eye tractor, and while I am farming with my mule, I can hear the birds sing. I never could with a tractor!” Perhaps we should take note and stop to smell the roses and give credit where credit is due.

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.

©  2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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MULE CROSSING: Making History with Mules, Part 2

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By Meredith Hodges

As we track mules through history, we find there is a reoccurring theme that paints the mule as both a companion and adversary of man. Those of a certain temperament seem to be able to befriend the mule and those who would be combative suffer at his mercy. Man would rather blame stubbornness on the mule than to claim this stubbornness as his own. Clearly, there is no doubt that the mule is and always has been a hard-working and valuable beast of burden throughout history. His ability, intelligence and judgment are unmatched.

George Washington was a fairly well educated man and, “the copybook which he transcribed at fourteen years of age a set of moral precepts or Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation was preserved.” Practical experience was the foundation for his best training in outdoor occupations and not books. He was a successful tobacco and livestock farmer early in his teens and mastered the art of surveying to plot the fields he inherited. It is no accident that George Washington became not only the father of our country, but also, the first organized mule breeder in America.

George Washington tried to buy some Spanish donkeys to use for mule breeding at Mount Vernon, but found that their exportation from Spain was against the law. Most who have studied mules and donkeys know that King Charles III of Spain then gave Washington the gift of an Andalusian jack and two jennets from Malta. The jack, named Royal Gift, became the foundation sire of Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon and he popularized mule breeding for farm work. Blending the Andalusian and Maltese donkeys produced finer donkeys than those that had been imported for still better quality mule production. Eventually, the law in Spain was changed. George Washington was not the only one who recognized the economical value of mule and donkey power for the growth and prosperity of a new empire. Henry Clay and others began importing numerous donkeys and breeding for mule stock.

George Washington was not devoid of the sense of humor needed to work with mules and donkeys. In a 1786 letter to a neighbor concerning Royal Gift’s failure to perform stud service (as can often happen with donkey jacks, as they are quite particular about their “ladies”), Washington wrote, “Particular attention shall be paid by the Mares which your Servant brought and when my Jack is in the humor they shall desire all the benefits of his labours—for labour it appears to be. At present, tho’ young, he follows what one may suppose to be the example of his late royal master, who cannot, tho’ past his grand climacterick, perform seldomer, or with more majestic solemnity, than he does. However, I am not without hope, that when he becomes a little better acquainted with republican enjoyments, he will amend his manners, and fall into a better & more expeditious mode of doing business. If the case should be otherwise, I should have no disinclination to present his Catholic majesty with as good a thing as he gave me.”

Respect for donkeys and mules is the only way to motivate them to action. Their rugged individualism will tolerate no less. The mule exemplifies the “All-American,” as set forth by the colonists. The colonists were thought to be stubborn in their quest for individual freedom by the British Crown that super-imposed itself upon their individual liberties. Like the colonists, mules will challenge anyone who challenges their individual liberties! It is only fitting that the mule would be fully revered and appreciated by a man of such distinction as George Washington.

In 1803 Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase. “Over the next 75 years, more than two million square miles revealed their secrets to an army of hunters, soldiers, naturalists and other adventurers.”

While perusing the pictorial archives of history, you will see that men and their partners, wives, children, dogs and horses were always front and center. But what about their mules? You read about their many perils and victories, but you rarely hear mention of the one humble animal that worked silently, relentlessly in the background—the mule.

In May of 1804, after the official transfer of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark began their expedition up the Missouri River. They soon learned to despise the muggy territory, with its humid climate populated by numerous mosquitoes, gnats and other creatures. Even their dogs would howl in pain from the intrusions of this unexpected onslaught. Conditions were tough and it was not unusual for mules and donkeys to be used as pack and draft animals in this rough country. Desert-born donkeys and the hybrid mule are born with the characteristics necessary to endure such strenuous conditions. They are stronger and sturdier than the horse. They require less to sustain good health, need less water and are more resistant to parasites and disease. Without mules and donkeys, the westward migration would have been much more difficult.

The Erie Canal was the longest canal built in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money. It had continued success for many years because of the use of donkeys and mules to pull the barges along the tow path. “In the annals of the Erie Canal, we find little credit given to the mules; yet, by virtue of their strength and endurance and sagacity, the western wheat reached New York City in due time and industrial products moved west.”

The mules plodded slowly along the canal, pulling the heavy barges of goods, as did the “mule drivers,” who were most often young boys. Occasionally a mule would fall into the canal, but it was quickly and safely guided back to shore by the lead around its neck. Where the walls of the canal were too steep to climb back out, the villagers installed ramps at intervals along the canal to serve as an easy escape from the water, should the mules fall in. These ramps were covered with a heavy planking containing thick slats, or “cheats,” where a mule could get traction coming up the ramp. In the off-season, the planking could be removed and held over for the next season.

George Washington wrote that he “crossed over to Wood Creek which empties into the Oneida Lake and affords water communications with Ontario. I shall not rest content until I have explored the western country and traversed those lines which have given bounds to a new empire.” The building of the Erie Canal, the development of New York as the “Empire State,” and the opening of the West owes its success almost single-handedly to the hybrid mule and horse as upon any other single contribution.

In 1849 the California Gold Rush saw men racing westward to make their fortunes. Many were not prepared for what they would find. The West was a tough and unforgiving country. Those who had mules and donkeys fared far better than those who did not. One of the most famous donkeys in history was “Brighty” of the Grand Canyon, who befriended a miner and made his way into folklore and modern-day children’s books. As mining was further developed, mini mules bred from small donkeys and pony mares were used in the mines to haul out coal and ore. They worked well under these adverse conditions and were small enough to easily manage the low-ceiling passageways.

After the Civil War, farmers were again at a loss for man-power and mule-power. Tennessee joined Kentucky as another leader in the breeding of mules and donkeys. During the war, much of the stock had been destroyed or starved to death, so, from 1883 to the end of the 18th century, there was a surge of asses imported from Spain to replenish the stock. This all but depleted the good stock for sale left in Spain.

Missourians, who still love their mules, became the hub of mule power. Mules would eat poor feed, work in blistering sun and live longer than horses. Mules came in a variety of sizes and colors with a multitude of uses. One Missouri Muleskinner from Springfield chuckled and said, “I’d never used more continuous bad mouth words in my life until I started to work with mules.” Muleskinners themselves are allowed by proxy to use some pretty rank terms, yet no outsider would ever be allowed to address their mules the same way.

From 1883 to 1889, the 20-mule teams moved 20 million pounds of borax from the Death Valley floor in California over the mountains to the Mojave Desert, 165 miles away. They traveled roughly 15 to 18 miles in a day, crossing the steep Panamint Mountains to the railroad. During this 20-day round trip, temperatures could be expected to rise as high as 130 degrees. Still, these remarkable animals plodded relentlessly along, doing their jobs with little or no complaint, except when an impatient muleskinner would inadvertently interfere.

Terrors of Death Valley seemed to arise from only three causes: extreme heat, excessive dryness of the atmosphere, and lack of water. The president of the Eagle Borax Company, Mr. I. Daunet, was forced to kill his animals so he could drink their blood to survive, as blood can replace water. After this devastating near-death experience, and finding the daunting heat unbearable, Mr. Daunet was happy to remain, thereafter, in his office.

Mules and donkeys have been a great friend of man. There is no more useful or willing animal on earth to aid man in his endeavors. “He has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant. Still, he has been a great friend of man, in war and in peace serving him well and faithfully.” Should we not give mules and donkeys the respect, admiration and credit they so richly deserve? In doing so, would we then enrich our own lives as our country has been enriched by them? Think about it.

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.

©  2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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MULE CROSSING: Making History with Mules Part 1

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By Meredith Hodges

Many people ask me when the first mules appeared on this earth. Historically, mules have their roots in the Bible. Contrary to the popular belief that mules are so lowly and stubborn that they would have to be the mount of serfs, they were—in the beginning—the mount of kings!

“So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon.” (I Kings 1:38)

Another Bible passage recounts how Absolom, the son of King David, had a rather unfortunate encounter in which he was clunked on the head by a tree branch while his mule, using common sense, ducked underneath. Those of us who know and love mules can certainly relate to their ability to instill humility in their human counterparts, and everyone can appreciate that, even back then, mules were noted for their completely natural and indubitable humor.

“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)

Mules are not only psycho-therapists, but they are the true geniuses of slap-stick humor! When you get into an altercation with a mule, you will seldom get hurt, but you will surely be set straight in a most humiliating way.

“And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, ‘What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?’ And Balaam said unto the ass, ‘Because thou hast mocked me, I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.’ And the ass said unto Balaam, ‘Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?’ And he said, ‘Nay.” (Numbers 22:23) Mules and donkeys will always be compelled to let us know when our actions are careless and thoughtless—it is in their nature. Whether or not we choose to listen and alter our approach is entirely up to us.

The highest intelligence residing in animals is that of the mule. He inherits athletic ability and “horse sense” from his mother, the horse, and incredible wisdom and strength from his father, the jack. Perhaps the kings of yore finally tired of being publicly humiliated by their superior mules, or perhaps they just couldn’t muster the patience or humor to deal with them anymore, but mules were eventually replaced by horses as the mount of choice, and were subsequently used primarily for packing and draft work.

Strong and durable animals, mules also played a significant part in Greek and Roman transportation. The mule can travel more than three mph and can easily cover 50 miles in a day. Their usefulness is unmatched, even by oxen, as they can cover more distance much more quickly.

The mule’s ability to survive is truly uncanny, given that he is the hybrid offspring of a jack and a mare and does not produce offspring. On rare occasions, mare mules (or mollies) have been known to reproduce by a jack or stallion, but for the most part, mules are sterile and cannot propagate themselves.

There is a volunteer organization in Israel called HAI-BAR, (an Israeli word meaning “wildlife”). This organization was established to protect animals that had thrived in the Holy Land during the Old Testament years, but that are now dangerously close to extinction, due to reckless use of land resources. HAI-BAR South, established in 1964, opened 3000 acres to the general public in 1977 for the express purpose of protecting herds of wild species from Biblical times. A second reserve, HAI-BAR Carmel, was established in the center of Israel near Haifa on Mount Carmel, where 2000 acres were fenced off to accommodate and protect even more Biblical animals. These reserves are still in operation today.

The closest ancestral link to the mule is the Somali Wild Ass, found in Northeast Africa. Only a few were still living in the Danakil Desert of Ethiopia when a number of them were captured and brought to HAI-BAR, where they began to once again propagate. The Somali Wild Ass has incredible strength for its size and subsists on desert shrubs as its only food. This explains why our modern-day mules and donkeys can stay healthy and strong on much less feed than today’s horse requires.

The unique personality traits of the mule come from the ass. Unlike horses, mules are naturally curious, but are also suspicious and require time to size up a situation before acting. For this reason, it usually takes time for people to warm up to mules and time for mules to warm up to people. Because their judgment of people is unmatched, it is wise when buying a mule to allow him to pick you! A lot of the mule’s so-called“stubbornness” is really a sense of self-preservation. If he has a negative experience, he is not likely to repeat it. His memory serves him well and he never makes the same mistake twice. For this reason, it is important that the personality of the mule and his handler are compatible and that they actually like each other.

The old myths, “stubborn as a mule,” and, “a mule will wait for the opportunity for revenge” are just those…myths. I would suppose these opinions arose from those who were probably impatient when dealing with mules. When left to their own devices, mules will learn from their experienced peers and from those who truly care about them. And people who are confrontational with mules will meet with undeniable stubbornness and resistance.

It makes sense that mules and donkeys have become so economically important to Third World countries. They are generally sedate, humble and hard working animals with an intelligence that enables them to learn their job quickly. They can go anywhere man can go, and do the work of many at far less expense—which is more than can be said of any motorized vehicle. Mules and donkeys are still an important part of third world economies. There are educators from The Donkey Sanctuary in Great Britain and other sanctuaries who visit these emerging countries, with the expressed purpose of teaching people how to work more efficiently with their longeared counterparts, since the very existence of many third world nations depends upon this partnership.

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.

© 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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MULE CROSSING: Getting Down with Minis, Part 5

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By Meredith Hodges

In Part 1 of Getting Down with Minis, you learned how to begin the relationship with your miniature equine in a positive and natural way that fosters good behavior and a solid relationship between you. You also learned the importance of getting down to your mini’s eye level so that he can make eye contact with you, which discourages striking, jumping on you and other bad behaviors that are common when working with miniature equines. In Part 2, I discussed how important it is to successfully complete the tasks in Part 1 before moving on to Part 2 and explained why it is advisable to work minis in groups, as they perform better when they are with their friends. You also learned how to train minis to go over and around various obstacles. Remember that all of this is to be done with no expectations that may overwhelm your mini—it is better if you maintain an attitude of fun and games. In Part 3, we got down to some serious groundwork training so your mini can be used for the purpose of driving and showing in hand. He learned to lunge and to be ground driven in the round pen and in the open arena through the hourglass pattern and if part of a team, how to do these things as a team. In Part 4, you worked on obstacle exercises on the drive lines to increase strength and coordination.

The fifth and final part of this series will illustrate how you can keep things controlled and will help you to consistently set up an environment for success. NOTE: If you are training two minis, it is really just a matter of teaching each of them the same thing, but at each stage of the ground-driving and hitched lessons, you need to teach each mini separately first and then as a team.

These exercises will require an assistant, so ask someone you trust to help you. Make sure, each step of the way, that you tell your assistant clearly and specifically exactly what you need him or her to do. To begin, take your mini back to the round pen and review your previous ground-driving lessons (“walk,” “trot,” “whoa” and “back”) with an “S” turn through the middle in order to change directions. NOTE: Do not use the “reverse” command during these lessons. Do use the “back” command, but only to loosen the traces when detaching your mini from the tire. Attach a tire to the harness traces as a drag so your mini can get used to pulling weight behind him. To do this, first thread some baling twine through the slits at the ends of your traces to create “loops.” The slits in the traces are usually too narrow to allow a line to slide freely back and forth through them, but the baling twine will work well to accommodate this.

Next, take a piece of flat nylon stripping such as a strip of lunge line and tie it to a tire with about six to eight feet of extra line. This extra line will be threaded through the baling twine loops and then be handed back into the hands of your assistant. Now ask your assistant to walk alongside and slightly behind you, holding on to the piece of nylon stripping as you ground drive your mini. Always make sure your assistant is walking on the side away from the fence so as not to trap him or her if things go wrong. If, for any reason, your mini bolts, tell your assistant to simply let go of the nylon stripping. Your mini will quickly be released from the tire. NOTE: If training a team, do the “drag” exercise with each single mini first before exercising them as a team. Working one mini at a time first will help to avoid any major wrecks that can cause your mini(s) any anxiety or distrust.

Spend as many tire drag lessons as it takes in the round pen to be sure your mini is driving easily and smoothly before graduating him to the open arena with the tire. Just as you did with simple ground driving, once he is ready, let your mini drag the tire while ground driving him through two rotations of the hourglass pattern, and then cross the long diagonal and do two more rotations in the opposite direction. Make halts often so rewards can be dispensed for a job well done. Do not make any abrupt turns or try to add speed before you are completely competent with the lines and your mini is responding obediently. Ground driving is as much for you to learn good Reinsmanship as it is for your mini to learn to drive correctly. If training more than one mini, just tie whichever mini you’re not working with at the moment off to the side and have him wait his turn before ground driving the two as a team. The frequent halts with rewards will teach him to stay clam and remain still when asked.

Before actually hitching your mini to the vehicle, be sure to check all harness straps and make sure they are correctly adjusted. While you do this, you will also be teaching your mini (or minis if a team) to stand still in the cross ties, which will make hitching much easier. Checking all harness straps can be done anywhere that your fences or hitch rails are close enough together to accommodate the cross ties and still allow enough room for a single mini (or team) and the vehicle. During this lesson, all you need to do is put on and adjust the harness, hitch to your vehicle, have your mini (or team) stand quietly while being rewarded and then take everything back off. Before leading your mini(s) away from the vehicle, spend some time rewarding again for standing still and staying in position.

To begin the next lesson, first review the steps in the previous lesson and make sure your mini (or minis in the case of a team) is standing quietly in the crossties before harnessing to the vehicle. When ground driving a single animal, ask your assistant to stand in front and to the side of your mini with a lead rope attached to a ring on the noseband (not the bit) of your mini’s harness bridle. When ground driving a team, you will need to use two assistants. Ask each assistant to stand on either side of the team. Once your mini is harnessed, and when you are seated in the vehicle and ready to go forward, ask your assistant to unsnap the cross ties and release your mini while your assistant stands at his head. Now ask your mini to “walk on.” Let him go just a few steps and then ask him to “Whoa.” If your mini does not stop promptly, your assistant can help by pulling back on the lead rope with a pull/release motion while, at the same time, you pull back on the drive lines with a pull/release motion. When he does stop, have your assistant give him his oats reward. Let your mini settle before asking him to back a couple of steps and halt again. Reward him for halting and end the lesson there. The object is to allow your mini enough time to understand what you are trying to teach him and respond accordingly so he can be rewarded without spending so much time that he gets bored and sucks you into a confrontation.

Now your mini is ready to go to the open arena to be driven for the very first time. For the sake of safety, use your assistant (or, in the case of a team, assistants) during lessons until your mini (or team) is driving easily and responding to all of your cues and verbal commands promptly and calmly. Using an assistant helps to guide your mini through his lessons when he can no longer see you out in front. Your assistant will also help your mini to drive forward with confidence, as well as being on-hand to aid you if your mini has problems with turns and backing. Using an assistant also allows you more time to perfect your Reinsmanship and your ability to plan your movements in an organized and logical way.

When your mini is hitched to a vehicle, make a very large hourglass pattern to accommodate your vehicle. His familiarity with this pattern will help him to feel calm and gain confidence while being driven. Every time you end a lesson, keep your assistant at your mini’s head until your mini is fully unhitched from the vehicle. NOTE: Always remove the harness bridle last. Once he is unhitched, make your mini stand where he is while you come to him, then reward him and lead him away. This is how he will learn to wait for you and will not become antsy and uncontrollable. Routinely practicing good manners, setting up an environment for success and approaching your mini with a calm and deliberate attitude will all help him to become a quiet, safe and reliable driving animal.

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.

© 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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.

 

 

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