What's New: Rock & Roll Rescue

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What’s New with Roll? Ground Driving



For the first time, Roll was ground driven straight out of the Tack Barn with no warm up.


On the way to the hayfield, we stopped to see the old broodmares and give them a treat!


Although we lacked impulsion getting there, Roll picked up the pace in the hayfield.


Roll walked immediately into a square halt, keeping his hind quarters well underneath.


Roll stayed well-connected to my hands through all moves for the very first time in four years!


Roll’s reinbacks were flawless…light on the lines and straight.


Roll now knows that the whip is a tool used for communication and not for punishment.


Roll understands that I do not want him to eat the grass until he is signaled and free to do so.


Roll receives his reward of crimped oats for paying attention and NOT eating the grass!


Roll finally received permission to eat the grass while I straighten the lines to continue forward.


Upon the command to “Walk on,” Roll promptly raises his head and acknowledges my request.


Roll and I stopped to check out the bronze statue of Lucky Three Eclipse.


We stopped to see the Mule Fountain in all of its splendor!


Then we said “Hello” to Lucky Three Mae Bea C.T.’s bronze driving statue.


Roll thought she was beautiful and did a little flirting!


Great lesson! Fun morning for both of us! Now back to the barn…the snowstorm is rolling in!


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What’s New with Roll? The Farrier


During Roll’s recent workouts, since his x-rays and last trim, he has felt very stilted and his movement was causing twisting in both hind feet. He was visibly tense through the croup and hip sections in his body. When I rode him, he had no impulsion and did not seem to be capable of initiating any impulsion. When we did the x-rays, there was a slight rotation in the left hind foot and not rotation in the right hind. We determined that the twisting in the right hind was due to undue stress on that leg from shifting the balance from the other three feet that all had slight rotations in the coffin bone. Our vet thought that it might make him more comfortable if we left more heel to flatten the rotation and get the coffin bone in the left hind more parallel to the ground. The result was both hind feet created a situation with ligaments and tendons that left Roll walking behind like he was on blocks with no suspension or impulsion to his gait and a twisting in BOTH hind feet. He was quite literally unable to walk correctly rocking heel-to-toe anymore and the right hind was sliding diagonally underneath his body when he walked.

When tracking straight forward in prior lessons, the visible wrinkles in his flanks were prominent as he stepped straight forward. After he was trimmed leaving more heel, the wrinkles were no longer present as the leg flattened them as it went diagonally forward. Impulsion was literally impossible for him and he had perpetual tenseness in the hind quarters. After his trim/shoeing today, he recovered immediately! We saw relaxation in the hind quarters as soon as both feet were trimmed and as he walked off, the twisting was almost gone and he bounced into an energetic impulsive trot for a few steps before I slowed him down! He had not done that for over a month! So, Roll is now happy again and ready for more lessons!


NOTE: Irregular hindquarter stance and tension in the croup due to elevated heels.


NOTE: No wrinkles at the flank and he is stepping diagonally underneath.


NOTE: Wrinkles at the flank and he is stepping straight forward.

To test this on yourself in your blue jeans, first stand in good posture with your feet together and pointed forward. Lift your right leg straight up and pointed forward. Note the wrinkles that appear in front of your hip joint (comparable to his flanks). See how your pants will wrinkle as you move your leg up and will straighten out only as you walk forward with a heel-to-toe motion in your feet and as your leg goes down and back. Now try moving your leg by just picking it straight up and diagonally forward (like walking on blocks which assimilates what Roll was experiencing by leaving his heels longer)…no wrinkles in the pants except for maybe a split second! Although the vet was correct is his assessment for an animal that is a pasture ornament, it was not correct for an animal that would be doing forced exercise. Sometimes there is a lot more than you think to consider when diagnosing lameness or irregular gait problems.


NOTE: After trim, less heel, more angle in the hind feet allowing a more correct stance and more relaxation throughout the hindquarters.












As I said above, Roll responded well and immediately to our correction for his problems. He is once again A VERY HAPPY camper!


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What’s New with Roll? Riding the Hourglass Pattern



Roll was a little hesitant and stiff during his workout in the dressage arena through the hourglass pattern with me riding today. I couldn’t tell at first if he is just being overly careful because I was on board or if he was truly having issues with his feet. The more he did, the better he got as far as traveling, but there was significant problems keeping him between the reins. I attribute that to previous drivers with very bad hands. He does seem to know how to track straight between the reins with adequate forward impulsion. He clunked the ground rails as I led him through the pattern the first time, but after adjusting the distance between the ground rails, he did much better both on the lead line and under saddle. He did very well staying erect and bending through the rib cage around the corner cones. He also gave me intermittent surges of impulsion and did not seem at all lame when he did it. At trot, he got wiggly on his straight lines, but I am encouraged that will pass as he gains more strength and impulsion. All in all, it was a very nice first-time serious hourglass workout under saddle!


Roll was anxious to go to work!


The first order of business was to survey the course…


…and be led through in sync with each other.


Then Roll did a nice square halt!


Before mounting, I checked all his gear to make sure everything was in good shape and that Roll was comfortable.


Roll backed easily on request after mounting.


Roll walked the pattern nicely and stayed on the bit. Note the loose elbow pull!


Roll did lovely bends through his rib cage around the corner cones…


…and tracked easily over the ground rails.


When asked, he lengthened his walk as best he could!


I hadn’t planned on trotting, but Roll was having so much fun that he offered it and I accepted! His movement was so BIG, it shot my legs forward!


His hind quarters came well underneath his body through the halt…


…and after so much work and energy spent, Roll decided instantly it was nap time!!! What a good boy he is!


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What’s New with Roll? Obstacles



After a couple of weeks working on flatwork leading training through the hourglass followed by a couple of lessons in the round pen, I decided to do some coordination work over the obstacles. In Stage One of obstacle training, the only task is to get through the obstacles, changing fear into curiosity. In Stage Two, we break things down into smaller steps and square up at every interval to facilitate good equine balance and add coordination to his movements.


With constant repetition, going through gates is a cinch for Roll.


The first stop is at the foot of the bridge…stop, square up and reward.


Next, we ask Roll to put two feet on the bridge, square up and reward…

…and then four feet on the bridge, square up and reward again.


Roll did this quite easily, but in this next position, you will notice how uncoordinated your mule really is. Most equines will either push through you and keep going forward, or if you hold them back, will fall off the side of the bridge and turn around to face you. This exercise helps them to become stronger and really learn to hold their balance for prolonged periods of time.


Once he has held this position for a couple of minutes, you can then walk off the bridge and square up one last time. As you can see, Roll is doing very well and has sustained his core muscle strength that enables him to be strong and coordinated in any position.


The tractor tire is a perquisite for lateral work. After learning the turns on the forehand and haunches, the tractor tire helps to finesse this movement.


In the beginning, a light tap with the end of the lead will cue him to move the hind quarters over, but once he know what is expected, a simple glance or hand signal will do as Roll is doing here.


A slight indication with the lead gets him to take those last two steps in the 360 degree movement. As a side note: the elbow pull has multiple uses and being a lead is one of them including the option of using it to tie them up, but there is a trick to how to tie it to the post or hitch rail.


Tires are a good exercise for proprioception or body awareness. It is not as important if they place their feet in the holes as it is that they place their feet strategically underneath their body in a balanced and organized fashion.


It is the same with the ground rails whether they are six inches in diameter or only one inch in diameter as shown. You know they are doing well when they don’t even move a one-inch PVC pipe (as they are easily kicked out of the way). Roll is VERY careful in his foot placement!


The Back-Through “L” helps them to not only pay attention to foot placement…


…but also how to bend their body through the rib cage and how to strategically move their feet while keeping their body erect and in good equine posture.


Walking forward through the Back-Through “L” is easy, but backing through can get a little tricky in the middle at the right angle so make sure there is plenty of space between the rails!.


Elevated rails make it easier for them to “feel” and execute the turn correctly…


…and back easily to the end of the final section. Roll never ceases to amaze me in his willingness to perform. This was only his second time through the obstacles!


Then just for fun, we went and watched the guys dig a hole in the driveway looking for a broken waterline! It was fun for us, but not for the guys, I’m sure!


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What’s New with Roll? Musing about Roll


Roll and I finally got some time to begin warm up exercises after a whole year off. I was pleasantly surprised to find him much stronger in his new posture than I thought he would be after so much time away from his exercises. All he did for the past year was regular maintenance, turnout, massages and farrier work. It seems that after three years of posture training prior to last year, it has become his normal way of moving and has sustained his good condition with only turnout for exercise.


When I first took him from his pen, we went through his small pen gate and were met with the younger saddle mules along the fence line just outside his turnout pasture in the dressage arena. I dropped Roll’s lead rope and turned to give oats to the other mules. When I finished, I looked over my shoulder and Roll was walking through the pasture gate and onto the cement pad outside the gate about fifty feet away from me. I hollered for him to “whoa” at which point he finished exiting the gate and turned to face me on the other side just as if I were standing with him! He knows exactly where we go and likes being with me so much that he forgot about four-foot tall lush grass just off to the side of the pea gravel walkway to exit through the gate. Too bad I didn’t have the camera person with me at that point! I just laughed and caught up with him and we continued our walk to the wash rack! What a guy!


I groomed his body and then washed the winter dirt and baby oil out of his mane and tail.



Then we squared up and went for a walk down road north of the house to the hayfield road.


There was a fence between him and the tall grass in the turnout pens, but once we hit the hayfield, there was no fence between him and the tall grass in the hayfield. Even faced with the five-foot hayfield grass on his right all the way down the road, he was engaged and obedient. Being as big as he is, he could easily have launched me off my feet and into the hayfield! He still walked straight lines with energy and enthusiasm (He was always sluggish when we first started in 2010), stopped in balance and squared himself up easily and willingly. He is maintaining a strong top line and is alert and happy about everything he does.



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What’s New with Roll? Leading the Hourglass Pattern


Roll had a really good leading workout today. He did do very well negotiating the gate.


Roll stayed in sync almost without a misstep during the whole lesson!


He did bend his body nicely through the rib cage around the cones.


He did seem to have a little trouble aligning his back feet. He kept getting them a little closer to each other than he has in the past, but it will improve with practice.


When I asked for more energy, he had it! A marked improvement from the beginning of his training!


Roll is rounding across the top line and stepping well underneath with his hindquarters.


Roll gets more gorgeous every day! For a mule, his mane and tail are amazing!


Lengthening his stride is no longer an issue!


He stays in sync with every step I take.


With nice clean halts…


…and exceptionally straight rein backs…


…he’s a STAR!



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What’s New with Roll? Grooming & Halters


So what do you do together when it’s snowing outside? Roll looked like he was wearing SNOW boots when he first came into the tack barn. So, first we had to remove all of the icicles, but I had to be very careful because they don’t exactly come off easily. Roll let me know when I tugged too hard on the shedding blade and suggested that I warm them with my hand before I pulled! Good plan!

By the time I got to the back end, they had all melted!

We then decided to mess around with halters. Roll much prefers the fit and action of his nylon halter…and, it’s comfortable to wear!

The snugger fit allows him to feel the tug on the halter almost immediately and he can then comply promptly and without fear of reprisal. His ears indicate he is concentrating on stepping back with the slightest indication.

The fit and action on a rope halter is much different and it takes Roll a minute to figure out what I am asking. Note his questioning and confused look!

The halter puts uneven pressure across Roll’s face and he doesn’t seem to be confident about what to do…” Would you like me to stretch or just take a step forward?”

Because we have worked solely in the nylon halter except for the demonstration with the rope halter, he is happy to stand quietly and wait for me…no pain, no fear!

Even when we were interrupted by a loud noise, Roll remained engaged in his stretching activity. We both just turned our heads calmly to the side to see what it was!

…and then we resumed our stretching exercise in a sea of oats!

Making our way back to the paddock, Roll happily matched me stride for stride, staying in balance with good equine posture!


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What’s New with Roll? Lunging


Roll continues to be a happy camper and always looks forward to any time he can spend with us outside of his pen and pasture areas. It has been several months since he has been worked because we have been busy with construction all summer, however, the core muscle, good posture training that he had for the past three years has drastically changed his overall health.


Because it has been so long in between workouts, I began his workout by walking him around the round pen five rotations before asking for trot. As he walked I made note of the way he was moving through his body. He was a little weak in strength, but still maintained a good rhythm and cadence to the walk with his feet landing only slightly behind his front footsteps. This was to be expected.


When he was asked to trot, he responded promptly and energetically and showed no signs of lameness even though he is still dealing with side bones on both sides of all four feet and ring bone, top and bottom in his hooves. It’s very encouraging at the age of twenty that he is sustaining good balance throughout his body such that he is not putting undue stress on those areas.


I was particularly surprised at how good his posture and balance was after so long with no work when he came to an almost perfect halt when asked to whoa.


When asked to reverse, he executed it with the finesse he had previously learned to do by first planting the pivot foot and then making a smooth turn against the fence and crossing the front legs over correctly.


He then walked in the opposite direction with regularity of cadence and rhythm and complete willingness to perform, though I could tell he was beginning to tire in the sandy ground.


When asked to trot, he responded promptly with good energy, but had to lean on the elbow pull a bit just as a ballet dancer would need to lean on a balance bar for exercises after being away from dancing for a while.


When asked to halt, again it was smooth, balanced and nearly perfect.


Roll was so proud of himself that I thought we should stop in front of the new construction for a photo op!


Dean the Shoeing Machine came by a few days later to reset Roll’s hind shoes. The shoes help him to sustain his balance and keep from wearing his toes on the hind feet. In addition, having the shoes has really helped to steady the right hind foot that used to twist when he moved.


Roll’s stretches have greatly improved as well. Where he used to have to twist his head sideways to look at me, he can now reach and keep his head straight while bending through his neck and shoulders. This is a really tough move!


Roll’s mane continues to grow long and soft with his weekly applications of Johnson’s Baby Oil that I used to soften and train his coarse mule hair to lay over like a horse’s mane. It would otherwise just keep growing straight up and fall on both sides in a rather unruly manner. That is why so many people roach the manes on mules! Roll is a beautiful boy at twenty years old and really loves being a Lucky Three mule!


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What’s New with Roll? Lunging & Mounting


Roll had a very good day today. It has been awhile since his last workout and I wasn’t sure I was going to ride him, but I saddled him in case he looked like he would be able to handle it. Roll had a chiropractic adjustment on his right hip that helped the twisting right foot to be able to move in a more straight forward fashion. Equines, like us, can get locked up when we don’t move around enough and I suspect that is what happened with Roll’s hip.

We went to the round pen and did 5 rotations of walk each direction and 8 rotations of trot each direction. Then I climbed on board with no help this time, Steve came in and removed the mounting block and we were off. Roll did fantastic. He was a little lazy, but very light in the bridle and very willing to do two rotations at walk each direction with an “S” turn through the middle for a change of direction with a rein back at the beginning and end of his workout. Since he had not worked in awhile, I left it up to him as to whether he felt like breaking into trot. He did not seem to want to do this with no cues from me, so I opted not to press him any further. He had already done much more than I expected that he would!


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What’s New with Roll? Good Manners


Roll has learned so much since he came to us in December of 2010 and he continues to learn more each and every day. When he first arrived, he was spooky and hid behind Rock almost all the time. Since, he has learned about how important good manners are and that he will always be treated with kindness and consideration being a part of the Lucky Three Ranch. Roll enjoys his studies of “Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette!”

Roll is not only healthy and strong at 20 years old, but his entire attitude has changed dramatically. He is calm, quiet, accepting and very careful about being around his human friends. He has been exposed to major construction and all kinds of new and potentially scary things, but he now trusts us and we trust him. Trust takes a long time to build and should not be taken for granted. Never get on your knees like this around your equine until you are absolutely sure of their good behavior and your solid relationship with them. As I said before, this takes a long time and the correct steps to reach this kind of intimate communication with your equine, but it is well worth the time invested.
Using baby oil in Roll’s mane and tail during weekly grooming has allowed his generally coarse mule mane to soften and grow long and beautiful. Mule manes are known for being really coarse and growing straight up and falling on both sides in no particular fashion. This is why they are generally roached and cut short. The fuzzy hairs at the top of his tail are now also sleek and smooth like a horse’s tail. Roll really likes looking like Fabio!
Roll really likes his farrier Dean Geesen. The founder, side bones and ring bone he experienced in all four feet has been under control since a year after he arrived and he continues to stay sound because of the strengthened core muscles and good posture training that he received routinely for 3 years.

Roll enjoys being a part of the Lucky Three Tours and loves to have his picture taken in the park with the statues! He makes quite an elegant statue himself and we couldn’t be more proud of him!


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What’s New with Roll? Farrier & Stretching


Roll has been off for several months during the Christmas season and then during inclement weather throughout the winter and early spring. His physique has maintained its core muscle strength and his good posture continues to be strong. He has maintained this good posture and musculature over these five months on turnout alone. When an animal’s posture is truly changed and improved, he should reach a point where this becomes the norm and his way of standing and moving will reflect that. He no longer requires formal lessons to strengthen the muscles in good posture because he can now do it himself as long as he is given the room to move on a daily basis.

One of the most important things we did with Roll was to shoe his two hind feet. Back when he was first beginning the round pen work, I noticed he was twisting the rear feet, particularly on the right hind foot. He began wearing his hooves unevenly which was compromising his ability to balance in good posture consistently. We theorized that if we could keep the foot flat when it hit the ground with no give, he would be able to track forward without twisting.

This proved to be true and Roll has done well with frequent resets and new shoes at critical intervals. The founder he once had in his hooves is practically undetectable and his new-found health is exhilarating for him. He welcomes the farrier visits as it makes him feels good. This would not have been possible without the right kinds of exercises and shoes.

Roll stands stock still while he is being worked on and always seeks the four-square balanced position. He doesn’t ever have to lean on the farrier because his good posture and balance is so strong.

His feet are much improved and look fantastic compared to what we started with.

After his farrier work, Roll is asked to do some stretches after having to stand still for quite awhile. This feels good, too and he is happy to comply. First from side to side…

…and then to stretch downward.

All of these exercises allow him to learn to cope with a multitude of distractions and to handle them in a calm and thoughtful way, so that he learns to pay attention to all that is happening around him without becoming unduly nervous. All this helps to make him a comfortable, happy, reliable and a safe equine to be around!




What’s New with Roll? Riding in the Arena


Over the summer of 2012, Roll was doing better than ever. All the lead line work, lunging and ground driving in good posture solidified Roll’s core muscle strength and coordination and he began to hold his good equine posture automatically. What was once difficult and awkward for him has become his normal way of standing and moving, so we finally moved from the round pen work and into the open arena. Roll was happy to be working in a new place. We first walked the hourglass pattern around the cones which was familiar for Roll and he was able to see everything he would encounter on the perimeter of the arena. He stayed smartly in step just as he had done in previous lessons.

Roll wore his elbow pull to continue to remind him of his good posture. Repetition and having the elbow pull to lean on further solidified his way of standing and moving. If he did make a misstep or stumble, he was able to regain his balance easily with the help of the elbow pull. The elbow pull is for an equine what a balance bar is for a ballet dancer.

At first, Roll had to perfect and strengthen his own balance in good posture and now he will need to retrain and balance with a rider on board. Once the initial balance is corrected over a period of about two years with the elbow pull, it will only need to be used occasionally for tune-ups. Learning to measure his steps and maintain good rhythm and cadence on the lead line will help Roll when he finally does have a rider on board.

All the work Roll has done for the past two years is finally paying off. Though Roll has substantial side bones and ring bone in all four feet, it is a wonder he stays sound. The reason for his soundness is that his good posture is keeping his joints in line and the ligaments and musculature around them solid and supportive. His gaits are regular and his halts square.

Roll’s attitude has changed dramatically and the once spooky and twice shy Roll is now exhibiting confidence and overt affection. At twenty years old, this is quite a change to make for an equine. His face reflects a calmness and serenity he has never before experienced. He’s a very happy mule!

Roll stood quietly while this old gal crawled up onto his back for the first time in the open arena. Steve stood by for safety, but wasn’t really needed as the entire routine was done exactly the same way we had done in the round pen…no surprises here!

There was a feeling of elation as I sat on his back for the first time in the open arena. I gave him his oats on both sides before asking him to move to make sure he was fully aware that I was on his back and to make sure he was comfortable about it.

After a couple of steps backward, we were on our way through the hourglass pattern with no incidence of nervousness or negativity at all. He was more than happy to comply!

Roll was so comfortable in his new-found posture that he never missed a step and the elbow pull stayed loose throughout the pattern.

By the time we had reversed the pattern, his balance had shifted upwards and he was actively engaging his hindquarters and raised his shoulders with no trouble at all.

His halt was perfectly square and relaxed.

And his reinback was straight and true.

A handful of oats was my show of appreciation for a job well done before dismounting.

Roll stood patiently waiting for my somewhat awkward dismount…it was a LONG WAY down! The routine and repetition during all of his lessons made it easy and comfortable for him to comply.

By the time I put him away, Roll was already looking forward to the next time!!!!


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What’s New with Roll? Riding in Round Pen


Roll was devastated at the loss of Rock on December 27, 2011. He really didn’t know how lucky he was to be in our loving care at the time, however continuing his well established maintenance and training routine gave him some solace and in two weeks he began to reciprocate our unconditional affection for him. We moved him into Rock’s stall which also gave him a sense of security. He seemed to find comfort in Rock’s scent.

Like Rock, Roll spent many lessons on the lead rope doing his core muscle exercises and measured time in the round pen for further strengthening in hopes of re-balancing his body enough to do some light driving and riding. In March, he was doing so well I figured it was time to mount him and start doing balancing exercises from the saddle. We had our vet come out and x-ray his feet to make sure he would be sound enough for those kinds of activities. He had not exhibited any lameness in the year and a half he had been with us.

We were all surprised when we discovered that he not only had side bones in the right hind as we had palpated, but in all four feet! As if that wasn’t enough, he also had some traces of upper and lower ringbone. The vet agreed that with his core muscle and balance training he had not aggravated the conditions in his feet and that was why he never exhibited any lameness…only a slight twisting in the right hind. When I asked about riding him, my vet agreed with me that he could probably carry my weight safely at walk and trot, but that the canter could pose problems. He also agreed that light driving after his new posture had been more securely established by riding that he would be able to do some light driving while hitched to my Meadowbrook cart.

Roll had 3 weeks off after the x-rays and that turned out to be a bad decision. He lost some conditioning and got a little depressed because now the other mules were not turned out next to him anymore. So, we resumed his regular activities and allowed him turnout in the lane between the two spring turnout pens. He could have walked right through the low plastic gate, but never offered to do so. He was just happy to be near his new friends.

On Wednesday May 9, Roll seemed ready to be mounted and ridden for the first time. I carefully reviewed all his pre-riding lessons: grooming, tacking up while standing stock still, mounting in the tack barn, asking him to take the oats from both sides, repeated the same in the round pen after I ground drove him through the pattern I would ride with my assistant nearby mirroring his movements…

and then brought in the mounting block.

I then asked him to bring his head around to acknowledge that I was now on his back.

Roll was all business and absolutely perfect! He walked quietly tracking right for one rotation around the round pen, did a perfect reverse…

and tracked two more rotations to the left. He knew what to expect and responded accordingly right down to the rein back at the end of the lesson!

I told him it wouldn’t be long before he would be able to take treks with me around the farm fields like the other mules. He just beamed with pride and enthusiasm! It’s wonderful to see him truly happy again!





Goodbye Rock

Rock and Roll Update


Everyone who has followed the story of Rock and Roll knows it has been an uphill battle, especially with Rock. With great sadness, but continued inspiration, we regretfully announce that this will be the last update to include our gentle giant, Rock.

Goodbye Rock

Goodbye to our dear friend, Rock

After some down time in Rock’s exercise regiment due to some swelling, I decided to resume his physical therapy the day after Christmas and did just two rounds of his therapy pattern. Trooper that he was, he tried with all his might, but his hips were listing terribly to the left and he knocked every one of the three ground poles as he went over them the first time. The second time over the ground rails, he only hit two and cleared one. The third time over, he just grazed one. Afterwards, when I put him back in his pen, he lay down immediately and just went flat out for a few seconds before rolling back onto his chest again. It was then we noticed the bulging in the coronet band of his left hind foot. He was “sinking!” We called the vet immediately and he confirmed my fear. The lamina was pulling away from the hoof wall and allowing the bones to “sink” into his hoof. It wouldn’t be long before the other feet would follow suit. It was clear he was in agony and would have to be put down. Of course, it was Monday, a holiday, and no businesses were open, not even the renderer. I suggested to the vet that I would like to do a necropsy to find out just what we were up against and to salvage his skeleton for teaching purposes. My vet said he would check with CSU, but that they would be on vacation until January 17th. I knew Rock couldn’t make it much longer and just resolved myself to the fact that it would have to be the renderer. So, my vet loaded him up with anti-inflammatory medicine and said he would be back the next afternoon.

The next day, my vet called and said the president of CSU had agreed to pull in a team for the necropsy and preservation of the skeleton. He thought perhaps the assembly of the skeleton could be done this summer as a project for the veterinary interns. Then, after saying our goodbyes, it was time for us to let Rock move on. He took his last steps surrounded by his Lucky Three family that afternoon.

When the necropsy came back, it didn’t show a fracture of Rock’s pelvis, as we had thought, but instead, multiple fractures in the ball joint of the hip. The better part of the socket of the joint was almost completely gone on the bottom, with a hole the size of a dime on the top part. The head of the femur had no cartilage left and there was fibrosis and cysts the entire length of the stem of the femur. It was an incredible amount of injuries for a single mule.

Every day for the entire year, I had prayed for a miracle for Rock, and each time I prayed, he got better for awhile. I wondered why God hadn’t given us yet another miracle and let him live. But I realized that I HAD gotten a miracle. The miracle was that our courageous and noble Rock had been able to live a quality life for one more year…that he had proven our therapy can work… and that he lived long enough so his half-brother of 20 years, Roll, was able to bond with people who would love and care for him the rest of his life!

God bless you, Rock! We will all miss you and are thankful for all you have taught us.


Meredith with draft mule Rock

Rock and Roll Update

Draft mule Rock with wrapped legs

Draft mule Rock eases into a new step of his rehabilitation process.

Rock and Roll did relatively well for the better part of the summer, but as they got to feeling better, they became more rambunctious and began sparring with each other. One evening several weeks ago, Rock came in a little sore in front, but we thought nothing of it as this had been the case before. The next morning however, we went out and found Rock standing hunched over and shaking on all four legs! We immediately called the chiropractor because it was clear that he had done something to his left hind leg, which was the only sound leg left on his body. The chiropractor couldn’t make it until later that evening, but Rock did get a massage that day. It didn’t seem to help much. When the chiropractor finally arrived, he did manage to get the stifle area on the left hind somewhat straightened out, but it didn’t really fix it. The next morning he came back and suggested that we call a pow-wow with the equine chiropractor/D.V.M. from Colorado State University. We called everyone involved with Rock as well: his vet, his equine masseuse, her husband (also a D.V.M.), our ranch manager and me.

I suspect that Rock’s injury occurred because he and Roll were probably playing and got too rough with each other. Rock probably tripped himself on the temporary boots he was wearing that were fitted for a draft horse foot (round and not oblong like a mule foot). The prognosis was agreed upon that Rock’s laminitis was causing most of his discomfort and he was trying to carry all the weight on an inflamed area between and hip joint and the stifle joint. Rock wore huge sores on his fetlocks, knees and hocks that needed to be wrapped to prevent further damage. Since Rock had spent much of his time prior to coming here on rest and Bute, I did not feel this to be the best course of action for him since motion seemed to improve his condition when he first arrived.

The Bute he had been on prior to coming here had caused problems in his digestive tract. I felt it was risky to have him on Bute again so soon after the 9-day dosage we had just done. Bute can also mask any other problems that he might have. As long as he wasn’t severely painful, I decided to modify his regimen to include integrating his workout with the walk to and from the “ice ditch” my ranch manager created for him. He walked through the sandy dressage arena over his four 1” PVC poles and then we opened two gates with a circle to the right at each gate. Then his gear was loosened and he proceeded into the ice ditch for twenty minutes on his front feet and 10 minutes on his rear and fronts. He was antsy about leaving the back feet in for very long. Why? Probably because he has shoes behind and they got pretty darn cold pretty quickly and I imagine the nails holding them on weren’t at all comfortable either! Then he returned to turnout via the same course, only this time going the through the gates with turns to the left.

Meredith with draft mules Rock and Roll

Draft mule Rock is back on the road to recovery!

The moderate exercise and icing has really helped and Rock is once more on the road to recovery. When he gets sore and doesn’t want to weight the front feet, we ice him to cool the laminitis down and it is working very well. He has ceased lying down a lot and is acting much more normal. The sores both under the wraps and on his body in areas we could not wrap are finally beginning to heal. I will need to continue wrapping these areas until we can be sure that he is strong again on 3 of his legs and moderately strong on the right hind leg with the old fracture at the pelvis. Rock and Roll had to be separated to keep Rock safe, but they still enjoy each other’s company in adjoining stalls and runs and in adjoining turnout pens. When you are tending to rescue animals it is always one step forward and several steps back, but with faith, hope and a little help from knowledgeable friends and professionals, miracles can happen! You just have to BELIEVE!


Rehabilitated draft mules Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll Update

Rehabilitated draft mules Rock and Roll

Big boys on the mend, Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll, a 17 and 16-year-old draft mule team came to us on December 5, 2010. They had been rescued from an auction in Kiowa, Colorado, roughly a year before that by some friends of mine. They offered the mules to me as a last resort when their efforts to rehabilitate them failed.

Rock had an old fracture on the face of his pelvis opposite the ball joint in the right hip and had severe founder and rotation in his hind feet. Getting those shod was a real challenge since he could not stand on the bad leg. Roll had side bones in his right hind foot and it is a constant challenge to keep that foot balanced. Both mules had been seriously foundered and had muscle atrophy throughout their bodies. As therapy progressed, even more problems surfaced so we were making progress with one step forward and two steps backwards, but nevertheless, we have been gaining ground with their health.

Both mules began to develop better eating habits and better hair coats almost immediately with their change in diet. Atrophied muscles and calcified joints began to move again. Rock went through several superficial issues that were problematic. The founder began to grow out and he became three-legged lame just about the time a horsefly bit him in the sheath and caused intense swelling. Because he couldn’t move, it wouldn’t go down. We got boots for his front feet since we could not nail shoes to his foundered front feet that enabled the swelling to move from the sheath to his abdomen. We hot packed his abdomen for two weeks and it went down, but he developed a sebaceous cyst that we thought was a sarcoid on front of the withers and a wart on his chin. We got the cyst removed and treated the cyst as a sarcoid which caused the wart to drop off. Rock is now able to resume his exercises and is doing much better.

We are happy to say that both mules are doing well after 10 months of physical therapy with the core muscle leading training exercises that we do here. Roll was able to graduate to moderate round pen work in the elbow pull after about four months of leading exercises. It will be another year of groundwork before the founder is completely grown out. Their respective uses will be determined as their health improves.



Rock and Roll Update

On December 5, 2010 we welcomed Rock and Roll, two draft mules to Lucky Three Ranch.  Rock is 17 years old, 18 hands and Roll is 16 years old and 17 1/2 hands.  Both of our new residents have various physical issues and have begun an intensive rehabilitation program including massage, chiropractics, proper nutrition exercise. Check back and follow the progress of these two beautiful gentle giants!

Meet draft mules Rock and Roll

Meet Rock and Roll

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