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MULE CROSSING: Rewards, Treats, Coaxing and Bribing

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By Meredith Hodges

It is important to know the differences among rewards, treats, coaxing and bribing in order to correctly employ the reward system of training called Behavior Modification.

Rule Number One: Treats and bribery should never be used during training. However, the appropriate dispensing of rewards and coaxing will produce the correct behaviors.

In order to reward your equine correctly for performing tasks, it is important to know the difference between a reward and a treat, and between coaxing and bribing. Let’s begin with some basic definitions of these terms:

Reward: something desirable given for a completed task

Treat: an unexpected gift given simply because it will be enjoyed

Coax: to gently persuade without dispensing the reward

Bribe: to persuade the animal by indiscriminately dispensing treats

Remember to give your equine a reward only after a specific task you’ve asked for has been performed—or even an assimilation of that task, which means the taking of baby steps toward completing the task. The reward should be given immediately upon completion of the task and then your equine should be allowed time to enjoy his reward before moving on to the next task. If your equine is given a food reward for only good behaviors, he will be more likely to continue to repeat only those behaviors for which he is rewarded and you can begin to “shape” his behavior in a positive way.

Treats, on the other hand, are a food that your equine especially likes, which are given randomly and without purpose. Giving random treats during training can result in crossed signals and confusion in your animal. Treats such as peppermints and even “horse treats” are generally an inappropriate food source for equines and when dispensed too freely, have actually been known to cause equine health problems, so forego treats of any kind during the training process.

Coaxing and bribing can seem like the same thing, but they are not. Bribery suggests the actual dispensing of a reward before the task has been completed. Bribery is the indiscriminate dispensing of treats and is not the way to clearly communicate to your equine which is truly a positive behavior and which is not. Rewards and coaxing are often confused with bribery, but rewards are dispensed for a task only when it has been completed, and coaxing using the promise of a reward can often be used to help your equine to stop balking and attempt to perform the task you have requested. Then the reward is given only when he has completed the task.

As an example of coaxing, you can extend a handful of crimped oats to lure your equine closer to an obstacle, but he should not receive the handful of oats until he completes the required task or travels enough distance toward the obstacle to deserve a reward. If your equine just won’t come all the way to an obstacle, even to get a reward, you can modify the task by asking your equine to just come closer to the obstacle and then halt (but without backing up). Then the reward can be dispensed for the partial approach and halt, because these actions still qualify as an assimilation of the bigger task that is to be completed. If he backs away at all, he should not be rewarded and you will have to go back to the beginning of the task and try again.

A kind word or a pat on the head may be enjoyable for your equine, but it doesn’t necessarily insure that the desired behavior will be repeated. However, a food reward insures that desirable behaviors will be repeated, because food is a solid, tangible reward. The food reward will back up the petting, (the petting is something that you probably do all the time anyway). When you visit your equine, you most likely pat him on the nose or head and say hello, but there are no real demands for any particular task being asked of your equine—you and your equine are simply interacting. You’re getting him used to touch, discovering how he likes to be touched and learning about his responses, which is actually part of imprinting.

The problem with carrots, apples and other foods people use for treats is that they’re not something for which the equine will continue to work and are not healthy choices for your animal in large quantities. After a limited amount of time, equines can easily become satiated on most treats. It’s like a kid with a bunch of candy bars. Once they become full they don’t want any more candy and they’ll stop working for the treat. Many foods used as treats, when given too freely, may also cause your animal to become tense or hyperactive. However, it’s been my experience that an equine will continue to work for crimped oats as long as you dole them out. Crimped oats are healthy for the body and they don’t cause an equine to become tense and difficult to handle.

When you’re using rewards, always start with lavish rewards for all new behaviors. This means that, every time you teach something new, you’re going to give lavish rewards for even the slightest assimilation toward the correct behavior. For instance, if your foal is tied to the fence and upon your approach, he quits pulling, it’s time to try to walk away from the fence with him and see if he will follow you. In this first leading lesson, you’ll untie him and ask him to take a step toward you. If he does, lavishly reward that step toward you, wait for him to finish chewing his oats and then ask him to take another step forward and toward you. If he complies and takes another step forward, lavishly reward that step too. During the first lesson, you will be rewarding every single step he takes toward you. Remember to keep the lesson short (about 15 minutes) and ask for only as many steps as he willingly gives you.

Between lessons, let your equine have a day off in order to rest. When you return for the second lesson, tie him to the fence and review with him your last lesson from the very beginning. He should remember the previous lessons and be willing to follow you right away in order to be rewarded. If he seems willing to follow your lead, untie him and ask him to take a step forward just as he did before, but this time, instead of dispensing the food reward when he takes the first step forward, simply say, “Good boy” and ask him for a second step forward before you reward him with the oats. You will now be progressing from one step forward before you reward to two steps forward before you reward.

If he won’t take the second step forward, then give the reward for the first step, wait for him to finish chewing and ask again for two steps before rewarding him again. If he complies, you can then reward him every two steps during that lesson and quit after fifteen minutes. Give him another day between lessons and then proceed in the same manner, beginning with a review of the previous lesson, then a reward for the first step, and then for every two steps. During this lesson, you can now ask for three steps, and you can continue asking for three or more steps during this lesson, provided that he takes these steps willingly and then stops obediently on his own to receive his reward. You no longer need to count the steps as long as he is offering more steps between rewards each time. If, because of his enthusiasm, he begins to charge ahead, stop him and immediately reward him for halting. This will insure that he keeps his attention on you and the task at hand. This methodical, deliberate process is setting the stage for a positive and healthy working relationship with your equine.

This is how you begin with leading training, and also how you should proceed with all the new things that you will be teaching your equine. In the beginning of leading training, he gets rewarded for even an assimilation of what you’re asking. For example, when you get to negotiating obstacles, your goal may be to cross over a bridge, but when your equine sees the bridge ahead, he may stop or start backing up. At this point, allow him to back until he stops. Go back and repeat the steps you did prior to approaching the obstacle. Then, asking for only one step at a time, proceed as you did during his flatwork leading training toward the bridge, rewarding each step he takes. Tell him verbally how brave he is and continue to reward any steps he takes toward the obstacle before proceeding forward. Remember to stop at any interval where he becomes tense, ask for one more step to be rewarded, and then allow him to settle and refocus before asking any more from him.

Once he goes to the bridge without a problem, you no longer have to reward him all the way up to the bridge. Just reward him when he actually gets to the bridge. Next, step up onto the bridge and ask him to take a step up onto the bridge with his two front feet, which is another new task. If he puts one foot on the bridge or even tries to lift up a foot and put it on the bridge, make sure you reward that behavior. Once he has a foot firmly placed on the bridge, keep tension on the lead rope and ask for his other front foot to come up onto the bridge. If he places his second foot on the bridge, you can then reward him for having both front feet on the bridge. Next, you’re going to continue forward and just walk over the bridge to the other side, pause and reward. Then quit this lesson. In his next lesson, if needed, repeat the approach the same way if he starts to balk. If not, ask him to step both front feet up onto the bridge, stop, make sure he is standing squarely, and reward that behavior.

Now you no longer need to reward for one foot on the bridge. This is called “fading or phasing out” the reward for a previous behavior (one step), while introducing the new behavior of walking to the bridge, halting and then putting two front feet up on the bridge. Wait for a moment for him to chew his reward and then ask him to continue onto the bridge, stop and square up with four feet on the bridge and reward. If he does not comply and won’t stop on the bridge, just go back to the beginning, approach the bridge as described and try again until he stops to be rewarded with all four feet placed squarely on the bridge

Then you ask him, to place his two front feet on the ground while leaving his two back feet on the bridge. Then have him stop and square up to be rewarded. This is a difficult position and if he cannot succeed by the third attempt, you may have to step in front and aid in his balance, then reward him when he settles in this position.

The last step over the bridge is to bring the hind feet off the bridge, stop and square up one more time before he gets rewarded. This does two things. It causes your equine to be attentive to the number of steps you are asking and it puts him in good posture at each stage so that his body will develop properly. In future lessons, the steps in the approach to the bridge no longer need to be rewarded and as he becomes more attentive, he will learn to stop any time you ask and wait for your cue to proceed. After several months of this meticulous attention to these detailed steps, he will not necessarily need to be rewarded with the food reward each time—a pat on the neck and kind words of support should be sufficient. Rewards can then be given for whole “blocks” of steps when he successfully completes them.

Here is a question a lot of people ask: “This is fine while my animal and I are still working from the ground, but what happens when I finally get on to ride? Do I keep rewarding every new behavior when I ride?”  The answer to that question is, “No, you don’t.”  If you do your ground work correctly, it will address all the things that you’ll be doing while you’re riding before you actually even get on. Your equine has been lavishly rewarded for stopping when you pull on the reins and the drive lines, and he’s been rewarded for turning and backing and everything else he needs to learn before you actually get on him, so the only thing left to get used to would be exposure to your legs on his sides. He will soon learn that your legs push him in the direction of the turn you are indicating with your reins. For this action, he does not need to be rewarded.

In the natural progression of correct training—including during mounting training—your equine should also be getting rewarded when you’re first getting him used to your being on-board. Give him the oats reward for standing still while you attempt to mount (i.e., walking toward him, holding the left rein and reaching for the saddle horn), and then when you hang from each side of his body with a foot in the stirrup (first on one side and then on the other side), and, finally, from each side of his body while you sit on his back. When you ask him to turn his head to take the oats from your hand, you can be sure his attention will be on you because this action will force him to look at you in order to receive his oats. Then reward him again for standing still as you dismount. Consequently, by the time you actually get to the point of riding in an open arena, he’s been rewarded for having you on his back and for behaving well through all the exercises demanded from him during round pen training.

You may first want to lunge your equine when you move into the open arena. Lunge him on the lunge line and reward him during that part of your arena workout. When you are ready to mount in the open arena, have a few oats in your pockets to offer him when you mount on each side the first few times. This will ensure that his attention stays focused on you. Once he is used to being ridden, you will no longer have to reward him in the middle of riding lessons. If he does not keep his attention on his work in the open arena, this signifies that not enough time has been spent on the ground work and you should back up your training regimen to the point that he is maintaining attentiveness and performing correctly, even if it means going back to the round pen or leading work. If, in the ground work stages, you give plenty of food rewards in the correct manner, by the time you groom and tack up, your equine should have been sufficiently rewarded and will not require another reward until after your workout when you return to the work station and un-tack him. This is called delayed gratification. When you un-tack him and do your last minute grooming before putting him away, again be generous with the crimped oats and praise your equine for a job well done. Rewards are dispensed very specifically and pave the road to a solid foundation of trust and friendship.

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, 2016, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

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What’s New with Roll? Body Language & the Hourglass Pattern

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7-2-18

Roll and I both needed some exercise, so we did a quick vacuuming, left the Tack Barn and headed for the dressage arena.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so we opted to navigate the hourglass pattern on the lead line in his surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and did some core muscle work.

When you routinely execute gates the same way, your equine will know what to expect…

…and he can always respond accordingly. Consistency breeds consistency. Accuracy breeds accuracy.

Roll is so cooperative that he wants to help me space the rails properly, waiting patiently as he should.

When I’m not sure, he helps with the spacing! First in a straight line…

…and then a diagonal rail crossing.

After the diagonal crossing, we began a turn to the right…

…and re-approach the ground rails…

…then halt in front of the first ground rail, all done with hand signals alone.

He had not worked over the rails for quite some time and hit two rails the first time out. I knew this could be a problem and opted to use my solid ground rails instead of the sand-filled PVC that he could just kick out of his way.

We practiced bending through the corner cones…

…and coming out of the turn onto a straight line.

Then he picked of his feet higher the next time through the ground rails, not a clip at all and into a nice halt.

Roll continues to have issues with twisting the right hind leg, but the core strength leading exercises and squaring up seemed to help quite a bit. The last two times over the rails, he went clean. He was walking much better towards the end of the lesson, so we practiced leaving the arena with the lead rope slung over his neck.

He was a real pro!!! I am sure proud of this 26 year old Belgian mule! This rescue continues to thrive!

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MULE CROSSING: Owning an Equine Is Serious Business, Part 3

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By Meredith Hodges

As discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this article, there are many more things to think about before purchasing an equine than you could have ever imagined—from the actual purchase of the equine to the management considerations you need to be aware of on a daily basis. It is so important to always keep in mind that an equine is not an inanimate object like a car that you can tune up, drive (or, in this case, ride) at will, and then put back in the garage until the next time. In fact, the equine was not anatomically designed to be ridden at all. The idea of riding was a completely human decision.

In order to more clearly understand this concept, let’s take a closer look at the equine anatomy. The equine is designed with interlocking vertebra in the spine that have long bony “fingers” called spinus processes,which protrude in varying lengths from the interlocking vertebra. The spinus processes“fingers” support the musculature that surrounds the super spinus ligament, which runs the full length of the back. The highest point of the spinus processes is at the withers, where the spinus processes bones are at their longest. They then taper down toward the croup, becoming shorter as they line up across the back. This is a body design that was intended to carry the weight below the spine and not on top of it. Everything in the equine’s mind and body supports this position and, when we train, if we do not pay attention to re-programming the muscles, tendons and ligaments to support the additional weight above the spine in a way that is painless and clearly understood by the equine, they become uncomfortable and even sore, and bad behaviors are almost certain to arise.

If you keep the equine anatomical structure and his mental reactions to stimulus in mind, the way to build adequate musculature to carry a rider or pull a vehicle is really quite simple. Equines have a natural willingness to please and become resistant only when they are frightened, hurt or confused by the way they are being asked to do something. Training does not only take place during lessons in your arena or round pen—lessons begin the moment you are within earshot of your animal, so when you go to get your equinefrom his pen or stall, approach with the attitude that you are visiting a friend.  Don’t’ just barge into his living space and try to “catch” him—rather, call out his name and say hello in a cheerful voice. Stand at the gate or door and offer a handful of oats, and when your equine comes to see you, let him know you are happy to see him too. Stroke his neck before you put the halter on your equine, and then give him his oats and let him invite you into his space. It won’t be long before he anticipates your arrival and “talks” back to your “Hello.” If you want to make a friend, you first need to be a friend!

Here are some important techniques to remember each time you approach your equine:

  • Be polite and considerate in your approach and your equine will be more willing to want to go with you. An equine that is “herd bound” and won’t leave his pasture buddies has simply decided that his equine counterparts are nicer to be around than the humans who “use” him, but if your animal feels good when he is with you, he won’t mind leaving his equine companions.
  • When you want to pet your equine, let him see that your hand is moving toward him, but keep movements low, slow and non-threatening.
  • Stroke his neck, going with the grain of the hair, and never against it.
  • Touch his head and other sensitive areas only after you have gained his confidence. Note the way he responds to your touch and alter your touch accordingly. If he flinches, you might be touching him either too lightly and tickling him or you could be touching him too strongly and it hurts. Use the flat of your hand and don’t “poke” at him.

Many people are familiar with imprinting their foals, but what they may not realize is that the purpose of imprinting is not just to get the foal used to human touch and smell. It is, in reality, the first steps in learning
about your equine’s entire body, and then adjusting the way you touch him so that you give him pleasure every time you touch him (except during brief disciplinary actions).

Most of us want to ride and do the more glamorous things that we see people do with equines right away, and we become impatient for the end result and don’t pay adequate attention to the smaller details that lead up to our fantasy.  But it is imperative to always remember that equines are very much like young children and need to learn in a slow, logical and sequential way.

 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How are you leading your animal after you catch him? Are you maintaining good posture?
  • How do you groom your animal, and how is the grooming received?
  • Are you being polite and considerate in the way you use the grooming tools?
  • How is the tack being put on?

Every movement sets the stage for how your equine’s body is being conditioned. So when you are leading your equine, make sure that you are holding the lead rope in your LEFT hand, are that you are moving in good posture yourself. Be sure that you are keeping your equine’s head at your shoulder, that you are pointing in the direction of travel with your right hand and that you are matching your equine’s steps while being clear in your intentions during movement transitions.

Remember: Square up your animal every time he stops to cultivate a new habit of good postural balance through repetition. Be cautious when leading your equine through narrow openings like gates and doorways. Make him allow you to pass through first every time. When you need to make a turn, always take one step forward first and then turn the animal on a gradual arc away from you—don’t make any abrupt movements.

Here are some important points to remember when learning to deal with tack and your new equine:

  • When approaching with tack and equipment, allow the equine to smell and inspect it before you put it on him, and then reward him for staying calm.
  • When putting on the bridle, be aware of how you take it over the animal’s ears so as not to hurt him.
  • When saddling, make sure stirrups and girths are put up and not flopping. Be polite and let the girths and stirrups down easily on each side.
  • Then ease the saddle onto your equine’s back, being sure not to tighten the girth all at once. Rather, come back several times and tighten just a little bit more each time until it is snug, but not tight.
  • When needed, cruppers are used on riding equines in order to keep the saddle in the correct position on the equine’s back. Make sure you know how to properly place the saddle over his center of gravity (so the girth lies four inches behind the forearm) and then adjust this piece of equipment.
  • Breeching is an assembly of straps across the rear quarters of the equine and is fine for packing and driving animals, but it can inhibit the hindquarter range of motion on a riding animal. A crupper is preferred for a riding animal to hold the saddle in place for extreme trail riding, etc.
  • If you have a double rigging on your Western saddle, always make sure that the front girth is done first and pulled snug—NOT tight—and that the back girth lays against the body and is just snug enough to keep the back of the saddle from flipping up, but it is not too tight.
  • Check your girth periodically when riding to make sure it stays snug enough so that the saddle does not roll toward you on the equine’s back when you try to mount.
  • Never use bridle reins or drivelines to tie your equine. When tying your equine, always use a halter and lead rope, and tie to a stout post (NOT fence rails) with a safety release knot.
  • Always untie your animal before removing the halter.

Coming up next, the fourth and final installment of Owning an Equine Is Serious Business features a discussion of beginning riding, with many valuable details, tips and safety rules and checklists that you can actually take with you while you are working with your new equine.

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.

© 2012, 2016, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Shenanigans in the Hayfields

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6-6-18

Do you need some help with the lead ropes?
  

The saddle mules are headed for turnout. Where do you think we are going, Spuds?

Looks like we’re headed for the hayfield, Augie!

Looks like you were right, Spuds!
Isn’t it beautiful, Augie?!

What is that big yellow thing, Augie?!
That’s Chad, Spuds…oh, you mean the swather?!

How do you do, Augie? Now smile for the picture!

How do you do, Spuds? Not so sure?

WOW! That big thing sure makes a lot of noise!

Now where are we going, Augie?!

These are some really deep windrows!

And some really tall grass is growing in the jump course, Augie!

Boy, I’ll say it’s tall, Spuds! I can’t see a thing! Where are we going?

Spuds, Augie, Are you guys into having a picnic out here?

You bet! This is really cool!

Smile for the camera, Boys!

We are very happy with you, Mini Momma, aren’t we Spuds?!

I wuv you, too, Mini Momma!

And I love you both!  What a grand picnic!

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: Second Lesson Day

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6-4-18

Simple hairbrush bristles remove more undercoat

 

The loose hair on top scrapes off easily

 

Place girth 4 inches from forearm

 

Lossen crupper strap & insert tail

 

Adjust snugly, but not tight

 

Much improved walking in sync

 

Proper turn through the gate

 

More impulsion & flexibility at walk left

 

First offer to trot easily

 

Begin reverse

 

Improved posture & balance at walk right

 

Offer to trot right

 

Hindquarter engagement before halt

 

Improved in sync back to work station

 

Slide saddle back to loosen crupper – learns to stand quietly

 

Remove saddle

Bristles are longer which is enough to get it all

 

No more shedding blade hair breakage

 

Adjust back girth snug enough to hold the saddle down

 

Scratch rear for relaxation of the tail

 

Place saddle over the center of balance

 

Patient while opening gate

 

Improved gate posture

 

Improved posture & balance at walk left

 

Beginning to find his balance

 

Complete reverse on correct pivot foot

 

Improved posture & balance at walk right

 

Finding balance at trot right

 

We did GOOD!

 

Remove bridle & put on halter

 

Slide crupper off tail

 

Back to the barn IN SYNC!

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: First Lesson Day

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4-3-18

Needed to correct following from behind

 

First time in the “Elbow Pull” – Track Left Walk

 

Exit Gate

 

Remove Saddle – Learn to stay quiet

Posture at the gate is a bit slouchy

 

First time in the “Elbow Pull” – Track Right Walk

 

Exit Tack Barn

 

Enter Tack Barn

 

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: First Turnout Day

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7-28-17

Okay, you’re on your own for a while

 

You smell okay!

 

These guys look a bit familiar.

 

WOW! They even put in a mirror for me!

 

Rather short fence post.

 

Perfect for a good roll!

 

More green here, too! STILL can’t reach it!

 

Hi, Augie! Mini donkey, eh? My name’s Wrangler!

Hmmmm…who’s this? Sir Guy?

 

I see green, but I can’t reach it!

 

So you are MINI donkeys, eh?

 

Sniff…great sand!

 

Great sand here!

 

More green over here…still can’t reach it!

 

Where did everyone at the barn go?

 

Time to go back to the barn.

 

 

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: First Farrier/Veterinarian Check-up

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7-7-17

Oats will definitely make this better!

 

You know it’s not polite to stare!

 

Nice to meet you Dr. Farrand!

 

…but nothing that Neosporin can’t handle.

 

So you want me to stand up straight?

 

Checking respiration? Ooh, that tickles!

 

Do you see anything in there?

 

Does it look okay, Doc?

 

Yup, small feet and big ankles… fetlocks!

Nice to meet you Farrier Dean!

 

So all you want me to do is walk around?

 

Yes, the chafing from the trailer is a bit sore …

 

It looks worse than it really is.

 

Checking my heart rate?

 

Can you see anything through the hair?

 

That is a bit bright on the eye!

 

I know I have very small feet!

 

The other front is small, but good, too!

Checking my pulse and I passed my health check!

 

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Wrangler’s Donkey Diary: Modeling Blanket for Trailering

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7-17-17

 

 

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Wrangler’s Donkey Diary: Arrival At Lucky Three Ranch

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6-29-17

Nation wide horse transportation

 

Checking things out

 

Leading – not exactly in sync

 

Entering barn alleyway

 

Handsome head shot

 

Meeting Meredith

 

Giving Meredith a donkey kiss

 

Good–bye present from prior owners

Unloading at Lucky Three Ranch

 

Steve leads the way – donkey trailer butt sores

 

Approaching the barn – in sync

 

Enter stall ahead of handler and turn around

 

Checking out his run

 

Posing for a picture

 

Giving Meredith a donkey hug

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What’s New with Roll? Roll’s Insights into Massage Therapy

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5-17-18

Massage for equinesis now used more often as an alternative or complementary healing process toward health and fitness.

Simple massage can prevent various injuries throughout your animal’s lifetime. Don’t wait for obvious injury to occur—preventive massage increases the length of the muscle fibers, taking pressure off the joints.

When the muscles are allowed to contract and expand to their full length, they are able to absorb important nutrients that reduce fatigue. Massage also increases blood flow, which helps the body flush harmful toxins, such as lactic acid, that build up from normal use.

Massage aids in reprogramming the nervous system to break patterns that can cause atrophy or knotted tissue. If you are unsure as to the severity of an injury, consult your vet!

At Lucky Three Ranch, I have found that therapeutic equine massage promotes relaxation and reduces stress. It also stimulates healing after an injury and provides significant relief from pain as it did when Roll had White Line Disease in 2016-17.

Massage can reduce muscle spasms, and greater joint flexibility and range of motion can be achieved through massage and stretching—resulting in increased ease and efficiency of movement.

Always be aware of your animal’s reaction to pressure and respond accordingly. Watch his eyes and ears. As you work look for signs of sensitivity toward the affected area such as biting, raising and lowering the head, moving into or away from pressure, contraction of muscles from your pressure, tossing his head, swishing his tail, picking up his feet, changes in his breathing or wrinkles around his mouth.

If your animal is heavy in the bridle, if he tips his head to one side, or if he has difficulty bending through the neck, he is exhibiting stiffness in this area.

If he moves away, he is telling you that you are exerting more pressure than he can comfortably endure, and you should go back to using your fingertips.

A raised head and perked ears may indicate sensitivity. He is asking for lighter pressure, so learn to pay attention to the things your animal tells you about his body.

Massage therapy should never be harmful. For the sake of safety and comfort, do not attempt massage therapy for rashes, boils, open wounds, severe pain, high fevers, cancers, blood clots, severe rheumatoid arthritis, swollen glands, broken bones, direct trauma or if there is any chance of spreading a lymph or circulatory disease, such as blood poisoning. Avoid direct pressure on the trachea.

It is easiest to find sore spots and muscles when your animal is warmed up, so after a ride is a good time to do massage therapy and passive range-of-motion exercises.

Each time you ride, take the time to quickly go over your animal and assess his sensitive areas: check his range of motion to detect stiffness in the joints. Paying this kind of attention to his body will enhance his athletic performance and provide him with a wonderfully relaxing reward. Give your equine the preventive care that he deserves to make your way to a mutually satisfying relationship.

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What’s New with Roll? A Walk in the Jump Course

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5-8-18

After about an hour of shedding grooming with the hairbrush, shedding blade and then the vacuum, Roll and I headed out for a walk around the jump course. We started at the Tack Barn and walked through the alleyway between the buildings.

We stopped occasionally along the driveway to square up and he seemed to be reluctant to weight the right hind again, but after a few times, he did better. We stopped at the MULE CROSSING sign for a photo-op.

Then we went down the beautiful tree-lined driveway on our way past the mules in the dirt pen having lunch, and past Jasper Bunkhouse, to the jump course area.

We stopped again at the statue of Lucky Three Eclipse, my hunter champion, situated behind our equipment barn where all the hay equipment is stored. Roll was more interested in the “Ely” statue than he was with the photo-op!

The grass was pretty tall and made for difficulty walking through it, but Roll was willing and did not dive for the grass, but obediently kept his head up, moving freely forward.

As long as he was walking, he was obedient. Then when I stopped him and asked him to square up, he became more interested in the grass and was not that willing to stand still for very long each time he stopped.

I guess the temptation was just too much for him, so I let him have a nibble! The reins tied up to the surcingle only allowed him to crop the ends off the tall grass.

We then walked on a little farther, enjoying the sunshine, the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the background, and the warm weather.

We stopped for another photo-op in the grass, but he did not stay squared up for the picture. He was still slightly distracted by the grass and apparently moved, but at least he wasn’t being pushy about it and smiled for the camera!

He really didn’t want to leave the grass, but he followed me nevertheless and squared up again on the road. At 18 hands, it’s a good thing he is as obedient as he is or he could have dragged me back into the grass!

We stopped again to see the Mae Bea C.T. statue. Roll had to reach out and take a good look at her pretty face!

He did pretty well overall. The walk was just enough to tune up his core. It’s hard to believe that he has now been with me for 8 years considering he was a rescue and supposedly a lost cause when I got him.

Roll is now 26 years old and I hope he still has many good years to come. It was a beautiful day and we both thoroughly enjoyed our walk together. Maybe next time, we’ll go for a ride!

View all What’s New With Roll? posts

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What’s New with Roll? Spring Work in the Hourglass Pattern

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3-28-18

Roll did exceptionally well today! He was also happy that he got to work out with his little buddies, Augie and Spuds. His body is beginning to get toned up again and he is starting to shed off his winter coat.

I did a quick pass with the hairbrush and then the vacuum cleaner. Last was Johnson’s Baby Oil in his mane and tail. I noticed right away during the grooming process that he was finally put weight on his right hind foot again.

On the way to the arena, I led Roll and Steve led Augie and Spuds.

Roll executed the gate perfectly as he always has. There is really something to be said for GATE TRAINING! With routine practice, they always know exactly what is expected and respond accordingly…no fussing at all.

Roll got his turn in the hourglass pattern first and did amazingly well while Augie and Spuds waited patiently at the fence.

I never had to physically move a foot with any tugs on the rope. He responded 100% to the verbal commands to correct his stance when he was in a full stop and fully weighted all four feet this time when he was asked to do so.

To fully weight the foot in the arena, he had to push the sand down. Sometimes I asked him to do it and sometimes I did not. With the ringbone and side bones in three feet, I really did not expect him to come back to full balance, but he did! What a great surprise!

After a halt on centerline, he followed me obediently to the fence with the lead rope slung over his neck.

When I went to retrieve him he was sideways to the fence, but he moved over so I could release him from the fence on my hand signal alone.

Roll executed the gate perfectly again on the way out…

…then we proceeded down the road and back to the Tack Barn. What a guy!!!

 

See more What’s New With Roll? posts

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Ground Drive Hourglass Pattern with Roll

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“This vacuum sure feel good, Spuds!”

“Yeah, Augie, but why is Roll here with us?”

“Not sure, Spuds, but she’s putting on our driving gear.

We haven’t done that in a very long time! Can you tell where we are going?””

“Not really! I can see underneath, but Roll still makes a better door than a window! Is he going with us?!”

“It looks more like we are going with HIM, Spuds!”

 “Oh look, Spuds! It’s the hourglass pattern! It must be ground driving today!”

She just got done leading Roll through the pattern and now you get to ground drive the pattern. Why do I have to go last?!

“Because that’s just the way it is, Augie! Just stay cool and chill while we do this thing in sync. I love to see if she can match my tiny steps!”

“One…two…three…four. She’s doing pretty good, Augie!”

Finally, it’s MY turn now, Spuds…one…two…three…four!”

“You watch, Spuds! I’m putting my whole body into it”

“Apparently she liked it! That was really fun and EASY!”

“Ah Gee, Spuds, do we have to go back already!”

“I don’t know about you, Augie, but I’m ready for supper!”

“You’re always ready for supper. That’s why you are so PORTLY, PUDS!”

 

See more Another Adventure With Augie and Spuds posts

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What’s New with Roll? Spring Grooming/Work in the Hourglass Pattern

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Finally a day came that was warm enough to be able to wash the winter dirt out of Roll’s mane and tail! The first thing was to make sure he did not “feed on his lead rope” while I wasn’t looking, so I removed the rope lead and attached him to the chain lead at the wash rack.

The water was still icy cold, but I tried to limit his and my exposure to the cold. When we were done, his dirty brown mane and tail had turned the gorgeous, creamy reddish blond that I knew it was. He looked so handsome!

I gave his spine a stretch by pulling on his tail. Then it was time to put on his gear for his core strength leading exercises in the hourglass pattern in the outdoor arena.

He put up with my fussing to fit the surcingle…

…and obediently dropped his head when I put on the bridle and “Elbow Pull.”

I think he was glad we were finally able to go back out and work again after a few weeks of VERY cold temperatures. He has been having difficulty getting up and down, so I new he needed to get back to some moderate forced exercise. When he is left to his own devices, he tends to be somewhat of a couch potato.

He actually did better than I thought he would first walking down the road to the arena…

…and going through the gate to begin to execute the hourglass pattern balancing exercises.

It wasn’t that hard to get him to set up his feet with equal weight over all four feet…easier than the last time. Still, he is hesitant to fully weight the right hind foot. I believe this might be due to the soreness that he has developed from getting up and down. He has pretty tall side bones in that foot.

Roll is now 26 years old and although he cooperates, his mind does wander a bit like a “little old man’s” mind would! Still, when I call his name to remind him, he DOES come to attention!

After we did the hourglass pattern 1 ½ times each way, I slung the lead rope over his neck for the first time to see if he would follow me across the arena to the gate, stop, through the gate and down the road to the Tack Barn (Sorry, no photos – we shot video). He did excellent! I was so proud!

And when we got back, he obediently lowered his head again to get his bridle removed. He has truly changed dramatically in the eight years that I have had him. I can’t believe it has been that long! My how time flies when you’re having fun together…staying healthy!

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What’s New with Roll? Winter Work in the Hourglass Pattern

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Roll has been off for quite some time during this crazy winter weather that we have been having and due to the extra office work that I have taken on. Today we had an opportunity with warm temperatures, but avoided the mud from the snow by working indoors. First, I groomed Roll with a curry and then the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner is a great tool to promote circulation to the muscles over the body.

Johnson’s Baby Oil in the mane and tail help to protect the hair from the harsh winter weather, drying mud and prevents other equines from chewing on them.

Today we used my Kieffer dressage saddle that seems to fit most of my mules and Roll included with a girth extender. Then I put on the “Elbow Pull” and adjust it so that it helps him to keep his good posture throughout his lesson.

The “Elbow Pull” only prevents him from raising his head so high that he inverts his neck and hollows his back. Otherwise, it affords him full range of motion upward (to that point), downward to the ground and as far as he can stretch his head and neck to both sides.

We went to the indoor arena and he stood like a soldier while I closed the gate and prepped for our lesson in the hourglass pattern. It is extraordinary how core strength stays with these guys even when they are off work for long periods of time.

This is not true with bulk muscle or an animal that has not had the benefit of core strength postural  development. The core strength that we develop in good posture is sustained by the equines themselves in their daily routines even when they do not receive forced exercise as long as they continue to move in good posture and rest four-square. Equines that rest with uneven foot placement, or cock a hind foot and drop a hip are not balanced in good posture with a strong core.

When saddling, we do it from the left side (near side) as done normally, but to keep things balanced, we  unsaddle from the right side (off side) and pull the saddle back onto the rear end to loosen the crupper and  make it easy to remove. When the equine is routinely handled like this, they learn to relax and stand quietly because they know what to expect.

It is amazing to see how much Roll’s attitude has changed in the eight years he has been with us. When he first arrived, he would snort at everything and hide behind Rock. He is now a happy, confident and affectionate 26 year old, 18 hand draft mule. He enjoys his lessons and never forgets a thing!

Trying new things is now done with much less effort and thus, much less drama! Yes, Roll is a bit obese with atrophied bulk muscle right now, but with routine lessons, he will be back to peak condition in no time. An equine that possesses a good foundation built with core strength in mind will be in a position to excel in all kinds of equine activities…because they are never over-whelmed.

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What’s New with Roll? Cyst Removal

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12/22/17

Today, Chad brought Roll up to the work station. On October 23, 2017, I had found a nodule on Roll’s lower right jaw line. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand came out right away to check it to determine what kind of growth it was.

We have had sarcoids in the past, but this did not seem to be a sarcoid, but rather, a small cyst that was not attached to the bone. Since it was not attached, I made the decision to get it removed before it had an opportunity to become attached to the bone.

Lucky Three Sundowner had a similar growth on his jaw that WAS attached to the bone and it finally grew to such a size that it ultimately obstructed his ability to eat and he had to be put down at the age of 35 years.

We were preparing to vaccinate the herd, so we opted to wait on Roll’s surgery until after the vaccinations and hoped for a freeze that would kill all the insects. The exposed wound would have a better chance at healing in the colder weather without insect interference. We had to wait for quite a while since our winter weather proved to be unusually warm until today,  December 22, when we finally opted to do the surgery.

 

Greg gave Roll a sedative to help him to relax. I shaved the area heavily covered with winter hair with my #10 blades and then Greg stepped in and shaved it closer with his veterinary-gauged blades.

He then injected the site with a numbing agent and prepped it for the surgery.

The cyst was neatly contained and unattached below the surface of the skin. He carefully cut it away from the skin and was left with a perfectly round cyst that fell out easily.

When cut in half, the cyst revealed granular tissue in the center that is indicative of some foreign agent in the body that was surrounded by tissue that just never abscessed. We will send off the cyst to be tested to make sure there are no further issues to treat.

Greg carefully and neatly sutured the skin along his jaw line back together.

Greg gave me instructions about the care of the wound. Basically, we did not have to do anything, but let it heal. I will remove the sutures in 10-14 days.

Roll was still a bit drowsy when I took him back to his pen. He will not get food for at least two hours after the surgery to keep him from choking. He should heal nicely.

I took a sleepy Roll back to his pen. By tomorrow, he probably won’t even know what happened and he was such a trooper through it all! I am so glad my mules are trained the way they are…not a bit of trouble!

 

Donkeys Require a Creative Approach

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    Donkeys Require a Creative Approach

    Meredith gets a lot of letters and emails from people with training questions about their equines. Here, she offers some practical advice for training your donkeys.

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  • TT 02 Thumb

    Danger of Halters

    Meredith discusses the dangers of leaving the halter on your equine, and some alternatives
    for catching them.

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  • TT 03 Thumb

    Work Stations

    Meredith discusses how to set up a work station for tack and grooming your equine.

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  • TT 04 Thumb

    Communication and Equines

    Meredith talks about how to best communicate with your equine.

    For more information on developing a positive working relationship with your equine, check out "Keys to Successful Training: Attitude and Approach," on TMD On Demand.

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  • TT 05 Thumb

    Feeding Time

    Meredith offers some advice on making the most of feeding time with your animals.

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  • TT 06 Thumb

    A Proper Feeding Regimen: Oats Mixture

    Meredith discusses the best way to incorporate an oats mixture into your equine's diet.

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  • TT 07 Thumb

    Pasture Grazing

    Meredith discusses how to best utilize pasture time for a happy and healthy equine.

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  • TT 08 Thumb

    Hay and Salt Lick

    Meredith talks about how to incorporate hay and the salt lick into your equine's feeding regimen.

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  • TT 09 Thumb

    The Reward System

    Meredith discusses the optimal method of rewarding your equine's behavior.

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  • TT 10 Thumb

    How and When to Use Rewards

    Once you've prepared your reward system, Meredith explains how and when to most effectively use rewards while training your equine.

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  • TT 11 Thumb

    The Importance of Good Posture

    Your horse, mule or donkey isn't born with good posture—so Meredith has some tips on how you can ensure he's moving his body properly as you train.

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  • TT 12 Thumb

    Imprinting and How it Works

    Imprinting is an important part of your equine's life--and not just for foals. Meredith discusses how to approach imprinting with an equine of any age.

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  • TT 13 Thumb

    Desensitization

    Meredith explains how to best work with a new or nervous equine.

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  • TT 14 Thumb

    Teaching Good Manners When Training

    Meredith explains the lifelong benefits of teaching your equine to behave with good manners.

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  • TT 15 Thumb

    Grooming Basics

    Keeping your animal well groomed is an essential component of equine care. Meredith shares some tips on the basics.

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  • TT 17 Thumb

    Bathing and the Hose

    Bathing can be a challenging endeavor for equines that are afraid of water or the hose. Meredith explains how to teach your equines to enjoy bath time.

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  • TT 18 Thumb

    Getting Down with Minis

    Training miniature equines is similar to their larger brethren, but often requires special approaches to make them comfortable. Find out how to best work with your mini in "Getting Down with Minis."

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    Turning Fear Into Curiosity

    Leading training on the obstacle course is your equine's initial exposure to real fear. Meredith explains how to turn that initial fear into a curiosity that will positively guide your equine's future interactions with the world!

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    Going Slowly

    When training any equine at any stage, going slowly and being clear and consistent in your approach is a more rewarding—and much safer—way to train for both you and your equine.

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  • TT 21 Thumb

    Assessing Your Equine

    Determining your animal's athletic ability is a useful guide in the training of your equine. Here, Meredith breaks it down into both a physical and mental assessment.

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  • TT 22 Thumb

    Gate Training

    Including good manners and routine practices while teaching gate training makes your job—and your equine’s—a lot easier, now and far into the future.

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  • TT 23 Thumb

    Halter Types

    No matter what kind of equine you have, the halter is one of your most basic—and most important tools.

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  • TT 24 Thumb

    Lead Ropes and Shanks

    All equines, including jacks and stallions, must be trained to lead with a lead rope and nylon halter before you attempt any further training. Learn more about the use of lead ropes and shanks in this training tip.

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    Leading Correctly

    The key to leading your equine correctly is consistency—learn how to use leading cues correctly and consistently in this training tip.

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  • TT 26 Thumb

    The Quick Twist

    If you need some extra leverage with your equine during initial leading training, try using the "Quick Twist." Meredith explains how to set it up, and when to use it in this Training Tip.

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  • TT 27 Thumb

    The Face Tie

    Learn how to properly use the “face tie” restraint for your mule or donkey. This is a humane alternative to twitches, stocks and hobbles. This tie should NEVER be used with horses.

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  • TT 28 Thumb

    How to Square Up

    There are many advantages to having an equine that can square up at the halt, because that means he is putting equal weight over all four feet for ideal balance and good posture.

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  • TT 29 Thumb

    Walking Straight Lines

    In order for your equine’s body to be properly balanced, it’s important to fine-tune all movements and make them as steady, balanced, and coordinated as possible.

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  • TT 30 Thumb

    Bending Through the Rib Cage

    A supple equine is a pliable, self-confident and healthy equine. That is why it’s so important that he learns how to properly bend through his rib cage. The benefits will be enormous and will last a lifetime.

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    Proprioception

    Equines are not born with an awareness of their own bodies, or proprioception, so they must be taught how to orient themselves.

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  • TT 32 Thumb

    Good Posture and Performance

    For your equines to perform their best, they need to have even weight distribution and efficiently utilize balanced movement in their bodies.

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  • TT 33 Thumb

    Plan Every Move for Good Posture

    By planning every move and being consistent, you can reinforce your equine's good posture—until it's a natural state for them.

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  • TT 34 Thumb

    Keep Lessons Short and Easy

    Training sessions that are too repetitious and last too long will only fatigue and frustrate your equine, resulting in unwanted resistance. Keep lessons short and easy for the best training results.

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    Leading for Ideal Muscle Development

    Conducting your leading training on flat ground first is the best way to build strength in good equine posture for symmetrical muscle development.

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  • TT 36 Thumb

    Using the Elbow Pull During Leading Training

    The elbow pull will stop your equine from raising his head to the point where he hollows his neck and back, and will keep him in reasonably correct posture.

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  • TT 37 Thumb

    Showmanship Judging

    One of the most difficult things your equine will ever learn is to stand perfectly still while the show judge inspects him.

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  • TT 38 Thumb

    Showmanship Is Not Just For Show

    There is a common misperception that “Showmanship” is just a class at an equine show, but the truth is that showmanship training is beneficial to your equine any time.

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    Showmanship Patterns

    If you are going to attend a show, it is advisable to get a copy of the rulebook that is designated by the show committee, so you know what to expect for each class you enter.

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    Turn on the Haunches

    The turn on the haunches can be a complicated move for your equine. Learn how to approach the move in this Training Tip.

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  • TT 41 Thumb

    Turn on the Forehand

    Meredith demonstrates how to teach your equine to execute a turn-on-the-forehand on the lead line.

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  • TT 42 Thumb

    Leading Purposefully at the Walk and Trot

    Leading with purpose will keep your equine’s responses attentive, prompt and smooth.

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  • TT 43 Thumb

    Teaching Your Equine to Stand Still

    Whether or not your equine is calm enough  to really stand still depends on all the lessons he has had and how they were executed.

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  • TT 44 Thumb

    Leading Through Straight-Forward Obstacles

    Learn how to lead your equine through forward obstacles in order to instill confidence and turn your equine’s fear into curiosity.

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  • TT 45 Thumb

    Leading Through Lateral Obstacles

    Learn how to lead your equine through forward obstacles in order to instill confidence and turn your equine’s fear into curiosity.

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  • TT 46 Thumb

    What to Do When Stage Two Isn’t Working

    If leading lessons aren't working, try asking yourself these questions to figure out what's going wrong.

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  • TT 47 Thumb

    Side Passing the “T”

    Side passing the "T" is an advanced move, and a good challenge for testing your equine's lateral abilities.

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  • TT 48 Thumb

    Preparation for Lunging

    Is your equine ready to start lunging training? And are you? Ask yourself these simple questions—before you get into the roundpen—to make sure.

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  • TT 49 Thumb

    Free Lunging in the Round Pen

    Take your equine to the next level of lunging training with "free lunging"—that is, lunging without tack or equipment—in the round pen.

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    Appropriate Tack & Equipment for Lunging

    What type of tack and equipment are appropriate for lunging training in the round pen? Find out our recommendations!

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    Adjusting Tack & Equipment

    Once you've chosen the appropriate tack for your equine, make sure it is adjusted properly so your equine is comfortable and responsive. For more information on routine and restraints, check out the Training Mules and Donkeys DVD series in our store, or TMD Episode 5: 4: Good Manners on Video On Demand.

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  • TT 52 Thumb

    Verbal Commands and Body Language

    It is important to learn the elements of good communication through verbal commands and body language. You'll find an equine who is willing to comply when he understands what you are asking!

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  • TT 53 Thumb

    Use of the Whip During Lunging

    The whip is used in lunging to create movement and encourage impulsion in the equine and should never be used in an abusive manner. Learn how to use it the RIGHT way in Meredith's latest training tip!

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  • TT 54 Thumb

    Setting Up for Successful Lunging

    Know when your equine is ready to start working on lunging, and how to best set them up for success.

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  • TT 55 Thumb

    Lunging Multiple Equines

    It’s easy to lunge multiple animals when they are all trained the same way with sequential, logical and purposeful training practices. Learn what you and your equines need to know to lunge together safely!

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  • TT 56 Thumb

    Lunge Line Training

    Learn how to train your equine on the lunge line.

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  • TT 57 Thumb

    Transition To Drivelines

    Once your equine has become proficient in his posture and balance, leading over obstacles, and various stages of lunging, you are ready to put your equine on the drive lines in the round pen. Find out how to make this transition successfully.

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  • TT 58 Thumb

    Getting in Sync on the Drive Lines

    Getting into sync with your equine should be easier once he is calm about you ground driving him from behind at the walk. Good posture, consistent rhythm and regularity of footfall patterns are key to achieving calmness in your equine. See how it's achieved with finesse here.

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  • TT 59 Thumb

    Ground Driving the Hourglass Pattern

    Ground driving your equine through the hourglass pattern keeps you and your equine organized and in sync. Meredith shows you how in this Training Tip.

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  • TT 61 Thumb

    Laterally Ground Driving the Hourglass Pattern

    In this training tip, Meredith shows you how to progress from lateral driving against the rails to laterally ground driving the hourglass pattern.

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  • TT 62 Thumb

    Ground Driving Straight Forward Obstacles

    Ground driving your equine through the straight forward obstacles is a process of turning fear into curiosity, then finesse, coordination, competence and, finally, confidence.

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  • TT 63 Thumb

    Ground Driving Lateral Obstacles

    This is your equine's turn to take a leadership role in your partnership as you execute lateral obstacles on the drive lines. Navigating obstacles in this manner will instill mutual confidence and trust.

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  • TT 64 Thumb

    When Ground Driving Lateral Obstacles Aren’t Working

    When working through lateral obstacles, your equine may be unsure or fearful. Be sure to work patiently on your verbal commands and take obstacles slowly while being willing to gently help him through.

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  • TT 65 Thumb

    Ground Driving the Side Pass “T”

    Ground driving the Side Pass "T" is an advanced obstacle that should not be attempted until your equine is calmly and obediently performing all of the straight-forward and lateral obstacles. When he's ready, be sure to take it slow, and don't forget the rewards!

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  • TT 67 Thumb

    Healthy Hooves For Healthy Riding

    Soundness begins with the hooves. There is a wide variety of reasons, so learning to assess if and when your equine needs shoes, and how often hoof care is needed is critical to your equine’s overall physical postural balance and general health!

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    Mounting Exercises

    Trouble usually begins when you get in a hurry. Be sure to take your time and progress at the speed of your equine. As you do these mounting exercises, be sure your equine is comfortable and calm before moving on, and don't forget the oat rewards!

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  • TT 69 Thumb

    Begin Riding With an Assistant

    Once your equine is quiet and comfortable with you on board, you're ready to ride with your assistant at his head. Be sure to progress slowly and remember to reward your equine from his back on both sides. Stay relaxed while maintaining light pressure through your reins and your legs.

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  • TT 70 Thumb

    Teaching Your Mule to Stand Still When Mounting

    Having your equine stand still during mounting is the result of a calm and sensible approach to ALL phases of the preliminary groundwork. Going forward with a logical and sequential approach will help the equine to stay calm and prevent any resistance.

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RichardShrakeClinic8 11 2010 166CC

MULE CROSSING: Rewards, Treats, Coaxing and Bribing

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By Meredith Hodges

It is important to know the differences among rewards, treats, coaxing and bribing in order to correctly employ the reward system of training called Behavior Modification.

Rule Number One: Treats and bribery should never be used during training. However, the appropriate dispensing of rewards and coaxing will produce the correct behaviors.

In order to reward your equine correctly for performing tasks, it is important to know the difference between a reward and a treat, and between coaxing and bribing. Let’s begin with some basic definitions of these terms:

Reward: something desirable given for a completed task

Treat: an unexpected gift given simply because it will be enjoyed

Coax: to gently persuade without dispensing the reward

Bribe: to persuade the animal by indiscriminately dispensing treats

Remember to give your equine a reward only after a specific task you’ve asked for has been performed—or even an assimilation of that task, which means the taking of baby steps toward completing the task. The reward should be given immediately upon completion of the task and then your equine should be allowed time to enjoy his reward before moving on to the next task. If your equine is given a food reward for only good behaviors, he will be more likely to continue to repeat only those behaviors for which he is rewarded and you can begin to “shape” his behavior in a positive way.

Treats, on the other hand, are a food that your equine especially likes, which are given randomly and without purpose. Giving random treats during training can result in crossed signals and confusion in your animal. Treats such as peppermints and even “horse treats” are generally an inappropriate food source for equines and when dispensed too freely, have actually been known to cause equine health problems, so forego treats of any kind during the training process.

Coaxing and bribing can seem like the same thing, but they are not. Bribery suggests the actual dispensing of a reward before the task has been completed. Bribery is the indiscriminate dispensing of treats and is not the way to clearly communicate to your equine which is truly a positive behavior and which is not. Rewards and coaxing are often confused with bribery, but rewards are dispensed for a task only when it has been completed, and coaxing using the promise of a reward can often be used to help your equine to stop balking and attempt to perform the task you have requested. Then the reward is given only when he has completed the task.

As an example of coaxing, you can extend a handful of crimped oats to lure your equine closer to an obstacle, but he should not receive the handful of oats until he completes the required task or travels enough distance toward the obstacle to deserve a reward. If your equine just won’t come all the way to an obstacle, even to get a reward, you can modify the task by asking your equine to just come closer to the obstacle and then halt (but without backing up). Then the reward can be dispensed for the partial approach and halt, because these actions still qualify as an assimilation of the bigger task that is to be completed. If he backs away at all, he should not be rewarded and you will have to go back to the beginning of the task and try again.

A kind word or a pat on the head may be enjoyable for your equine, but it doesn’t necessarily insure that the desired behavior will be repeated. However, a food reward insures that desirable behaviors will be repeated, because food is a solid, tangible reward. The food reward will back up the petting, (the petting is something that you probably do all the time anyway). When you visit your equine, you most likely pat him on the nose or head and say hello, but there are no real demands for any particular task being asked of your equine—you and your equine are simply interacting. You’re getting him used to touch, discovering how he likes to be touched and learning about his responses, which is actually part of imprinting.

The problem with carrots, apples and other foods people use for treats is that they’re not something for which the equine will continue to work and are not healthy choices for your animal in large quantities. After a limited amount of time, equines can easily become satiated on most treats. It’s like a kid with a bunch of candy bars. Once they become full they don’t want any more candy and they’ll stop working for the treat. Many foods used as treats, when given too freely, may also cause your animal to become tense or hyperactive. However, it’s been my experience that an equine will continue to work for crimped oats as long as you dole them out. Crimped oats are healthy for the body and they don’t cause an equine to become tense and difficult to handle.

When you’re using rewards, always start with lavish rewards for all new behaviors. This means that, every time you teach something new, you’re going to give lavish rewards for even the slightest assimilation toward the correct behavior. For instance, if your foal is tied to the fence and upon your approach, he quits pulling, it’s time to try to walk away from the fence with him and see if he will follow you. In this first leading lesson, you’ll untie him and ask him to take a step toward you. If he does, lavishly reward that step toward you, wait for him to finish chewing his oats and then ask him to take another step forward and toward you. If he complies and takes another step forward, lavishly reward that step too. During the first lesson, you will be rewarding every single step he takes toward you. Remember to keep the lesson short (about 15 minutes) and ask for only as many steps as he willingly gives you.

Between lessons, let your equine have a day off in order to rest. When you return for the second lesson, tie him to the fence and review with him your last lesson from the very beginning. He should remember the previous lessons and be willing to follow you right away in order to be rewarded. If he seems willing to follow your lead, untie him and ask him to take a step forward just as he did before, but this time, instead of dispensing the food reward when he takes the first step forward, simply say, “Good boy” and ask him for a second step forward before you reward him with the oats. You will now be progressing from one step forward before you reward to two steps forward before you reward.

If he won’t take the second step forward, then give the reward for the first step, wait for him to finish chewing and ask again for two steps before rewarding him again. If he complies, you can then reward him every two steps during that lesson and quit after fifteen minutes. Give him another day between lessons and then proceed in the same manner, beginning with a review of the previous lesson, then a reward for the first step, and then for every two steps. During this lesson, you can now ask for three steps, and you can continue asking for three or more steps during this lesson, provided that he takes these steps willingly and then stops obediently on his own to receive his reward. You no longer need to count the steps as long as he is offering more steps between rewards each time. If, because of his enthusiasm, he begins to charge ahead, stop him and immediately reward him for halting. This will insure that he keeps his attention on you and the task at hand. This methodical, deliberate process is setting the stage for a positive and healthy working relationship with your equine.

This is how you begin with leading training, and also how you should proceed with all the new things that you will be teaching your equine. In the beginning of leading training, he gets rewarded for even an assimilation of what you’re asking. For example, when you get to negotiating obstacles, your goal may be to cross over a bridge, but when your equine sees the bridge ahead, he may stop or start backing up. At this point, allow him to back until he stops. Go back and repeat the steps you did prior to approaching the obstacle. Then, asking for only one step at a time, proceed as you did during his flatwork leading training toward the bridge, rewarding each step he takes. Tell him verbally how brave he is and continue to reward any steps he takes toward the obstacle before proceeding forward. Remember to stop at any interval where he becomes tense, ask for one more step to be rewarded, and then allow him to settle and refocus before asking any more from him.

Once he goes to the bridge without a problem, you no longer have to reward him all the way up to the bridge. Just reward him when he actually gets to the bridge. Next, step up onto the bridge and ask him to take a step up onto the bridge with his two front feet, which is another new task. If he puts one foot on the bridge or even tries to lift up a foot and put it on the bridge, make sure you reward that behavior. Once he has a foot firmly placed on the bridge, keep tension on the lead rope and ask for his other front foot to come up onto the bridge. If he places his second foot on the bridge, you can then reward him for having both front feet on the bridge. Next, you’re going to continue forward and just walk over the bridge to the other side, pause and reward. Then quit this lesson. In his next lesson, if needed, repeat the approach the same way if he starts to balk. If not, ask him to step both front feet up onto the bridge, stop, make sure he is standing squarely, and reward that behavior.

Now you no longer need to reward for one foot on the bridge. This is called “fading or phasing out” the reward for a previous behavior (one step), while introducing the new behavior of walking to the bridge, halting and then putting two front feet up on the bridge. Wait for a moment for him to chew his reward and then ask him to continue onto the bridge, stop and square up with four feet on the bridge and reward. If he does not comply and won’t stop on the bridge, just go back to the beginning, approach the bridge as described and try again until he stops to be rewarded with all four feet placed squarely on the bridge

Then you ask him, to place his two front feet on the ground while leaving his two back feet on the bridge. Then have him stop and square up to be rewarded. This is a difficult position and if he cannot succeed by the third attempt, you may have to step in front and aid in his balance, then reward him when he settles in this position.

The last step over the bridge is to bring the hind feet off the bridge, stop and square up one more time before he gets rewarded. This does two things. It causes your equine to be attentive to the number of steps you are asking and it puts him in good posture at each stage so that his body will develop properly. In future lessons, the steps in the approach to the bridge no longer need to be rewarded and as he becomes more attentive, he will learn to stop any time you ask and wait for your cue to proceed. After several months of this meticulous attention to these detailed steps, he will not necessarily need to be rewarded with the food reward each time—a pat on the neck and kind words of support should be sufficient. Rewards can then be given for whole “blocks” of steps when he successfully completes them.

Here is a question a lot of people ask: “This is fine while my animal and I are still working from the ground, but what happens when I finally get on to ride? Do I keep rewarding every new behavior when I ride?”  The answer to that question is, “No, you don’t.”  If you do your ground work correctly, it will address all the things that you’ll be doing while you’re riding before you actually even get on. Your equine has been lavishly rewarded for stopping when you pull on the reins and the drive lines, and he’s been rewarded for turning and backing and everything else he needs to learn before you actually get on him, so the only thing left to get used to would be exposure to your legs on his sides. He will soon learn that your legs push him in the direction of the turn you are indicating with your reins. For this action, he does not need to be rewarded.

In the natural progression of correct training—including during mounting training—your equine should also be getting rewarded when you’re first getting him used to your being on-board. Give him the oats reward for standing still while you attempt to mount (i.e., walking toward him, holding the left rein and reaching for the saddle horn), and then when you hang from each side of his body with a foot in the stirrup (first on one side and then on the other side), and, finally, from each side of his body while you sit on his back. When you ask him to turn his head to take the oats from your hand, you can be sure his attention will be on you because this action will force him to look at you in order to receive his oats. Then reward him again for standing still as you dismount. Consequently, by the time you actually get to the point of riding in an open arena, he’s been rewarded for having you on his back and for behaving well through all the exercises demanded from him during round pen training.

You may first want to lunge your equine when you move into the open arena. Lunge him on the lunge line and reward him during that part of your arena workout. When you are ready to mount in the open arena, have a few oats in your pockets to offer him when you mount on each side the first few times. This will ensure that his attention stays focused on you. Once he is used to being ridden, you will no longer have to reward him in the middle of riding lessons. If he does not keep his attention on his work in the open arena, this signifies that not enough time has been spent on the ground work and you should back up your training regimen to the point that he is maintaining attentiveness and performing correctly, even if it means going back to the round pen or leading work. If, in the ground work stages, you give plenty of food rewards in the correct manner, by the time you groom and tack up, your equine should have been sufficiently rewarded and will not require another reward until after your workout when you return to the work station and un-tack him. This is called delayed gratification. When you un-tack him and do your last minute grooming before putting him away, again be generous with the crimped oats and praise your equine for a job well done. Rewards are dispensed very specifically and pave the road to a solid foundation of trust and friendship.

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, 2016, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

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What’s New with Roll? Body Language & the Hourglass Pattern

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7-2-18

Roll and I both needed some exercise, so we did a quick vacuuming, left the Tack Barn and headed for the dressage arena.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so we opted to navigate the hourglass pattern on the lead line in his surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and did some core muscle work.

When you routinely execute gates the same way, your equine will know what to expect…

…and he can always respond accordingly. Consistency breeds consistency. Accuracy breeds accuracy.

Roll is so cooperative that he wants to help me space the rails properly, waiting patiently as he should.

When I’m not sure, he helps with the spacing! First in a straight line…

…and then a diagonal rail crossing.

After the diagonal crossing, we began a turn to the right…

…and re-approach the ground rails…

…then halt in front of the first ground rail, all done with hand signals alone.

He had not worked over the rails for quite some time and hit two rails the first time out. I knew this could be a problem and opted to use my solid ground rails instead of the sand-filled PVC that he could just kick out of his way.

We practiced bending through the corner cones…

…and coming out of the turn onto a straight line.

Then he picked of his feet higher the next time through the ground rails, not a clip at all and into a nice halt.

Roll continues to have issues with twisting the right hind leg, but the core strength leading exercises and squaring up seemed to help quite a bit. The last two times over the rails, he went clean. He was walking much better towards the end of the lesson, so we practiced leaving the arena with the lead rope slung over his neck.

He was a real pro!!! I am sure proud of this 26 year old Belgian mule! This rescue continues to thrive!

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MULE CROSSING: Owning an Equine Is Serious Business, Part 3

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By Meredith Hodges

As discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this article, there are many more things to think about before purchasing an equine than you could have ever imagined—from the actual purchase of the equine to the management considerations you need to be aware of on a daily basis. It is so important to always keep in mind that an equine is not an inanimate object like a car that you can tune up, drive (or, in this case, ride) at will, and then put back in the garage until the next time. In fact, the equine was not anatomically designed to be ridden at all. The idea of riding was a completely human decision.

In order to more clearly understand this concept, let’s take a closer look at the equine anatomy. The equine is designed with interlocking vertebra in the spine that have long bony “fingers” called spinus processes,which protrude in varying lengths from the interlocking vertebra. The spinus processes“fingers” support the musculature that surrounds the super spinus ligament, which runs the full length of the back. The highest point of the spinus processes is at the withers, where the spinus processes bones are at their longest. They then taper down toward the croup, becoming shorter as they line up across the back. This is a body design that was intended to carry the weight below the spine and not on top of it. Everything in the equine’s mind and body supports this position and, when we train, if we do not pay attention to re-programming the muscles, tendons and ligaments to support the additional weight above the spine in a way that is painless and clearly understood by the equine, they become uncomfortable and even sore, and bad behaviors are almost certain to arise.

If you keep the equine anatomical structure and his mental reactions to stimulus in mind, the way to build adequate musculature to carry a rider or pull a vehicle is really quite simple. Equines have a natural willingness to please and become resistant only when they are frightened, hurt or confused by the way they are being asked to do something. Training does not only take place during lessons in your arena or round pen—lessons begin the moment you are within earshot of your animal, so when you go to get your equinefrom his pen or stall, approach with the attitude that you are visiting a friend.  Don’t’ just barge into his living space and try to “catch” him—rather, call out his name and say hello in a cheerful voice. Stand at the gate or door and offer a handful of oats, and when your equine comes to see you, let him know you are happy to see him too. Stroke his neck before you put the halter on your equine, and then give him his oats and let him invite you into his space. It won’t be long before he anticipates your arrival and “talks” back to your “Hello.” If you want to make a friend, you first need to be a friend!

Here are some important techniques to remember each time you approach your equine:

  • Be polite and considerate in your approach and your equine will be more willing to want to go with you. An equine that is “herd bound” and won’t leave his pasture buddies has simply decided that his equine counterparts are nicer to be around than the humans who “use” him, but if your animal feels good when he is with you, he won’t mind leaving his equine companions.
  • When you want to pet your equine, let him see that your hand is moving toward him, but keep movements low, slow and non-threatening.
  • Stroke his neck, going with the grain of the hair, and never against it.
  • Touch his head and other sensitive areas only after you have gained his confidence. Note the way he responds to your touch and alter your touch accordingly. If he flinches, you might be touching him either too lightly and tickling him or you could be touching him too strongly and it hurts. Use the flat of your hand and don’t “poke” at him.

Many people are familiar with imprinting their foals, but what they may not realize is that the purpose of imprinting is not just to get the foal used to human touch and smell. It is, in reality, the first steps in learning
about your equine’s entire body, and then adjusting the way you touch him so that you give him pleasure every time you touch him (except during brief disciplinary actions).

Most of us want to ride and do the more glamorous things that we see people do with equines right away, and we become impatient for the end result and don’t pay adequate attention to the smaller details that lead up to our fantasy.  But it is imperative to always remember that equines are very much like young children and need to learn in a slow, logical and sequential way.

 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How are you leading your animal after you catch him? Are you maintaining good posture?
  • How do you groom your animal, and how is the grooming received?
  • Are you being polite and considerate in the way you use the grooming tools?
  • How is the tack being put on?

Every movement sets the stage for how your equine’s body is being conditioned. So when you are leading your equine, make sure that you are holding the lead rope in your LEFT hand, are that you are moving in good posture yourself. Be sure that you are keeping your equine’s head at your shoulder, that you are pointing in the direction of travel with your right hand and that you are matching your equine’s steps while being clear in your intentions during movement transitions.

Remember: Square up your animal every time he stops to cultivate a new habit of good postural balance through repetition. Be cautious when leading your equine through narrow openings like gates and doorways. Make him allow you to pass through first every time. When you need to make a turn, always take one step forward first and then turn the animal on a gradual arc away from you—don’t make any abrupt movements.

Here are some important points to remember when learning to deal with tack and your new equine:

  • When approaching with tack and equipment, allow the equine to smell and inspect it before you put it on him, and then reward him for staying calm.
  • When putting on the bridle, be aware of how you take it over the animal’s ears so as not to hurt him.
  • When saddling, make sure stirrups and girths are put up and not flopping. Be polite and let the girths and stirrups down easily on each side.
  • Then ease the saddle onto your equine’s back, being sure not to tighten the girth all at once. Rather, come back several times and tighten just a little bit more each time until it is snug, but not tight.
  • When needed, cruppers are used on riding equines in order to keep the saddle in the correct position on the equine’s back. Make sure you know how to properly place the saddle over his center of gravity (so the girth lies four inches behind the forearm) and then adjust this piece of equipment.
  • Breeching is an assembly of straps across the rear quarters of the equine and is fine for packing and driving animals, but it can inhibit the hindquarter range of motion on a riding animal. A crupper is preferred for a riding animal to hold the saddle in place for extreme trail riding, etc.
  • If you have a double rigging on your Western saddle, always make sure that the front girth is done first and pulled snug—NOT tight—and that the back girth lays against the body and is just snug enough to keep the back of the saddle from flipping up, but it is not too tight.
  • Check your girth periodically when riding to make sure it stays snug enough so that the saddle does not roll toward you on the equine’s back when you try to mount.
  • Never use bridle reins or drivelines to tie your equine. When tying your equine, always use a halter and lead rope, and tie to a stout post (NOT fence rails) with a safety release knot.
  • Always untie your animal before removing the halter.

Coming up next, the fourth and final installment of Owning an Equine Is Serious Business features a discussion of beginning riding, with many valuable details, tips and safety rules and checklists that you can actually take with you while you are working with your new equine.

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.

© 2012, 2016, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Shenanigans in the Hayfields

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6-6-18

Do you need some help with the lead ropes?
  

The saddle mules are headed for turnout. Where do you think we are going, Spuds?

Looks like we’re headed for the hayfield, Augie!

Looks like you were right, Spuds!
Isn’t it beautiful, Augie?!

What is that big yellow thing, Augie?!
That’s Chad, Spuds…oh, you mean the swather?!

How do you do, Augie? Now smile for the picture!

How do you do, Spuds? Not so sure?

WOW! That big thing sure makes a lot of noise!

Now where are we going, Augie?!

These are some really deep windrows!

And some really tall grass is growing in the jump course, Augie!

Boy, I’ll say it’s tall, Spuds! I can’t see a thing! Where are we going?

Spuds, Augie, Are you guys into having a picnic out here?

You bet! This is really cool!

Smile for the camera, Boys!

We are very happy with you, Mini Momma, aren’t we Spuds?!

I wuv you, too, Mini Momma!

And I love you both!  What a grand picnic!

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: Second Lesson Day

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6-4-18

Simple hairbrush bristles remove more undercoat

 

The loose hair on top scrapes off easily

 

Place girth 4 inches from forearm

 

Lossen crupper strap & insert tail

 

Adjust snugly, but not tight

 

Much improved walking in sync

 

Proper turn through the gate

 

More impulsion & flexibility at walk left

 

First offer to trot easily

 

Begin reverse

 

Improved posture & balance at walk right

 

Offer to trot right

 

Hindquarter engagement before halt

 

Improved in sync back to work station

 

Slide saddle back to loosen crupper – learns to stand quietly

 

Remove saddle

Bristles are longer which is enough to get it all

 

No more shedding blade hair breakage

 

Adjust back girth snug enough to hold the saddle down

 

Scratch rear for relaxation of the tail

 

Place saddle over the center of balance

 

Patient while opening gate

 

Improved gate posture

 

Improved posture & balance at walk left

 

Beginning to find his balance

 

Complete reverse on correct pivot foot

 

Improved posture & balance at walk right

 

Finding balance at trot right

 

We did GOOD!

 

Remove bridle & put on halter

 

Slide crupper off tail

 

Back to the barn IN SYNC!

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: First Lesson Day

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4-3-18

Needed to correct following from behind

 

First time in the “Elbow Pull” – Track Left Walk

 

Exit Gate

 

Remove Saddle – Learn to stay quiet

Posture at the gate is a bit slouchy

 

First time in the “Elbow Pull” – Track Right Walk

 

Exit Tack Barn

 

Enter Tack Barn

 

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: First Turnout Day

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7-28-17

Okay, you’re on your own for a while

 

You smell okay!

 

These guys look a bit familiar.

 

WOW! They even put in a mirror for me!

 

Rather short fence post.

 

Perfect for a good roll!

 

More green here, too! STILL can’t reach it!

 

Hi, Augie! Mini donkey, eh? My name’s Wrangler!

Hmmmm…who’s this? Sir Guy?

 

I see green, but I can’t reach it!

 

So you are MINI donkeys, eh?

 

Sniff…great sand!

 

Great sand here!

 

More green over here…still can’t reach it!

 

Where did everyone at the barn go?

 

Time to go back to the barn.

 

 

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: First Farrier/Veterinarian Check-up

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7-7-17

Oats will definitely make this better!

 

You know it’s not polite to stare!

 

Nice to meet you Dr. Farrand!

 

…but nothing that Neosporin can’t handle.

 

So you want me to stand up straight?

 

Checking respiration? Ooh, that tickles!

 

Do you see anything in there?

 

Does it look okay, Doc?

 

Yup, small feet and big ankles… fetlocks!

Nice to meet you Farrier Dean!

 

So all you want me to do is walk around?

 

Yes, the chafing from the trailer is a bit sore …

 

It looks worse than it really is.

 

Checking my heart rate?

 

Can you see anything through the hair?

 

That is a bit bright on the eye!

 

I know I have very small feet!

 

The other front is small, but good, too!

Checking my pulse and I passed my health check!

 

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Wrangler’s Donkey Diary: Modeling Blanket for Trailering

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7-17-17

 

 

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Wrangler’s Donkey Diary: Arrival At Lucky Three Ranch

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6-29-17

Nation wide horse transportation

 

Checking things out

 

Leading – not exactly in sync

 

Entering barn alleyway

 

Handsome head shot

 

Meeting Meredith

 

Giving Meredith a donkey kiss

 

Good–bye present from prior owners

Unloading at Lucky Three Ranch

 

Steve leads the way – donkey trailer butt sores

 

Approaching the barn – in sync

 

Enter stall ahead of handler and turn around

 

Checking out his run

 

Posing for a picture

 

Giving Meredith a donkey hug

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What’s New with Roll? Roll’s Insights into Massage Therapy

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5-17-18

Massage for equinesis now used more often as an alternative or complementary healing process toward health and fitness.

Simple massage can prevent various injuries throughout your animal’s lifetime. Don’t wait for obvious injury to occur—preventive massage increases the length of the muscle fibers, taking pressure off the joints.

When the muscles are allowed to contract and expand to their full length, they are able to absorb important nutrients that reduce fatigue. Massage also increases blood flow, which helps the body flush harmful toxins, such as lactic acid, that build up from normal use.

Massage aids in reprogramming the nervous system to break patterns that can cause atrophy or knotted tissue. If you are unsure as to the severity of an injury, consult your vet!

At Lucky Three Ranch, I have found that therapeutic equine massage promotes relaxation and reduces stress. It also stimulates healing after an injury and provides significant relief from pain as it did when Roll had White Line Disease in 2016-17.

Massage can reduce muscle spasms, and greater joint flexibility and range of motion can be achieved through massage and stretching—resulting in increased ease and efficiency of movement.

Always be aware of your animal’s reaction to pressure and respond accordingly. Watch his eyes and ears. As you work look for signs of sensitivity toward the affected area such as biting, raising and lowering the head, moving into or away from pressure, contraction of muscles from your pressure, tossing his head, swishing his tail, picking up his feet, changes in his breathing or wrinkles around his mouth.

If your animal is heavy in the bridle, if he tips his head to one side, or if he has difficulty bending through the neck, he is exhibiting stiffness in this area.

If he moves away, he is telling you that you are exerting more pressure than he can comfortably endure, and you should go back to using your fingertips.

A raised head and perked ears may indicate sensitivity. He is asking for lighter pressure, so learn to pay attention to the things your animal tells you about his body.

Massage therapy should never be harmful. For the sake of safety and comfort, do not attempt massage therapy for rashes, boils, open wounds, severe pain, high fevers, cancers, blood clots, severe rheumatoid arthritis, swollen glands, broken bones, direct trauma or if there is any chance of spreading a lymph or circulatory disease, such as blood poisoning. Avoid direct pressure on the trachea.

It is easiest to find sore spots and muscles when your animal is warmed up, so after a ride is a good time to do massage therapy and passive range-of-motion exercises.

Each time you ride, take the time to quickly go over your animal and assess his sensitive areas: check his range of motion to detect stiffness in the joints. Paying this kind of attention to his body will enhance his athletic performance and provide him with a wonderfully relaxing reward. Give your equine the preventive care that he deserves to make your way to a mutually satisfying relationship.

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What’s New with Roll? A Walk in the Jump Course

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5-8-18

After about an hour of shedding grooming with the hairbrush, shedding blade and then the vacuum, Roll and I headed out for a walk around the jump course. We started at the Tack Barn and walked through the alleyway between the buildings.

We stopped occasionally along the driveway to square up and he seemed to be reluctant to weight the right hind again, but after a few times, he did better. We stopped at the MULE CROSSING sign for a photo-op.

Then we went down the beautiful tree-lined driveway on our way past the mules in the dirt pen having lunch, and past Jasper Bunkhouse, to the jump course area.

We stopped again at the statue of Lucky Three Eclipse, my hunter champion, situated behind our equipment barn where all the hay equipment is stored. Roll was more interested in the “Ely” statue than he was with the photo-op!

The grass was pretty tall and made for difficulty walking through it, but Roll was willing and did not dive for the grass, but obediently kept his head up, moving freely forward.

As long as he was walking, he was obedient. Then when I stopped him and asked him to square up, he became more interested in the grass and was not that willing to stand still for very long each time he stopped.

I guess the temptation was just too much for him, so I let him have a nibble! The reins tied up to the surcingle only allowed him to crop the ends off the tall grass.

We then walked on a little farther, enjoying the sunshine, the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the background, and the warm weather.

We stopped for another photo-op in the grass, but he did not stay squared up for the picture. He was still slightly distracted by the grass and apparently moved, but at least he wasn’t being pushy about it and smiled for the camera!

He really didn’t want to leave the grass, but he followed me nevertheless and squared up again on the road. At 18 hands, it’s a good thing he is as obedient as he is or he could have dragged me back into the grass!

We stopped again to see the Mae Bea C.T. statue. Roll had to reach out and take a good look at her pretty face!

He did pretty well overall. The walk was just enough to tune up his core. It’s hard to believe that he has now been with me for 8 years considering he was a rescue and supposedly a lost cause when I got him.

Roll is now 26 years old and I hope he still has many good years to come. It was a beautiful day and we both thoroughly enjoyed our walk together. Maybe next time, we’ll go for a ride!

View all What’s New With Roll? posts

IMG 9649CC ROLL Slide Show 4 15 18

What’s New with Roll? Spring Work in the Hourglass Pattern

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3-28-18

Roll did exceptionally well today! He was also happy that he got to work out with his little buddies, Augie and Spuds. His body is beginning to get toned up again and he is starting to shed off his winter coat.

I did a quick pass with the hairbrush and then the vacuum cleaner. Last was Johnson’s Baby Oil in his mane and tail. I noticed right away during the grooming process that he was finally put weight on his right hind foot again.

On the way to the arena, I led Roll and Steve led Augie and Spuds.

Roll executed the gate perfectly as he always has. There is really something to be said for GATE TRAINING! With routine practice, they always know exactly what is expected and respond accordingly…no fussing at all.

Roll got his turn in the hourglass pattern first and did amazingly well while Augie and Spuds waited patiently at the fence.

I never had to physically move a foot with any tugs on the rope. He responded 100% to the verbal commands to correct his stance when he was in a full stop and fully weighted all four feet this time when he was asked to do so.

To fully weight the foot in the arena, he had to push the sand down. Sometimes I asked him to do it and sometimes I did not. With the ringbone and side bones in three feet, I really did not expect him to come back to full balance, but he did! What a great surprise!

After a halt on centerline, he followed me obediently to the fence with the lead rope slung over his neck.

When I went to retrieve him he was sideways to the fence, but he moved over so I could release him from the fence on my hand signal alone.

Roll executed the gate perfectly again on the way out…

…then we proceeded down the road and back to the Tack Barn. What a guy!!!

 

See more What’s New With Roll? posts

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Ground Drive Hourglass Pattern with Roll

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“This vacuum sure feel good, Spuds!”

“Yeah, Augie, but why is Roll here with us?”

“Not sure, Spuds, but she’s putting on our driving gear.

We haven’t done that in a very long time! Can you tell where we are going?””

“Not really! I can see underneath, but Roll still makes a better door than a window! Is he going with us?!”

“It looks more like we are going with HIM, Spuds!”

 “Oh look, Spuds! It’s the hourglass pattern! It must be ground driving today!”

She just got done leading Roll through the pattern and now you get to ground drive the pattern. Why do I have to go last?!

“Because that’s just the way it is, Augie! Just stay cool and chill while we do this thing in sync. I love to see if she can match my tiny steps!”

“One…two…three…four. She’s doing pretty good, Augie!”

Finally, it’s MY turn now, Spuds…one…two…three…four!”

“You watch, Spuds! I’m putting my whole body into it”

“Apparently she liked it! That was really fun and EASY!”

“Ah Gee, Spuds, do we have to go back already!”

“I don’t know about you, Augie, but I’m ready for supper!”

“You’re always ready for supper. That’s why you are so PORTLY, PUDS!”

 

See more Another Adventure With Augie and Spuds posts

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What’s New with Roll? Spring Grooming/Work in the Hourglass Pattern

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Finally a day came that was warm enough to be able to wash the winter dirt out of Roll’s mane and tail! The first thing was to make sure he did not “feed on his lead rope” while I wasn’t looking, so I removed the rope lead and attached him to the chain lead at the wash rack.

The water was still icy cold, but I tried to limit his and my exposure to the cold. When we were done, his dirty brown mane and tail had turned the gorgeous, creamy reddish blond that I knew it was. He looked so handsome!

I gave his spine a stretch by pulling on his tail. Then it was time to put on his gear for his core strength leading exercises in the hourglass pattern in the outdoor arena.

He put up with my fussing to fit the surcingle…

…and obediently dropped his head when I put on the bridle and “Elbow Pull.”

I think he was glad we were finally able to go back out and work again after a few weeks of VERY cold temperatures. He has been having difficulty getting up and down, so I new he needed to get back to some moderate forced exercise. When he is left to his own devices, he tends to be somewhat of a couch potato.

He actually did better than I thought he would first walking down the road to the arena…

…and going through the gate to begin to execute the hourglass pattern balancing exercises.

It wasn’t that hard to get him to set up his feet with equal weight over all four feet…easier than the last time. Still, he is hesitant to fully weight the right hind foot. I believe this might be due to the soreness that he has developed from getting up and down. He has pretty tall side bones in that foot.

Roll is now 26 years old and although he cooperates, his mind does wander a bit like a “little old man’s” mind would! Still, when I call his name to remind him, he DOES come to attention!

After we did the hourglass pattern 1 ½ times each way, I slung the lead rope over his neck for the first time to see if he would follow me across the arena to the gate, stop, through the gate and down the road to the Tack Barn (Sorry, no photos – we shot video). He did excellent! I was so proud!

And when we got back, he obediently lowered his head again to get his bridle removed. He has truly changed dramatically in the eight years that I have had him. I can’t believe it has been that long! My how time flies when you’re having fun together…staying healthy!

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What’s New with Roll? Winter Work in the Hourglass Pattern

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Roll has been off for quite some time during this crazy winter weather that we have been having and due to the extra office work that I have taken on. Today we had an opportunity with warm temperatures, but avoided the mud from the snow by working indoors. First, I groomed Roll with a curry and then the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner is a great tool to promote circulation to the muscles over the body.

Johnson’s Baby Oil in the mane and tail help to protect the hair from the harsh winter weather, drying mud and prevents other equines from chewing on them.

Today we used my Kieffer dressage saddle that seems to fit most of my mules and Roll included with a girth extender. Then I put on the “Elbow Pull” and adjust it so that it helps him to keep his good posture throughout his lesson.

The “Elbow Pull” only prevents him from raising his head so high that he inverts his neck and hollows his back. Otherwise, it affords him full range of motion upward (to that point), downward to the ground and as far as he can stretch his head and neck to both sides.

We went to the indoor arena and he stood like a soldier while I closed the gate and prepped for our lesson in the hourglass pattern. It is extraordinary how core strength stays with these guys even when they are off work for long periods of time.

This is not true with bulk muscle or an animal that has not had the benefit of core strength postural  development. The core strength that we develop in good posture is sustained by the equines themselves in their daily routines even when they do not receive forced exercise as long as they continue to move in good posture and rest four-square. Equines that rest with uneven foot placement, or cock a hind foot and drop a hip are not balanced in good posture with a strong core.

When saddling, we do it from the left side (near side) as done normally, but to keep things balanced, we  unsaddle from the right side (off side) and pull the saddle back onto the rear end to loosen the crupper and  make it easy to remove. When the equine is routinely handled like this, they learn to relax and stand quietly because they know what to expect.

It is amazing to see how much Roll’s attitude has changed in the eight years he has been with us. When he first arrived, he would snort at everything and hide behind Rock. He is now a happy, confident and affectionate 26 year old, 18 hand draft mule. He enjoys his lessons and never forgets a thing!

Trying new things is now done with much less effort and thus, much less drama! Yes, Roll is a bit obese with atrophied bulk muscle right now, but with routine lessons, he will be back to peak condition in no time. An equine that possesses a good foundation built with core strength in mind will be in a position to excel in all kinds of equine activities…because they are never over-whelmed.

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What’s New with Roll? Cyst Removal

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12/22/17

Today, Chad brought Roll up to the work station. On October 23, 2017, I had found a nodule on Roll’s lower right jaw line. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand came out right away to check it to determine what kind of growth it was.

We have had sarcoids in the past, but this did not seem to be a sarcoid, but rather, a small cyst that was not attached to the bone. Since it was not attached, I made the decision to get it removed before it had an opportunity to become attached to the bone.

Lucky Three Sundowner had a similar growth on his jaw that WAS attached to the bone and it finally grew to such a size that it ultimately obstructed his ability to eat and he had to be put down at the age of 35 years.

We were preparing to vaccinate the herd, so we opted to wait on Roll’s surgery until after the vaccinations and hoped for a freeze that would kill all the insects. The exposed wound would have a better chance at healing in the colder weather without insect interference. We had to wait for quite a while since our winter weather proved to be unusually warm until today,  December 22, when we finally opted to do the surgery.

 

Greg gave Roll a sedative to help him to relax. I shaved the area heavily covered with winter hair with my #10 blades and then Greg stepped in and shaved it closer with his veterinary-gauged blades.

He then injected the site with a numbing agent and prepped it for the surgery.

The cyst was neatly contained and unattached below the surface of the skin. He carefully cut it away from the skin and was left with a perfectly round cyst that fell out easily.

When cut in half, the cyst revealed granular tissue in the center that is indicative of some foreign agent in the body that was surrounded by tissue that just never abscessed. We will send off the cyst to be tested to make sure there are no further issues to treat.

Greg carefully and neatly sutured the skin along his jaw line back together.

Greg gave me instructions about the care of the wound. Basically, we did not have to do anything, but let it heal. I will remove the sutures in 10-14 days.

Roll was still a bit drowsy when I took him back to his pen. He will not get food for at least two hours after the surgery to keep him from choking. He should heal nicely.

I took a sleepy Roll back to his pen. By tomorrow, he probably won’t even know what happened and he was such a trooper through it all! I am so glad my mules are trained the way they are…not a bit of trouble!

 

Donkeys Require a Creative Approach

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  • TT 01 Thumb

    Donkeys Require a Creative Approach

    Meredith gets a lot of letters and emails from people with training questions about their equines. Here, she offers some practical advice for training your donkeys.

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  • TT 02 Thumb

    Danger of Halters

    Meredith discusses the dangers of leaving the halter on your equine, and some alternatives
    for catching them.

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  • TT 03 Thumb

    Work Stations

    Meredith discusses how to set up a work station for tack and grooming your equine.

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  • TT 04 Thumb

    Communication and Equines

    Meredith talks about how to best communicate with your equine.

    For more information on developing a positive working relationship with your equine, check out "Keys to Successful Training: Attitude and Approach," on TMD On Demand.

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  • TT 05 Thumb

    Feeding Time

    Meredith offers some advice on making the most of feeding time with your animals.

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  • TT 06 Thumb

    A Proper Feeding Regimen: Oats Mixture

    Meredith discusses the best way to incorporate an oats mixture into your equine's diet.

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  • TT 07 Thumb

    Pasture Grazing

    Meredith discusses how to best utilize pasture time for a happy and healthy equine.

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  • TT 08 Thumb

    Hay and Salt Lick

    Meredith talks about how to incorporate hay and the salt lick into your equine's feeding regimen.

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  • TT 09 Thumb

    The Reward System

    Meredith discusses the optimal method of rewarding your equine's behavior.

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  • TT 10 Thumb

    How and When to Use Rewards

    Once you've prepared your reward system, Meredith explains how and when to most effectively use rewards while training your equine.

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  • TT 11 Thumb

    The Importance of Good Posture

    Your horse, mule or donkey isn't born with good posture—so Meredith has some tips on how you can ensure he's moving his body properly as you train.

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  • TT 12 Thumb

    Imprinting and How it Works

    Imprinting is an important part of your equine's life--and not just for foals. Meredith discusses how to approach imprinting with an equine of any age.

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  • TT 13 Thumb

    Desensitization

    Meredith explains how to best work with a new or nervous equine.

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  • TT 14 Thumb

    Teaching Good Manners When Training

    Meredith explains the lifelong benefits of teaching your equine to behave with good manners.

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  • TT 15 Thumb

    Grooming Basics

    Keeping your animal well groomed is an essential component of equine care. Meredith shares some tips on the basics.

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  • TT 17 Thumb

    Bathing and the Hose

    Bathing can be a challenging endeavor for equines that are afraid of water or the hose. Meredith explains how to teach your equines to enjoy bath time.

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  • TT 18 Thumb

    Getting Down with Minis

    Training miniature equines is similar to their larger brethren, but often requires special approaches to make them comfortable. Find out how to best work with your mini in "Getting Down with Minis."

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  • TT 19 Thumb

    Turning Fear Into Curiosity

    Leading training on the obstacle course is your equine's initial exposure to real fear. Meredith explains how to turn that initial fear into a curiosity that will positively guide your equine's future interactions with the world!

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  • TT 20 Thumb

    Going Slowly

    When training any equine at any stage, going slowly and being clear and consistent in your approach is a more rewarding—and much safer—way to train for both you and your equine.

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  • TT 21 Thumb

    Assessing Your Equine

    Determining your animal's athletic ability is a useful guide in the training of your equine. Here, Meredith breaks it down into both a physical and mental assessment.

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  • TT 22 Thumb

    Gate Training

    Including good manners and routine practices while teaching gate training makes your job—and your equine’s—a lot easier, now and far into the future.

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  • TT 23 Thumb

    Halter Types

    No matter what kind of equine you have, the halter is one of your most basic—and most important tools.

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  • TT 24 Thumb

    Lead Ropes and Shanks

    All equines, including jacks and stallions, must be trained to lead with a lead rope and nylon halter before you attempt any further training. Learn more about the use of lead ropes and shanks in this training tip.

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  • TT 25 Thumb

    Leading Correctly

    The key to leading your equine correctly is consistency—learn how to use leading cues correctly and consistently in this training tip.

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  • TT 26 Thumb

    The Quick Twist

    If you need some extra leverage with your equine during initial leading training, try using the "Quick Twist." Meredith explains how to set it up, and when to use it in this Training Tip.

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  • TT 27 Thumb

    The Face Tie

    Learn how to properly use the “face tie” restraint for your mule or donkey. This is a humane alternative to twitches, stocks and hobbles. This tie should NEVER be used with horses.

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  • TT 28 Thumb

    How to Square Up

    There are many advantages to having an equine that can square up at the halt, because that means he is putting equal weight over all four feet for ideal balance and good posture.

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  • TT 29 Thumb

    Walking Straight Lines

    In order for your equine’s body to be properly balanced, it’s important to fine-tune all movements and make them as steady, balanced, and coordinated as possible.

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  • TT 30 Thumb

    Bending Through the Rib Cage

    A supple equine is a pliable, self-confident and healthy equine. That is why it’s so important that he learns how to properly bend through his rib cage. The benefits will be enormous and will last a lifetime.

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  • TT 31 Thumb

    Proprioception

    Equines are not born with an awareness of their own bodies, or proprioception, so they must be taught how to orient themselves.

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  • TT 32 Thumb

    Good Posture and Performance

    For your equines to perform their best, they need to have even weight distribution and efficiently utilize balanced movement in their bodies.

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  • TT 33 Thumb

    Plan Every Move for Good Posture

    By planning every move and being consistent, you can reinforce your equine's good posture—until it's a natural state for them.

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  • TT 34 Thumb

    Keep Lessons Short and Easy

    Training sessions that are too repetitious and last too long will only fatigue and frustrate your equine, resulting in unwanted resistance. Keep lessons short and easy for the best training results.

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  • TT 35 Thumb

    Leading for Ideal Muscle Development

    Conducting your leading training on flat ground first is the best way to build strength in good equine posture for symmetrical muscle development.

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  • TT 36 Thumb

    Using the Elbow Pull During Leading Training

    The elbow pull will stop your equine from raising his head to the point where he hollows his neck and back, and will keep him in reasonably correct posture.

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  • TT 37 Thumb

    Showmanship Judging

    One of the most difficult things your equine will ever learn is to stand perfectly still while the show judge inspects him.

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  • TT 38 Thumb

    Showmanship Is Not Just For Show

    There is a common misperception that “Showmanship” is just a class at an equine show, but the truth is that showmanship training is beneficial to your equine any time.

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  • TT 39 Thumb

    Showmanship Patterns

    If you are going to attend a show, it is advisable to get a copy of the rulebook that is designated by the show committee, so you know what to expect for each class you enter.

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  • TT 40 Thumb

    Turn on the Haunches

    The turn on the haunches can be a complicated move for your equine. Learn how to approach the move in this Training Tip.

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  • TT 41 Thumb

    Turn on the Forehand

    Meredith demonstrates how to teach your equine to execute a turn-on-the-forehand on the lead line.

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  • TT 42 Thumb

    Leading Purposefully at the Walk and Trot

    Leading with purpose will keep your equine’s responses attentive, prompt and smooth.

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  • TT 43 Thumb

    Teaching Your Equine to Stand Still

    Whether or not your equine is calm enough  to really stand still depends on all the lessons he has had and how they were executed.

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  • TT 44 Thumb

    Leading Through Straight-Forward Obstacles

    Learn how to lead your equine through forward obstacles in order to instill confidence and turn your equine’s fear into curiosity.

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  • TT 45 Thumb

    Leading Through Lateral Obstacles

    Learn how to lead your equine through forward obstacles in order to instill confidence and turn your equine’s fear into curiosity.

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  • TT 46 Thumb

    What to Do When Stage Two Isn’t Working

    If leading lessons aren't working, try asking yourself these questions to figure out what's going wrong.

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  • TT 47 Thumb

    Side Passing the “T”

    Side passing the "T" is an advanced move, and a good challenge for testing your equine's lateral abilities.

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  • TT 48 Thumb

    Preparation for Lunging

    Is your equine ready to start lunging training? And are you? Ask yourself these simple questions—before you get into the roundpen—to make sure.

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  • TT 49 Thumb

    Free Lunging in the Round Pen

    Take your equine to the next level of lunging training with "free lunging"—that is, lunging without tack or equipment—in the round pen.

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  • TT 50 Thumb

    Appropriate Tack & Equipment for Lunging

    What type of tack and equipment are appropriate for lunging training in the round pen? Find out our recommendations!

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  • TT 51 Thumb

    Adjusting Tack & Equipment

    Once you've chosen the appropriate tack for your equine, make sure it is adjusted properly so your equine is comfortable and responsive. For more information on routine and restraints, check out the Training Mules and Donkeys DVD series in our store, or TMD Episode 5: 4: Good Manners on Video On Demand.

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  • TT 52 Thumb

    Verbal Commands and Body Language

    It is important to learn the elements of good communication through verbal commands and body language. You'll find an equine who is willing to comply when he understands what you are asking!

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  • TT 53 Thumb

    Use of the Whip During Lunging

    The whip is used in lunging to create movement and encourage impulsion in the equine and should never be used in an abusive manner. Learn how to use it the RIGHT way in Meredith's latest training tip!

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  • TT 54 Thumb

    Setting Up for Successful Lunging

    Know when your equine is ready to start working on lunging, and how to best set them up for success.

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  • TT 55 Thumb

    Lunging Multiple Equines

    It’s easy to lunge multiple animals when they are all trained the same way with sequential, logical and purposeful training practices. Learn what you and your equines need to know to lunge together safely!

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  • TT 56 Thumb

    Lunge Line Training

    Learn how to train your equine on the lunge line.

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  • TT 57 Thumb

    Transition To Drivelines

    Once your equine has become proficient in his posture and balance, leading over obstacles, and various stages of lunging, you are ready to put your equine on the drive lines in the round pen. Find out how to make this transition successfully.

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  • TT 58 Thumb

    Getting in Sync on the Drive Lines

    Getting into sync with your equine should be easier once he is calm about you ground driving him from behind at the walk. Good posture, consistent rhythm and regularity of footfall patterns are key to achieving calmness in your equine. See how it's achieved with finesse here.

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  • TT 59 Thumb

    Ground Driving the Hourglass Pattern

    Ground driving your equine through the hourglass pattern keeps you and your equine organized and in sync. Meredith shows you how in this Training Tip.

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  • TT 61 Thumb

    Laterally Ground Driving the Hourglass Pattern

    In this training tip, Meredith shows you how to progress from lateral driving against the rails to laterally ground driving the hourglass pattern.

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  • TT 62 Thumb

    Ground Driving Straight Forward Obstacles

    Ground driving your equine through the straight forward obstacles is a process of turning fear into curiosity, then finesse, coordination, competence and, finally, confidence.

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  • TT 63 Thumb

    Ground Driving Lateral Obstacles

    This is your equine's turn to take a leadership role in your partnership as you execute lateral obstacles on the drive lines. Navigating obstacles in this manner will instill mutual confidence and trust.

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  • TT 64 Thumb

    When Ground Driving Lateral Obstacles Aren’t Working

    When working through lateral obstacles, your equine may be unsure or fearful. Be sure to work patiently on your verbal commands and take obstacles slowly while being willing to gently help him through.

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  • TT 65 Thumb

    Ground Driving the Side Pass “T”

    Ground driving the Side Pass "T" is an advanced obstacle that should not be attempted until your equine is calmly and obediently performing all of the straight-forward and lateral obstacles. When he's ready, be sure to take it slow, and don't forget the rewards!

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  • TT 67 Thumb

    Healthy Hooves For Healthy Riding

    Soundness begins with the hooves. There is a wide variety of reasons, so learning to assess if and when your equine needs shoes, and how often hoof care is needed is critical to your equine’s overall physical postural balance and general health!

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  • TT 68 Thumb

    Mounting Exercises

    Trouble usually begins when you get in a hurry. Be sure to take your time and progress at the speed of your equine. As you do these mounting exercises, be sure your equine is comfortable and calm before moving on, and don't forget the oat rewards!

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  • TT 69 Thumb

    Begin Riding With an Assistant

    Once your equine is quiet and comfortable with you on board, you're ready to ride with your assistant at his head. Be sure to progress slowly and remember to reward your equine from his back on both sides. Stay relaxed while maintaining light pressure through your reins and your legs.

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  • TT 70 Thumb

    Teaching Your Mule to Stand Still When Mounting

    Having your equine stand still during mounting is the result of a calm and sensible approach to ALL phases of the preliminary groundwork. Going forward with a logical and sequential approach will help the equine to stay calm and prevent any resistance.

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Roll Chiropractor 2 13 17 018 1

What’s New with Roll? Happiness is getting back to good health!

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10/26/17: It is MULE APPRECIATION DAY today and the perfect time for an update on Roll! Roll has recovered nicely from his bout with White Line Disease in 2016. He had no workouts during that year, but surprisingly, he retained his core strength and balance throughout 2016 and came into 2017 still in good posture and balance. This leads me to believe that core strength does not necessarily deteriorate as rapidly as does bulk muscle.

Roll had his most recent “leading for core strength postural workout” on May 23rd this year. However since then, I have been unable to pursue any more lessons during the entire summer due to business obligations.

He was scheduled for his regular farrier visits on May 18th, July 14th and on September 21st. During that time, he also had two chiropractic visits and was doing very well with only minor adjustments needed.

On October 17th, Roll had a short ride with Brandy in the Lucky Three Ranch North Pasture after being off all summer. He was rather disgusted with Brandy after she unseated her rider, Bailey, at the beginning of the ride by spooking at a shadow on the ground. Roll did great although I could tell he was a bit stiff from the onset, but loosened up and gained impulsion by the end of the ride.

Roll had his last massage on July 13 and continues to thrive at the age of 26 years old. On October 25, we discovered a sarcoid-like tumor on his right jaw, x-rayed it and will do a removal following next week’s vaccinations. 

After being off all summer, I thought he did very well and this only reinforced my belief that core muscle really does sustain itself once the animal has spent at least two years doing very specific core muscle, postural exercises.

 

 

CROPRockWorkout8 22 11 232

What’s New with Roll? Happiness is a Fanny Pack Full of Oats!

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Roll is standing quietly as he usually does while I was speaking to a tour group with the gate wide open, but this was not always the case with him. He used to hide behind Rock and snort at me when he first arrived with Rock in December of 2010.

Behavior Modification is a reward system of training that requires that the trainer has the ability to distinguish between good and bad behaviors, to reward them promptly and appropriately…and, to do it politely with respect for the animal. The oats are a reward that is both safe and enjoyable for equines, and is something that they will continue to work for.

When dealing with an equine that is easily ten times your own weight, it is hard to imagine that the way we talk, touch and interact with our equine would really need to be ultra considerate, light and reassuring. However, if you want their complete cooperation, that is exactly what needs to happen. For instance, when applying fly spray talk gently and calmly, and be careful not to get the spray in their eyes…or it will burn and they will be less likely to comply the next time!

The same consideration hold true when bathing. Be careful not to get water in the ears, eyes and nostrils…and accustom the equine to cold water by spraying the feet and front legs first and work your way up to the face.

When you are kind and considerate, and give the equine time to adjust, even mechanical equipment like a massage thumper for muscle relaxation, or an equine vacuum cleaner used not only to clean but also to promote better circulation, can become a real source of pleasure and enjoyment for your equine.

When the equine is relaxed and accepting of the equine chiropractor, veterinarian and farrier, they are better able to do their jobs with maximum efficiency and successful outcomes.

And jobs you have to do like clipping, bridling and taking off the bridle all get much easier, preserving the trust between you. Now at 26 years old, Roll is a NEW draft mule!

 

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