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“The passion that Meredith Hodges feels for the equines that she has fought for all her adult life is still as fresh, inspiring and infectious as it was when she first discovered the world of horses, donkeys and mules. She has never wavered in her devotion to them and in her mission to carve a lasting and honored place for them in our world. They are lucky to have her as their champion, but Meredith actually sees it a bit differently. She feels honored and privileged to be a part of their world.”

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Ground Breaking - Raising the Barn

Hearts and Horses broke ground on a new arena where they will continue to change lives through therapeutic riding. The new arena will be called Lucky Hearts, as much of the funding for the arena was given by Lucky Three Ranch.

Hearts & Horses Virtual Tour

Haven’t made it out to the Hearts & Horses ranch yet? Here’s your chance, thanks to our brand new virtual tour! Discover all of the state-of-the-art facilities designed to heal minds, bodies, and spirits at our 23-acre ranch in Loveland, Colorado.

Latest Podcast

MULE TALK! PODCAST: Leverage Versus Abuse

Learn the proper use of restraints on a mule or donkey.

  • Chains are severe and can injure the nasal cartilage or the incisive bones when abrupt pressure is applied.
  • Learn how to use the lead rope for a “Quick Twist.”
  • Old-time twitches can do great damage to the equine’s sensitive upper lip.
  • Selecting the correct hobbles for the task at hand.
  • Sedation and tranquilizers can be very dangerous to the mule and donkey.
  • Allow your equine to learn and grow in a logical, step-by-step process that will not overwhelm him with too much stimulus at any stage.


Learn more about the mule being exceptional and his diversity on Mule Talk podcast.

All Posts

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 8

By Meredith Hodges Now it is time for your donkey to learn to move laterally. Lateral movements are essential to the overall balance and posture of your donkey. It will improve muscle strength throughout his body and will reduce the risk of injury or soreness while he is being ridden or driven. You can begin his lateral work on the drivelines in the large arena. Begin by driving your donkey through the hourglass pattern (after review). As he approaches the first corner cone, ask him to circle it and then ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 7

By Meredith Hodges If your donkey has any problems with the trot after the previously described exercises, it will probably be in the hourglass pattern while under saddle. If he has difficulty maintaining the trot through the turns and serpentines through the middle, and continues to bulge either one way or the other, you can try one more thing to help him. Have your assistant ride a seasoned animal through the pattern ahead of you while you follow a few strides behind. Don’t ride too close, or too far away ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 6

By Meredith Hodges By walking your donkey through all the different phases of training, and before going on to the trot, you have given yourself and your donkey an opportunity to learn to negotiate and perfect your movements before you ask for speed. This allows for a lot more perfection of coordination to take place, so things are less likely to fall apart when you do add a little speed. This is the most obvious difference between mules or horses and donkeys. Horses and mules are difficult to slow down ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 5

By Meredith Hodges By now your donkey should be getting much better at his turns on the forehand and haunches on the lead line. He should be leading easily at the walk and trot and squaring up while stopped. He should be lunging at the walk and trot in the round pen, and ground-driving at the walk in the round pen, both straight and through turns and reverses. He should be walking and trotting with a rider in the round pen, without the assistant. He should be both ground-driving and ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 4

By Meredith Hodges You have, thus far, begun to teach your donkey several things: how to begin to execute the turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches, how to walk forward in a round pen from the lunge whip without a saddle or harness (then with the saddle and harness), on the drivelines, and while being ridden. He has also begun to learn how to “trot on” from the lunge whip while tacked up, and how to walk and trot on the lead with an assistant aiding from ...

MULE CROSSING: Why Mules Are Exceptional

By Meredith Hodges Across the United States and around the world, as mules are given more and more opportunities to perform in many diverse situations, they are exhibiting their exceptional beauty, athletic ability, endurance and intelligence. There are definite physical and psychological reasons for these outstanding abilities. It has been proven that the mule not only inherits the mare’s beauty, but is also more athletic than the mare out of which he came. The mule is an exceptional hybrid not only because he inherits these qualities from his dam, the ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 3

By Meredith Hodges Prior to each training session with your donkey, review all that he has previously learned: Always lead him to and from the work station in a showmanship manner, holding the lead in your left hand with your right arm extended forward; groom him and clean his feet; review the turn on the forehand and turn on the hindquarters in the round pen; and send him forward to the rail in the round pen at the walk. You may have discovered that you need to follow him more ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 2

By Meredith Hodges If you have followed the steps outlined in Donkey Training, Part 1, your donkey should now—be easy to catch, let you put on his halter and lead, stand quietly while being groomed, allow you to pick up and clean his feet, follow you on the lead both over and around obstacles, load into a trailer, and follow your shoulder and your verbal commands. He should be happy and willing to be with you. This is a good time to let him watch other animals being worked, if ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkey Training, Part 1

By Meredith Hodges Training your donkey is not really much different than training horses and mules, although there are differences in instinct and attitude that will determine your approach in given situations. The mechanics and techniques, however, remain the same. The donkey foal needs to begin his life of training with imprinting. Imprinting is simply getting your donkey accustomed to your touch, your voice, your smell, the way you look and the way you interact with him. These are all the things he learns from his mother that will determine ...

MULE CROSSING: Equine Behavior: Look Who’s Talking! Part 3

By Meredith Hodges In Part 1 of Equine Behavior: Look Who’s Talking, we discussed the evolution of man’s self-discovery and how he applied this to his approach to equines. If we want to manage our equines in a healthy way and accomplish even the most basic performance with them, there is much to consider during the training process. In Part 2 of Look Who’s Talking, we learned that equines are honest in nature and produce quick and honest reactions to a stimulus. Therapeutic Riding provides an exemplary teaching experience for ...

MULE CROSSING: Differences Among Horses, Mules and Donkeys

By Meredith Hodges After discussing this with my veterinarian, Greg Farrand from Fort Collins, Colorado, we both agree that since horses, mules and donkeys are all equines, it would be difficult to make any distinction among these three types of animals with regard to their vital signs: pulse respiration and temperature. They would all fall within the designated ranges below that are excerpted from my book, “A Guide to Raising & Showing Equines." The only real differences would be with regard to each individual equine and not among groups of ...

MULE CROSSING: Mules Accepted by U.S.E.F. in Dressage!

By Meredith Hodges It’s 2004 and “You’ve come a long way, Baby!” The movement to have mules accepted by major equine organizations began with the United States Dressage Federation in 1986, 17 years ago! There was still the hurdle of being accepted by the most prestigious equine organization in the country at the time, the American Horse Show Association that sanctioned all upper level shows and competitions. Since then, the mules’ participation in significant horse events was a long, uphill climb and membership in the A.H.S.A. was only a dream ...


By Meredith Hodges Mules and donkeys have an inborn natural affinity for human beings, so raising your mule or donkey foal to accept humans can be a relatively easy task if you remember a few simple things. First and foremost, you must learn to be a willing role model and, at all times, be polite, considerate and respectful toward your foal in what you ask and how you ask it. Second, you must remember that, from the moment your foal is born, he will learn a great deal from his ...

MULE CROSSING: Donkeys: The “Sinking” Reflex

Donkeys have a lot of behaviors that owners might find strange. One of these is dropping their spine, or “sinking,” when you put a hand on their back. Not all donkeys will do this, but many of them will, especially when they are young and or haven’t been handled routinely. I’ve personally had experience with donkeys sinking to the point that they’ll go down to the floor on their knees and bellies. You may also commonly recognize this behavior in cats and dogs. In order to understand what’s happening, it ...

MULE CROSSING: Benefit of Organizational Skills

By Meredith Hodges People have often asked me how on earth can only three people—my daughter, my husband and myself—manage to prepare and show as many as 18 head of mules and donkeys for one show?! They say that we must be crazy, and maybe we are a little crazy, but a few simple rules of organization have made this possible. The first consideration is the grooming of the animals themselves. Anyone who has had to body clip an animal knows how tedious and time-consuming this can be. Mule and ...


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Donkey Training

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General Interest

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Hearts & Horses

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Longears People News

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Longears Videos

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Lucky Three Ranch

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Military Mules

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Mule Talk! Podcasts

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Pack Burro Racing

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Statues & Exhibits

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Training Tips

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