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Have You Heard

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Longears Limelight

Training Tip

From Our Readers

Bonnie's Bit

Greetings From ADMS!

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Training Mules & Donkeys

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LTR gives a salute to the Class of 2009 West Point mules and the cadets who love them!

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Explore the possibilities with TMD Equine University, a certified, online university program providing extensive courses in the care, maintenance and training of equines. This intensive program is approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education Private Occupational School Board. Visit 
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Meredith HodgesDear Friends,
I hope all of you friends and fans have had a wonderful summer with your equine companions! Though numbers are down and finances are tight, there have been a lot of shows, events and trail rides still available to attend. Attending equine shows is a great way to test and measure your skills. Don’t be put off by those who seem to be so much better than you. These people were once beginners too, and have simply persisted in improving their skills with each new show they attend. The secret is not to compete against others but, rather, to get in the habit of competing against yourself. If you have managed to do better than you did before, regardless of the final results of the class, you are a winner by virtue of your honest efforts.
Of course, when attending shows, it is important to know the rules, behave with safety in mind and practice good sportsmanship. When you are in your class, be aware of the judge and other participants, but keep your main focus on riding in a “bubble”—just you and your equine. This will help you to concentrate on clarity of communication, consistency and what is needed to give your equine the unwavering support he needs to perform his best. You will soon discover that your attention to other competitors during the course of the show is really only a distraction.
Summer is a wonderful time to showcase any special talents and abilities that you and your equine can share with others. Expos and event planners are always looking for equine entertainment and exhibitions for their spectators. Those with special needs and non-equine entities like schools and fundraisers also appreciate interaction with equines.
There is probably nothing more relaxing than a trail ride with your equine, and group trail rides are even more fun. If you are planning a long ride that will require a certain amount of conditioning, be sure your equine is physically prepared. You also want to make sure he is well-schooled, calm, relaxed and safe enough to be riding on the trail. To ensure a safe and enjoyable ride, do not expect to train your inexperienced equines during rides with larger groups. Use a seasoned equine for pleasure rides and save training your inexperienced equines for a planned training session on the trail with reliable companions. Trail riding in the Rocky Mountains is a spectacular experience during the summer, but is utterly breathtaking in the fall when the trees begin to drop their leaves and the mountainsides shimmer with red and gold. Being one with Mother Nature and your equine companion is a satisfying experience like no other.
We were too busy to make it to the mountains this summer because of the ongoing construction at the ranch, but the mules, donkeys and horses have enjoyed the cooler weather this year and the opportunity to maintain their strength in good posture on their own. When you spend the time needed to teach your equine good posture over several years, it develops core muscle strength and eventually becomes their normal way of moving. You have changed their habitual way of moving in a more permanent fashion that will lessen the need for extensive “tune-ups” between rides. Your equine will then just need to be turned out and allowed to stretch his legs to stay healthy and happy, and will stay in reasonably good shape for light riding at any time. The only further conditioning you would need to do would be to build on that base for any more intense equine activities you chose to do.
Going into the fall, be sure to pay attention to important maintenance issues like hoof trims, fall vaccinations and prep work around the stable to prepare for winter weather and your equine’s comfort. And don’t forget to celebrate Mule Appreciation Day on October 26th!

Best wishes and Happy Trails,

Have You Heard?

If you’re looking for an easy and fun way to get advice on training your mule, horse or donkey, check out the Lucky Three Ranch Training Tip video series on YouTube. We cover a new equine training topic every few weeks—so far, that’s included everything from imprinting, feeding, using rewards, improving posture and more. Follow us on YouTube to find out when our next video has been posted, and visit our contact page if you have a suggestion for a future video.

Training Tip:

Question: Finally I have a mule, Moses, he is 10 years old. His owner did not believe in giving him treats, she said that only teaches them to bite. Well I have your book and watched several video segments. I am trying to bond with him and also will need to teach him how to sidestep to a mounting block and maybe how to stretch since he is 16 hands. He does not know what oats are, or carrots or sweet feed. He nibbles the “treat” but he is not crazy about it as my horse is. How can I find a treat that he would LOVE and would make him do things for it? Thank you for your help.
Answer: Teaching to sidestep and to bend down for mounting requires that the equine is strengthened in good posture to support the weight of such an action. This requires adequate time and patience in preparation for those more advanced moves in a step-by-step, logical process toward that end if you want the equine to happily comply. If you approach it like “trick training” and force moves before the equine is actually physically ready for them, you run the risk of hurting the equine or causing discomfort which will result in an unwillingness to comply easily.
The reward given should be part of the regular feed regimen I recommend, should only be given for tasks completed and, with equines, the reward should always be crimped oats for the best results. When you train as I describe, there isn’t anything you cannot do with your equine. According to scientific studies, the food reward ensures that good, learned behaviors are more likely to be repeated than without food rewards. And, the animal that is used to taking the tiny oats out of your hand is less likely to bite your fingers than the one who never gets treats because he has had practice avoiding your fingers to get his reward.


From Our Readers:

Thank you so very much for all that information. I really do appreciate it so much and I will review all that and get photos online at your ad section.
I’d love to be you. It sounds so wonderful what you do. It’s amazing really!! I do admire you so much and I can tell you actually love what you do and love the animals. A special blessing that you put so much information online. Sounds like a wonderful, fulfilling life to do what you do. We all appreciate it!!

Bonnie's Bit:Bonnie Shields, the Tennessee Mule Artist

It is being a typical north Idaho summer so far. June was rainy, which meant the hay grew very well and the pasture grasses as well. Time to lock the donkey in the corral for the summer, as the grass causes abscesses in his front feet. Poor donkey. He protests being separated from his pals and missing out on that delicious grass, but that’s the way his cookie crumbles. In response, he gets much more attention and brushing and scratching, so it isn’t all downhill. He has shed all summer and is just NOW slick. The corral is deep in hair.
July rolled in with good sunny, hot days and hay was being cut all around us, but none was arriving at our barn. Frustrating because we had a pack trip scheduled for the third week in July and we just KNEW that hay would arrive while we were gone—and it did, of course. Arrangements had been made to have it stacked, and friend Dottie Bosley was on hand to feed the donkey and one dog so things were handled, but the guys didn't know to put down the pallets first, and my pitchfork is in there somewhere.

The pack trip. Well, we were thinking it might be our last one ever, and that is turning out to be the truth. We went with another couple that is very experienced, and the wife is still physically sound and strong. Her husband has Parkinson’s, which took him out of any serious work, though he can get on and off his horse and ride just fine. Terry’s split pelvis has him pretty well compromised when it comes to physical activity, so it was very hard on him to hoist packs and do some of the physical work involved with camping, which left Sue and me to do a lot of the running about and tending to the stock. Thank God for Sue Padelford!!! Well, we still had some good times and good rides, but it is clear we are too old and infirm to do that sort of thing anymore, so it was our last pack trip. End of a very important part of our lives.
We took the new pup, Baxter, and he FINALLY got worn clean out the first day we took a long ride. We went about 14 miles and he musta ran 30. When we got back to camp, he slipped in the tent and buried himself in the sleeping bags and hardly moved for the next two days. Oh, it was sweet.
So, now it is August, the “Moon of the Houseguest,” in Idaho. Had a good buddy from Columbia, TN, show up with her cousin from Texas and we kinda went “southern” and sucked down sweet tea and green beans and good ham. Baxter was awful, wanting to jump on them and just be “friendly.” Well, he’s about 70 lbs. now and his idea of friendly is kinda rough, so he had to spend a lot of his time in the kennel. I hope we survive until he “grows up.”
It is county fair time now and that is where I am spending my time this week, helping out with a fundraising project for the fairgrounds. Hells Canyon Mule Days is coming up. WhOOO-EEEEE!! Looking forward to that and to spending some time with good friends again. Then it is draft horse and mule time in Sandpoint, with the big INTERNATIONAL show in mid-September. Then, Terry and I will be taking off for a week in Scotland. We are both of strong Scotch heritage and I, being a Wallace, want to see where all this crazy stuff comes from. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Hope you can ride a good mule somewhere in there.
Hugs and Grins,


Greetings from the ADMS:Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS

Hello all. Once again, the seasons are changing on us and another year has rushed past.  For some of us, it feels like we are stuck in an endless loop, and even though things do change, they feel like they stay the same.
Have you tried making a change in your lifestyle and work routine to get out of a rut? It can be challenging, especially when working with equines. Horses, donkeys, mules, even zebras, all are creatures of habit. They like their routines, and can get nervous or upset when things change. They don’t realize a little change is good for them, too!
Have you ever had your mule or donkey go completely bonkers when they pass a trash barrel because it is out of place? “OH MY WORD,” they snort, “that barrel was not here yesterday and now it is coming to EAT me!”  Such is the way of the equine!

Vary your routine a little—it makes life more interesting for you and them. Move the trail obstacles around, go on a different path for your walk. Make a list of things to be done, but try them in a different order. Change your radio station. Sing a favorite song while mucking out the barn. Move your chair on the porch and clean tack while you listen to the sounds of the farm and wildlife around you.
On those rainy days inside, find something new to do. Get out a box of old paperwork, sort it, label it, shred anything unnecessary. Mix it up a bit and you may find that just a little change brings a lot of stress relief.
Here’s hoping everyone is having a good summer, with sleek animals in the field and plenty of hay being cut. 
Until next time, 

Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS

The Am. Donkey & Mule Soc. PO Box 1210, Lewisville TX 75067 (972) 219-0781. Newsletter: the BRAYER magazine, 100+ pgs 6X/yr, $27 US, $37 Canada, $50 overseas. We now accept Paypal, Visa/MC (+$1 courtesy fee appreciated). Reg info, forms, fees on our website at
The statements, views, and opinions by contributors are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of Lucky Three Ranch and Meredith Hodges.

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