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Message From Meredith Hodges

What a busy summer! We kept our fingers crossed that the rain would cease in June long enough to replenish our hay stock with top quality, weed-free grass hay from our 112 acre hayfields. Our prayers were answered! Although we had a very short window—only 14 days, given the number of acres and drying time—we opted to rake it to speed up the drying process since the windrows were so thick. I even had to buy a second tractor, since we also needed to start baling once the windrows that were raked were dry. Our smaller arena tractor would only pull the baler! We worked from sunup to well after sundown to get in the hay and the weather held until the very last bale of 10,500 bales was stacked into our hay barns. God was definitely with us!

Our TMD Equine University held its group graduate summer clinic on July 13, and graduating students were given their own personal days with me prior to that date. We covered a lot of details within the parameters set by the school and my management and training methods. The morning was spent with a half-hour video, my speech about what would be covered in the classes for the day and then we had our first class, “Leading for Core Strength and Equine Postural Balance.” Lunch was catered by our local gourmet chef Vincent with tacos and assorted side dishes. After lunch, Joanne Lang gave a PowerPoint presentation and demonstration about equine massage with Gunner, a horse owned by Gretta Adams.

The afternoon classes included “Round Pen Lunging,” “Transition to Ground Driving,” “Open Arena Ground Driving” and “Under Saddle Work in the Hour Glass Pattern". We focused on the important things that intimately connect the handler and equine and result in harmony between them. It was a lot to cover in one day, but our enthusiastic students did very well and had a wonderful time despite being a bit tired! 

The summer was spotted with numerous tours of varying types and numbers of people. We even had one group of 57 people! Visitors always enjoy meeting the mules, donkeys and horses, and are amazed at how well-mannered and interactive they are with the people. There were lots of “oohs” and “aahs” as we approached each different full-sized bronze statue, but the favorite one of all is always the Longears fountain, called “Dreaming of Friends,” by Robin Laws.

Each tour is like your own personal clinic with me, and we accept tours with as few as one person and can accommodate as many as 70 at one time! We keep our pricing down to make it economically feasible for seniors, those in assisted living, and other groups. It truly is the experience of a lifetime!

As we begin September, we look forward to a second cutting of hay and more tours with new and interesting people. Jasper will be hosting a tour of his own featuring Jasper’s Bunkhouse for the Larimer County Boys and Girls Club on September 23. We will let you know how that one turns out! Jasper always has so much fun with the kids!

Wishing you all a beautiful and prosperous fall!

Meredith Hodges

WALKING OVER THE POLES Retaining Wall Repair Meredith Hodges and Bonnie Shields at Bishop Mule Days
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LTR Training Tip
Preparation for Lunging
Is your equine ready to start lunging training? Ask these simple questions before you go to the round pen. 
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Question: I just recently bought a 7-year-old gelded mule. I have had horses my whole life and been riding my whole life. My mule was amazing when I first rode him before I bought him, and even the multiple times I rode him before I brought him home. Since I brought him home though, he does not want to leave my other mares. When I take him out of the barn, I have trouble getting him to come willingly. He gives me such trouble when riding because he just wants to go back to the horses. I read up on mules and training them before I bought him so I wasn't completely lost. I do know enough to realize that he does not respect me and I am working on that, but I don't know what to do about the riding problems. Anything you can tell me would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: To start an equine properly in the bridle, it is important to maintain the integrity of the direct rein contact of the Eggbutt snaffle bit for ultimate communication. That means when you pull the right rein, the animal’s head moves to the right, and when you pull left, the animal's head moves to the left. When you pull back, the equine goes back and when you release, they can go forward. The equine feels the vibration of the reins in the corners of his mouth, and as he learns what you want, he will respond to less pressure each time he is schooled. Pretend that your reins are made from thread that can break if you pull too hard. This is how we get equines to be "light" in the bridle. Curb bits are fine for an equine that has had good basic training because they have learned to “follow your seat.” Then you can hold both reins in one hand. This is true “neck-reining.” Many people believe that if an animal is not complying that they just need a stronger bit. The truth is the rider needs to address his own riding practices and learn how to "cooperate" with the animal instead of trying to "control" him. Bosals, bitless bridles, side pulls, and anything other than a snaffle bit (that works from the corners of the lips) will not allow the best communication with your equine. These devices can cause resistance problems as you try to balance your equine's body when riding or driving. The information below will explain the sequence that training should take for the best results. You will need to be patient and willing to restart this mule the right way from the beginning. You will find him a lot more cooperative if you do.
Although we begin our DVD series with “Foal Training,” no matter how old, you should always begin training with imprinting and move forward from there with attention to feed as well. This will ensure a positive introduction and will help to build a good relationship with your mule. Our methods are meant to be done in a sequence, and taking shortcuts or changing our method in some way will not yield the same results. After many years of training for other people, I have found that equines, especially mules and donkeys, bond to the person who trains them. When they go away to other people, they do not get the benefit of this bonding and can become resistant over time when they return home. After all, you wouldn't ask someone else to go out and make a friend for you, would you? This is the primary reason I put my entire training program in books and videos, in a natural order like grade school is for children, for people to use as a resistance-free correspondence training course instead of doing clinics and seminars. People are encouraged to use the series and to contact me via mail, email or telephone for answers to any questions. This way your questions can be answered promptly. But bonding is not the only consideration. In order to move correctly, they must also be fed and trained correctly.

Dear Meredith,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I wrote you some time ago about my Cushing's issue and your response was so insightful. Levi is a great donkey and we are now driving as a team! I wrote a poem enclosed on a document in this e-mail. It was after a blissful ride at sunset. All your training methods have paid a hundred fold. I originally purchased your book and VHS tape. Yes, Levi is 14 yrs. Enjoy the poem and if you choose to share it you may. Again, with gratitude I write with respect for your methods that have brought me to.

Till then,
Mary C. Riley. Sparta, Michigan

Mary's philosophy of Time.....after riding her Donkey before sunset.

When people wait for a monumental moment of time, or ask where - did time go, this is what I have to say...

Practice. If you feel befuddled by age, as in wrinkles, older bones and gray hair, then you take your donkey from a field and he willingly goes right to the hitching post.

Time has made a difference!

Then he graciously bows his head for the headstall and a bit to be placed easily between his muzzle.

Time has been well spent!

When he anxiously awaits at the mounting block (anticipating a carrot) before the leg over for a ride,

Time and repetition has definitely been our friend!

Easily the movement between rider and donkey, taking strides of time together. Silence is the language and awareness in the being. Another skyline observed, maybe the pants a little snug, and sitting upright is a virtue - and speed not in the equation. A gentle ride and knowing of the path.

The Time is now to appreciate!

And some may say,"Where has time gone?"

Good, difficult, strenuous, rewarding accomplishments take Time and Endurance. As in years, yes, years.  So we walk together, I on his back, singing and gazing at the ever changing vista and thankful of... 

Enjoying Time together!

Dismount at the open gate of his barnyard and gentle release of headstall and tell him to go in..... knowing he will, without refuse.

Time has been Lived and Learned!

spent riding my Donkey at sunset.

So when I look in the mirror and see wrinkles and hair that needs help remembering its natural color, and my bones feel great to have wrapped around a donkey that helped me.

Appreciate Time!        

Written and experienced by Mary C. Riley on her Donkey “Levi” 2016

Becky Perez & Charlie
You’re the best Meredith and very nice to people. I don't know if you remember, but I want to try and do endurance with Charlie.

We are finally getting it. I'm thinking he would gap his mouth in anticipation of me pulling. He is such a sensitive boy, calm but sensitive. I'm finding it amazing how rough, or forceful, or not in tune with how light of a cue is needed. I'm going to be a whole new person because of you, thanks! Now that Charlie's hip is adjusted I can really see him stand square, which makes me feel good after all our ground work (a whole year) we both really needed it.

I want to tell you what I have noticed while doing what you direct. I have taken Charlie out on two 3-mile trail rides in his elbow pull. I now connect the clips to the little d ring and it tightened the elbow pull to "just right." Charlie tests it when he picks his head up a bit out of position. While on the second trail ride, I was able to tell which back leg was stepping forward. I could say left, right, left, right. He felt like he was stepping up under himself more. But like you said he could not hold that position for too long. He would do it on and off the whole ride.

Watch Anytime, With Video On Demand.
We’re proud to announce that some of our most popular and beloved series—Jasper the MuleThose Magnificent Mules and Training Mules and Donkeysas well as our new training special, “Give Your Equine the Athletic Edge”—are now available for rental on demand. It’s the perfect way to introduce yourself to any of the series or finish up an episode you may have missed. Maybe you need to brush up on Bishop Mule Days before you head out of town, or catch a Jasper holiday special with the family, or review a certain aspect that’s proved troublesome in your equine training… now it’s up to you!
    Jan Pollema

We are so thrilled and proud to announce that our very own "Sadie" has been awarded the 2016 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) Intl. Region 10 Equine of the Year! 

Sadie was donated to Hearts & Horses in 2006 by Meredith Hodges to replace a previous mule that retired from our program. She has some of the smoothest gaits to ride and is one of the most sensitive equines in our herd. 

Sadie will be honored at the PATH Intl. Awards Banquet held at the 2016 PATH Intl. Conference and Annual Meeting on November 4, in Williamsburg, VA. As a winner for our region, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, Sadie is a finalist for the 2016 PATH Intl. Equine of the Year Award that will be announced at the Awards Banquet. 

The national average for equines in this job is about three years, so to have an equine, let alone a really smart mule, last as long as 10 years in this work is quite amazing! She's a very special girl!

Below is a poem written by Sarah L. Champ, one of Sadie's riders:

“An Undeniable Love”

By Sarah L. Champ
For more than just an hour,
You are mine.

Filled with so much power,
You are so much more than a friend.
With honor and strength,

I came to you with blind eyes.
You greeted me with love and an open heart,
And told me no lies. 

Tears of fear ran down my face,
As anxiety hit me from my past. 
Feeling your breath during a warm embrace,
You give peace to my soul.

Opening myself up to you
You are my support and my guide
Learning more from you every time
As we ride. 

My eyes are open,
My future is no longer in the past,     
It is with you 
And what you taught me will always last.

Leah's Corner

Hello all! 

We sincerely hope your summer is going well. 

Sometimes we wonder if there is a "normal" anymore. Normal weather patterns, normal life patterns, those are a start. Life patterns are affected in so many ways. Some days are wonderful, some are up, some are down, and it can be a rollercoaster not just for a day but for a week. 

Our equines are sensitive to our moods. Go out to feed on an off day, and you may find yourself flinging the feed into the buckets, or throwing a hay bale just to let off some steam. That can be great therapy, but remember not to go into a stall or a pen when you are angry or frustrated. You may get even angrier or have your frustration blow up on you if you pass those vibes along to your animals. Go in upset and watch that one hard-to-catch mule avoid you and make it worse. Take a deep breath and center yourself before you interact. 

The same goes for the animals. Watch their moods. Donkeys and mules hide pain well, so if an animal is having an off day, let them have a bit of a rest. They might have been picked on by the top animal in the herd, been frustrated by not being able to reach that bite of grass, been kicked, or are just tired. If it goes away the next day, you know they just needed a day off. If any strange behavior continues, by all means talk to your vet. But chances are an off day is a day where your longear just needed a vacation. Work them, train them, but remember they like days where they can kick up their heels and just be critters playing in a pasture, too.

Be safe on vacations and back-to-school!  



Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS 
The Am. Donkey & Mule Soc. PO Box 1210, Lewisville TX 75067 (972) 219-0781. Newsletter: 
the BRAYER magazine, 86+ 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.

The path blazed for mules in dressage
After 18 years of petitioning by Meredith, Carol Sweet, and Leah Patton for the United States Equestrian Federation to accept mules, it's so thrilling to see more and more dressage riders now taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

Below are  photos of some of the finest examples of dressage mules over the years and the United States Equestrian Federation, Inc. Rule Book 2004 Revision that finally included mules in Dressage.
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TMD Equine University
Developed by Meredith Hodges, earn your certified diploma at home while maintaining your current job. Our year-long program gives you in-depth knowledge about the care, maintenance, business and training of all equines and hybrids.
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