<<First Name>>, your Lucky Three Ranch news for December 2017 has arrived!
Jasper The Mule Products Tours What's New Training
Message From Meredith Hodges

Dear Friends,

Happy Holidays! This has been a really busy year and it seems to have gone by faster than ever. We did have several Longears VIP visitors this year! After urging her to come for a tour of the Lucky Three for many years, Sue Cole from Mules and More Magazine was finally able to come in August. She brought two friends along from Denver to join one of our tours. They were all amazed at all the wonderful bronzes that dot the ranch, all the incredibly happy and healthy animals, and simply loved our museum exhibits. The whimsy of the Jasper Bunkhouse certainly produced wide smiles and laughter from all those on the tour that day. Inside the bunkhouse, Bonnie Shields painted a mural on the wall that is the background from the Jasper book series, but she hid a Yeti (Bigfoot) in the mural and one of the first games we play is, “Find the Yeti!” As usual, it took a while for our guests to find it. The kids are the ones that can find it almost immediately...imagine that!  We did this as a special addition to our regular tour although the Jasper Bunkhouse is generally reserved for the Children’s Tours. 

Speaking of Bonnie Shields, she was also able to visit this summer with her daughter, Laura and Bonnie’s granddaughter, Magdalena and her boyfriend. Since Jasper’s Bunkhouse is a functional guest house, they were actually able to stay there for two days. While the “kids” were off sight-seeing, Bonnie, Laura and I went out to tour Hearts and Horses’ facility since the new offices, prep and staging area, and the small indoor arena are now finished. Hearts and Horses has grown exponentially since my original involvement with them 20 years ago! We are now working on building another indoor arena that will be twice the size of the large indoor arena that they have now that is rapidly wearing out in our windy climate. When it is done, they will be able to double their capacity, take most people off the waiting list and put them into therapy. Hearts and Horses has been a major role model facility for PATH International for the past 3-4 years. We are very proud of their extraordinary accomplishments and program expansions: 

  1. Expansion of the Disabled Program
  2. Classes for our Veterans (Horses for Heroes)
  3. Riding for the Aged who had grown up on Farms and Ranches (Riding in the Moment)
  4. Changing Leads for the Thompson Valley School District kids
  5. Summer Camp Program
  6. Vaulting
  7. Equine Care Team
  8. Lecture Series
  9. Hippotherapy Research Study
  10. …and so much more! 

Our Lucky Three Crew and Associates enjoyed a fun-filled evening September 30th at the “Hearts and Horses Casino Gala” fundraiser with almost 700 guests! Amberley Snyder gave an awesome speech that left not a dry eye in the audience! After her devastating truck accident, this determined rodeo enthusiast spent a year in therapy, but never sold her horses and is now back working with them from her wheelchair! What an inspiring young woman! Thanks to all the sponsors, Lucky Hearts Casino Night raised $258,000 which made for another record-setting year! Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 29th, 2018 for their Annual Lucky Hearts Gala next year!


Thank you all for your continuing support of our efforts! It is truly appreciated. Wishing you and all your critters the very best for the holidays!

Best wishes and Happy Trails,

Meredith Hodges

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LTR Training Tip #67

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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A question about tack. I saw a saddle set up with the back cinch tight and a little further back. Do you know anything about this set up? Is it just a specific saddle or what?

There are those who think that if the rear girth is set closer to the flanks where the torso becomes narrower, it will hold the saddle back more efficiently than either breeching or cruppers. Having your saddle fit correctly and stay in place is critical when trail riding and during many other equine activities. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the way the saddle is rigged has a definite effect on your equine's anatomy. Personally, I use cotton string girths in front and secure them four inches behind the forearm to clear the sensitive skin where most equines are galled. I use a crupper to keep both English and Western saddles in place over the center of balance, on those animals whose withers are not able to keep the saddle back because it allows for free range of motion both in front and in the rear. The back girth on a double-rigged Western, Australian or Side Saddle is to keep the rear part of the saddle from rising up while the equine is in motion over uneven terrain. It should only be adjusted snugly enough to keep it where it sits when the equine is at a standstill. That is why old saddle double-rigging included a strap between the two girths to keep them in place. 

The front girth should lie underneath, at the posterior (back) end of the sternum where the bones are very thick and supportive. The back girth should lie straight down from the saddle where it should be snugly fit, but not too tight to simply hold the back of the saddle down. In this position, it is still supported by somewhat thick undercarriage rib-like bones that support the torso. When the equine is in motion, this back-girth rigging is perpendicular to the ground, and will stabilize the saddle in place without "moving" the bones and does not interfere with the internal organs. When the back girth is not attached and is tightened nearer the flanks to prevent the saddle from moving forward while the equine is in motion downhill, it applies undue pressure to the thinnest undercarriage bones that support the torso. The tightened back girth will torque the rib cage backwards (spreading the rib cage as per the Laws of Physics), increasing the pressure on these fragile undercarriage bones and puts them at risk for fracture. It also compresses the genitalia and intestinal tract when the equine is in motion, interfering with their normal function and can cause symptoms of ulcers, colic or worse.


“Thank you so much for all the information that you sent. I am so encouraged by your comments during our phone conversation, and I am very thankful for your logical and practical approach to the training and development of both donkeys and mules. Your attention to detail is priceless. My intent now is to reread and absorb what you sent and then to call you for more insight into a more specific direction. Started looking at your GREAT website!”

“Thank you so very much for your time today. We both thoroughly enjoyed our experience at L.T.R. and seeing the passion you display for our long-eared friends as well as the bond you share with them. All of your animals are amazingly well cared for and content. I look forward to benefitting from the resources on your website and DVDs.”

“Hi Meredith. You invited me to write to you for tips on managing my 14 year old 14 hh wayward kill pen mule. He is gaining condition well and has improved his attitude a lot, but still has a long way to go and is still a basket case with strangers.  Thanks for your help.”

“Thank you and your staff for the most wonderful tour I have ever had. Your tour fulfilled a dream that I have had since the first time I saw you on RFD-TV. Your ranch and wonderful mules are a reflection of you. I learned so much and was blessed by the time I spent with you today. Thank you for everything you do for mules and donkeys and the Hearts and Horses therapeutic riding program. You are changing and enriching lives. Words that describe Meredith Hodges: commitment, passion, excellence and giving.”

“I hardly know where to begin. It was the most fascinating, educational, and informative experience that went far beyond our expectations! We spent 4 hours with Meredith, her staff and of course her 'Longears'. Beyond belief how her philosophy, and love regarding the care, treatment and training of these wonderful animals has made champions of them. After meeting Meredith's Longears, and learning about their remarkable abilities - I can no longer think of mules as dumb or stubborn but rather as amazing. This is a MUST for anyone in or near the Loveland area. You simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity! Meredith, thank you for allowing us into your life and that of your precious Longears. What an unforgettable experience. I wish you continued success.”

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Advice you can count on!

Learn together, Excel Together!

Give Your Equine the Athletic Edge for Christmas! Watch the
Video on Demand TV Shows and Training Tips,
and read the MULE CROSSING articles on our website at www.LuckyThreeRanch.com under Training and learn what it takes to be a successful performer in the shows and on the trail.
Purchase your Training Mules and Donkeys “Package” for a comprehensive study of how to do the very best for your equine in all aspects of his life. 


And for those little
buckaroos, give them that

Christmas gift
that keeps on
giving all year long with the exciting
adventures of
Jasper, Moxie and their friends!


Lucky Three Franklin

Mini mules are not always as amazing as Franklin! I first met Franklin at Bishop Mule Days over twenty-five years ago, owned by John and Stefanie Newton. I was struck by his unique talent of “pushing” instead of pulling a dune buggy-type vehicle down the Mule Days Parade route. 

It was the cutest thing I think I had ever seen. John’ s hands were on the steering wheel with access to a lever that controlled a short whip in the rear that gave Franklin his signal to start pushing against a wide breast band attached to the back of the vehicle. A gentle tap on the dune buggy brakes cued him to stop. What fun!

When Franklin had turned twenty years old, John and Stefanie were retiring and wanted to travel, so they had to find a home for him. I wanted a mini mule and I was in love with Franklin already, so we bought him. At the time, I wondered if my training program would give him enhanced longevity. People were asking if I thought my program would work on older animals, so I decided to test it. 

As it turned out, Franklin was the first to prove there really were added benefits to our comprehensive management and training program. Franklin maintained his energy, health and exceptional body condition into his thirties. He taught his little miniature horse buddy, Mirage, how to drive as a team. We spent many years of enjoyment together doing all kind of fun things around the ranch. He was the “Leader of His Pack” which included a 16.2 hand molly mule named Lucky Three Diamond Jubilee and her “Little Red Riding” friend, Lucky Three Brandy. He was thrilled when we added “Fancy Francie” to his group. They were all fast friends and worked well together during round pen exercises. Franklin had many friends here at the Lucky Three from the smallest to the tallest, but he could always lunge with the best of them! It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dearest friend Franklin at 41 years old! It is with great joy that we know he now meets with those who have passed before and waits for those of us who are left behind at the Rainbow Bridge! Thank you Franklin for all you have given of yourself to this world! You were truly exceptional, appreciated and will no doubt be missed.

Bonnie’s Bit

As you might remember from previous reports from North Idaho, the summer was very hot and VERY dry and fires were raging all about us as we went into September.  At one point in early September my home town, Sandpoint, had the national record for smoke pollution and it was for sure very bad.  So bad they called off our big Draft Horse  and Mule International show in late September.  It would have been our 41st consecutive show.

Then, the last week in September, my big dog, Cleo the Orange Airedale, "ran over" her little buddy, Boo and did-in his ACL!  Now, Boo turned 15 years old in August and he had already damaged two of his four legs.  Going for the third was not a good move, but there it was, and off to surgery he went to fix his joint.  He survived that OK for a few days and then he crashed alarmingly.

Blood-work informed us his kidneys were failing.  Not happy news and my daily routine began to seriously complicate.  I will make this short.  Boo is still alive and convinced he is his old self but, he just isn’t. Added to his gluten intolerance and special diet, he now has special diet #2 and a constant supply of pills to keep straight and flowing correctly to handle the kidneys.  He gets fed three times a day!  Boy, does THAT make the other two dogs upset.

In my spare-time, the mules are doing fine and I am TRYING to get some work done in the studio in preparation for my participation at Columbia, TN Mule Day in April (5th through the 8th).

Liz Hughey's second children's book about a pack string is now out and available and our "hero", Barney the mule is in this one, too.  "Pack String Hang-Up--A Mule Trail Tale".

We got a "surprise" snow-fall of a foot the last days of October.  It is gone right now but we are on alert, for more,I can tell you.  But, maybe Santa will appreciate the preparation for his classic landings.  Always good stuff somewhere in all of this.  I hope for all of us a Merry Christmas season and blessings we don't deserve!  

                                      Hugs and Grins, Bonnie



Speaking Mule

Deb Linne is a PATH Registered Instructor at Hearts & Horses, a writer, mother of five and an equine enthusiast. 

One of my riders at Hearts & Horses has a special bond with Allie the mule….meet Tommy – also known as the Mule Whisperer.  Tommy just gets Allie the mule on an instinctual level. I’ve watched him for weeks as he connects with her, riding with aids she responds to quickly and without resistance. She even allows Tommy to give her a “noogie” on her forehead and a kiss on the jaw, which I wouldn’t have believed unless I saw it. Allie is a very dignified, no nonsense kind of equine gal. 

One of my goals in my lessons with Tommy is communication. He finds it hard to look me in the eye and speak, try as he might. But, with Allie the mule, he is able to walk right up, gaze in her kind eye, and speak words of love and affection that Allie knows and understands. How do I know that? I just do. It’s in the way she relaxes and lowers her head and seems to nod in agreement with all he is whispering to her.

Firstly, Tommy loves and respects Allie. He approaches her with no baggage; no preconceived ideas of how she should act or respond. I think sometimes, as a mule, maybe she gets tired of people assuming she will act like one. Tommy gives her the benefit of the doubt, and unlimited positive regard.

Secondly, Tommy rides clearly and fairly. He doesn’t send mixed messages. If he wants to go right, he clearly gives the aids for “right.” If he wants to whoa, he’s very simple and clear in that direction as well. I can see the appreciation in Allie’s body and in the way she doesn’t get uptight with him. She appreciates a guy who knows what he wants.

Lastly, Tommy is 100% in the moment. Most horses appreciate this, but mules, being the clever long ears that they are, can sense when you’re not with them. Tommy rides as if riding is the only thing he has to do for the rest of the day. He’s with her, so she’s with him. 100%.

As a grown woman, a horsewoman, and an instructor, I’m the one with all of the experience and knowledge…supposedly. But I’ve learned from Tommy and Allie that I’ve got a whole lot to learn if I humble myself enough to listen. I’m learning how to speak mule, one lesson at a time.

Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center

163 N CR 29, Loveland, CO, 80537


Watch Anytime, With Video On Demand.
Did you know you can watch Meredith's award-winning training anytime, on all your devices? Watch all the episodes of Training Mules and Donkeys plus Give Your Equine the Athletic Edge.

More in the mood for some entertainment? Catch Those Magnificent Mules or let the kids go have an adventure with Jasper and his friends. All six Jasper the Mule
specials are available with special features.

Three day rentals and all videos have closed captions!
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