<<First Name>>, your Lucky Three Ranch news for March 2017 has arrived!
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Message From Meredith Hodges

What an amazing beginning to the new year seeing the 20-Mule Team and the new Borax Wagons in the Tournament of Roses Parade! You can read about my involvement in this project later in this newsletter and you can also scroll down on my Meredith Hodges Facebook page to see some great video from the teamster’s point of view when the mules “jumped the chain” to make a sharp turn during practice as they would have to do coming onto Colorado Avenue in the actual parade.

The weather this winter has been incredibly unpredictable. One day it would be as warm as seventy degrees and then drop to seven degrees in one day. It has been a real roller coaster ride and has posed issues with a lot of animals and especially my older ones. It is important to check your animals frequently when the weather gets like this. 

Our thirty-one year old teaser stallion Kip Dee Beau (pictured above with the mules) passed on December 27th and my last broodmare, Trakehner mare Vinesse (pictured below with two of her three mule offspring, Vinnie and Vicki, passed a month later. She was also thirty-one and missed him terribly, so it did not really surprise me. 

It is now officially the end of an era of my life of breeding and training champion mules. However, it is not the end of my passion for these wonderful and often misunderstood Longears! I love to share what I have learned over the past 45 years with equines and particularly mules and donkeys. I think it is important that people learn to manage and care for them properly so they can enjoy their Longears safely as much as I enjoy mine. We continue forward with the care and rehabilitation of the rescues I have here at the ranch, with ongoing training of our numerous over twenty-year old ranch mules and miniatures, and give a weekly massage and core strength maintenance walking exercises to now forty-one year old mini mule, Franklin (pictured below)! 

I would like to encourage all who are interested to take full advantage of our tours. We had our first tour in 2017 with two very enthusiastic Longears-lovin’ newlyweds on Valentine’s Day! They had a terrific time and loved all the personal attention they received and all that they learned during their own personal “clinic.”  For those of you who have not visited the Lucky Three Ranch, you need to know that our tours are not just tours. We start each tour with a video about the history of mules and the history of my ranch after which I personally lead all tours with the aid of my crew. We talk about people’s concerns and all the different things in great detail that I would address in any clinic, and questions are always welcomed. We can accommodate almost everyone, with or without disabilities, and the animals and bronzes here are truly a sight to behold! 

There is a bond that mysteriously exists among Longears lovers and I have found them to be some of the nicest people in the world. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new friends and sharing my experiences with all who visit the Lucky Three, so please put us on your “To do” list…better sooner than later…I am not getting any younger!

Best wishes and Happy Trails,

Meredith Hodges

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QUESTION: In all the years I've had donkeys and mules I have never had a tragedy like what happened in my little long ear kingdom yesterday. Seems my little standard donkey jenny, Rosita, came into heat and that big lug of a john mule, Skipper completely savaged her. I mean he darn near killed her. Found her last night when we brought them into the barn. My girlfriend, Chris wants to NOT believe that her mule is the culprit, but all the signs were there. From the roughed up butt fur to the savaged back and torn up ears - the evidence is incriminating. Rosita has no fur OR skin from her withers to her croup and the path of destruction is about a foot wide. She has deep nasty gashes from teeth on the backs of her ears.  Those injuries don't worry me as much as the back injury from the weight of that mule. She can hardly walk, she's so sore.  Needless to say, I have to find another place to put my two donkeys.  I did notice whenever I see pictures of your mules and donkeys that they are never mixed together. Is my recent experience the reason?

ANSWER: Male mules will always have a certain amount of aggressive male behaviors particularly in the spring. Even when gelded, they are prone to “jump” the females during breeding season. Mules will also chase animals that are smaller than themselves and this is true of both males and females. This is why it is very important to make an evaluation of your animals before putting them in pens and pastures together. Certain behaviors are predictable and if taken into consideration can prevent a disastrous outcome. Mules will always LOVE their mothers, so when penned with horses, they can be content, but not always willing to leave them. Plus, if with mares, the male mules will mercilessly harass them in the spring. This is why I pen my horses separately from the mules. I do not put smaller animals in with the larger mules because they will also harass them whether male or female. The smaller ones can be penned with the larger horses provided you do not have an extreme alpha male or female in the herd. Mares seem to be more tolerant of the little ones. I do not pen younger and smaller mules with older mules (three years and younger). Once they have reached their third birthday, they can better withstand the pecking order ritual and can be added to the older group (mules from 3 – 15). Note that mules from 3 to 15 will exhibit aggressive sexual behaviors with their own kind, but the female mules are better equipped to fend off aggressive males in the spring where horse mares are not. Mules that are over 15 or 16 years old should be penned with a more sedate group of older mules, but still not with horses just to keep the peace. Older mules will be chased mercilessly by the younger and more aggressive male mules, especially if they are older males. Younger male mules will also mercilessly harass the older female mules in the spring and can injure them.

Generally, the best thing to do with a new animal is to put them in a pen of their own that is adjacent to the pens with your other animals for about two weeks just so they can be introduced "across the fence" before actually turning them in together. Jacks and stallions should never be turned in with other animals. When you finally do put them in together, they will have a ritual of developing the new pecking order, but as long as they do not get completely vicious with each other, you can be reasonably sure that they will work this out and things will calm down over another two week period. Of course, there may be irreconcilable differences in personality or size that will affect his behavior. If he is incompatible with the other animals, he may need to be kept by himself, or with a partner that is more suitable for him.

Dear Meredith, There might be others who call themselves a mule or horse whisperer but you are the greatest of them all! Your contributions to the equine world are tremendous. You have earned the respect and accolades of your peers. A person who is interested in becoming a better mule owner or horseman needs education, no matter what your level of expertise. Your library of videos and books are as good as it gets! Thank you for being so generous with your time and resources.

Thank you for sharing so much of your knowledge & experiences! After years of owning horses, we have a young donkey too. You have helped greatly in teaching me how to deal with and train him.

Thank you and your staff for the most wonderful tour I have ever had. You 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.

Meredith, your article on crupper/breeching is excellent.  I have ridden both mules and horses with crupper most of my 72 years.  It still amazes me how little most people know about cruppers and the large amount of misinformation pushed onto the unknowing by people who know even less about them.  How right you are about breeching coming from the harness and packing world.  I have so many poorly adjusted breeching get ups over the years I have lost count.  I would really appreciate being able to add a copy of your article to the articles I have written and send out to people asking about this very topic.

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The 20-Mule-Team practices in the desert outside of Bishop, California days before the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

Read more about how Meredith came to be a sponsor for this history-making project!

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!
    Jan Pollema

Internships in the Equine Industry

Finding the perfect internship can be one of the most difficult choices a student will make. Many are looking for a program that offers a wide variety of experiences, that provides the opportunity to make valuable connections, and that can be a unique addition to a resume. Hearts & Horses is able to offer an internship that covers each of these aspects for students from various backgrounds.

Currently, Hearts & Horses has three full-time interns working towards a career in either social work or occupational therapy. Their tasks range from working with students in classes to assisting staff members with various administrative projects.

Although Hearts & Horses’ main mission is to influence the lives of people with disabilities in a positive way, each intern has found something special from their time on-site that is helping them reach their future goals. Ashley Phang, a senior at Colorado State University, has benefited from gaining hands-on experience within the field of equine assisted therapy helping her work towards a career in animal-assisted therapy. Anita Reynoso, a senior at Metropolitan State University, has been able to witness the benefits a horse can offer students, providing her with insight into the human-equine bond. Ashley Sippel, a senior at Wichita State University, is able to observe and assist riders with a wide range of disabilities, helping her narrow down what population she would like to work with.

Ashley Phang specifically found it encouraging that she was able to work here as an intern with little equestrian knowledge. It is easy to assume that one must have an extensive equine knowledge to work around these animals daily; however, Ashley found the opposite to be true. “My experience here has been a lot of just building my knowledge from the ground up. I have experienced great support and patience from all those around me. Everybody is always willing to pause, explain things, and assure me that I’m doing alright,” Ashley said.

Hearts & Horses provides students with an exceptional internship due to their wide variety of opportunities and supportive staff. Students can specialize their experience by taking part in activities such as assisting with the business/administrative aspect, learning the ins and outs of a non-profit, observing various therapeutic classes, or gaining experience managing equines (just to name a few). Many might overlook Hearts & Horses as a traditional internship experience; however, the amount of knowledge one can gain from spending time here is unlimited.


Ashley Sippel

Wichita State University

Wichita, KS

Bonnie’s Bit

We are having the hardest winter here in North Idaho since '96.  Right now there is 4 and a half feet of snow all over everything and ice under that and now on top of that.  My trips to the two barns to care for my mules is now a mixture of adventure and hardships.  I can tell you that the two big mollies (Iris and Lucille) are loving their little three-sided "palace" my hubby built for them a couple of years ago.  It is open to the south to spare them the punishment of that north wind.  They have only the few paths through the snow that are absolutely necessary to get to and from the hay.

I lost my dear little IKE the donkey, last month during one of the severly cold spells.  He just couldn't fight it any longer and simply laid down one Friday and quit.  I had him put down by my hero vet, Dr. Stoll, and then the fun began as we had to somehow get him out of the corral he died in and out of the pasture and into the driveway so we could load his body onto a friends flatbed truck.  I'm shure the neighbors were thoroughly entertained as it was a logistic feat as well as a hard pull at times.

Ike's pasture mate, Cookie the old molly, was rather lost without him for a few days and quit eating hay--but not her oats.  I was surprised as she was always acting like he was a pain in her ass and didn't really spend much time with him as a companion.  But, she is over it now and is mostly holed-up in her sweet little barn out of the wind and the moisture.  Only God knows how old she is, but Dr. Bob mouthed her several years ago when we first rescued her and he said at that time that she had passed 30 at a high lope many years ago!  Cookie is a sweet but very serious lady and I take great delight in discussing world matters with her.

Got the cute story of "Barney the Lop Sided Mule" finished (illustrations).  I understand it is at the printers now and his author, Liz Hughey, is planning on being in my booth at Bishop with it.  Golly, Bishop seems light-years away right now with all this snow.

Also got the book cover for "Miss Royals' Mules" done (by Irene Bennett Brown).  It won't be out until '18, but it is worth waiting for so add that to your list of good things comin your way.

So, I am just trying to survive up here in the north woods and dreaming of summer rides on Iris and time spent with dear friends like Meredith.  Hope you are half as lucky.  Bonnie

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