, your Lucky Three Ranch news for December 2018 has arrived!
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Message From Meredith Hodges

Dear Friends,

What a year it has been! In our last newsletter, I told you I thought it might be a banner year for hay if we got a second cutting. Well, while a good part of the country was experiencing a hay shortage, we supplied a good bit of the “fly over zone” with our hay broker. Our second cutting was not as sparse as in years before. Our previous record for two cuttings was 11,000 bales. This year we did 14,000 bales! We will hold back 3000 bales for ourselves and whatever Hearts and Horses will need and then sell the rest to a hay broker that supplies the middle-America states.

We had lots of tours this summer and fall with a wide range of visitors from the youngest to the oldest. Jasper was able to be present for the Boys and Girls Club Tour in August and the kids just loved him! Walking into Jasper’s Bunkhouse is like stepping into one of his storybooks with a diorama of the Happy Valley Ranch and its background painted on the wall by Bonnie Shields where the kids can play “Find the Yeti” and the “Wendy’s girl!” We had two very large tours in September with 55 and 32 seniors. We schedule our tours by appointment only and will take from 1 to 75 people. Each tour is your own personal clinic and they are all led by me with the help of my phenomenal LTR Staff of two guys and three girls. The tour groups cannot believe how few people handle such a pristine farm/ranch, including doing all the hay ourselves and we tell them, “It’s all about being organized with a good work ethic! It’s a labor of LOVE!” Everyone seems to really enjoy our video presentation on the history of mules and the Lucky Three Ranch, and especially my speech about core strength, good manners and good posture. The most commonly asked question is, “Isn’t this also applicable to humans as well?” And the answer to this is YES! When you do our program, you and your equine will both benefit from the experience.

Fall has come and gone and winter is now here. I always enjoy the four seasons of “Colorful Colorado,” although having two snowstorms in a week in October was a bit of a surprise. It usually doesn’t get cold until Halloween! We had our last tour of the year on October 30th, and are closed the months of November and December. We will resume our tours on January 2, 2019, if anyone is interested in coming on a tour next year give us a call at 800-816-7566. Summer of 2019 we will have a new surprise for our tours.

The last weekend in September was the Hearts and Horses Lucky Hearts Casino Night fundraiser. Our sincerest thanks to Director Jan Pollema and Co-Director Tamara Merritt for their thoughtful and impeccable guidance in expanding the programs at Hearts and Horses! This particular event is always so much fun and we were privileged to honor riders from 5 years old to 100! The new arena is well on its way to being finished and we are so pleased to be a part of helping so many people to RIDE!!! Including our family and friends, the Lucky Three group at Casino Night this year was 29 people! We had an amazing time!

From all of us to all of you...Have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS & a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Best wishes and Happy Trails,

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LTR Training Tip #23

Halter Types

No matter what kind of equine you have, the halter is one of your most basic—and most important tools.


I don’t want to hurt my mule’s mouth by putting a bit in it. How do you feel about bitless bridles, or riding in hackamores and halters?

Answer: It is not difficult to teach your equine to respond without a bit as you ride him and many people are now riding with “bitless bridles,” hackamores and halters. However impressive, this cannot address good equine posture since one is not born with good posture; it is something that must be taught with the proper equipment. The symmetrical development of core strength in good posture supports joints so they operate as they should and allows for the optimum function of internal organs. The mild Eggbutt snaffle bit with direct rein action,  (pull right...go right; pull left...go left) promotes clear communication between you and your equine as he learns to take contact with the bit (without pinching the tongue) during training and he will become very light in the bridle as you learn to ride from your seat and develop light hands. I rarely have use for curb bits with my equines, only in shows where they are required and with green riders on a trail ride for a bit more leverage. For more about training in a logical and sequential way that helps to build core strength in good posture and promotes the ultimate in communication between you and your equine, please visit my website at and look under TRAINING.

“THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS to successful training with your horse, donkey or mule. Time. Patience. Clear direction. And trust. They make it happen. Thank you, Meredith Hodges, for another well thought out piece of guidance.”

“Thanks Meredith! I have followed you for years in The Brayer and the Canadian Donkey & Mule News. We have all your tapes and most of your books. You are a hero in my eyes because you always stand up for Longears.”

“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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For news past and present visit the LTR BLOG and RESOURCES & EQUINE NEWS covering Clubs, Rescues, Classified ads, Calendar of Events, Therapeutic Riding and much more. We believe for an ultimately successful relationship with your equine, you MUST train a mule the way that horses SHOULD be trained.

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Billy Bad Ass
Comes to the Lucky Three Ranch!

Twenty-five year old Billy Bad Ass came to us from Diane Hunter in Descanso, California, Board Member of the American Donkey & Mule Society, faithful Bishop Mule Days attendant and a longtime ambassador for Longears! He has been at a boarding stable for many years and Diane wanted him to have the very best for his retirement, so she contacted me to see if we would take him. I have known “Billy” since he was a two-year-old, so there was no other answer but, OF COURSE!!!  Diane can now have peace of mind that the mule who has served her so well for so many years will be well taken care of and that she will always be able to visit him at any time. We are happy to add him to our herd. 

Bonnie’s Bit

The mule artist has just spent three weeks painting horses. Draft horses. Maybe I have mentioned this before, but we in Sandpoint, Idaho have an antique carousel in our midst that we are trying to restore and eventually set-up in one of our local parks for the public to enjoy. Just getting started, but the horses themselves were basically in pretty good shape as was--is--the mechanics. But, there is still much work in several areas that are being totally re-done. This is true of the 16 paintings attached to the center column and I am hoping to have this painting become one of those new images.

The call was for scenes pertaining to this area (northern Idaho) and I chose to portray a team of drafters pulling a log out of the woods. Not that much logging is done up here these days with the big horses, but logging is still a main-stay of our economy. Our trees are still impressive and it took big horses to get the job done back "in the day". They called out to local artists to come up with 16 images and they will all come together the first of December to be picked--or not. I had to paint it on a 24x34 canvass with acrylics and it turned out to be a physical challenge, as well as, an artistic one. I am used to working on paper and a tilted, hard surface- -sitting down. Having to reach up so much on this piece while it sits on an easel got to my old, arthritic shoulder pretty hard and I am greatly glad it is DONE. Took three weeks.

In the meantime, winter is establishing itself up here and the ground is totally frozen. Just a bit of snow, but frozen wet ground means MUD in March. When I first moved here in 1980, "spring break~up" was famous for "eating" jeeps, cars and big trucks. I'll have to say, the county has so improved our rural roads these days. You no longer get “eaten" by them, but you better not fall off them either.

My two remaining mollies are fuzzy again and looking to be fed. Actually, all was evolving just fine with my girls, until my hubby put our 25ft sail boat up on it's trailer and PARKED it right in front of their water tank!!! Bug-eyed pandemonium!!!! For DAYS!!! Good to know their eye-sight is still fine, isn't it? Well, they are finally used to it being there, but I think they are blaming it on ME as they won't let me get near them now. Working with treats, patience and their good feed. They haven't lost any weight, so I guess they are ahead of me still. But, the winters are L-0-N-G up here and I hope they will get tired of being crazy and doing without pets and conversation. 

Can't believe it is Holiday time. I'm already pooped.

Hope your Holidays are Blessed and Happy. 


 Visit our Lucky Three Ranch 

to purchase new art from 
 ​Tennessee Mule Artist 
Bonnie Shields

And don’t forget to visit her website to find out more
about the Wild and Wonderful World of Bonnie Shields,
Tennessee Mule Artist, Cowboy Cartoonist and True Artist!



Hearts & Horses continues our commitment to increasing awareness of the numerous rewards equine-assisted activities and therapies offer to the cherished members of our community with special needs. Three exciting new research studies are underway at Hearts & Horses. These three studies are all newly funded follow-up projects resulting from initial research endeavors recently conducted on Hearts & Horses programs. These new studies aim to capture the essence of how participants benefit from our programming and their special connections to our equines.  

Dr. Wendy Wood, Director of Research with the Temple Grandin Center at Colorado State University, has recently overseen research teams of master and doctoral level graduate students in their study of Hearts & Horses programs, and she will also oversee two new research studies. The study conducted in 2016, by Dr. Beth Fields on our Riding in the Moment program, found that our innovative program enhances quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other forms of memory loss. Specifically, she found our program was associated with observed indicators of quality of life meaning that participants with dementia living in long-term care facilities demonstrated significantly higher levels of communication and engaged gaze when participating in our Riding in the Moment Program. 

In honor of the successes of Dr. Fields’ prior collaborative study, PhD candidate, Becca Lassell’s research and dissertation will examine the short-term outcomes of our Riding in the Moment Program related to quality of life for community-dwelling participants with dementia and their family members or other care partners. Hearts & Horses is proud to partner in this new research to deepen our understanding of all the possible benefits for our riders who bring the Riding in the Moment Program to life.   

Also, in 2017, another research team under the direction of Dr. Woods, conducted a small pilot study at Hearts & Horses to assess the effect of equine-assisted occupational therapy on individual therapeutic goals, self-regulation, and social functioning of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Researchers found that children participating in equine-assisted occupational therapy improved in their therapeutic goals, as well as, social communication and social motivation. Further, they demonstrated decreased irritability and hyperactivity. Part of this study included interviews with the Hearts & Horses program therapists, so researchers could begin building a theoretical framework for how horses may be incorporated into therapy to address social and behavioral outcomes for children with autism.

As a result of their promising findings, the research team is creating an intervention manual to standardize the equine-assisted occupational therapy intervention. In a larger study slated for the spring and summer of 2019, researchers will assess the feasibility and acceptability of the new intervention manual, and will measure the effect of the intervention on individual goals, social functioning, self-regulation, and chronic stress. This new, larger study will implement a more rigorous research design by randomizing participants to treatment groups, assessing outcomes using a blind rater and assessing the effect of the intervention on hair cortisol content, which is a physiological indicator of chronic stress. Hearts & Horses is excited to participate in this new research which may result in standardizing equine-assisted occupational therapy nationally and internationally.

In 2013, Hearts & Horses hosted a research team from Children’s Hospital Colorado, who conducted a long-term study to establish the efficacy of our ten-week therapeutic horseback riding group for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This published study found children aged six to sixteen years old diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder demonstrated improved social interactions and communication skills by participating in therapeutic horseback riding. Even more exciting, these skills were retained a full six months after participating in Hearts & Horses therapeutic horseback riding program. 

Given the current lack of rigorous research examining physiological mechanisms linked to human-animal interaction, researchers are now designing studies to test current human-animal interaction theories. One such study will be conducted at Hearts & Horses beginning this winter. In a collaborative effort between University of Colorado at Denver’s Department of Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Colorado, researchers will collect reliable physiologic arousal response data on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder participating in our Hearts & Horses five-week therapeutic riding program. Researchers will collect participant electrodermal activity and cardiac monitor data using specialized equipment. These physiological measures will help researchers determine if participating in therapeutic riding leads to collective reductions in arousal which are presumed stress and anxiety states for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Using sophisticated measurements of physiological response is certainly a step towards the future of using scientific tools to further our understanding of the physiological benefits of human-animal interactions. 

As you can see, Hearts & Horses’ participation in these educational and medical-based studies with the Temple Grandin Equine Center at Colorado State University and Children’s Hospital Colorado, helps contribute to the development of many equine-assisted activities and therapies. We maintain our strong commitment to research so our innovative and effective programs and highly-qualified staff can help further the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies in an effort to reach as many people as possible with life changing interactions with our four-legged therapists.

Tamara Merritt, Associate Executive Director

Give the Gift of Joy and Healing

Through an incredible depth and breadth of programming, Hearts & Horses impacts every life we touch. Support the wonderful effects of therapeutic riding for individuals by supporting Hearts & Horses today!



Horse & Mule Foundation Training Package
or the
Donkey Foundation Training Package

and get the upgraded coordinating 
Complete Training Package


 DECEMBER 31, 2018!


Purchase the
and get the
Jasper Reading Bundle 
and the Jasper Music CD


 DECEMBER 31, 2018!


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!


Ever need that brain break, even though you know you can't do the long weekend and leave the animals?  Just HAVE to have a little "down" time?   DO IT.  It's not only good for you, it's good for those around you - two-legged and four legged.  

Equines are sensitive to the moods of their humans, donkeys and mules more than horses.  If you are tired, or jittery, or in pain, they will react to it.  Be aware that they WILL react to it, often in unexpected ways. 

If you are short tempered, they will sense it, even before you get to the stall or pasture. They might not want to come up for their feed.  They might play coy and dash away just as they get to the corral gate. They might buck and crowhop and even kick a bit - even if that is not their usual behaviour. If you are overly tired, or in pain, donkeys especially will crowd you and "hug" you with their heads. 

Sometimes their company is great for a quiet sit in the woods and a good cry- sometimes it's not.  If you feel the need to lash out for any reason, muck stalls.  Throw manure. Chop weeds, chop wood. Scrub floors.  Clean tack. Don't take it out on the animals, ever - they will remember. 

Feed everyone up good.  Give them a little extra hay, a pat, a carrot, and take yourself to a movie (even if it is movie night at home in your pjs).  A day away is good, and for the most part, being away from the farm a couple of extra hours doesn't do any harm.  Take a "one tank" day trip - somewhere two or three hours.  You'll be surprised how much just a short change in routine for you can do for your blood pressure, your attitude, and your outlook on life. 

This year has been pretty hard for many, and we're reminded over and over again just how fragile this tightrope is that we walk.   Fires, floods, storms, wrecks, broken limbs, disease, and other disasters, no matter how small, impact our health and well-being.  Life can pound you down - if you let it!   Take that day and wander a forest (preferably with a donkey or mule!), see the show (scientific, sci-fi, historical or otherwise) you've been meaning to catch up on.  Throw out things  (or donate) that don't work, are broken, or no longer have a place in your functionality.  Declutter your house, your barn, your mind. 

Take a deep breath.  Appreciate that you love longears and can be a part of their lives.  Breathe.  Relax.  Now go on, git.

Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS 

The Am. Donkey & Mule Soc.
PO Box 1210,
Lewisville TX 75067
(972) 219-0781.
Newsletter: the BRAYER magazine 76+ 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

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