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|LTR Training Tip #110|
Fitting the Harness
A harness that does not fit will not pull efficiently and can cause distress to your equine, so make sure your harness fits!
View many more training tips on our YouTube channel.
Question: I would like to train my mule and my donkey to drive, but I don’t know what kind of harness to get. Will I have to get a separate harness for each of them, or can I get one set of harnesses that will fit them both? Where do I learn how to put it on the right way?
Answer: If they are both close to the same size, you might only have to get one set of harness, unless of course, you may want to drive them as a team later. Whether riding or driving, the comfort and fit of your tack and equipment is an important consideration if you wish to get the best performance from your equine. Any piece of equipment that does not correctly fit your equine can cause less than optimum performance. In my experience, I prefer to use a “collar” harness on my driving equines. It helps them to pull more evenly and does not chafe the chest and shoulders. On my smaller animals, the collars are too cumbersome, and they do better with a “breast collar” harness. But whichever you decide to use, make sure it fits. In addition, make sure the vehicle is suitable to the size of your equine.
Consider, for instance, the bridle, which is such an important communication device. Do not select a harsh bit for control. Control comes from logical and sequential practices during training and not from force. The bit should be comfortable and be fitted correctly to facilitate good communication from your hands to the corners of your equine’s mouth. The bit should also be a comfortable width, leaving a half-inch from the hinge on both sides of his mouth. If the bit is placed too high or too low in the animal’s mouth, his fussing while he tries to get comfortable will override his ability to receive clear communication from your hands. NOTE: Be sure the chin chain on a curb bit lies flat and allows for two fingers to fit easily between the chain and his jaw. All parts of the bridle must fit correctly. For instance, most mules have a broader forehead than does the horse, and therefore must have a larger brow band fitted so the ears do not get pinched or rubbed sore. The throatlatch must be adjusted so that it gives the mule plenty of room for flexion without cutting off his air supply.
The blinders on a harness bridle also need to be set and bent properly to do their job without chafing the eyes. When one thing is out of place on a unit of equipment it will usually negatively influence other parts of the same unit, and in training, these seemingly insignificant maladjustments can cause resistant behavior in your animal. In the case of an ill-fitting bridle, he might continually open his mouth, bob or shake his head or just subtly refuse to go on the bit. Minimizing discomfort and distraction allows the equine to more easily receive and process communication.
Although the mule is a tough and durable animal, there are places on his body where his skin is particularly sensitive and easily chafed, so when fitting a harness or saddle you must pay special attention to these parts of his body. The collar on a harness, for example, needs to fit snugly and smoothly in front of the shoulders, allowing your hand to slip easily between the collar and the base of your mule’s throat and chest. A collar that is either too tight or too loose can rub and cause soreness, inhibiting maximum performance. When improperly adjusted, a breast collar harness can also cause rubbing at the points of the shoulders. The girth area on your equine is particularly sensitive. The surcingle or girth on the harness or saddle should be placed four inches behind your animal’s forearm where the barrel starts to swell, and not over the sensitive area directly behind the forearm. A crupper should be used to keep the saddle from slipping forward and taking the girth with it forward into this sensitive area directly behind the forearm.
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TRAINING QUESTION CONT.
Placement of the surcingle (with or without harness attached) is important, but you also need to pay attention to the material out of which the harness surcingle or girth is made and its condition. Soft leather usually causes no problem, but if the leather is dirty or stiff, or if a material other than leather is used, some kind of padding may be needed for optimum comfort. Nylon and other man-made materials can often cause chafing, so be careful about what kind of material is used for the girth on your harness. The cleanliness, correct adjustment, and comfort of the harness and other equipment can actually be a matter of safety for both you and your animal. An animal that is exhibiting behavior that may be labeled as “stubborn” or “ornery” is often simply trying to communicate his discomfort, so taking the time to evaluate these behaviors with reference to equipment can help to produce more positive results.
Remember that equines, like people, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so there is no universal bridle, saddle or harness that will automatically fit your equine any more than there is one size and shape of clothing that will correctly and comfortably fit all people. An equine’s shape will change with physical conditioning and, as the level of performance is increased, it becomes increasingly more important to have equipment that fits properly, affords comfort, and lends support. If equines are to perform to the best of their ability, we need to work them in the best-fitting, most comfortable equipment during each activity. Taking the time and effort to find comfortable, proper fitting and supportive tack and equipment will help you get the best results from yourself and your equine and will mean a more pleasurable experience for both of you.
The TRAINING MULES & DONKEYS DVD series, DVD #3 covers everything you need to know about driving. In the STORE at www.luckythreeranchstore.com, our TRAINING WITHOUT RESISTANCE manual, Chapter 3 covers DRIVING. There are TRAINING TIPS
(#109 – #120) on my website at
www.luckythreeranch.com that will help you. And, if you have any problems along the way, you are welcome to contact me at
email@example.com and I will respond promptly!
READERS & VISITORS
“I’ve been a horse person all of my life. It was quite by accident that I ended up with a mule because she was kid safe. However, LOL, I treated her like a horse. Needless to say, that did not go well. Finally, as a last-ditch effort before selling her, I googled, “How to Train a Mule.” That search led me to your website where I printed off every article I could find. Then I read those pages every day BEFORE I went out to work with Ethel. It was literally like learning a brand new language. And the transformation in my relationship with Ethel was amazing. She gifted my son with many years of companionship and joy.”
“Thank you for sharing your documentary, I loved it. Documentaries are one of my favorites and I learned a lot about your operation. The production was great, and I really enjoyed it.”
“Thank you so much for taking the time to go through your quotes! You really show how training should be balanced and infused with play--something that's so easy to overlook. Even though my donkeys are more pets than anything, you inspire me to be consistent in my daily approach and care. It's good to be reminded of the importance of gentle consistency.”
“Meredith, all the info you sent is perfect………….I can’t thank you enough for getting me in the right direction and now I understand it’s a lot different than breeding horses. I would love to find a nice rescue Mule but nothing close for me here in WV. I will soak up all of this info and move forward from here. You are fantastic and my only wish is that I lived closer. Thanks again for the great info.”
This lovely coffee table book, produced by Lucky Three Productions, L.L.C., is the most complete collection on record of Bonnie’s numerous artistic accomplishments. Longears lover or not, you will be amazed at the wide diversity of her work and entertained by her unmatched sense of humor! This is a MUST HAVE for your personal library!
Each book has been personally signed by Bonnie Shields and Meredith Hodges!
What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. You nailed it! Thank you for doing that, Bonnie deserves it. And thank you for sending the books to me. ~Mike
Thank you so much for sending over Bonnie's book. It turned out amazing! I am not completely through it yet, but found it fascinating and full of so much detail. You did such a great job!!! ~Jan
Thank you so much for sending me a copy of the book you did for Bonnie! It's amazing!! I love the artwork and even some of her contributions to the Mule Days bills and the Mule Crossing articles. It was good to see all of that represented and it's eye-opening just how much you have done together over the years. It's a beautiful way to showcase your friendship. ~ Kyle
"This book is far and above anything I could have dreamed of! Not much missing from THIS reveal! You got stuff in here I had long forgotten about. See, crime doesn't pay!!! Thank you for even thinking of doing this. And actually DOING it is beyond belief! Terry even could not put it down. You are the MOST amazing woman to have as a friend" ~ Bonnie Shields
Clay and I got our wonderful Bonnie Shield’s book last night. It is just such a great tribute to this wonderful, funny, amazing artist and writer. We laughed at the humorous poems and articles and flipped through the pages of her amazing artwork and beautiful sculpture. Every page is just a slice of joy. I love that it celebrates the amazing mules. It is truly a ONE of a KIND book!!! ~Gretta and Clay
To see Bonnie’s art and apparel that is for sale at the
Lucky Three Ranch Web Store
FROM LUCKY THREE PRODUCTIONS, L.L.C.!!!
The Lucky Three Ranch has been engaged in the production of top-quality Brome/Orchard grass hay for the past 35 years. Obtaining top-quality hay for one's livestock is not an easy thing to do. For this reason, the Lucky Three Ranch decided to grow their own hay. Producing good hay is a lot more than just growing grass, cutting, baling and stacking to do the job right! Producing exceptional grass hay involves much more than you might think! Enjoy your journey with the Lucky Three Ranch Crew as they guide you through all the trials and tribulations of top-quality, certified hay production.
LUCKY THREE HAY PRODUCTION covers all the details of what goes into producing weed-free, certified grass hay for the equines at the Lucky Three Ranch. Producing top-quality hay is a lot more than just cutting, baling and stacking the grass that grows in the field. This documentary covers everything from irrigation practices, managing the land to maintaining the equipment,
livestock and much more!
The documentary is available as a DVD in our STORE at www.luckythreeranchstore.com. Also in the VIDEO ON DEMAND section of our website at www.luckythreeranch.com.
This is another Lucky Three Productions, L.L.C.
documentary you won’t want to miss!
WATCH NOW on VIDEO ON DEMAND
WATCH THE TRAILER
AND DON’T FORGET to visit
JASPER THE MULE. Jasper and his friends’ adventures are now featured in books, on Meredith’s Video On Demand TV Shows and in a variety of animated videos. In addition to the Lucky Three Ranch website, she also designed www.JasperTheMule.com, a website especially for children that provides a fun, child-friendly environment in which they can learn to appreciate, love and care for equines and all living things.
The passion that Meredith Hodges feels for the equines that she has fought for all her adult life is still as fresh, inspiring and infectious as it was when she first discovered the world of horses, donkeys and mules. She has never wavered in her devotion to them and in her mission to carve a lasting and honored place for them in our world. They are lucky to have her as their champion, but Meredith actually sees it a bit differently. She feels honored and
privileged to be a part of their world.
October 26, 2022
(One Day Sale)
50% off EQUUS REVISITED COMBO
ENJOY A FREE VIEWING OF
BUILDING A NATION: The History of the American Mule
GET 50% off
TRAINING MULES & DONKEYS BOOK
And get all four TMM DOCUMENTARIES in a package
And Buy JASPER: A TURKEY TALE DVD
and get the BOOK and CD Free
Well, it has been an "interesting" summer for the mule artist. Finally got my right knee replaced June 22 and it has been a bit of a struggle at times getting it back to working right. It wasn't so hard 7 years ago when the left one got fixed. Getting older is not for the faint of heart!
I "recovered" in a rented hospital bed set-up in my cluttered studio. Somehow it worked and I only had to use that bed for 3 weeks before I could navigate to make it up-stairs to my real bed. My dear and loyal dog, "Mac" was shure happy to once more be able to sleep in the bed with me, and so was I. He is the most loyal and caring Corgi fellow!
My daughter is now living with us permanently and she was my "nurse,"so I was in many good hands-or paws, but I did not go out to Iris's lot for many weeks. She thought she was "wild," I think as it took two days to lure her up to take her treats once I did get out there. But, no fears. Treats won out and we are back to being pals.
The BIG news is, of course, the incredible book Miss Meredith and Miss Gretta put together about me. I had NO idea I'd done so much stuff!!! Talk about seeing your life flash past ya, this book has done that and words are not sufficient to register my gratitude to those two, and the others on the Lucky Three that put time and effort into bringing this book about. Do look into this book. It is, I promise, ENTERTAINING to the MAX!!!
I am spending a goodly amount of time right now to sending out copies of the book, but I am also getting my half-ass act together to "do" Hells Canyon Mule Show in Enterprise, Or. If you can, come see the mules and me there, September 9, 10 & 11. I will have that book with me too, and Cheryl Mundee, my loyal helper. It's been three years since we were "allowed" by the governor of Oregon to HAVE this event even!
I don't move as fast or as steady as I used to, but I GET THERE!!! I am blessed and happy and busy. Can't ask for more.
Hugs and Grins from BS.
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!
Reaching New Heights at Hearts & Horses
Thanks to the generosity of Meredith Hodges at Lucky Three Ranch, Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center was able to equip their Kroh Arena with a state-of-the-art mechanical lift for safely mounting riders with mobility issues. The Kroh Arena is used primarily for therapy services which includes occupational and physical therapy, so this addition to their facility is indispensable. Tamara Merritt, Director of Program Innovation & Research at Hearts & Horses, says that “the lift in the Kroh Arena has allowed us to enhance safety, serve a more diverse clientele with higher needs physically, and keep our volunteers, equines, and instructors safe.”
We are so grateful for Meredith's generosity and help with empowering our community members with special needs!
Help for the Dog Days of Summer
Summer temperatures in Northern Colorado are no joke. For Hearts & Horses, this can cause serious discomfort for equines, riders, and volunteers. Without any type of cooling system in the facility's Kroh Arena, access to their services was limited during the warmer months. Recently, Meredith donated a state-of-the-art evaporative cooling system to help expand the center’s classes, which are once again functioning at full capacity!
According to Program Director Lauren McClave, “The Kroh arena would get incredibly hot in the summer because it faces towards the West, and is a metal structure built over 30 years ago. During our hottest days, it is incredibly uncomfortable, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Now that we have the evaporative cooling system, the change has been amazing! It is so much cooler, and both riders and equines are benefiting from the change. In fact, most instructors prefer to use this arena space now!"
Leila Einhorn, Communications Manager
Hearts & Horses is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and we are proud to be a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center
The legendary Hearts & Horses Lucky Hearts Gala
will be back in the saddle this year with an in-person event! It is Hearts & Horses 25th anniversary of serving our community, and we cannot think of a better way to celebrate than sharing an evening of fun and FUNding with you, our generous supporters!
Well-known for its robust live and silent auctions, casino games, gourmet food and drinks, and inspirational programming, the Lucky Hearts Gala has become one of Northern Colorado’s premier charity events.
If you’re not able to make the in-person event, you can still participate in the celebration by bidding in our silent auction! The silent auction will be online so anyone, near or far, can support the Hearts & Horses mission. Bidding starts September 19th and concludes September 24, 2022 at 10 pm.
This year our goal is to raise $556,000 of vital funding for our
programming and operational needs.
Hearts & Horses - 163 N. CR 29 - Loveland, CO 80537
Phone: (970) 663-4200 x 307 www.HeartsAndHorses.org COVID-19 Updates
Hearts & Horses is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and we are proud to be a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center
Follow us on Facebook
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
Leah Patton, office manager, ADMS
Dear life, I know some roller coasters are fun, but can we just stay on the kiddie rides for a bit and not the giant loop-de-loops?
Much of the United States and parts of Europe are baked to a crisp and on fire. People are not going to have enough hay to feed through the winter. Stockyards are filling up with cattle that are being emergency-sold as farmers and ranchers can’t feed them.
Do you cut your own hay? Have nearby suppliers? Have you laid in your supply? Pray for rain so that we can get second (third) cuttings and such and be able to bale up the lovely golden grasses!
If you are able, check your pastures over and make sure you get rid of weeds that take up grazing real estate. Plant winter grasses. Unsure of what grows best in your area? Check with your local Ag Extension agent! They have all sorts of info about native and best types of grass, trees, plants and more. They can help you with soil samples, plant ID, and hay testing as well.
And of course, just as I write this, Mother Nature decided to play a joke on Texas. From one of the driest summers on record to the second-wettest. Yes, you saw it in the headlines, 9-plus inches dumped in less than 28 hours on our concrete-hard, sun-baked land. Flooding abounds. Mass chaos. Hopefully, it will mean that we might - just might - get in another cutting of hay, once we can wade off the porch! See what I mean? It never ends!
If you haven’t already done your tack room cleanup, it’s a good time to do it now. Take those poor dried-out bits of tack into a cooler place, sit back with a nice cold one and some leather oil, and give everything a good swipe. This heat will bake the leather to crumbles in a heartbeat! And nothing is worse than finding out your leather show halter has rotted…well, other than the floorboards rotting out of your trailer…
Have you checked the tires on your trailer lately? Did you know rubber sun rot on tires is a thing? (Not all local tire shops carry trailer or tractor tires either… learned that by experience!)
Cooler temps will be here soon, we can all have a little breather from the scorching, and perhaps, fingers crossed, there will be some rain here for Texas…Since I perform at Renfests 16 weekends out of the year, I can’t wait for cool weather (Huzzah, cloaks for Steampunk November and Dickens)!
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 http://www.lovelongears.com/main.htm