What's New: draft mules

All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘draft mules’

The Equine In Motion2

MULE CROSSING: The Equine in Motion

0

By Meredith Hodges

I have done extensive work in training equines for many years and it seems you can never learn enough. If you learn how to ask the right questions, there is always something more to learn just around the corner. It is no secret that things can happen when you push limits and you can get what might seem to be the right results, but then you have to ask yourself…really? You may, for instance get your young Reining prospect to do a spin, but then you should ask yourself if he is executing it correctly so as not to injure the ligaments, tendons and cartilage in his body. If he is not adequately prepared for the spin with exercises that address his core muscle strength and good posture, then he is likely to do the movement incorrectly, putting his body at risk.

Horse trainers have kept us in awe of their unique and significant talents for centuries, and now that their techniques are more public, many equine professionals will pooh-pooh those who attempt a “kinder” approach to training. Scientists who study the equine in motion—its nutrition, biomechanics, care and maintenance—have   their own perceptions to offer as to what we can learn about equines. Because many of these studies and tests are done in the laboratory, scientists rarely have the opportunity to follow their subjects throughout a lifetime of activity, as well as having the opportunity to experience what it really means for you as a rider, to be in balance with your equine when you work together, whether you are leading, lunging, riding or driving. If they did, their findings would probably yield quite different results. With all this progressive scientific thought, it seems to me that common sense can often get lost in the shuffle and respect for the living creature’s physical, mental and emotional needs may not be met.

It is true that bribery never really works with an equine, and many people who attempt the “kind” approach do get caught up with bribery because they are unskilled at identifying good behaviors and waiting to reward until the task is performed. However, reinforcement of positive behaviors with a food reward does work if you can figure out how to adhere to the program, and be clear and consistent in how you behave and what you expect. In order to do this, you need to really pay attention to the whole equine, have a definite exercise program that has been proven to work in developing the equine’s good posture and strength, and be willing to work on yourself as well as your equine. A good program for your equine will require that you actively participate in the exercises as well. That way, you will also benefit while you are training your equine.

People feel better when they pay attention to their diet and are aware of their posture while practicing physical activities—and, in the same respect, an equine will perform willingly and happily if he feels good.  Horses have as many different postures as do people, and there are generalized postures that you can easily notice and predict in specific breeds of horses. For instance, the American Saddlebred has a higher body carriage than that of the Quarter Horse. However, each individual within any breed is not naturally born in good posture and might need some help to get in good posture in order to exercise correctly.

There are varying levels of abuse and most abuse happens out of ignorance. Many training techniques appear to get the equine to do what you want, but the question then becomes, “How is he doing this and will it result in a good strong body or is it in opposition to what would be his best posture and condition?” Any time you take the equine out of good posture to accomplish certain maneuvers, you are abusing his body, and this can result, over time, in degenerative breakdown. For instance, those who get in a hurry in Dressage and do not take a full year at each level in order to develop their equine’s body slowly and methodically may discover, several years later, that their animal has developed ringbone, side bones, arthritis or some other internal malady. These types of injuries and malformations are often not outwardly exhibited until it is too late to do anything about them.

In my experience with my draft mule rescues, Rock and Roll, this became blatantly apparent to me. When Rock had to be euthanized in December of 2011, a necropsy was performed after his death. When the necropsy report came back and we were able to ascertain the long-term results of his years of abuse, neglect and bad posture, we found it a wonder that he was able to get up and down at all, much less rear up and play with Roll and trot over ground rails in balance.

His acetabulum (or hip socket) had multiple fractures. The upper left photo shows Rock’s normal acetabulum and the upper right photo shows Rock’s fractured acetabulum. The photo at right shows the head of each of Rock’s femurs. Rock’s left femoral head was normal, while the right, injured femoral head was virtually detached from the hip socket and contained fluid-filled cysts. There was virtually no cartilage left on the right femoral head, nor on the right acetabulum. It was the very fact that my team and I made sure that Rock was in balance and took things slowly and in a natural sequence that he was able to accomplish what he did and gain himself an extra year of quality life.

Tragically, many equines are suffering from abuse every day, while they are trying to please their owners and do what is asked of them. Their owners and trainers take shortcuts that compromise the equine’s health. It could be that these owners and trainers are trying to make choices with limited knowledge and really don’t know whom to believe. But ignorance is not a valid defense and sadly, the animal is the one that ends up suffering.

When they don’t have enough time to ride, racing stables often use hot walkers in order to exercise their Thoroughbred horses. But when an equine is put on a hot walker, he is forced to walk in a circle with his head raised and his neck and back hollowed. Since we all build muscle while in motion, muscle is being built on the hot walker while the equine is out of good posture. Consequently, when the equine is ridden later, bad behaviors can arise simply because the animal is uncomfortable. It would be better to develop core muscle strength (the strength around the bones and vital organs) first in good posture before developing hard muscle strength over the rest of the body. Core muscle strength takes time, but once the animal begins to automatically move in good posture, it becomes his natural way of going.

The Lucky Three mules have always been worked in good posture, and spend only as much time on the hot walker as it takes for them to dry after a bath. They maintain their good posture while walking and rarely let the hot walker “pull” them into bad posture.

There has been a lot of scientific research done on equine biomechanics using treadmills, which is one of my pet peeves. It would seem to me that any data scientists have gathered is not viable for one reason. An equine on a treadmill will not move the same way as an equine that is moving over ground. Have you ever had the ground move backwards underneath you? What kind of an effect do you think this would have on your ability to walk, trot or run correctly and in good posture? The very motion of the treadmill throws the body balance forward while you try to keep your balance upright. It actually interferes with the ability to balance easily and therefore, does not build muscle symmetrically and correctly around the skeletal structure and vital organs.

Like many, I am of the belief that mechanical devices that force an equine into a rounded position do not necessarily put that equine in good posture. I would guess that many trainers think the “Elbow Pull” device that I use is guilty of developing this artificial posture. If that is their opinion, then they do not understand how it works. Rather than pulling the equine’s head down into a submissive position, when adjusted correctly, the “Elbow Pull” acts like a balance bar (like a ballet dancer would use) to help the equine to balance in good posture. It takes time to develop good posture. So, in the beginning, your equine can only sustain good posture for a certain number of measured steps, and then he must “lean” on the “Elbow Pull” in between these moments of sustaining his ideal balance on his own. The “Elbow Pull” simply prevents him from raising his head and neck so high that the neck becomes inverted and the back hollowed, but it does not actually pull his head down. The rope itself is very lightweight and puts virtually no weight on his head and neck at all. Note: Because horses react differently than mules and donkeys when hard-tied, a simple adjustment to allow the “Elbow Pull” to “slip” with a horse is necessary.

Like humans, when equines are encouraged and aided in developing good equine posture, core strength with adequate bulk muscle built over the top, they are healthier and better able to perform the tasks we ask of them. With this in mind and other good maintenance practices, you can enjoy the company of your equine companion for many years to come and most of all, he will enjoy being with you!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2020, 2021, 2022 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CROPIMG 2522CC 2

MULE CROSSING: Looking Objectively at Your Equine

0

By Meredith Hodges

Before most of us learn anything about horses, mules and donkeys, we tend to initially perceive them as large, strong and durable animals that can safely carry us anywhere we want to go and can participate in any number of equine events. This is essentially true. However, there can be a number of pitfalls along the way if you do not educate yourself and practice good maintenance, feeding and training practices.

Equines, like people, are comprised of living tissue, bones, muscles and tendons that can often experience improper growth and development, which can compromise their performance. This is why it is important to feed your equine’s living tissue, bones, muscles and tendons a healthy diet and exercise him in a way that builds these elements using natural and non-stressful techniques that will help your equine to strengthen properly in the right frame, or posture.

It is also important to make sure the tack you use fits well and is adjusted properly. An equine that is experiencing soreness from ill-fitting tack will be distracted from his best performance. Improve your own skills by taking care of your own body as you observe and condition your equine. The person who eats healthy food, exercises in good posture and improves his or her own general conditioning, coordination and Horsemanship skills will not be out of balance and will not compromise the equine’s ability to perform.

Let’s take this one step at a time. First, make sure that your equine is stabled in a place where he has adequate shelter from the elements, plenty of room to exercise himself when you are not there, clean water and a good feeding schedule. When an equine is nervous or high strung, it can usually be attributed to this very elemental beginning. Many show horses are kept in 12-foot by 12-foot stalls with limited turnout during the day, usually only an hour or two. Think about this for a minute. The equine is a grazing animal and his natural health is enhanced by what he eats and the fact that he is moving with his head down most of every day of his life. The only time his head is truly raised is when he is on alert.

The equine that is stabled in a stall isn’t urged to have his head down for any more time than it takes to eat up the loose hay after his feedings. His body is forced to remain in a very small range of movement and he can become stiff and sore when asked to do things that require more flexibility in his work. When fed high protein feeds in this situation, he is not able to expend the energy to burn this feed, and it can manifest itself in nervous and anxious behavior. Therefore, it is critical to your equine’s health that he is not only fed the right kinds of feeds and supplements, but that he is able to expend this energy in a healthy way for his body to grow and develop properly.

Muscles in the equine’s body, like our own, are structured in distinctive layers and are supported by ligaments and tendons. These muscles need to be strengthened in a specific order for optimum performance. Whether he is a foal or an older animal, his athletic conditioning needs this taken into consideration. The first exercises should be passive and easy to facilitate the strengthening of the core muscles closest to the bone. This is done with exercises on the lead line. It is not as important that he learns to negotiate obstacles on the lead line as it is how he negotiates the obstacles on the lead line.

On the approach to an obstacle, your equine needs to be relaxed and comfortable. It is your job as his trainer to show him how to do this. When you lead in good posture, walk straight lines and make smooth, gradual arcs and turns, you will encourage your equine to do the same. Using short pauses between changes of pace or direction will help your equine to stay calm and receptive to training.

For instance, when approaching a bridge, walk with your equine’s head at your shoulder as if you were in a showmanship class. Stop at the foot of the bridge and encourage your equine to stretch his nose down and investigate the bridge in order to allay any fears he might have. When your animal has indicated he is not afraid by once again raising his head level with his withers, you can proceed. Face the bridge straight on, looking straight ahead and, while keeping his head at your shoulder, take the first step straight forward and onto the bridge, making sure he follows and places one front foot on the bridge itself. Next, ask him to place the other front foot onto the bridge, stop, square up his four feet (as in Showmanship) and reward. Continue forward in a straight line. Once all four of his feet are on the bridge, stop, square up and give him a reward. Then continue across the bridge maintaining your own good posture, hesitate at the last step, and then step off carefully, in good balance and with a coordinated effort. Ask him to place his two front feet on the ground while leaving the back feet on the bridge, stop, square up and reward. Your equine will learn to follow your lead and execute the task in the same balanced and coordinated manner and will be able to halt on command at any location.

In the beginning, your equine may be fearful and nervous about going over the bridge or any other obstacle. It is enough at this time that he gets over his fear and just crosses it, whether it is done with finesse or not. Once he is over the fear of crossing the obstacle, you can begin working on his ability to cross with finesse, balance and coordination. The longer you work on perfecting the negotiation of an obstacle in a balanced and coordinated way, the stronger the participating muscle groups will become and the more comfortable and automatic the movement will become until it develops into a habit.

The part you play in all of this is very important. You will discover that if you are not in balance and coordinated in the way you move with your equine, the less balanced and coordinated he will be. If you don’t walk straight, then neither will he. If you are not confident in your approach, then he won’t be either. Even something as simple as the tack you use will play a big part in your equine’s performance. If the halter is too small or too large, it can cause irregular pressure on your animal, preventing him from complying with your wishes. How you move your equine’s head with the halter and lead line can affect his performance. Pay attention to how hard you need to pull to get even the smallest response and be ready to release pressure immediately upon compliance. But again, when releasing pressure, just give him enough slack to release the pressure and not so much that you have a lot to take back later. This will help him keep his attention on you and the task at hand. Keep this minimal degree of pressure-and-release throughout his work. Even if he backs away from an obstacle, just give little tugs followed by a release to allow him to back and then encourage him to re-approach the obstacle by coming from another angle or by coaxing him with the promise of a reward upon his attempt. Another approach is to go to the end of the lead rope, keep the rope taut and invite him to come forward by revealing the oats reward he will get when he complies. Take up the slack as he approaches. Avoid resistance at all costs!

Halters that are too loose allow too much lag time between the time you ask by giving a tug and the time the equine receives the message. This usually results in an over-reaction from your equine and then an over-reaction from you as you try to correct the mistake. A halter that is too tight can be a distraction because it can create sore spots—the equivalent to a headache and no one likes to perform with a headache! The lead line typically should be a length that you can easily handle and that will give your equine some room to move away, but that can be reorganized easily, usually about six to eight feet long.

No matter how careful you may be, there will always be times when your equine will experience some kind of soreness from playing too hard in the pasture or from kicking in a stall, to any number of daily hazards. How he is negotiating his obstacles and how he performs certain movements will give you clues to how he is feeling. Learn to watch every step your animal takes, how his feet are placed, how his body is moving and the look on his face as he performs a given task.

This is when it can be beneficial to know the basics of equine massage therapy. There is a lot that you, as your equine’s trainer, can do without a professional equine masseuse, but you should always consult with a professional for lessons on how you can do your part. Make sure that the equine masseuse you decide to use is a person who knows equines and has at least 500 hours experience with equine massage therapy. Once you learn some massage techniques, you can often alleviate minor soreness exhibited by your equine. When your equine senses that your goal is to make him comfortable as well as successful in his work, he will be much more willing and able to comply.

The specifics of training techniques covered in this article can be found in the Equus Revisited manual and DVD.

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 2004, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2021, 2022 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

LMV062218

Longears Music Videos: Rock and Roll – Double Time

0

See more Longears Music Videos

Diary Of A Rescue Part 2 8

MULE CROSSING: Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, Part 2

4

By Meredith Hodges 

In Part 1 of Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, we learned about the discovery and rescue of Belgian draft mules, Rock and Roll, by Meredith Hodges and her team of experts. As the pair’s rehabilitation continues, the road to recovery gets tougher.  But for every health setback, there is a personality breakthrough with these courageous and now-trusting gentle giants—and always a reason to hope.

By May of 2011, both mules were beginning to bond well with me and I was able to separate them during workouts. I knew I would have to develop a strong bond with Roll in case Rock didn’t make it, and we all knew the odds were not in Rock’s favor. Being alone with me in the round pen helped Roll to concentrate on the tasks at hand. His way of going was markedly improving with each new lesson.

Both mules could now square up properly and move in a much more balanced frame, although holding that balance was intermittent. The personality of each mule began to emerge and they became more willing to play games and to be touched and kissed about their heads. Rock was much more overt about his pleasure during the massages, and we could finally tell that they were beginning to trust us.

By mid-June, we were able to take the pads off Rock’s back feet and reset the shoes without the pads. He had grown three-eighths of an inch of sole on both hind feet and the rotation began to improve in one back foot. Both mules were feeling much better and were actually engaging in play during turnout. Next, we discovered that due to the concussion to his rear feet from improper use during driving in the past, Roll had side bones in his right hind foot. This caused him to twist that foot as it grew out between trims, so we put shoes on his back feet as well.

Rock loved our newly acquired mini donkeys and, during turnout, he would stand by their pen for the better part of the day. Here they all are on the Fourth of July, 2011.

By that time, Rock and Roll both looked magnificent! Considering the extent of Rock’s past neglect and injuries, he had gained incredible muscle tone and balance. His eyes were bright and alert, his coat was shiny and his feet were much improved (although they still exhibited a hint of chronic founder).

Roll’s fat and lumpy body had changed dramatically. Now his body was more symmetrical and balanced, and he also sported a shiny coat and balanced feet. His eyes were alert and his appearance of laziness had completely vanished.

However, by the end of July, Rock once again began to lose muscle tone over his right hip and his front feet became very sore. We thought he and Roll may have been playing too hard, which could have caused Rock to injure himself again, so we separated them into adjoining pastures during daily turnout. At night they remained in their respective stalls and runs, side by side. Custom-made boots were ordered for Rock’s front feet to help alleviate the pressure, but unfortunately we had to wait until the first of November for delivery of the boots. By the time they arrived, they were of use for only about two weeks before the weather changed. The wet snow and mud became packed in the boots, causing Rock too much pain on the dropped soles of his feet.

While Rock was on three weeks of rest during August, he developed swelling in his sheath. He was treated with an anti-inflammatory for two weeks, but the swelling didn’t go down. Since his front feet seemed better, I decided to resume his physical therapy. Although the structured movement helped the swelling go down, it migrated to the midline of his abdomen. After two weeks of hot packing the abdomen twice a day, the swelling finally disappeared. Because Rock was becoming stronger and getting up and down more often, he was beginning to develop sores on his knees, fetlocks and hocks, and “shoe boils” on his underbelly (pressure sores caused by his hooves when lying down), all of which needed to be frequently tended to.

In September, once again there was swelling on Rock’s underside midline, which also seemed to cause him to get weaker musculature in the hips. The swelling was hot-packed, and it disappeared fairly quickly this time. By mid-October, Rock was lying down for prolonged periods of time—unhealthy for an equine—so his support team of three veterinarians, two equine chiropractors, his equine masseuse and I got together to assess his condition. All 2000 plus pounds of his weight was being shifted off his three bad feet and onto his left hind leg, causing it to track behind the right front when he walked. We decided on a regimen of phenylbutazone (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), minimal exercise, plenty of rest and icing of his feet for 15-20 minutes twice daily. Things were not looking good.

No matter what was asked of him, Rock always gave it his all. We babied him through turnout, chiropractics, trims, and massage, but it finally got to the point where we could barely get his back feet off the ground to apply the hoof dressing. We decided to remove his shoes. That day, he was so weak in the hindquarters we could not replace them and couldn’t even trim the feet without running the risk of him falling down. We waited a couple of weeks before we trimmed his heels with the aid of a custom-made, six-inch equine jack stand. That seemed to help through November and part of December, but Rock still needed the Thrush Buster and Rainmaker for hoof health. He was able to tip his hind feet forward and let us have the bottoms of his feet for a few seconds at a time so the medication could be applied. Finally, he just couldn’t manage having his feet elevated at all—the pain was too great. Around this time, we noticed that the swelling had again cropped up in his midline abdomen, which led to another week of hot packing it twice a day.

After Christmas, I decided to resume a modified version of his physical therapy. Trooper that he was, he tried with all his might, but his hips were listing terribly to the left, and the first time he went over the three one-inch ground poles, he crashed into every one of them. His third time over, he grazed just one. When I put him back in his pen, he immediately laid down. I then noticed the bulging in the coronet band of his left hind foot. He was “sinking!” We immediately called the vet and he confirmed my fear. The lamina was pulling away from the hoof wall and allowing the bones to “sink” through the sole of Rock’s hoof. It wouldn’t be long before the other feet would quickly follow suit. It was clear that he was in agony and would have to be put down, so our vet came out the ranch, loaded Rock up with anti-inflammatory and pain medications and said he would be back the next afternoon.

Every day for a year, I prayed for a miracle for Rock and each time I prayed, he got better. I now wondered if God would give us yet another miracle and let him live—but it wasn’t meant to be. On December 27th, 2011, surrounded by his Lucky Three family, our beautiful Rock took his last steps.  We all knew it was time for us to let him go. Rock was euthanized at home and died peacefully, with his head resting in my hands.

My vet Greg Farrand informed me that the president of Colorado State University had pulled together a team for Rock’s necropsy and the preservation of his skeleton as a teaching aid for the CSU Veterinary Sciences department.

When the necropsy came back, it showed not a single fracture of Rock’s pelvis, but rather multiple old fractures in the socket of the hip joint. The bottom of the socket was almost completely gone and there was a hole the size of a dime at the top of the socket. The head of the femur had no cartilage left and there was fibrosis and cysts full of fluid the entire length of the femur stem.

I have come to realize that our courageous and noble Rock gave us more than one miracle. He had been able to live one more year of life with a severely shattered hip joint and compromised femur. He proved that our balance and core muscle therapy can work wonders! And he lived long enough to give his half-brother, Roll, the chance to bond with people who will love and care for him for the rest of his life. Thank you and God bless you, Rock. We will miss you.

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 2012, 2016, 2020, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Rock And Roll Diary Of A Rescue Part 1 4

MULE CROSSING: Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, Part 1

10

By Meredith Hodges

I first saw Rock and Roll at the National Western Stock Show in January of 2010. The two Belgian draft mules looked enormous in the 12′ X 12′ stalls in the holding area. They had been rescued from slaughter at an auction in Kiowa by my two friends, Fran and Larry Howe, owners of the Bitterroot Mule Company in Bennett, Colorado. My friends explained why they couldn’t resist trying to help the two draft mules. They were the largest mules any of us had ever seen. Roll was supposedly 16 years old at 17 1/2 hands and Rock supposedly 17 years old at 18 hands. Both mules were severely underweight. Rock had recently been treated for abscesses, which required the removal of two molars. The two draft mules stood quietly, seemingly unaffected, as we stared in total amazement. A rescue attempt was certainly worth trying.

In August of 2010, I saw Roll again at the Larimer County Fair. Larry drove him in the Single Hitch classes and, when I was able to speak to him, he and Fran told me Rock could not come to the show. He had come up lame. Roll had put on weight and was looking better than he had looked in January however, he still appeared to be stressed. Longears have been known to die from depression, so one of my main concerns was if Rock died, Roll could become depressed and might not live very long. Fran and Larry decided that this rescue was more than they could handle and asked if I would be interested in taking the pair. I agreed, and after we had quickly made a suitable space for them, Rock and Roll were delivered to the Lucky Three Ranch on December 5th, 2010. One look at the way Rock was moving and we knew this was going to be difficult at best.

Rock and Roll were obedient, but suspicious animals. Their eyes lacked expression and were cloudy in spots, and their coats were oily and dull, something that is not apparent in photographs. Their hooves looked irregularly trimmed and out of balance, with prevalent stress rings on all four feet of each mule. They had clearly been foundered more than once and their bodies were riddled with scar tissue. Roll listed to the right and walked with a twist to the right hind foot. Rock had to lift and swing his right hind leg to the side in order to walk forward. The leg appeared calcified and restricted in every joint. Neither mule could freely reach forward through the shoulders and hips, nor place each foot in a regular rhythmic fashion. There was muscle atrophy throughout their bodies, and their bellies hung from the spine, with no apparent musculature in the abdomen or over the top line. There was hope for some recovery with Roll, but when my well-respected equine masseuse, Joanne Lang, C.M.T. and I assessed Rock, we knew there would be limitations as to what could be done for him. We both knew we might be setting ourselves up for a broken heart, but for Roll’s sake, we agreed to try to make Rock comfortable for as long as we could.

Before beginning therapy, Joanne and I gathered all the information we could on Rock and Roll. This was not an easy task, as there were no registration or health papers, only the information that Bitterroot Mule Company could provide. The pair was not eating very well, and by the way he was turning his nose up at the feed, I suspected Rock might even have ulcers. Fran and Larry told me what they had fed the mules. I promptly took them both off the feed that would clearly be, in my experience, too rich for them and put them on our standard equine diet. Because both mules were branded, we were able to identify the brands as coming from the Hunt Limousine Cattle Ranch in Elizabeth, Colorado. We later discovered that the Hunt Limousine Cattle Ranch had obtained Rock and Roll when they were just three years old from an Amish Family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both Rock and Roll were out of sister Belgian mares, and by the same jack. Rock and Roll mostly pulled a wagon for birthday parties for 6 yr olds at the ranch. They also pulled the wagon for a nearby church so they could sing Christmas carols in the towns of Elizabeth and Kiowa, Colorado, and were also used to pull Grand Marshalls and other dignitaries in local parades.

Rock and Roll, along with two other teams were well taken care of and loved deeply by the family who cared for the ranch. A ranch wife to one of the hands took the responsibility of scheduling routine farrier appointments and vaccinations for them and ten other ranch horses. Unfortunately the ranch was eventually in a position in 2002 when they had to be sold. The family who cared for them was “heart broke and sad.” At that point, they were healthy and weighed 2500 pounds each. What happened afterwards is still a mystery, but one thing was tragically clear—they were overworked, out of good posture and not properly fed. Many people just don’t realize that even big draft mules need the benefit of a healthy diet and a specialized exercise program, especially before starting work in harness.

Within days after changing their feed to our crimped oats mix with Sho Glo, Mazola corn oil and grass hay only, the two mules’ appetites improved. There was a drastic change in their coats and their eyes began to come alive. We gave them a small turnout area just off their runs and along the county road, so they could watch the people going by and the cattle grazing on the other side. Rock would go into the corner of the pasture and just stand and stare for hours, not moving until he was called back in.

I noticed that Rock did not lie down or roll, but considering how neglected they had been, this didn’t really surprise me. Because of the muscle atrophy in his right hip, we decided that we should get started with Rock immediately. So, the very afternoon they were delivered, Rock got his first massage. He was tolerant of the massage, but we soon discovered that touching his face was out of the question. Both mules would shy away if anyone so much as raised a hand or made any small abrupt movement in their presence. We also noticed that Rock had a perpetual and distinctive worried “V” in his eyebrows over both eyes. A health check with our veterinarian was scheduled and we continued equine chiropractic, using the same equine chiropractor that was used when Fran and Larry first got Rock and Roll. After a couple of months of chiropractics, regular farrier and vet visits with massage and physical therapy done on a weekly basis, Rock was finally able to get down on his left side and roll. He and Roll then began to play!

Our farrier Dean Geesen came out to the Lucky Three and gave both mules their first official trims. Our support team agreed that it would be a long time before their feet would begin to look normal. During a farrier visit in March, we discovered that Rock had two old abscesses in his left front hoof. Dean was guarded about whether or not Rock’s hooves would ever be okay again. But Rock was a real trooper and although it was very difficult for him, he managed to yield all four feet when asked.

When our veterinarian Greg Farrand checked his eyes, he found cloudiness and thickening over the corneas. He was put on a regimen of eye drops three times a day to stave off chronic abrasion of the eye. Within days, Rock was chasing bunnies around the small turnout pasture—no more standing in the corner! Greg also did a walking palpation to see if he could determine what was causing the lameness in Rock’s right hip. He thought he felt a fracture on the face of the pelvis, but there was no way to really tell exactly what was going on. To find out for certain, Rock would have to be taken to Colorado State University, sedated and turned upside down in order for any necessary radiograms or ultrasound tests to be performed. We all agreed that this process would be far too traumatic for him. We opted to just be
very careful and not to do any manual range-of-motion movements on that leg for fear of making it worse. Instead, I discovered a way to have Rock do range-of-motion exercises on his own during physical therapy and my adjustments worked well. Rock and Roll continued to improve. Roll even graduated from the leading core muscle exercises to the round pen core muscle exercises. Rock and Roll began to play and argue with each other. The pair seemed to be gaining strength and proprioception (body awareness), and both seemed to be feeling much better overall. After a very short time, both mules complied—on verbal commands alone—to correct their own balance and square up at every halt…because it felt good!

In mid-March, we had Rock’s feet x-rayed and it was found that there was 45 degrees of rotation in both hind feet. There was no rotation in front, although the front feet did have multiple stress rings, collapse of the hoof wall and were starting to exhibit seedy toes. Rock couldn’t stand on the four-inch blocks the vet used to x-ray him, so we made do with a couple of two-by–four boards. Even when the farrier worked on him, we would have to put Rock’s rear feet on an equine jack stand to trim him. After learning to successfully execute his balancing pattern during physical therapy, we noticed that the soles of Rock’s feet were beginning to wear away. When the x-rays came back, they showed that only a quarter of an inch of sole was left on the bottoms of each of his rotating hind feet. We then immediately got shoes on those back feet! We began a regimen of Thrush Buster and Rainmaker hoof dressing by Farnam on both mules’ hooves in order to help the hooves to begin to grow back in a healthy way. By April, Rock had grown three-eighths of an inch more sole on his hind feet and was actually trotting over his ground poles!

Now that Rock was feeling better, the worried “V” over his eyes began to disappear. He was actually getting up and lying down, but due to the difficulty he had, he began to get sores on his hocks that needed to be wrapped and tended with Panalog ointment. Although the sores were obviously very painful, Rock allowed me to wrap them and doctor them with little complaint. Once wrapped, he happily munched his oats reward for his stellar behavior and gently placed his forehead on my chest in a clear gesture of gratitude.

In Part 2 of Rock and Roll: Diary of a Rescue, Rock’s roller-coaster progress of victories and set-backs continues, as Roll slowly comes out of his shell and learns to trust us and—even more importantly—himself. Our regimen of compassion, patience and therapy goes on as Rock and Roll touch everyone’s soul by proving that they are ready and willing to give it everything they’ve got, right from their hearts.

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

© 2012, 2016, 2020, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

IMG 9649CC ROLL Slide Show 4 15 18

What’s New with Roll? Spring Work in the Hourglass Pattern

0

3-28-18

Roll did exceptionally well today! He was also happy that he got to work out with his little buddies, Augie and Spuds. His body is beginning to get toned up again and he is starting to shed off his winter coat.

I did a quick pass with the hairbrush and then the vacuum cleaner. Last was Johnson’s Baby Oil in his mane and tail. I noticed right away during the grooming process that he was finally put weight on his right hind foot again.

On the way to the arena, I led Roll and Steve led Augie and Spuds.

Roll executed the gate perfectly as he always has. There is really something to be said for GATE TRAINING! With routine practice, they always know exactly what is expected and respond accordingly…no fussing at all.

Roll got his turn in the hourglass pattern first and did amazingly well while Augie and Spuds waited patiently at the fence.

I never had to physically move a foot with any tugs on the rope. He responded 100% to the verbal commands to correct his stance when he was in a full stop and fully weighted all four feet this time when he was asked to do so.

To fully weight the foot in the arena, he had to push the sand down. Sometimes I asked him to do it and sometimes I did not. With the ringbone and side bones in three feet, I really did not expect him to come back to full balance, but he did! What a great surprise!

After a halt on centerline, he followed me obediently to the fence with the lead rope slung over his neck.

When I went to retrieve him he was sideways to the fence, but he moved over so I could release him from the fence on my hand signal alone.

Roll executed the gate perfectly again on the way out…

…then we proceeded down the road and back to the Tack Barn. What a guy!!!

 

See more What’s New With Roll? posts

IMG 9293

What’s New with Roll? Spring Grooming/Work in the Hourglass Pattern

0

Finally a day came that was warm enough to be able to wash the winter dirt out of Roll’s mane and tail! The first thing was to make sure he did not “feed on his lead rope” while I wasn’t looking, so I removed the rope lead and attached him to the chain lead at the wash rack.

The water was still icy cold, but I tried to limit his and my exposure to the cold. When we were done, his dirty brown mane and tail had turned the gorgeous, creamy reddish blond that I knew it was. He looked so handsome!

I gave his spine a stretch by pulling on his tail. Then it was time to put on his gear for his core strength leading exercises in the hourglass pattern in the outdoor arena.

He put up with my fussing to fit the surcingle…

…and obediently dropped his head when I put on the bridle and “Elbow Pull.”

I think he was glad we were finally able to go back out and work again after a few weeks of VERY cold temperatures. He has been having difficulty getting up and down, so I new he needed to get back to some moderate forced exercise. When he is left to his own devices, he tends to be somewhat of a couch potato.

He actually did better than I thought he would first walking down the road to the arena…

…and going through the gate to begin to execute the hourglass pattern balancing exercises.

It wasn’t that hard to get him to set up his feet with equal weight over all four feet…easier than the last time. Still, he is hesitant to fully weight the right hind foot. I believe this might be due to the soreness that he has developed from getting up and down. He has pretty tall side bones in that foot.

Roll is now 26 years old and although he cooperates, his mind does wander a bit like a “little old man’s” mind would! Still, when I call his name to remind him, he DOES come to attention!

After we did the hourglass pattern 1 ½ times each way, I slung the lead rope over his neck for the first time to see if he would follow me across the arena to the gate, stop, through the gate and down the road to the Tack Barn (Sorry, no photos – we shot video). He did excellent! I was so proud!

And when we got back, he obediently lowered his head again to get his bridle removed. He has truly changed dramatically in the eight years that I have had him. I can’t believe it has been that long! My how time flies when you’re having fun together…staying healthy!

LTR Presents: Double Time

0

See our draft mules, Rock and Roll at work and play in the latest LTR Presents video!