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MULE CROSSING: Donkey Jacks

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By Meredith Hodges

A donkey jack can be your best friend or your worst enemy! Because he is a donkey, he possesses all the wonderful characteristics particular to donkeys—intelligence, strength, easy maintenance, suitability for many equine sports and, probably most important, an innate affectionate attitude. You must, however, realize that he is still an intact male, often governed by the hormones in his body. When nature takes over, the jack’s conscious thought is greatly diminished and he can become quite hazardous to your health. The jack’s aggressiveness is often masked by his sedate and affectionate attitude, but it can arise in a split second and do more damage than even a stallion. Usually, there is an awkwardness, or indecisiveness, in an agitated stallion that will allow you time to get out of the way, but the jack reacts strongly, swiftly and right on target, allowing you little or no time for retreat. By keeping a few simple things in mind, you can greatly reduce your chances of injury when handling jacks.

First, try to keep your jack in a comfortable atmosphere. Jacks can be great worriers, particularly about their mares and jennets. Ideally, you should keep the jack well out of sight and smell of the females, but this is not always practical. If he must be near females, make sure your jack has a roomy area, free of refuse and debris, and adequately fenced. The fences should be high enough to discourage his leaning over the top and strong enough to bear his weight on impact. Also, they must be constructed so that there are no protrusions that could cause him injury. If females (or other animals) are present, the jack may run back and forth along the fence and catch his head on anything that is protruding. Hot wires along the inside of a weaker fence will often serve this purpose. However, a hot wire used alone is not sufficient. If your jack becomes frightened, he could run through an electric wire before he even knows that it is there. Giving him a clean, comfortable area where his limits are clearly defined will help him to be a calmer and more manageable animal.

Always make sure your jack’s pen is cleaned daily and that he has free access to clean water, a trace mineral salt block and good grass hay. If he gains too much weight with free choice grass hay, then simply limit his intake to two flakes at each feeding in the morning and evening. He can have a limited amount of oats during one feeding a day (preferably in the evenings), mixed with an appropriate vitamin supplement such as Sho Glo, and one ounce of Mazola corn oil (I suggest this particular brand—other brands of corn oils are not the same) for management of his coat, his feet and his digestive tract regularity. During feeding times, you should check him from top to bottom for any new changes to his body like cuts, bruises, lameness, etc. This is also a good way to reinforce his acceptance of being handled all over and to solidify your relationship with him. This consistent management practice paves the way for good manners in the jack, because he then knows with no uncertainty that you are a true friend and really do care about his well-being.

Many people opt to keep jacks in solitude, but this is not really good for them. Being a natural herd animal, they need social interaction. When they don’t have company nearby, jacks can become depressed (donkeys have actually been known to die from depression—they can stop eating and simply give up). To remedy this, jacks can be pastured or penned next to other animals, as long as the fencing is adequate between them. Of course, you also need to take into consideration the personality types of the animals involved, as well as being careful to make sure they are compatible. This can fulfill their need for companionship and keep them happy in confinement. As long as there are no cycling horse or donkey females around, jacks can be pastured next to mules of both genders. I had my own jack, Little Jack Horner, penned next to our teaser stallion for many years and they actually liked each other! We never had any trouble with them at all.

You can spend more time with your jack by using him for more than just breeding. Animals, like people, always do better when they have a regular job to do that affords them some purpose in life beyond propagation. Some sort of job will give your jack an alternative purpose, which can help to diffuse his obsession with the female. It will also attend to the strength of his core muscles that surround the skeletal system and vital organs and teach him self-discipline. And it affords more time for you to develop your relationship with him, have fun together and to deepen the bond between you, which helps the jack to develop a healthy mental attitude. There are many jack owners who use their jacks for riding and driving, as well as for breeding. This is an excellent and actually the best plan, but if you lack the time or inclination to use your jack this way and wish to use him exclusively for breeding, you should still take some time—at least two or three days a week—to work on halter training and groundwork, such as ground driving, for manageability. Teach your jack to walk, trot, whoa and stand still on the lead. During these sessions, keep a positive and relaxed attitude, with more emphasis on your rapport with him than on his performance. Be his friend so he has something to look forward to besides females and breeding, and he will have a much better attitude overall.

When he is flawless with his leading training, you can get him used to the bridle and a surcingle or lightweight saddle, and then move on to ground driving. Lunging is not as important, since most donkeys do not like to lunge. I suppose they don’t see much purpose in going around in a circle more than once to come back to the same place over and over again. Taking the time to properly train your donkey jack at halter and in the drivelines will enhance his obedience, and will make him more comfortable and relaxed.  During the breeding process, it can even speed up his readiness.

When using your jack for breeding, develop a routine that he can count on every time. When you go to the stall or pen to catch the jack, wait for him to come to you at the gate or stall door, and then reward him with oats when he comes to you. Then put on the halter, ask him to take one step backwards, and then reward him again (which is very important to prevent him from running over you and barging through the gate or out the door). If you are going to breed him, the mare should first be prepared. Next, once you are both out the door, ask him to whoa and square up all four feet. Then you can lead him to the breeding area, where you can then tie him to the hitch rail a little ways away from the waiting mare. By being consistent in your manner of going from the stall to the breeding area, the jack will learn not to be pushy and aggressive toward you.

When in the breeding area, your jack must be taught patience and obedience. If the mare is left to stand just out of reach until he is ready to breed, he may consider this a tease and may become anxious and unruly. To clarify your intentions to him, you can take the cloth you used to clean the mare and place it over the hitch rail near your jack’s nose. This way, he can get a good, strong scent of the mare, which will more quickly ready him for breeding and substantially decrease his anxiety time. If he is an indifferent jack, this can actually increase his interest in the female and, in turn, shorten the actual breeding process time. The fact that you brought him the scent allows the jack to believe that it is your decision when to breed and not his and that he must remain obedient. Let him cover the mare only when he is fully ready and make him walk to her in a gentlemanly fashion. If he becomes too aggressive and starts to drag you just return him to his place on the hitch rail, hold him there for a minute, reward him when he stands still and then re-approach the mare.

Just to be on the safe side with your jack while breeding, use either a muzzle or a dropped noseband (snugly fit low on his nose)—this will prevent biting injuries to you or to the mare. When he is finished, make him stand quietly behind the mare while you rinse him off. Allow him that last sniff to the mare’s behind, and then take him back to his stall (or pen), ask him to stand still while you remove the halter and then let him go. That last sniff appears to be an assertion of his act and of his manhood. If you try to lead him away before he sniffs, he might not come with you and he might become even more aggressive toward the mare. Remember to do things with your jack in a routine way, and always with safety in mind—this will allow him to relax and use the manners he has learned. NOTE: Women who are menstruating should never handle jacks or stallions during that particular time, since the scent can trigger aggressive and dangerous behaviors in these animals.

When you are around a jack, you must always be alert and know what he is doing at all times. A jack can be the most adorable, loveable, obedient guy in the world, but you must realize that his natural instincts can arise at any time and, although he may not do it intentionally, he can severely hurt you just the same. And when observing a jack from the other side of the fence, always remember that he can come over the top of that fence, teeth bared, so don’t ever turn your back to him or become complacent around him!

Lastly, when putting on or taking off any of his headgear, watch your fingers—when a jack knows the bit is coming, he often opens his jaws to meet it (with anticipation of the bit on a bridle), and your fingers can easily get in the way. Rather than a standard lead rope, it is advisable to use a lead shank with stallions and jacks for the best control. However, I discourage running the chain of a lead shank either through the mouth or over the nose. The correct position for a lead shank is under the jaw. Run the end of the chain through the ring on the near side of the halter noseband, then under the jaw, then through the ring on the opposite side of the noseband, and then clip it to the ring at the throatlatch on the right side of his face. This gives you enough leverage to control him without the halter twisting on his face. If you have spent plenty of time and done your homework during his leading lessons, your jack will learn to be obedient on the lead shank, even during breeding.

Retired jacks still need regular attention and proper maintenance to stay healthy into their senior years. Donkeys that do not receive good core muscle maintenance throughout their lives will often begin to sag drastically in the spine as they age. Their gait then becomes stilted, because their balance and strength are severely compromised. They can no longer track properly while moving or square up correctly when at rest. This can lead to irregular calcification in the joints, depression because they don’t feel well and premature health problems. On the other hand, the jack who has had a consistent and healthy management and training routine will enjoy longevity. If you keep these basic management and safety factors in mind, you and your jack can have a long, happy and mutually rewarding relationship!

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.

© 1990, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2020, 2021, 2022 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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MULE CROSSING: My Favorite Christmas Tradition

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By Meredith Hodges

My favorite holiday of the year has always been Christmas! The sights, sounds and smells of Christmas transport me to a magical place for the whole month of December, and the excitement and joy of yesterday still ring true today. I cannot think of a more deserving holiday than one that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and promotes so much hope and serenity throughout the world, if only for a day. Christmas reminds us all that the spirit of sharing and giving is timeless and takes only a willing attitude and a little bit of creativity.

While I was growing up, Christmas in my family was filled with numerous traditions. When we were twelve days out from Christmas, we watched a 1955 film called On The Twelfth Day of Christmas. As you might guess, it was based on the old English song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Every year, the film
brought wild bursts of laughter, as we watched a proper Edwardian lady’s townhouse in England become filled to overflowing with gifts from her suitor. Not only did she get the gift designated for each day, but also the same gifts from prior days plus the new one. By Christmas, her little townhouse was filled with 12 partridges in pear trees, 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds, 25 gold rings,  30 geese a laying, 28 swans a swimming, 32 maids a milking, 27 ladies dancing, 30 Lords a leaping, 22 Pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming! Laughter filled our house daily from that day forward, all the way up to Christmas. Of course, as children, we were also reminded of the “naughty and nice” list.

To my siblings and me, Santa Clause was the personification of “sharing and giving” and it was important for us to meet the man who inspired so much warmth and affection. Like so many little children, the tradition of sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what we wanted for Christmas HAD to be observed. Then, after our visit with Santa, we would spend the next few days shopping for the perfect gifts to give to those we loved. I remember that my parents, brothers, sisters and I were very conscientious about contributing to the Salvation Army volunteers who dotted the department stores with their little red pots, filled with donations for those less fortunate. We children bought some of our gifts, but a lot were created from scratch from things we found around the house. The presents we made always seemed to mean the most.

Christmas baking for days on end with my Grandma is a favorite memory. We got to bake great gifts for many friends and family members (and we all knew there would be time to exercise and take off the weight…LATER!). We children were wide-eyed and filled with wonder as we passed the evenings listening to our favorite Christmas carols and our elders’ stories of Christmases past. And we absolutely knew that Santa really could drive eight tiny reindeer across the sky, with Rudolph lighting the way with his red nose, bringing presents to little children all over the world. All of these experiences bonded our entire family together.

As a family, we always enjoyed going to a large, rural live Christmas tree lot just a few miles away, where we searched for and cut down of our very own special Christmas tree. Right before Christmas Eve, we put the tree up and decorated it with lots of garlands, popcorn strands and ornaments, many of which represented our family’s “Christmases past.” The Christmas decorations that were everywhere brought smiles to our faces and made us dance with joy, while Christmas bells rang out to remind us of the good in everyone.

On Christmas Eve, surrounded by close friends and family, my mother accompanied us on the piano as we sang Christmas carols. Another Christmas Eve tradition was our very favorite meal of hamburgers and French fries—a quick meal for my mom to fix and food we kids all loved. For dessert, Mom made chocolate and lemon meringue pies. Dessert was always delicious, but we children were anxious to get to the business of opening the presents we gave to each other later in the evening. We knew that our presents from Santa would not be there until Christmas morning, so we set out milk and sugar cookies for Santa and his reindeer before we went to sleep, so that he would know how much we appreciated his time and effort, and that we found it amazing that he could give gifts to every child, all in one night.

We kids always awoke extremely early on Christmas Day, bouncing down the stairs to see what Santa had left us. The cookies and milk were gone and the presents from Santa were under the tree, but we were not allowed to touch them until our parents and grandparents got up. That wait was excruciating, but it was oh so much fun when the adults finally got up! After opening presents, everyone had a light breakfast, because the early afternoon would bring our traditional Christmas dinner with friends and family. My mother made the most amazing spread of perfectly roasted turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, an incredible salad filled with everything you can think of from the garden, sweet potatoes and a lovely cranberry sauce. The meal was always topped off by my grandmother’s unique and decadent chocolate roll, a light chocolate cake with real whipped cream and homemade chocolate sauce on top.

Now, as an adult, my Christmases are a wonderful combination of the traditions I experienced as a child and my own new traditions, which means always including my beloved mules, donkeys and horses. In fact, back when I lived in my original farmhouse at Lucky Three Ranch, the old floors were sturdier than those in my present home, so the mules were actually allowed to help with the decorating of the Christmas tree!

My equines have also been involved in many Christmas parades throughout the years. We would always decorate our surrey (pulled by Mae Bea C.T.) and our Meadowbrook cart (pulled by Little Jack Horner) with the most elaborate decorations! It was so much fun to hear and see the crowds of people along the parade routes waving and cheering in appreciation of our efforts. On Christmas Eve, a group of us would often go Christmas caroling throughout the neighborhood in our mule- and donkey-drawn vehicles.

Of all the Christmas traditions I treasure, my favorite is the tradition that arose when Lucky Three Ranch was born and my mules, horses and donkeys became an integral part of each holiday season. My favorite tradition now is the time spent sharing a warm hug with each of my equines and giving them an extra measure of oats on that very special day that we call Christmas!

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.

© 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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MULE CROSSING: Living with Longears

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By Meredith Hodges

In the beginning, my home, Lucky Three Ranch was a 10-acre sheep ranch with a small house and hay barn, an old Quonset hut, a feed barn, four three-sided sheds, and a perimeter fence made from sheep fencing with barbed wire on top. It was crossed-fenced around the sheds with some heavily chewed board fences and anything else the previous owner thought could be used for fencing. I’d already had experience with horses, but it wasn’t until my first mule, Lucky Three Sundowner and my first donkey jack, Little Jack Horner, finally arrived at the new Lucky Three Ranch that my lessons with Longears really began!

One of the first things I found out about Longears is that they are incredible artists, and they will “sculpt” anything and everything they can get their teeth, rumps or hooves on! My Longears immediately set to work sculpting the posts on three sheds that were near the house and the fence posts around them. We tried everything to get this to stop, but to no avail, and in three short years, we ended up with posts that were no bigger than toothpicks in some places and marvelously contoured from top to bottom, into all kinds of remarkable shapes. We hated to put a cramp in our mules’ artistic style but, clearly, the wooden posts and sheds had to be replaced.

By now, we had bred three more mules, so while we were working on replacing the three sheds, we put the whole herd of mules and mares into a five-acre pasture. One day, while we were working on the new sheds, the whole herd suddenly showed up behind us! Apparently, one of our equines had pulled a “Houdini,” opening the gate and letting everyone out of the pasture. Being the affectionate and curious animals they are, our Longears (and horses) then decided they’d better come see if we needed any help.

When we rounded up the herd and took them back to the pasture, we almost fell over! The herd had sculpted all three support posts on the last existing shed that was in the pasture, so it now looked just like the other three sheds we had just replaced!

With all this creative woodworking going on, we realized the new barn would have to be made of steel. We built a 14-stall, Port-A-Stall barn with steel panels in the runs, and stall floors six inches higher than the floor of the barn alleyway to help keep it from flooding. We added four inches of pea gravel in the runs for good drainage but, after several seasons, the runs on the north side of the barn began to get soft and muddy again and more pea gravel was needed. Rather than doing the runs one run at a time, the seven mules on the north side of the barn were turned out, and we took down only the panels on the north side, so the delivery truck could dump the pea gravel directly on the site. The remaining mules on the south side of the barn were left in their stalls and runs.

It took us all day long to take down the panels, and by the end of the day, we were pretty exhausted. The truck would be bringing the additional pea gravel the next day, so we wrapped up the chores and went to bed. What I didn’t know was that Lucky Three Eclipse (aka “Ely” in the last stall on the south side) had been watching us all day long through the openings in the barn doors. When we came out in the morning, we found that Ely had pulled the pins from the side panels, and by putting his head through the bars of each panel, had arranged them into a huge pen for himself that ran the full length of the barn, trapping the other mules and the stallion in their stalls! Now that the south side pens were also opened up, we decided to use the first truckload of pea gavel on the south side pens and ordered yet another load of pea gravel for the north side pens. After we got the pea gravel in place on the south side, we put the panels back where they belonged, freeing the other mules and stallion on the south side from their stalls. We then put Ely back where he belonged in his stall and pen on the far end, finished the north side pens, returned all the mules from the north side of the barn back into their stalls and runs, and finally got things settled down. I can guarantee you we all had a new appreciation for Ely’s ingenuity!

We spent the next several years taking down barbed wire, mending old field fences and replacing the old sheds with steel Port-A-Stall sheds, replacing cross fences with vinyl, building two more steel barns and lining our indoor arena with steel. As we all know, Longears are very intelligent, and they will use their “smarts” to figure out a way to simplify a task. If you want to step over a fence but it’s a little too high, what do you do? Well, if you’re a mule, you sit on it to push it down, and then you can step over it. Although the horse fencing we used to replace the sheep fencing was fairly high, my Longears still managed to sit on the middle of it, bowing it out into incredible, irregular shapes…after they had first shorted out the hotwire, of course. This was their daily ritual. Maybe they had a crew meeting first thing every morning and planned how they’d do it. Who knows?

But to this day, I still don’t know how they shorted out the hotwire! One thing my Longears have taught me through our years together is that, if you are going to have mules, you’d better learn to have a good sense of humor or you will never survive their pranks! We learned to drill holes in the posts for a hotwire across the top of the new vinyl fencing and that worked very well, but that was only after they had removed all the vinyl rails from the fence overnight. They were delighted that I had given them their own “Tinker Toy” set. They never left the pen, although they could have! Each time our mules have made “art,” pulled pranks, or managed amazing escapes, we learned how to improve our system and materials, until finally upgrading to an all-steel facility with vinyl fencing topped with a relatively inaccessible hotwire. Now we no longer need to worry about what the mules and donkeys might do…until the next time. (PLEASE don’t tell Ely I said that!)

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.

© 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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MULE CROSSING: Little Jack Horner

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By Meredith Hodges


Little Jack Horner
, 13 HH Sire-Supreme of the Lucky Three Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, was the last jack born at the famed Windy Valley Ranch in Healdsburg, California owned by my mother, Joyce Doty. He was foaled June 11, 1980, by the renowned Windy Valley Adam (14.2 HH) and out of Windy Valley Maude (15 HH). His ancestry can be traced back to the original breeding stock of George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon, Virginia. 

In 1984 and 1985, Little Jack Horner captured second place in the Bishop Mule Days World Show Halter class for Standard Jacks. His impeccable show record consists of first and second place standings at Halter in his home state of Colorado, and in 1986, he placed first at Halter in the American Donkey and Mule Society Registered Jacks class at the A.D.M.S. Nationals in Dallas, Texas. 

In 1984, he made his debut in performance at the Colorado Classic Horse Show, placing first in Donkey Driving and Donkey Pleasure. His willing disposition held him in good stead, placing him first in Donkey Pleasure and Donkey Driving at Bishop Mule Days in 1989. Little Jack Horner (by his own enthusiastic request via running the fence) was trained in Dressage and Jumping along with his numerous offspring mules. He reached Second Level Dressage over three years and jumped four feet in exhibition at Bishop Mule Days in 1991 where he received a Specialty Award for his efforts. At Bishop Mule Days in 1993, he placed first in Donkey Pleasure, Donkey Pole Bending and Donkey Keyhole.

Although Dressage proved difficult (as it would be for any donkey), it helped to set the stage for his incredible athletic ability to jump. He soared over fences to 4’6” without a rider and worked up to 4’ with the rider on board. In keeping with traditional Dressage, Little Jack Horner worked on a Pas de Deux in Jumping with another Colorado Standard Jack, Blue Zebulon owned by Fran & Larry Howe of the Bitterroot Mule Company. Those who know the difficulty of working jacks together at all will appreciate their unique dispositions and good manners! Little Jack Horner proved himself to be not only a well-conformed breeding jack, but also a true athlete! He was inducted into the Bishop Mule Days Hall of Fame in May of 2014. 

As a breeding jack, Little Jack Horner produced some of the finest saddle mules in the world. Consistently, his genetic makeup was responsible for extremely attractive heads, refined straight legs and good angles in the hip and shoulder of his offspring mules and donkeys. In addition, these mules and donkeys reflected a smooth flowing topline, with depth of girth and a good length of neck for overall balance and beauty. Little Jack Horner’s mule and donkey offspring generally grew to the mare’s (or jennet’s) height or 2 inches taller despite L.J.’s own smaller size.

Lucky Three Firestorm never lost a Halter class and was an all-around English Champion Arabian mule.

It didn’t seem to matter with what breed of mare or jennet he was bred. His superior qualities shone through in his offspring, giving the mules an appearance more like really nice looking horses (and donkeys!), only with longer ears! 

Not only did Little Jack Horner seem to improve on the characteristics of the mares with which he was bred, but also with the jennets as well. At Lucky Three Ranch, we endeavored to produce a Mammoth Donkey with these same refined characteristics as Mammoth’s typically have a lot of thick bone in the joints and in their faces which I wished to refine. Little Jack Horner sired two jennets, Lucky Three Pantera and Lucky Three Serendipity, who indeed retained his refinement within a much larger frame. Pantera, as a two-year-old gray jennet, stood at 14.3 hands and Serendipity as a yearling, stood 13 hands, the very same height as her sire. Pantera matured to 15.2 hands and Serendipity matured to 14 hands. When we bred the daughters back to Blue Zebulon from the Bitterroot Mule Company, the offspring jacks did indeed retain Little Jack Horner’s refinement with no unsightly boniness in the heads and joints. His offspring were most often taller than both the mare and sire. Little Jack Horner proved time and time again that the jack is indeed responsible for the shape and thickness of bone, and not necessarily for the overall height of the offspring. 

Be it donkey or mule, Little Jack Horner’s offspring always placed at the top of the Halter classes in the early shows and in the top five when they began competing in performance classes. 

In January of 1989 at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, Little Jack Horner and nine of his offspring, both mules and donkeys, made a clean sweep at the show and won everything in every class in which they were entered. 

Appaloosa mule, Lucky Three Ciji never lost a Halter class, placed in the top five in the Western Performance divisions at multiple shows across the country and was a Side Saddle Champion, and Reserve Champion the following year, against horses in the International Side Saddle Organization. 

Appaloosa mule, Lucky Three Eclipse won the Bishop Mule Days Champion Warm-Up Hunter class in 2000. At the Lucky Three Ranch in 2017, we still have multiple Little Jack Horner offspring from various horse breeds (Appaloosa, American Quarter Horse, Arabian, Thoroughbred and Paint) including one Warm Blood mule bred from a Trakehner mare that I acquired for the expressed purpose of doing Dressage due their their extraordinary movement. Little Jack Horner’s offspring here at the ranch are all healthy and are still being used for ranch work, even though most of them are well over twenty-five years of age, and some are thirty years and over.

When I said good night to Little Jack Horner one chilly fall evening on October 5, 2014, I noticed that he was unusually calm and serene. He stood motionless with a colorful rainbow arched over his pen showering him in a surrealistic light as the sun began to set behind the Rocky Mountains that he loved. Little Jack Horner passed away quietly that night at the age of 34 years, but his legacy remains.

He set the bar exceptionally high for Longears everywhere and because he did, the interest in mules and donkeys has increased exponentially over the past 40 years. The old myths about donkeys and mules being stubborn and hard to work with are being laid to rest because of his efforts. What he taught me will go down in history to become my legacy as well. His story and that of his offspring needed to be told, so I documented everything I learned from them to pass on to future generations. I was very blessed to be the steward of such an extraordinary individual and to be able to go forward as the keeper of his children. He was a very special donkey for a very special time!

Little Jack Horner has left quite a legacy! It does my heart good to see how the quality of mule and donkeys has improved exponentially over the years with foundation sires such as Little Jack Horner and…

 Black Bart, bred by Sybil Sewell from the famed Windy Ridge Farm in Canada and owned by Don and Irma Mode of Oregon. Mules, once bred from culled mares, are now being bred from the best! Through more careful donkey selection, they have also improved substantially in conformation and have thereby produced incredible breeding jacks and jennets for the future!

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 Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

© 1988, 2016, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved

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WRANGLER’S DONKEY DIARY: Riding the Hourglass Pattern: 9-29-20

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There are differences in jacks, geldings and jennets, but I have found them all to have their individual redeeming qualities. Wrangler is carefully surveying the environment while Chasity walks obediently at my shoulder. Wrangler is much more playful while Chasity is sedate. My jack, Little Jack Horner, was always an energetic, enthusiastic, fully-charged male with extraordinary ability! What they ALL have in common is their exceptional intelligence, energy conservation and strong sense of self-preservation. What has produced the most success in the management and training of all my equines has been a logical, sequential and equitable approach, executed with a polite attitude, good manners, kindness, consideration, respect and a fair reward system. If I want the best from them, I have to set a good example myself. Chasity and Wrangler politely go through the gate into the area where each will not be interrupted and will patiently wait their turn.

Wrangler is now light in the bridle in the Round Pen and ready to begin work in the Hourglass Pattern in the open arena. Since I have to use both the Round Pen and the open arena, I tie Chasity in the obstacle area so she will not need to be moved until it is her turn. Then Wrangler and I proceed to the Round Pen for his warm-up exercises where he will lunge five rotations in each direction at walk, trot and canter in both directions with a reverse in between. Too much shuffling around can cause anxiety. I prefer that they both remain calm and obedient, so I set them up for success.

Wrangler politely accepts my adjustment on his bridle, “Elbow Pull,” saddle placement and girth, then proceeds forward at the walk in good equine posture. His “Elbow Pull” remains loose and is only there as a reminder in the Round Pen and as a support should he need it when I add my extra weight under saddle in the open arena.

Wrangler trots obediently upon the verbal command and after five rotations transitions to canter. He is now up to three rotations at canter in each direction. I will add one more rotation in each direction with each new lesson.  

I slow him to a walk, do a well balanced reverse and he then proceeds once more at the walk for five rotations.

Wrangler picks up the trot promptly upon request. After five rotations, he canters for three more rotations. I will add one more next time. His overall balance at canter is slowly improving with each new lesson!

Improvement comes rapidly when you don’t try to get too much too quickly. Wrangler is eager and ready to be ridden!

I ask Wrangler to come through the gate and he turns back to me to receive his reward. Then I mount and give him another reward from his back. I truly appreciated his well-practiced good manners!

Once mounted, I ask for the familiar rein back and we then proceed forward into the Hourglass Pattern. Wrangler stays light in the bridle and takes gentle directional nudges from my calves in sync with the direct rein cues.

Wrangler remains upright in his balance, bends through his rib cage through the arcs in the pattern, and halts squarely and promptly upon command.

Preparing your equine with PLENTY of groundwork, the right kinds of exercise and use of the “Elbow Pull” to help build his core strength adequately in good posture to support a rider BEFORE you get on makes all the difference in the world! You are building a new HABITUAL way of moving.

Wrangler is strong in his balance, light in the bridle and promptly responsive to the cues from my seat, legs and hands. He halts squarely and reins back easily when asked.

When their balance is not constantly interrupted, they only need a weekly workout and can practice their posture efficiently in turnout each day on their own! If you WANT to work more, you can, but always be ready to leave one day of rest between 30-40 minute workout days. I always want my equines to ENJOY being with me and not get sour!


SHARING THE EXPERIENCE 6 10 20 9

WRANGLER’S DONKEY DIARY: SHARING THE EXPERIENCE: 6-10-20

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Wrangler was introduced to our new donkey jennet, Chasity, with a double fence between them and has seen me working with her for two months now. After being alone in turnout for three years, he will finally have a turnout buddy once she is out of quarantine. This will happen in just a few days. However, I could sense that Wrangler was jealous of the time I was spending with Chasity, so I decided to surprise him! He obediently came to the stall door and waited patiently to be haltered, but it had been such a long time since he had seen the Tack Barn work station that he needed to PAUSE…

…and take a good look at the metal drainage grating before entering. He was rewarded at the hitch rail for being brave and was somewhat curious about what would be happening next.

Wrangler was so pleased when I walked through the door with his new love, Chasity! They both looked expectantly as I walked from the Tack Room with the familiar towel. I cleaned their eyes, ears and nostrils.

Wrangler showed Chasity that the “monster vac” was nothing to be afraid of. He stood quietly while I put on his Passier All Purpose English saddle. With the girth four inches back on the swell of his barrel, so as not to chafe the sensitive skin right behind his forearms, I adjusted his crupper to hold it firmly in place.

They both watched me intently as I returned to the Tack Room for the bridles. Wrangler politely lowered his head to make bridling much easier. I always return the favor by being VERY CAREFUL about pushing their ears through the headstall by protecting them with my hand as I slide the crown piece over them.

I took Wrangler to the Round Pen. Then I went back to the Tack Barn, got Chasity and tied her outside so she could watch him being lunged. I hoped this would help her to “get it” when it became her turn!

Wrangler was in pretty good shape when I got him three years ago. He’s always kept himself balanced and in good shape, so he was able to go straight to lunging for core strength in his “Elbow Pull.” He only had two lessons two years ago, but his good posture and core strength has endured. The “Elbow Pull” remained loose throughout his entire workout in the Round Pen.

He planted his pivot foot, easily executed his reverse and continued the same way in the other direction. I was so proud of him! Wrangler reminds me a lot of my super champion jack from 1980-2014, Little Jack Horner! What a classy guy!

Since Wrangler was doing so well, I decided to go ahead and let him try lunging with Chasity. They had not yet been in the same pen together, but I trusted he would behave himself and he surely did! He encouraged her to go forward and then did his reverse promptly on command. She took a bit more persuading to reverse, but he patiently walked until she caught up with him.

With Wrangler in the lead, they did five more rotations and Wrangler never swayed from his good equine posture. When we were done, I tied Chasity to a post in the Round Pen and returned to the Tack Barn with Wrangler. He was so happy to finally be able to spend some time with me and to share his experience with Chasity!