MULE CROSSING: Love Thy Neighbor: The Rural-Urban Conflict

By Meredith Hodges

As the lines between suburbia and rural living continue to blur and subdivision dwellers encounter the sights, smells and sounds of farm and ranch life, lifestyles collide and questions arise about how to treat both sides fairly. There are no easy answers, but one important point to consider, as city and county councils all over the country debate these issues, is the great benefit equine centers in particular can provide for their communities.

Anyone who’s fortunate enough to have exposure to equines knows that time spent with these animals is the best antidote to the stress of today’s world. For young and old alike, the therapeutic benefit of equines is undeniable. Working with horses, mules and donkeys promotes:

  • Responsibility
  • Consideration
  • Consistency
  • Compassion
  • Cooperation
  • Patience
  • Trust

Boarding and training facilities, therapeutic riding centers and other equine-related facilities are part of our national landscape both literally and figuratively. The suburban resident whose house abuts a horse, donkey or mule farm might not enjoy the animals’ early-morning vocalizations or the pungent smell of manure, but we can only hope he or she can appreciate the value of a young person learning to be a better communicator, a diligent worker and a dutiful caretaker for another being. This must be considered during discussions of ways to regulate these equine businesses so they are not constrained to the point where they cannot sustain themselves.

My Colorado-based Loveland Longears Museum and Sculpture Park at Lucky Three Ranch is located only a short distance from a rapidly increasing sub-urban community and was recently involved in this kind of discussion in my county. As a trainer, author, producer and advocate for equines and especially Longears, I know the immeasurable value of the time I’ve spent with these animals. Through my support of Hearts & Horses, Northern Colorado’s renowned therapeutic riding center, I have developed a profound appreciation for their work and the work of other facilities like them.

These businesses and organizations don’t have big budgets. Yet, they provide an incredibly valuable service to the community, and we should be diligent about making sound decisions where they are concerned and promote sponsorships and donations on their behalf to keep these valuable services going forward into the future.

Urban growth continues to be an issue, but just as developers are increasingly called upon to give wetlands and natural habitats a wide berth, they should also give equine facilities the same consideration. Developers who bulldoze the countryside without a true understanding of the nature of the land do a disservice not only to rural inhabitants but also to the very consumers they serve. Developers know their job, but rural people know their land and animals. They know that you don’t build next to ponds and reservoirs unless you want an annual invasion of mosquitoes and possible flooding. They know that weeds don’t distinguish between one property and another and, if not managed properly, can easily jump the fence to infiltrate the neighbor’s hayfield. Rural farmers and ranchers know about water, about waste, about food production—the list goes on. It just makes sense that we should provide greater leniency in the regulation of equine business owners, not only for what they do but also for the knowledge they possess.

Because I am someone that has operated an equine training and breeding facility for more than four decades, my interest in rural education is paramount. In addition to management and training books, DVDs and television shows, I produced Walk On: Exploring Therapeutic Riding as part of my documentary series, Those Magnificent Mules. This therapeutic riding television program and DVD drew an enthusiastic response from therapeutic riding program operators and participants all over the country, thanking me for shining a positive light on  these organizations. We also offer tours of my ranch to help educate a public that might not be familiar with ranch life and rural art.

Visitors who come to meet my animals and tour the grounds invariably gain a new perspective on equine training and the facilities where it’s done. They are enamored by the life-sized bronzes of all kinds of Longears that grace the ranch. By highlighting the benefits of these kinds of facilities to our communities, we might change people’s aggravation to smiles when they hear the sound of a donkey’s bray coming through the window bright and early in the morning!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit, MEREDITH HODGES PUBLIC FIGURE Facebook page, or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at Also, find Meredith on Pinterest, Instagram, MeWe, YouTube and Twitter.


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