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Chasity fully enjoys her lessons these days and waits anxiously at the stall door! She knows when I count my blessings, I count my mules (and donkeys!) TWICE! Chasity has been working in the Hourglass Pattern and through obstacles for two months now. Her posture and core strength continue to improve with her weekly lessons. Now it is time to perfect each movement and make sure they are done correctly and in complete balance.
In addition to her weekly stretching exercises, we do abdominal flexion exercises with Chasity every day at feeding time. We ask her to tighten her abdominal muscles, raise her back and hold for sixty seconds. We do this by tickling her belly firmly at the midline underneath while she is eating from her feeder. This makes for marked improvement in her sway back (Lordosis).
We have had her left hind hip adjusted twice and she is now better able to swing through the hip joint and bring her foot underneath her center of balance with each stride. Instead of simply lowering her head and neck, she is now lowering her head and neck and arching across her entire spine. Her stiffness has greatly subsided.
At every halt in the Hourglass Pattern, we stop, square up, reward, arch the spine and reward again. Chasity really enjoys this exercise!
Her movement around the cones continues to progress with the small circles at each cone. She is much more flexible, stays upright and bends to the arc of the turn through her rib cage.
Because of the overweighted crest on her neck, she has more difficulty bedding to the right, so we do a neck stretch to the right, before transversing around the cone to the right. This simple pause allows her to rebalance and keep her upright balance while bending though her rib cage on the circle around the cone.
With the stiffness in her left hip gone, she can now reach underneath, lift her her body efficiently and reach upward and forward with her front legs, adding some increased suspension to her gait.
Both hind legs are now reaching well underneath her body and provide the support she needs for her athletic performance to be much more precise and executed correctly.
When her lesson was over, we decided to make a couple of visitations with her new friends, first with Billy Bad Ass, a 26-year-old mule and then with our 10-year-old mini donkeys, Augie and Spuds. When movements are consistently done the same way whether in the training pattern or just going from one place to another, when halts are always squared up and when good behavior is consistently rewarded, there is no anxiety. Standing still and waiting patiently become the norm and this makes for a mutually satisfying relationship between you and your equine!
Chasity is now regularly coming to her stall door and is always anxious to see what the next challenge will be. The one thing she HAS learned is that she will never be hurt by anyone here. Cleaning her ears was a necessary evil at first, but she now enjoys the gentle cleaning as I wipe the rag with the grain of the hair to get the dirt from her ears. And she loves having clean ears! We are ALWAYS consistent and stay with the routine about everything we do with all of our equines. They appreciate knowing what comes next. Ours is a NO ANXIETY zone, but that doesn’t mean we do not challenge them and set boundaries for good behavior. Chasity is about to be tested to the max with her next new challenge!
Chasity really enjoyed the brisk brushing with the multi-bristled human hair brush. It is the only brush that I have found the really expedites shedding and leaves the coat soft and shiny. It reaches deep in the coat and aerates the hair shafts. After the brushing, it is followed with either the shedding blade to remove the loosened hair laying on top, or….there is an introduction to the VACUUM CLEANER!!! Chasity was not too sure about this BIG BLUE THING that rolled!
We always take the introduction of new things slowly. I gently coaxed Chasity toward the vacuum cleaner. This was an approach that she recognized from her obstacle training and moved furtively toward me to receive her reward of crimped oats.
She watched the cameras while I went to plug it in. The loud sucking noise startled her! I acknowledged her concern and calmed her with a soothing voice.
But then it was time for the business of vacuuming HER! I use the cotton lead rope for control, but she is prevented from going backwards with the second hitch rail tie made of a stout braided nylon rope with bull snaps on each end. The last thing you want is for the rope to break! I talked to Chasity and ask her if she would rather calm down and step forward to receive her reward…she thought about it…I waited patiently…
…and she decided that was a pretty good idea! She tentatively accepted the vacuum on her forehead. This is a spot where they generally like to be vacuumed first.
I laughed as she made a plea for help from the camera people! Then I had to straighten out the hose and she was certain that big black coiled “snake” was going to get her!
She wasn’t exactly pleased, but she allowed me to begin to vacuum her neck…and then her shoulder. I kept a hand on her so she could feel my caring support.
It didn’t take long for her to calm down and allow me to vacuum the rest of her body. She discovered that it actually felt pretty good!
Then I looped the “BIG BLACK SNAKE” over the hitch rail to prepare to do the other side. She sat back on the rope again, but was easily coaxed forward again.
Things are always different from one side of an equine to the next. So, when I approached from the other side, she again sat back on the rope, but came forward again quickly to receive her reward.
I did her forehead again while she fixated her gaze to the camera people. When I got to her body, she was fixated on the BIG BLUE BOX, but not bothered at all by the suction, or the hose.
After I finished her right side, I knelt by the BIG BLUE BOX and asked her to come and investigate which Chasity did willingly. She had conquered the challenge of the MONSTER VAC!!!
By Meredith Hodges
Jack Copp was a very special man with a very special mule. Jack was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma, about 45 miles south of the Kansas border. His father worked with mules in the oil fields acquired
from the Osage Indians by the U.S. Government years before. Although his father was familiar with mules, Jack was enamored with horses and particularly with team roping. Jack, a congenial and responsible man, worked at his job for 27 years and roped steers in his spare time.
Then came the accident that changed his life. Jack was run over by a forklift that left him partially crippled for the rest of his life. He could no longer do the things he loved the most. In the midst of his depression, he met an old man who suggested that he get a couple of mules to mess with. “They’ll git you on your feet,” he said. Jack took the man’s advice and bought Joker, a sorrel yearling mule colt, and his sister, Sissy, a weanling molly mule in November of 1978. By May of 1979, Jack had taught Joker enough tricks to entertain the audience at Bishop Mule Days in California.
This was where I first saw them. In six short months Jack had Joker (only two years old) stretching, sitting, laying down, carrying his feed bucket, rolling a barrel with his front legs, and walking on his hind legs. What he had done with that handsome young mule was remarkable, but what Joker had done for Jack was even more amazing. Jack’s life was given new meaning and his faith restored by this long-eared, little red mule. Sissy, Joker’s sister, was sold and put into training with famed mule trainer Pat Parelli of California, while Jack and Joker became the very best of friends.
Joker was sired by a Spanish jack, called Red Fox, that was killed by a hunter, and out of a Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse mare. He captured the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to witness his performances. The bond between Jack and Joker was evident as spectators delighted in watching a repertoire of 30 tricks or more. As Jack is a bashful man, Joker often had to push him into the arena to get things started. They began with a good stretch to loosen up the muscles and then Joker was ready to show his stuff. In top condition, Joker showed he could walk on three legs, then on two legs. This was pretty tough for a mule, but he did it out of love for Jack. Joker had no qualms about carrying his feed bucket to remind Jack of dinnertime. But Jack was a demanding trainer and concerned parent and made Joker earn his dinner by rolling a barrel with his front feet. When rolling the barrel forward became boring, Jack taught him to roll it backwards with his hind legs. As if this weren’t tough enough, Joker later learned to roll the barrel both backwards and forwards while straddling it! All this work is sometimes tiring, so Jack thought a short nap would be in order. Joker obliged his command by lying down–his rump made a handy seat for Jack to also take a rest.
At coffee break time, Joker took his shorter rests in a sitting position. Considerate of Jack, as a best friend should be, Joker stretched, lowering his back so that Jack could reach the stirrup easily to mount. Joker knew that tires are for traveling, but his only use for one was to plant his front feet on it, traveling around it with his back feet; or to plant his back feet on it and travel around it with his front feet. At the “End of the Trail,’ Joker placed all four feet on the tire, exhibiting his excellent balance. Jack and Joker were patriotic Americans. Joker would fly the flag while walking on his hind legs. Then Jack would take the flag while Joker bowed to the audience in appreciation for the applause!
Not limited only to tricks, Jack removed the bridle and showed people how well trained Joker really was. Without the bridle, Joker performed pleasure, reining patterns, and trail obstacles with ease. No whips, no spurs, no bats–it’s all done with patience and love that you can feel as you watch them. They were quite remarkable! Jack believed that training a mule is like raising a child. If you slap them, bang on them, or worse, they will have no respect.
Mules will either be afraid of you or fight back. Of course, discipline is in order on occasion, but you don’t have to keep doing it. Once Jack began training Joker, Joker was not allowed to run with other animals. Jack was his only close companion. Others never distracted Joker from his best friend, Jack! Jack and Joker have performed at county fairs and shows throughout the U.S. and they were both loved and appreciated wherever they went. The fees for these shows were minimal–just enough to cover their traveling expenses. What a privilege it was to witness this incredible pair!
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.
© 1986, 2016 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
When Chasity first arrived, her hooves were inordinately long in front with Borium shoes and her back feet were worn unevenly and at the wrong angles. Because her body was in such bad posture and her hooves so out of balance, we knew it would take quite a while and lots of frequent trims to get her hooves balanced and aligned properly. This would have to be done in conjunction with getting her body into good posture with the core strength to support that good equine posture. This would be Chasity’s challenges!
Chasity is now standing quietly and picking up her feet easily, but she still wasn’t sure about standing still without being tied up. A small challenge for her would be to learn to stand quietly in the alleyway of the barn while our farrier, Dean Geesen works on her instead of being at her work station in the Tack Barn. Because she stood still, she was rewarded with her favorite crimped oats. The misshapen hoof is beginning to rotate into a more balanced position, but we still have a lot of work ahead before the hoof will be correct.
Dean is a therapeutic corrective farrier that is familiar with Longears. This is a critical element in your Longears’ welfare. Longears have angles and hoof construction that is quite different from a horse and it takes a knowledgeable farrier to keep from doing them harm. Chasity feels the difference in the balance of her feet, however slight, and it affects her whole body!
Chasity’s hind feet appear as if they have been done like a farrier would do a horse. Her rear hooves are not as upright as they should be with insufficient heels. Dean leaves the heels, rasps the front feet and rolls the toes a bit to promote more proper action and healthy growth. As long as I have had donkeys, I have never had to put shoes on them. It is my experience that when they are in good postural balance in their body, they generally wear their feet evenly and vice versa. When fed properly, the hooves remain hard and balanced. They don’t even need to be trimmed all that often if they are not consistently standing on soft ground, or in mud. We use pea gravel in our runs and driveways. In the runs, we put about four inches down. It drains well, is hard enough to promote hard hooves, is rounded and does not chip the feet and is soft enough for the equines to lie down comfortably.
Chasity is tolerates yielding her back feet much better after having a chiropractic adjustment in her pelvis and hip joints yesterday. This is a dramatic beginning for her toward MUCH better balance and posture. She had to be a very sore and uncomfortable animal when she first arrived. She is now feeling some relief and is much more cooperative.
The front hoof on the opposite side reveals the compromised imbalance that she had when she came to us. However, the first trim put her on the road to recovery and her feet are beginning to grow in the correct direction. She has gained a lot more heel in the rear in the past eight weeks.
Chasity has learned to be sent into her stall and then to turn and square up for her reward! Her gait has improved substantially in the past two days with chiropractic work and another trim!
Although we were working on uneven ground in Chasity’s last lesson which made getting in sync very difficult, it was clear that it was time for a chiropractic adjustment of her skeletal system. Doing chiropractic adjustments can put the practitioner in very precarious positions, so it is wise to build trust with the animal before attempting to do these kinds of adjustments to their body. After more than a month of intensive care, Chasity has learned that we have her best interest at heart and is more than willing to cooperate with anything we want to do with her. Even though she is perfect about walking in sync, it is clear that her left hip is locked up, highly immobile and chiropractic adjustment is in now desperately needed!
Chasity walked out in the driveway so our equine chiropractor, Dave McClain, could assess her condition. She had better range of motion in the right hind leg than she did with the left. She was getting better in her spine, but her abdominal muscles still needed more work. Once the left hind leg and the rest of her body is put back in alignment, there will be more of an effect on the abdominal muscles at the walk in her lessons.
Dave agreed that the fallen crest could be straightened out, but it would take some time and serious therapy. Bailey showed Dave the progress in Chasity’s Diary that had been made already since she came to us on March 29th 2020. He was pleasantly surprised at the progress we had made considering we could not use his services during the COVID-19 shutdown. But before we could go any further successfully, we really needed to have her skeleton professionally aligned!
Dave carefully palpated both hip joints…
… and the pelvic area. She was exceptionally stiff and locked up on the left side! He rocked her pelvis to the right…
…and then rocked it to the left. Chasity yielded her hind leg and he adjusted the locked up hip joint! Chasity’s eyes lit up in pleasure immediately! It must have felt REALLY good!
Dave demonstrated to me how her hip joint was not only locked up, but completely misaligned and stuck at an upward angle. Chasity gladly leaned forward to aid in her spinal adjustment!
We then asked Chasity to engage her abdominal muscles, raise her back and then hold for sixty seconds. We will do this once per day, every day. Then it was time to adjust her neck, first on the left side…
…and then on the right side. She was stiff on that side, so I asked her to stretch her neck around my body.
Then Dave did a second adjustment on that side…it was much better! Dave watched her back up. There was marked improvement in her hind quarters and she was finally able to walk easily straight backwards. She had previously been very stiff through the back-through “L” obstacle during her workouts. She will no doubt do much better the next time!
We checked Chasity’s neck again and found that it, too, was much looser and not as hard and immobile as it was before the adjustments. As she left the Tack Barn, it was evident that she was moving much more freely and smiling to herself all the way back to the barn!
By Meredith Hodges
There was a time before the industrial age when one-third of all fifteen million mules on earth were being utilized by the United States. Mules worked in the fields, carried our packs, pulled heavy barges on the canals, plodded through darkness in the mines, guided supply wagons and streetcars about the cities, carried tourists to exotic places like the Grand Canyon and transported army supplies and light artillery for the government. And to help with all the back-breaking labor he faced, man’s invention of the hybrid mule was truly a stroke of creative genius. “No cultural invention has served so many people in so many parts of the world for so many centuries with energy, power and transport as the mule.”
During the surge westward, heavy Conestoga wagons laden with all the possessions one could carry were often pulled by teams of mules that were either leased or owned by the early settlers. When cattlemen developed breeds like Texas Longhorns that could endure the harsh climate of the Great Plains, their mules pulled the chuck wagons that followed the large herds as they were driven the long distances to market. Improved farm equipment beckoned farmers to tame the West and what else could manage the vast land and long work hours save the mule? During these times, little thought was given to the possibility that this coveted land was already occupied by numerous Indian tribes.
The soldiers were caught in an impossible situation. They were bound by duty to protect and serve the early ranchers, miners, farmers and their families, but were unable to derive any profit from their duty. Indian attacks raged at every turn and mules helped carry the artillery and supplies the army needed to protect its citizens. The armies had been used to fighting in an entirely different climate and, when faced with the gale winds, plunging temperatures and blizzards on the Great Plains like they had never seen, it was often the mule that provided the perseverance and determination to see it through. On rare occasions, the mule served as the only source of food, saving the lives of desperate families and often – hungry Indians.
People are generally surprised to learn of the loyal and affectionate nature of the mule. For some reason, they want to believe in a stubborn and vengeful character, but when one reads accounts from individuals, one finds mules to be quite the opposite. In the mid-1800s, the U.S. government, in its infinite wisdom, recognized the value of the mule, yet made foolish provisions for its soldiers in their regard. It was clear that they did not fully understand this animal that resembled the horse but acted nothing like it.
In training mules to harness, they often cut traces to the harness so short and hung so low that the mule’s heels would be clipped by the swingle trees when they walked forward. Not wanting to injure itself, the mule would stop when it became sore. This act was acknowledged as laziness. It was only through the good sense of the real mule teamsters that these kinds of errors were corrected. Swingle trees were hung higher between the hock and the heel to allow for a full stride, and traces were subsequently invented with larger chain links at the ends of the drawing-chains to allow for adjustments in length.
The American government purchased many mules that were two and three years old—entirely too young for use. If they had purchased mules all over the age of four, it would have saved a lot of heartache and expense. Contractors and inspectors seemed to be more concerned with the numbers they could sell to the government than the quality and usefulness of the animals. When purchased for use, this invariably resulted in the mules being put onto a train with teamsters who knew nothing of their character. Those who know mules know the deep affection they develop for human beings with whom they spend much time. Thousands of young mules were rendered useless by the government’s incompetence and ignorance as to their maintenance and training.
Harvey Riley, author of The Mule, published in 1867, recounts, “While on the plains, I have known Kiowa and Comanche Indians to break into our pickets during the night and steal mules that had been pronounced completely broken down by white men. And these mules they have ridden sixty and sixty-five miles of a single night. How these Indians could do this, I never could tell.” Maybe it’s as simple as, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar!”
Packing was of great importance to government mules, as they were required to carry a wide variety of heavy items over treacherous terrain. In the Northern and Western territories and in Old and New Mexico, nearly all business was done with pack mules and pack donkeys.
The Indians adopted the Spanish way of packing, as the Spaniards were noted experts. The Americans developed their own American pack saddle, but it was abandoned soon after its creation.
“While employed at the Quartermaster’s depot at Washington, D.C. as superintendent of the General Hospital Stables, we, at one time, received three hundred mules on which the experiment of packing with this saddle had been tried in the Army of the Potomac. It was said this was one of General Butterfield’s experiments. These animals presented no evidence of being packed more than once; but such was the terrible condition of their backs that the whole number required to be placed at once under medical treatment…yet, in spite of all his skill, and with the best of shelter, fifteen of these animals died from mortification of their wounds and injuries of the spine,” Harvey Riley remembers.
In 1942, while in the service of the U.S. Army, Art Beaman became familiar with mules in a most curious way. He was working as an Operations Sergeant for a Headquarters in Northern California that determined whether troops were ready for combat. The troops consisted of 204 enlisted men, two veterinarian officers, four horses and 200 mules. Being a non-rider, Art was on and off his horse three times in the first ten minutes of the trip into the mountains. The First Sergeant finally decided to put him on a mule and open his eyes to the redeeming qualities of his mount. The next day, Art was able to say, “That mule and I were really a team…by this time, I trusted my mule so completely that I could have stood up and sang the national anthem as we slipped and skidded along!”
The aftermath of this story is really funny. About a week before his pack troop was to be deployed to the South Pacific, some sideways thinker in the Quartermaster Corps sent 200 green-broke replacement mules for his troop. Not wishing to trade the now fully broke mules for the green-broke mules, Art left the 200 mules on the train overnight while he pondered this dilemma. When he returned the next day, he told the men in charge, “There are the old mules and we have the new ones! Evidently, they believed me, or they didn’t care one way or the other, and the green mules were on their way back to Washington!”
Those who have experienced the spiritual connection with mules all have their own individual stories to tell. From The Black Mule of Aveluy, by Charles G.D. Roberts, comes one of the most amazing World War I battlefield stories I’ve ever heard. It is the story of a man and a big black mule on a rain-scourged battlefield. “The mule lines of Aveluy were restless and unsteady under the tormented dark. All day long a six-inch high-velocity gun firing at irregular intervals from somewhere on the low ridge beyond the Ancre, had been feeling for them. Those terrible swift shells, which travel so fast on their flat trajectory that their bedlam shriek of warning and the rendering crash of their explosion seem to come in the same breathless instant, had tested the nerves of man and beast sufficiently during the daylight; but now, in the shifting obscurity of a young moon harrowed by driven cloudrack, their effect was yet more daunting.”
A second shell screamed down into the lines, scattering deadly splinters of shell ropes, tether-pegs and mules. When it was all said and done, one lone black mule stood back, still tied to the picket line, unable to free himself. With eyes wide in terror, he sought respite from the onslaught, but was unable to find any. Suddenly, a man with tousled, ginger-colored hair appeared at his nose and put his arms around the mule’s neck, as the mule coughed and sputtered, still stunned from the blast. The man quickly untied the black mule and another that was left from the blast and got them to safety.
After the attack at Aveluy, the black mule and his new driver were given the job of carrying up shells to the forward batteries. Early that next afternoon, they were plunging deep into rugged territory along a sunken road, muddy from perpetual rain showers, when suddenly the inexplicable happened and there was an array of star-showers that blinded the mule. “When he once more saw daylight, he was recovering his feet just below the rim of an old shell-hole. He gained the top, braced his legs, and shook himself vigorously.” His panniers were still heavily loaded and his driver was not in sight. He soon saw his driver clinging to the far edge of the shell-hole, sinking rapidly in the mud. “He reached down with his big yellow teeth, took hold of the shoulder of Jimmy Wright’s tunic, and held on. He braced himself and, with a loud, involuntary snort, began to pull.”
Jimmy Wright remembered the blast and saw where he was. He was afraid his shoulder had been blown off, yet he could move both arms and discovered something was pulling on him. “He reached up his right arm—it was the left shoulder that was being tugged at—and encountered the furry head and ears of his rescuer! Reassured at the sound of his master’s voice, the big mule took his teeth out of Wright’s shoulder and began nuzzling solicitously at his sandy head.”
For centuries the mule loyally traversed the course of history with man, though he was never given credit for his valuable contributions. In fact, men perpetrated stories to the opposite and the mule’s legacy became one of laziness, stubbornness and disobedience. Only those humans who were of a character to willingly explore the spirit of the mule were there for its redemption. We are thankful that their stories have withstood the test of time. Throughout history, man believed that he was making progress with each new age, but the blind farmer will tell you, “There’s no such thing as a seeing-eye tractor, and while I am farming with my mule, I can hear the birds sing. I never could with a tractor!” Perhaps we should take note and stop to smell the roses and give credit where credit is due.
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.
© 2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Augie and Spuds always look forward to their adventures and this would be no exception!
“Oh Spuds, you know how to go through the gate, so just cut the drama and come and get your reward!”
“Look out there, Augie! Grass!” “Hey, Spuds! It’s Jasper!!!” “Check out Okie Dokey, Spuds. He’s a little donkey!”
Chasity is continuing to gain core strength, balance and even has a little “prance” in her step these days. The bacterial infection is almost gone and she is eagerly waiting at the stall door for her lessons each week. She gets structured leading exercises in her proper postural “gear” and in between, she has other things happening on other days like daily “soaking” of her infection, vet appointments and the farrier. Today, we will add circles at every cone to increase the intensity of her workout. Stretching is done more frequently now.
Chasity carefully walks in sync with me, no more pulling on the lead rope or charging ahead like she did in the beginning. She is happy on her way to the outdoor dressage exercise arena. Varying the location of her postural core strength leading training keeps her fresh and engaged.
On the way to the dressage arena, we stop to visit with Augie and Spuds, our delightful little mini donkeys. Chasity is intrigued. Where she is stabled, she can only hear them. Then it’s on to the dressage arena.
Since the arena is also used as a turnout area, it is a bit bumpy and the sand is deeper than the other places where Chasity has worked. It will increase the intensity of her work. Still, she is bending nicely through her rib cage while remaining erect in her body and doing her four-square stretches very well indeed!
Chasity is bending her joints well while walking in sync with me, however, I am noticing she is a bit stiff in her left hind leg, especially around the turns to the left. We added circles at every cone in the Hourglass Pattern to help to enhance her bending technique.
She steps out nicely with her right front, but as she brings the left hip forward, her gait is stilted and limited in it’s range of motion. The abdominal muscles are only moderately engaged and she stops short of reaching underneath her body to her center of gravity.
The right hind leg moves forward into it’s correct position, but she is just lifting and swinging her left hind leg forward instead of bending adequately through her joints, particularly in her hip joint.
As she steps forward with the right hind foot, the left hind has an abnormal look to the extension of the leg. It appears stuck in the hip joint and pelvic area, and is not swinging freely. Still, she is bending fairly nicely through her spine.
Another good stretch while standing four-square was in order and Chasity let me know that it felt VERY GOOD!
On straight lines with no rails, Chasity is able to reach underneath her body to the center of gravity, but going around the turns reveals some stiffness in her pelvic area while the rest of her spine bends easily.
Chasity really enjoys her stretches and does them with no problem at all. Then we begin to track in the other direction and it is clear that bending to the right is particularly difficult for her.
As we proceed around the cones to the right, her bending gets a little better and the right leg moves easily under her center of gravity. But when she approaches the rails, her pelvis appears to stiffen and inhibit her movement again.
There is plenty of “reach” in her front legs, but the rear legs do not seem to be able to consistently follow her forward movement. Her abdominal muscles are engaged and she is attempting to round her back, but her stiff pelvic area is inhibiting the ability to reach well underneath her body.
Traversing the rails is making it apparent that she should probably have a visit from our proficient equine chiropractor. Since she just arrived a short time ago, I did not think it would be prudent to expose her to chiropractic until I could loosen her stiff body a little bit and gain her trust first.
We finished traversing the rails and she had to “lean” on the “Elbow Pull” to keep her balance. She did pretty well circling to the right for the last time, but it was now clear that she would need to be adjusted with chiropractic before any further lessons could take place and be beneficial to her.
We ended the lesson with one more four-square downward stretch, then a stretch to the right…
…then she did a stretch to the left and left the arena in perfect synchonization with each other. Still, she didn’t have the “reach” behind that I thought that she should.
Just to make things a bit more interesting, we opted to investigate the lane to the small park to look at this new area. Chasity thought the steps looked particularly strange, but she was not fearful.
She navigated the steps like a champ and stood quietly while we took in the sights. She saw Robin Laws’ “Donkey Talk” to her left and J. Payne Lara’s “Love Me Tender to her right.This was a major accomplishment for Chasity since standing still was NOT something she wanted to do when she first arrived.
Then we went back up the steps, left the area and went to see the pack mules, “A Friend to Lean On” by Robin Laws. Chasity played “cute” for the camera. Then we went to see Bonnie Shields’ “Friends,” a bronze statue of Kylie, Moxie and Jasper from our children’s series. As you can see, her posture is greatly improved…the “Elbow Pull” is staying LOOSE most of the time now!
After 14 days on antibiotics, our veterinarian Greg Farrand came out to see how Chasity’s bacterial infection was doing. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the old, incredibly swollen infection in her udder and teats had gone down a significant 70%! We knew it would take quite some time to deal with something that had been wrong with her for so very long. When we first began treatment, it was as hard as a rock and as big as a grapefruit, but it was now softening into very smaller lumps and shrinking more rapidly than we had originally thought.
Greg asked me what I had been doing with her and I showed him her “diary” where I had documented in text and photographs all the workouts and everything else that we were doing with her.
He asked if we had kept up on the soaking with warm water and we showed him pictures of the rigging we had for her to hold a heated wet towel between her legs and up against her teats and udder.
We all discussed what the protocol would be going forward. I asked if we needed to change the antibiotics to another type, or if it would be okay to continue with what had been working. We decided that another 14 days of the same antibiotics would be okay.
Greg gave my Ranch Manager, Chad, and I another 14 days of EQUISOL-SOT and explained that we would give it once a day in her feed as we had been doing.
Chasity was given a handful of her favorite crimped oats for standing still and for waiting so patiently while we finished our conversation with Greg. She was very grateful!
I asked Chasity to stretch to the right and she did very well indeed…
Then I asked Chasity to stretch to the left and she did well that way, too!
Our final stretch was downward and she does this with ease, following my hand as low as I would like her to go… and she is always rewarded for her efforts!
Chasity was very stiff and compromised through her whole body when she first arrived. She was extremely rigid over the top line and could not flex from the poll at all, much less through her entire spine. The “Elbow Pull” self-correcting restraint and work in the Hourglass pattern has helped her to be more flexible in her head and neck, and has produced some flexion through her back. Now we are going to ask her to extend that flexion the whole length of her spine. She has been learning how to stay erect around turns while bending through her rib cage, and easily flexes her neck and back when squared up at the halt. These subtle actions have reshaped the body fat evenly over her body and reduced the size of her enlarged neck by 50% in just one month! Her posture is already greatly improved!
Chasity began by leaning on the “Elbow Pull” to keep her reasonable good equine posture. After a month of work, she is now able to sustain her own self-carriage a good part of the time. When she leans on the “Elbow Pull,” it is taut and when she is in self-carriage with good postural balance, it is loose. She started over the first pole and it was loose, then caught her balance on the second pole and it tightened…
On the third pole, she regained her balance and the “Elbow Pull” became loose again, but stepping over the last pole she allowed her balance to be too elongated and had to lean on it again.
As Chasity walked away, she again resumed her good equine balance and self-carriage and the “Elbow Pull” was loose again. We repeated the poles a little later in the Hourglass Pattern and she was then able to sustain her balance and self-carriage over the first pole…
…over the second and third poles, in good equine posture and not leaning on the “Elbow Pull”…
…and finished over the fourth pole with no loss of balance at all! As she is strengthened in good posture, her core muscles, ligaments and tendons will gain strength with symmetrical development and her time in self-carriage will increase. Ultimately, the “Elbow Pull” will remain loose at all times. She now walks in a rhythmic and cadenced fashion, matching every step that I take and halts easily upon request with no anxiety, or excess movement.
I asked her to square up and this time, instead of just flexing at the poll, I asked her to lower her head and stretch her entire spine from head to tail. Then we proceeded with more work in the Hourglass Pattern in the opposite direction and she practiced bending through her rib cage while staying erect around the corner cones.
Next, we negotiated the gate into the obstacles area, halted and squared up. I gave her a reward and asked her to stretch down again.
Chasity has been doing very well with breaking the bridge down into small steps. She halts easily, squares up and holds her balance in several new positions, with the front feet up, back feet down…
…with all four feet on the bridge and with front feet down and back feet up. She did very well at stretching her spine in all of these odd postions that added to her symmetrical core development.
Then she squared up again off the bridge and did one more deep stretch. Chasity was surprised to see the tarp where the tractor tire used to be and took exception to this “new” obstacle. The silly thing was that she side-passed the rail with her front feet on the tarp and her back feet in the sand. I thought, “Okay, now I know how to get her to side pass when I am ready! Silly Girl!” LOL!
We went back and tried again. She was hesitant, but realized what it was this time. I have to remember, Chasity has cataracts in both eyes and cannot see very well…trust is everything! There was no problem at all with the familiar smaller tires!
We reinforced her bending with the barrel exercises and practiced backing through the Back-Through “L.” She is still a bit “stuck” in reverse, but it will loosen up in time. She needs to learn to manipulate her body in a good postural balance and it is awkward for her now. It will just take patience and moving slowly. Speed will come with practice.
A nice deep spinal stretch relaxed and prepared her for the final obstacle! Chasity had been doing “Evasion Therapy” on me when I placed the tractor tire obstacle with too much open space around it. Boy, was she surprised to find out it was right there in front of her with no where to go but forward!
Chasity only put one foot inside the tire as she danced along the edge with her other three feet, so I opted to do it again the other way. This time, she put two feet into the center of the tractor tire… PROGRESS! Coming back through, she finally agreed to step through it with all four feet!
Finally, SUCCESS! My patience had paid off and our relationship was still intact! We finished with another REALLY DEEP stretch. Chasity’s flexibilty and elasticity were improving rapidly! Doing obstacles in confined spaces in the beginning promotes success and I am all about setting up your equine for SUCCESS!
Chasity does not have the most optimum conformation anyway, but when she first arrived, she was really stuck in a bad posture. She moved with a hollow back and her legs did not reach underneath her body when she walked. Her body did not allow for a flexible spine with ideal movement through her joints and I would presume that internal organ function was also compromised. Her body was very stiff and flexion of any kind was difficult for her. The bacterial infection in her udder was old and persistent. With our feeding, management and exercise program, Chasity has improved substantially and now enjoys a much more posturally correct body, more flexibility and a bacterial infection that is receding rapidly with antibiotics and the right kind of exercise. She is now happy to come to the stall door to accept her halter and “gives” easily and willingly to have the “Elbow Pull” postural restraint adjusted!
Standing in a 4-square posture used to be really difficult for Chasity and with her rigid back, she was unable to stretch her spine and flex at the poll while standing with equal weight over all four feet. With a month of our postural therapy leading exercises through the “Hourglass Pattern” this has changed dramatically and she can now flex easily when prompted.
Bending through her rib cage around the turns, while remaining erect in her body, was also impossible at first. With each new lesson, she continues to improve in both directions. The neck sweat encourages shrinking of the fat deposits on her crest and the bending is improving the alignment in her neck.
Work over the ground rails at the center of the “Hourglass Pattern” is helping her hoof-eye coordination, enabling proper foot placement, suspension and self-carriage in her body.
Chasity enjoys the simple challenges of these exercises as they provide more comfort in her body than she has ever known! She is happy and enthusiastic about these sessions!
With the rapid improvement through her body during the flatwork exercises in the “Hourglass Pattern,” we were able to begin going through some very simple obstacle exercises that made the sessions more interesting for her and kept her alert while adding some coordination to her body. The repetition of going through the gates the same way every time taught Chasity to wait patiently, bend correctly through her rib cage when walking through them and to consistently stand 4-square on both sides.
Breaking the obstacles down into smaller steps taught her to be alert and attentive to my commands and allowed her to learn to rebalance properly in each of these new positions.
When I first began the obstacles, I did not ask her to do the most difficult position of standing with her front feet down and her back feet on the bridge. She has been very good about stopping when I ask, so I decided to try it today and she did GREAT! I did not ask her to square up in this position yet, but I will as she becomes stronger in her core and can hold the position more easily. Then we walked of the end of the bridge and squared up again.
The first attempt at the tractor tire, Chasity walked up to it and looked at it, but would not do any more than that. The last attempt at the tractor tire, Chasity allowed me to pick up her foot and just direct it toward the middle like in the first photo, so I left it at that, rewarded her and asked no more. Today, she went one step further and offered to extend her foot herself, but still would not place it in the middle of the tractor tire, so we stopped, rewarded and will continue again next time! She is getting a LITTLE further each time and that is “rewardable” in my book! To force it would only result in a fight and probably wouldn’t get the job finished anyway! I am sure we will have better luck next time!
The last time over the smaller tires, she was hesitant. This time she forged ahead like a pro! And, going forward through the barrels was no problem at all! We might try backing through them the next time if she is willing.
Backing through the Back-Through “L” is getting much better and the tarp is a cinch! This time, she went right down the middle with no trouble at all! Taking small steps is critical to success!
Chasity has become a pro at negotiating the gate, standing perfectly and waiting patiently on each side.
The broom is yet another obstacle and Chasity learned it would not bite her as I politely swept up around her. She was rewarded for staying calm and afterwards, we did some spinal stretches.
Then it was time for yet another soak of her infected udder. The vet arrived to do a check and was so happy to find that we had reduced the infection by 70% in only 14 days! He really did not expect that! He also commented about how much better her posture was and the strength she showed over her top line. We opted to do a second 14-day run of the same antibiotics and continue the exercise and soaking.
Chasity no longer needs to be led into her stall and turned around to take off the halter. She can now be sent in and turns to face me of her own free will! Core strength postural exercises have a profound effect on the equine’s body and mind! Chasity is yet another example of the dramatic results that you can see when employing this relatively simply feeding, management and training program. It is not only for rehabilitation, but rather, it is a program that can give your equine athlete optimum health and the opportunity to perform to the best of his ability! Just ask Chasity!
It was a gorgeous spring day and I was so pleased when Chasity came right to the door to meet me again as she had been doing consistently after only two lessons in her initial training. As I cleaned her nostrils and smelled the clean spring air, I thought it might be nice to forego the indoor arena lessons and go out and enjoy this lovely spring weather. Sometimes just doing things a little differently with the same basic lessons can give you both a new perspective on training and make it a lot more fun!
It is shedding season and the multi-bristled human hairbrush was doing its job of removing the excess hair and aerating her coat. Then, I added a sprinkle of Johnson’s baby oil to her mane and tail while she stood stock still! She was definitely learning to enjoy our time together and her friends in the barn were forgotten for the moment.
As I got her tacked up in her gear, I chatted with Chasity and told her I thought we would go for a walk outside today. She thought it would be a great idea! I noticed that her cresty neck was decreasing in size… very slowly. I put on her surcingle and only took it up a bit so it wouldn’t be too tight at the start.
I put on the bridle carefully over her ears, adjusted the “Elbow Pull” and put on her neck sweat. She even helped a bit by lowering her head. Then I did a last check on the girth of the surcingle.
I quickly washed her brushes and we were on our way down the road! Chasity was very excited!
Our first encounter was the Lucky Three Ciji Side Saddle Champion statue. And then the Lucky Three Mae Bea C.T. Combined Training Champion statue. Chasity was fearless and very curious about them!
She met the fountain statue, “Dreaming of Friends” and another “Lucky Three Ciji” statue.
She wasn’t sure about “Lasagna” lying at the base of the cottonwood tree, but she loved the OLD WESTERN TOWN that was in construction!
During the course of the walk, we made gradual turns, straight lines and squared up at the halt at several intervals to continue her lessons in core strength and good posture. I noticed a lot of improvement in her back and her abs! She told me she thought the MULE CROSSING sign should say DONKEY CROSSING, but she posed nicely anyway!
When we got back to the work station, we did a couple of stretching exercises for her neck in one direction only, since doing them the other way would only exacerbate the present condition. When we get more of the fat off her crest, the stretches will have value in both directions.
When we were finished, we went back to her stall. She was “sent” into the stall, turned around to face me to get her halter removed and received her just reward! It was a great day!
Chasity did not enjoy the soaking of her teats with the hose, so I opted to change my approach to make her more comfortable. Her posture has improved considerably with her postural core strength exercises in the “Hourglass Pattern” and with negotiating some of the obstacles to add coordination. She is now coming to the stall door to be haltered. She’s a very quick learner!
The infection is still draining and that is good. Each soaking, I groom her and scrape the discharge from her hind legs while she stands quietly.
I thought I might be able to make a “diaper” out of an old sheet to hold a wet towel wrapped around a hot pack instead of running a warm water hose underneath. First things first…I politely introduced her to the sheet, then began to wrap it around her!
This would solve two issues for me. She would not be aggravated with the water running down her legs and I wouldn’t be wasting water for ten minutes! She stood like a trooper while Chad and I wrapped the sheet into a useable position while Chasity looked on with a certain curiosity. “What do you think you are doing? Very odd things these people do!”
Once in place with the hot pack held in the sheet, we realized it was heavy and was pulling the sheet down, so I still had to stand there and hold up both sides to bring it up to her udder. At least I didn’t have to bend over! Chasity received her oats once again for being a trooper!
After ten minutes of soaking, Chad and I released the “diaper” carefully so as not to startle Chasity. We now knew what we would have to do to modify the “diaper” for future use.
Chasity had her first lesson in neck stretches after her soaking. This would be another aid in shrinking the fat roll over her neck…first to the left…and then to the right.
She was hesitant to do another stretch to the left, so I put her up against the hitch rail and tried again. She was still uncomfortable about doing a really good stretch, so I asked her to wrap her head around my waist. She complied and was amply rewarded for her efforts.
The next soaking on 4-20-20, I had the diaper modified and left the job to Steve and Bailey to execute to make sure that Chasity would accept help from everyone and not just me. Steve led her from the barn and cleaned the crust from her eyes.
Bailey began work scraping off the dried pus on her back legs with the shedding blade while Chasity stood quietly.
I had told Bailey that she might try giving Chasity a massage on her neck to see how she would tolerate it. She loved it!
I also asked Bailey to try using the massager on the infected area with only the hot pack (without the wet towel) to see if it would break up the infection in the hardened teats. The new “diaper” design worked like a charm! Unfortunately, the massager really didn’t make much of a difference on the hardened teats, so we will just use it on her neck and body going forward.
After the soaking, Greg Farrand, our vet called and told us the lab work was back. Chasity has a bacterial infection and not mastitis. She will be on antibiotics and daily soaking for quite some time. When she is done with the Uniprim, she will go on a second antibiotic regimen. As always, Chasity was generously rewarded for her compliance! She is such a dear donkey!
Chasity continues to improve, however, the drainage from her teats was not receding and began to look suspicious to me so I called our veterinarian out to take a look at her. It has been two weeks since she arrived and had it been the result of a weaned foal, she would have been drying up by now. When he arrived, I told Greg Farrand that I suspected an infection of some sort and then I went to get Chasity.
Greg took a look at the discharge and agreed that is was not as we had originally thought, This was not milk, but a small amount of pus and some very hard teats.
Chasity was a star while we poked and prodded to get a sufficient sample to test. Greg and my Ranch Manager, Chad, finally got a large enough sample to be a viable test sample.
In the light, one could see that it was clearly pus and not milk. Greg put the sample in the holding receptacle and took it with him to be tested. He would call with results.
Not all my jennets from past experience were so cooperative and we truly appreciated Chasity’s quiet demeanor! Greg commented how much better she was looking after only two short weeks!
I mentioned to Greg that I had found some spots on her chest that could have been an old bot-hatching ground. I told him that I had scraped off the crusty scabs and applied Neosporin to the affected area. Most of the scabs were gone, but he said that she probably aggravated the area by scratching her chest on the fence. Donkeys will do that! I showed him her diary. He said that doing the core exercises would also help get rid of the infection.
Greg prescribed a regimen of Uniprim for the next 14 days along with daily hot water soaking.
Chasity tolerated the water, but was not thrilled with the water continuously running down her legs.
I decided if it was going to be a prolonged therapy, I would need to modify my future soaking approach to make her more comfortable during the process. This time, despite her displeasure, Chasity had cooperated and was happy to obtain her reward of crimped oats when it was all over!
After doing her Hourglass Pattern exercises, first one way and then the other, we opted to add some variety to the workout by adding some straight forward obstacles. In our indoor arena, I have an open space of 60’ X 120’ and a 45’ round pen at the end of the arena in another 60’ X 60’ fenced off space. Around the outside perimeter of the round pen in that area, I put my obstacles. I have found that there is less margin of error learning obstacles in a confined space to add coordination to their core strength in good equine posture. They can learn to pay more attention and to be more meticulous in their execution of the obstacles. This is a helpful way to begin with obstacles. The first obstacle for Chasity was the gate!
After going through the gate and standing stock still while I latched it, we proceeded to the bridge. I was pleasantly surprised when she allowed me to stop her with only her front feet on the bridge. This is generally a Stage Two move in my program since obstacles are used for coordination. Most equines are so uncoordinated that they just want to keep walking over and through the obstacles without stopping at first. Good for Chasity!
Chasity then carefully walked up onto the bridge with all four feet and halted on command! This was going much better than I had expected!
When I asked her to square up, she got a bit skewed to the side on the bridge, but she was nevertheless squared up, just not in line with the bridge. So I took it and rewarded her effort.We can do better the next time.
Then we got off the bridge and I squared her up again. Then…I introduced her to the tractor tire.
She looked at it…wasn’t afraid of it…walked around it…
…and looked at it again. She was clearly NOT going to put her foot in the middle of that tire! I decided to quit while we were ahead and try again next time. Because I didn’t push her, she consented to walking through the smaller tires…
…tentatively, but she did it! And then she walked around the barrels with no trouble at all!
Just having Chasity navigate these obstacles without being afraid of them was a major accomplishment. We then walked into the back-through “L” and I decided to make it a little bit tougher.
After walking through the “L” forward, I asked Chasity to back through where she had come.
She was a bit perplexed, but slowly backed between the rails, made the turn at the elbow, and went straight back from there with very little forcible encouragement.
Once at the end of the back-through “L,” we headed for the tarp. She followed me obediently, but was so silly…
When we got to the tarp, she wanted to walk EXACTLY where I walked! I guess she KNEW it was safe there! Too funny!
I gave her a reward because she really didn’t balk and we proceeded out of the obstacle area.
As we left, we executed the gate correctly and she was rewarded again. She stood quietly until I was ready to move.
Then we proceeded down the arena wall towards the exit gate and stopped to turn off the lights. She was a little surprised that the wall opened up, but stood still while I opened the door and turned off the lights.
Then I closed the door and we exited the arena. Adding obstacles and simple expectations to her regular work in the Hourglass Pattern made the experience more interesting and engaging to Chasity. When you add new things to their lessons, you shouldn’t feel like the equine has to do it right the first time. Just quit while you are ahead and your equine WILL do better the next time! There is no battle to remember!
Beginning by negotiating obstacles in larger areas makes for a larger margin for error. Too many things can go wrong and lead to an unpleasant chain of negative events that suck you and your equine into unnecessary altercations. There is plenty of time to do them in the more open spaces once they have learned how to negotiate them in the smaller spaces. I first school green animals during ground driving and under saddle in the small open area of my indoor arena (60’ X 120” – Standard Small Dressage Arena Size) before I take them into the larger outside arenas. This has resulted in a decrease of bolting and running. When you set up your training environment, it is always optimal to set up the equine for success!
The “Hourglass Pattern” is an amazing therapeutic approach to conditioning that I have used with all of my equines of varying ages, sizes and breeds. It builds a foundation of symmetrical strengthening at the core involving the ligaments, tendons muscles and soft tissue that support the skeletal frame and promotes even wear of the cartilage between bones in the joints. It can prevent arthritis as the animals age. This is vital to your equine athlete’s health. Chasity and I open the gate to her rebalancing and rehabilitation exercises in the “Hourglass Pattern.”
The red “X’s” in the pattern represent the points where you are to halt, square up, reward and wait. This process becomes helpful as your equine learns to navigate gates properly and learns to wait patiently through repetition and consistency in your behavior. Always go through gates exactly the same way so your equine knows what to expect. Abrupt actions lead to chaos.
We want to promote self-carriage, so we do not hold the lead rope in the right hand when leading from the left side where it can subtlety cause movement in the head and neck from side to side, adversely affecting their balance. Rather, we hold the lead rope in the left hand when leading from the left side and in the right hand when leading from the right side. We lead from the inside of the arcs in direction through the pattern. Always, say the animal’s name, give the command to “Walk On,” look where you are going, point in the direction of travel with your other hand and walk in sync with the equine’s front legs. This facilitates good posture for both of you!
When negotiating the “Hourglass Pattern,” there is an internal pendulum that swings back and forth and comes to center each time the animal halts and is squared up. If you were to work only along straight lines there is an optical illusion that takes place along the perimeter and makes the animal’s body lean to the inside of the track, and when halted, they cannot find the center of balance. Every time you halt, square up your equine and reward with the crimped oats that you keep in your fanny pack around your waist (other “treats” will not work the same way!). Then wait until they finish chewing so they can settle into their perfect balance unobstructed.
As they progess, they learn to bend to the arc of the turns through their rib cage, carry their body erect in good posture supported by stronger ab muscles that round the back upward as they learn to give to the “Elbow Pull” such that it remains loose. When it is tight, they are simply having difficulty holding their good posture and lean on the “Elbow Pull” much like a beginning ballet dancer must use the bar on the wall. Many people think that you do your equine a favor by not putting a bit in their mouth, but you cannot affect their posture without one. The animals that are not bitted and schooled in good posture can have all kinds of postural issues as they age. Chasity is falling in and out of good posture because she is only in Week Three of her training. As she improves, she will be able to keep the “Elbow Pull” loose for longer periods of time until it is always loose.
As this way of moving and standing becomes more habitual, so does their comfort in these positions. When they rest, they will stand 4-square instead of with splayed legs, or a hip dropped and a foot cocked. They are happy and deliberate in their movements and good posture continues to improve until this become their new habitual way of moving and resting. You will see marked changes in their play and rest patterns while in turnout.
Adding rails to the center of the pattern keeps them attentive, alert and teaches exact hoof placement (hoof-eye coordination). As their movement becomes more deliberate and balanced, their confidence is increased as is their trust in you for making them feel so comfortable in their own skin. They learn to wait for your command before moving. They look forward to their time with you and will gladly leave the herd to be with you! No more herdbound behaviors!
We build this foundation through the “Hourglass Pattern” first during leading training, then after obstacles and lunging training during Ground Driving, and finally Under Saddle. Each stage produces new challenges to the equine’s body and mind that add to their overall development in a logical, sequential and healthy way. Because of all these small steps, with gradual difficulty, it is easy and fun for both you and your equine to do. You are never over-faced with difficulty and you learn to appreciate the little victories along the way! Chasity was somewhat of a pushy, bully to start with, but she now waits patiently when I ask and navigates movement in much better posture, even after only three short weeks! More dramatic changes to Chasity’s body and mind are still to come! It’s not just about the end result. It’s all about the journey!
Wrangler came to us in 2017 and has had to be in turnout by himself because he was so rambunctious that he didn’t really fit into any of our turnout groups. He was always turned out next to “friend” like Sir Guy but never with anyone else. Mr. Moon was his stable buddy, but still, there was always a run fence between them. Mr. Moon recently turned 32 years old and developed a condition that required that he be put down. Wrangler’s “stable buddy” was now gone.
With the empty stall and run next to Wrangler, we now had space to consider getting him a new companion. I checked with my friend in Oklahoma and we found Chasity! What a lovely “Lady!” I was told she was a really FORWARD moving jennet with a lot of independence and enthusiasm. We thought she would be the perfect companion for Wrangler!
Chasity was delivered on 3-30-20 and the introductions began while she was in quarantine in a space where she could see Wrangler, but they could not reach each other. They played with excitement back and forth along the fence line for a bit! They were clearly VERY interested in each other! Love had begun to blossom!
The next day the vet came to do a health check on Chasity. She will need a lot of core strength work, but it will be a good thing to keep her occupied while she is in quarantine. Wrangler looked on with interest as the vet surveyed her condition. Two months passed before Chasity was finally put in Mr. Moon’s stall and run next to Wrangler…they eyed each other suspiciously…this was a lot closer than they had previously been!
Wrangler stuck his head through the panels to sniff and Chasity looked interested, then decided to play shy!
This only frustrated Wrangler and he began some very active male donkey antics which spooked her away from him.
She returned only to be spooked away again while Wrangler continued his antics and embarrassed himself by tripping!
Chasity thought maybe NOW he would calm down and Wrangler started up AGAIN! She thought…REALLY?!!!
I called Wrangler over and had a little talk with him about good manners and being polite to young ladies. He seemed to listen and said he was sorry. Chasity wasn’t sure if she believed him!
But after receiving their crimped oats reward for settling down…all was GOOD!!!
Selecting the right tack for your Longears is essential to success. I rigged a cob-sized English bridle for Chasity with a pony Eggbutt snaffle bit (4 ½-inch), an over-sized Warmblood brow band to accommodate her wider forehead and not pinch her ears, and normal nose band with an “O” ring installed underneath with a lead rope attached. The “Elbow Pull” is the correct length and is put in place over the crown piece of the bridle and wrapped with a halter fleece to prevent rubbing on her poll. She will begin her postural core strength leading exercises to correct her unbalanced posture, her lordosis (sway back) and the enlarged fat roll across her neck.
When first putting on the light-weight surcingle, I loosely tighten the girth at first to allow her to get used to the pressure around her middle.
Then, of course, a reward for standing still is in order and very much appreciated. And it’s always nice to receive a loving donkey head-hug!
After this appropriate show of affection, I politely ask her if she is ready to accept the bridle. Chasity truly appreciates my consideration for her.
When I put on the bridle, I make sure that her ears are protected as I pull the crown piece over her ears by covering them with the palm of my hand. Then, when it is in place, I just pull my hand away from it’s position. I center the “O” ring and lead rope underneath her chin and snugly tighten the nose band.
With Chasity’s enlarged neck, I felt it would be beneficial to use a neck sweat to help to shrink the fatty deposits along her crest during her workout. I then took up more slack on the surcingle girth and loosely adjusted the “Elbow Pull” on the right side.
Next, I went around to the left side to adjust the tension on the “Elbow Pull.” Next, I went to the front, straightened her head in alignment with her spine, and checked to make sure that she could not raise her head high enough to invert her neck and back. It is tight enough to encourage her to use her abs, and raise her back. This positively affects her sloppy tendency to relax her sway back and will bring it into proper posture.
Now we are prepared to begin work in the Hourglass Pattern in the indoor arena. We begin to walk in sync.
After the workout, we go back to the designated work station to untack. I carefully remove her bridle, sliding it over her ears with one pass, lifting it upward as it goes over the ears. Then I remove the surcingle and neck sweat, and give her a generous reward for her cooperation.
The next step is to take the tack into the tack room, wipe it down and wash the bit before hanging it back up on the wall. Taking care of your tack and equipment in this manner prevents dirt build-up, chafing on the animal and weakened tack and equipment. Then, once a month, we spend time in the tack room going over all of the tack and equipment with Leathernew™ to keep it all in good condition. The cabinets where we store harness is lined with cedar to prevent mold and mildew. Once everything is back in place, I return Chasity to her stall and run. When your tack and equipment fits properly and is appropriate for the activity, it promotes success and enhances your experience together!
We determined that Chasity had cataracts in both eyes, worse in the right eye than in the left. This made her hesitant to come to me at the stall door to be haltered. She wanted to come to me, but she just wasn’t sure. I insist that ALL my equines come to the stall door or gate to be haltered, so I knew I would have to train her and win her trust to get her to do it like all the others.
When she went away from the door, I simply stepped to the inside door of her stall and encougraged her to come to me from there, but she was still suspicious and ran to the far side of the pen. I just walked toward her and spoke in a calming fashion telling her to “Whoa.”
She began to get nervous and started to weave away from my approach, but before she could suck me into the back and forth along the fence, I stepped to the side, waved her into the stall and shut the door behind her.
She knew she was confined and went to the corner of the stall. I knew she could not see me very well with her right eye, so I opted to walk along the wall to her left side and approached her from the left side. Before attempting to put on her halter, I told her what a good girl she was and offered a handful of oats. I allowed her to finish chewing them before I put on the halter.
I was careful about putting on the halter slowly so I would not startle her and then gave her a reward of more oats for standing still. She was grateful and again, I waited until she was finished chewing before asking anything more from her.
Then I asked her to square up with equal weight over all four feet. This would become the protocol EVERY time she stops. I want to change her posture and begin to increase her core strength in good postural balance. The repetition of this movement will change her habitual way of standing.
I rewarded her again and then took off the halter while standing by the open door and watched her chew.
I rewarded her for NOT forging through the door, waited for her to finish chewing and then put the halter back on.
We then turned around and walked to the back of the stall to open the door I had closed, did another turn and exited the stall. She will soon tire of me going into the pen and chasing her into the stall. One thing that is also VERY important in halter training is the type of halter that you use. Although they do provide leverage, rope halters have pressure points everywhere there is a knot and the biggest knot is right underneath their ear. Try putting your index finger underneath your ear and ask yourself how long you could stand it just being there? Now put the palm of your hand under your ear. How does that feel? Nylon webbed halters lay flat against their face and do not cause distractions like rope halters will. The equine can focus their attention 100% on YOU and not be distracted by subtle pressure points!
I would much rather encourage my animals to comply happily and willingly than try to use any kind of forcible leverage with them. I have found it to be unnecessary. Building a willing bond between you prevents them from becoming herdbound and being sour about leaving their friends. It enhances the relationship between you so they really WANT to go with you. This particular routine gave Chasity an idea of what to expect and resulted in her coming to the stall door willingly when I call her after only two times of having to proceed this way…completely resistance free. She is a very intelligent girl and learns quickly despite the disadvantage of cataracts. I have other equines with eyesight issues that have been successfully trained the same way. The key is patience, understanding and a careful, respectful and sensible approach.