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Getting down to your mini’s eye level so that he can make eye contact with you will foster good behavior and produce a willing relationship of trust between you. Learning how to begin the relationship with your miniature equine in a positive and natural way, and setting reasonable boundaries for behavior, discourages striking, jumping on you and other undesirable and abrupt behaviors that are common when working with miniature equines. The results of using this safe approach to miniature training have been amazing! My minis are always calm, happy to cooperate, play safely and continue to learn! Learn more about this gentle and effective way to manage and train YOUR mini on my website at www.luckythreeranch.com under TRAINING and in the STORE.
By Meredith Hodges
People have often asked me how on earth can only three people—my daughter, my husband and myself—manage to prepare and show as many as 18 head of mules and donkeys for one show?! They say that we must be crazy, and maybe we are a little crazy, but a few simple rules of organization have made this possible.
The first consideration is the grooming of the animals themselves. Anyone who has had to body clip an animal knows how tedious and time-consuming this can be. Mule and donkey hair does not appear to grow back as quickly, nor as radically, as does horse hair, so you can clip your mule, or donkey, as far as 2-3 weeks in advance of your show and do touch up work just before the show. If you have no shows until summer, you may want to body clip in mid-April anyway. It is at this time that the winter hair begins to shed and the summer hair starts to come in. If you clip off the winter hair and blanket him for the remainder of the spring, the hair that grows in will be much more manageable than the heavy winter hair and will greatly reduce grooming time before the show.
Once the heavier coat is eliminated, a weekly grooming will keep his coat nicely maintained. Daily grooming before a show, or every other day, is even better. Each time you groom him before riding, check and clip as needed the muzzle hairs, around the eyes and ears, and around the coronet bands. Leave the hairs inside the ears to prevent irritation from bugs and flies, but trim the outside edges and backs of the ears. An ounce of corn oil in his feed daily will assure a healthy sheen in his coat on show day without the use of artificial highlighters. Trimming, or shoeing, your mule on a regular six-eight week schedule will assure that his feet will not need attending at the last minute. A routine vaccination, deworming, Coggins testing and a permanent brand inspection will make sure he is ready for transport to any show anywhere at any time. Then, all that remains to be done right before the show is minor clipping, bathing, and polishing hooves.
Each individual mule, or donkey, should have his own personal show halter and bridle for convenience. Driving animals should each have their own set of harness. This will help to reduce the time between tack changes while at the show.
Dress rehearsals before the show at home are quite beneficial. Prepare as if you are about to enter each class, one at a time. First, pick the clothing you will need to wear and store it in a designated place in your house. You do not have to actually wear them for the rehearsal. As you pick out the items, take note of the things that need to be cleaned or polished, and set them to the side of the rest of your other clothes.
Then, tack up your animal, checking each piece of equipment to make sure that it is in working order. Go ahead and practice the class. Then, as you unpack your mule, set the tack aside from the rest in your tack room for cleaning later. Do this for each animal in each class. Your animals will do better at the show if they get plenty of rest before the show, so it is wise to spend the day before the show cleaning your tack, clothes, and equipment. Before you begin to clean, load all the items into your trailer that are all ready to go without cleaning. Then, as you clean the remaining items, load them directly into the trailer as you finish them.
When the basic gear for you and your animal is loaded, make a checklist for feed, buckets, hoses, brushes, forks, brooms, and shovels, etc., that you will need for general care, load them, and check them off. When you have finished, lay out all the items that you will need for transport (i.e. sheets, blankets, shipping boots, etc.), so they are easily available. If you proceed in this manner, the risk of forgetting any important items is minimized. It is best to make sure that your trailer is fully loaded (except the animals) the night before you leave as this gives you overnight to think of anything you might have missed. Items such as your ice chest can be left until morning, or last minute, provided that you put them in a highly visible spot with a list of what is to be put in attached. Do not try to rely on your memory, as it will be clouded by the excitement and anticipation of the show.
If you are taking a number of mules and donkeys to the show, it is wise to bathe with soap at home the day before; then, cover the animal with a sheet or blanket and leg wraps. The day of the show, you would then only need to rinse, or vacuum, any excess dirt. This will minimize grooming time at the show.
Post the show schedule where you will be tacking up for each class and organize your clothing and equipment such that it is ready to go and easily accessible. Once the show actually begins, you will not have time to go hunting for misplaced items. Take note of your clothing changes and wear things that are easily changed. For instance, if your Western classes are before your English classes, you can wear your breeches underneath your Western slacks and chaps. Changing from English attire to Driving and Side Saddle attire is easily done by wearing your English clothing, then, simply change your headgear and add a lap rug for driving, or an apron for Side Saddle. Changes of your boots are pretty much optional, as English boots are easily hidden beneath properly fitting Western chaps and are appropriate footwear for English, Driving and Side Saddle.
If classes are spaced fairly close together and you are using more than one animal, it is wise to tack up the other animals ahead of time so they are ready to go. If you are using only one saddle for more than one animal, the other animals can still be bridled with the halter slipped over it, so they can be tied and waiting. Be sure to tie up the reins so they will not be chewed or stepped on. If you are using the same mule throughout the show, tacking and stripping should not be too time-consuming if your equipment is well organized.
Shows should be fun and exciting, but it can easily turn into a nightmare when things are out of place and chaotic. Make your motel and stabling reservations early and leave for the show well ahead of schedule to allow for breakdowns or other unforeseen emergencies. By all means, bring friends to help you, but give them a briefing and a list of jobs they can do. They won’t be much help if they have to keep asking what to do the day of the show! If you are going any distance at all, have your truck and trailer checked over thoroughly before you leave. There is nothing more frustrating than a major breakdown on the roadside with a trailer full of animals!
In summary, with routine grooming, farrier care, vet care, regular Coggins testing during the show season and permanent brand inspections, you can greatly reduce your show preparation time. Dress rehearsals, individual tack for each animal and organized loading will assure that all your tack and equipment will be readily available. Advanced motel and stabling reservations will afford you and your animals much needed rest when you arrive. Having your truck and trailer checked before you leave will make sure that you arrive in plenty of time. And, organization of tack and equipment when you do arrive will heighten the chances for an enjoyable and relaxing show!
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.
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Miniature horses, donkeys and mules all have one thing in common; everyone else is taller than they are! As the saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul so it is understandable that they would become anxious if they are unable to look into a person’s eyes to decide whether they are friend or foe. With safety always as my first priority, I work with my minis from a lower position whenever it’s safe to do so. That way, I can make eye contact with them, and I make certain they are always lavishly rewarded with an oats reward for their compliance. You can make fun of me if you want to, but another thing that is important is the way you talk to them. Baby talk INVITES their interest where a perpetually firm voice, or a clicker, does not invite the same kind of intimacy. The results of using this safe approach to miniature have been amazing! My minis are always calm and happy to cooperate and learn! Learn more about this gentle and effective way to manage and train YOUR mini on my website at www.luckythreeranch.com under TRAINING and in the STORE.
It was a perfect hot day for Wrangler’s yearly summer bath! We tried taking a “selfie” with a Canon camera and telephoto lens…not too bad for our first try!
He’s a real ham! He loves to smile for the camera and eat oats from the fanny pack.
Just tell him to and he perks his ears for the pictures! Wrangler is now an 11 year old gelding and softens my loss of Little Jack Horner in 2014!
Wrangler is so much like L.J.H. it’s crazy!
Roll had a good massage today! He seems to really enjoy the new Equisport massager. You can always tell when your equine enjoys his massage because he will “talk” to you along the way. Notice how Roll is pushing his hip into the massager in the first photo? That means, “Feels so good… go deeper!”
His left hind is often a bit sore from his twisting in the right hind, so he isn’t too sure about it at first, but the right hip is a different story and he relaxes. He even slid his hind leg slightly forward to allow Joanne to massage deeper.
It seemed that the left shoulder is a bit sore and he gives her a stern look of “Be careful now.”
Joanne spoke back to Roll with “I hear you! So we’ll go to the other side and move on to something else.” Roll responded with, “Oh, yes, this is a better spot!” as he relaxed his hind foot and leaned into the massager again.
Roll rounded his neck to look back to her and said, “Are you wearing a fanny pack full of oats today?”
Joanne responded with, “Nope, sorry! How about an eyeball massage?”
Roll leaned into the massager and went to town pushing his eye into the massager while Joanne just held it steady. He was in seventh heaven!
When it came to his ears, Roll went into a trance and enjoyed every minute of his full face massage!
Then she went across his back and over his rear end to finish. Roll looked at her as if to say, “Thanks for a GREAT massage…feels soooo good!”
After Rock’s death in 2011, Roll spent the last 7 years in turnout alone with only his two mini donkey friends, Spuds and Augie, across the fence from him.
The best part of the weekend following his massage was that 26-year-old Roll finally got a friend in turnout! Billy Bad Ass (age 25) came to us a month ago. We thought the two gelding boys would enjoy each other as they are pretty close in age and it proved to be true!
Roll was truly happy to have a brand new buddy!
Roll needed another core tune-up today, but every time we take him out, we need to document everything in photos and video. Normally we would work in the hourglass pattern, but we wanted better pictures than just the arena sand and fences so we decided to do some ground driving today in the 5-acre pasture instead.
I had to tighten the reins that were tied up to the surcingle because he thought it might be nice to just lower his head and graze…that was not in the program!
He was light in the bridle and easily maneuverable. I was glad to be able to walk behind and see how his rear end was moving. It was VERY wobbly from both hips and could not walk a straight line.
He will most definitely need more chiropractic work and massage going forward. I think regular core exercises are in order, once a week in order to build up his rear end bulk muscle again. We did a serpentine through the trees …
… and then left the field along the fence line to help him to stay straight. That should help to stabilize the rear, but he IS a 26 year-old with a very bad start to his life for the first 18 years, so I need to keep expectations realistic.
He lacked impulsion for the first part of the ground driving, but was beginning to engage the hind quarters a bit more and that added enough impulsion for him to go forward in a straighter line than he did at first as he traveled along the fence line.
Although I had tightened the reins coming from the bridle, Roll still managed to lower his head sideways and grab a few blades of the taller grass on the way out!!! He cracks me up!
He did remarkably better on the gravel road back to the Tack Barn. I did have to keep reminding him to keep his body straight, which he did very easily.
When we got back to the Tack Barn he drove right in and parked himself, squaring up upon my request through the lines. What a good boy!!!
Wrangler has almost completely shed out and during my last weekly grooming, I discovered a small sarcoid on his left forearm and decided to consult with my veterinarian, Greg Farrand. Wrangler munched in the fanny pack while we talked.
Dr. Farrand Carefully inspected the sarcoid and determined that it was not a candidate for removal because of it’s precarious location. There was no way to grab loose skin around it like there was with prior sarcoids on other animals.
I shaved the area around the sarcoid so we could get a good look at it and so it would absorb the treatment the most efficiently.
In 2011, Rock had a sarcoid on his neck in front of the withers where there was a lot of fatty tissue and the skin was loose enough to pull the sarcoid away from the body. So, we shaved his neck and removed the sarcoid with surgery. We then had it biopsied to find it was not a serious sarcoid (Better to be safe than sorry!) and it eventually just went away. In the eighties, if we removed a sarcoid, it would have had a follow-up of injections to be completely rid of it. In the nineties, veterinarians discovered another way to treat sarcoids that involved taking a piece of the biopsied sarcoid and reintroducing it as an implant in the neck to prompt an immunity response. Before he could remove one of three sarcoids the from Lucky Three Eclipse, he rubbed one and tore it open. Before we had the chance to biopsy one of the sarcoids for an implant, as if a miracle, his immune system was stimulated by HIM, kicked in and all three sarcoids just disappeared…and no, they were not anything else.
Lucky Three Cyclonealso developed a sarcoid on his jaw which we successfully treated with surgery since it also was in a fatty area where we could pinch the skin around it easily. No follow up was necessary…just stitches removal.
Since Wrangler’s sarcoid was in such a delicate area, we opted to use a topical approach with Xterra, applied with a Q-Tip.
We will apply the Xterra once a day for a week, then stop for a week.
Then we will resume applying the Xterra for another week, stop after a week again and then see how it is progressing.
We will continue like this until it is gone. Xterra is surely a better way than the way we had to treat these in the eighties! Wrangler will be sure to keep you posted on his progress!
Massage for equinesis now used more often as an alternative or complementary healing process toward health and fitness.
Simple massage can prevent various injuries throughout your animal’s lifetime. Don’t wait for obvious injury to occur—preventive massage increases the length of the muscle fibers, taking pressure off the joints.
When the muscles are allowed to contract and expand to their full length, they are able to absorb important nutrients that reduce fatigue. Massage also increases blood flow, which helps the body flush harmful toxins, such as lactic acid, that build up from normal use.
Massage aids in reprogramming the nervous system to break patterns that can cause atrophy or knotted tissue. If you are unsure as to the severity of an injury, consult your vet!
At Lucky Three Ranch, I have found that therapeutic equine massage promotes relaxation and reduces stress. It also stimulates healing after an injury and provides significant relief from pain as it did when Roll had White Line Disease in 2016-17.
Massage can reduce muscle spasms, and greater joint flexibility and range of motion can be achieved through massage and stretching—resulting in increased ease and efficiency of movement.
Always be aware of your animal’s reaction to pressure and respond accordingly. Watch his eyes and ears. As you work look for signs of sensitivity toward the affected area such as biting, raising and lowering the head, moving into or away from pressure, contraction of muscles from your pressure, tossing his head, swishing his tail, picking up his feet, changes in his breathing or wrinkles around his mouth.
If your animal is heavy in the bridle, if he tips his head to one side, or if he has difficulty bending through the neck, he is exhibiting stiffness in this area.
If he moves away, he is telling you that you are exerting more pressure than he can comfortably endure, and you should go back to using your fingertips.
A raised head and perked ears may indicate sensitivity. He is asking for lighter pressure, so learn to pay attention to the things your animal tells you about his body.
Massage therapy should never be harmful. For the sake of safety and comfort, do not attempt massage therapy for rashes, boils, open wounds, severe pain, high fevers, cancers, blood clots, severe rheumatoid arthritis, swollen glands, broken bones, direct trauma or if there is any chance of spreading a lymph or circulatory disease, such as blood poisoning. Avoid direct pressure on the trachea.
It is easiest to find sore spots and muscles when your animal is warmed up, so after a ride is a good time to do massage therapy and passive range-of-motion exercises.
Each time you ride, take the time to quickly go over your animal and assess his sensitive areas: check his range of motion to detect stiffness in the joints. Paying this kind of attention to his body will enhance his athletic performance and provide him with a wonderfully relaxing reward. Give your equine the preventive care that he deserves to make your way to a mutually satisfying relationship.
“This vacuum sure feel good, Spuds!”
“Yeah, Augie, but why is Roll here with us?”
“Not sure, Spuds, but she’s putting on our driving gear.
We haven’t done that in a very long time! Can you tell where we are going?””
“Not really! I can see underneath, but Roll still makes a better door than a window! Is he going with us?!”
“It looks more like we are going with HIM, Spuds!”
“Oh look, Spuds! It’s the hourglass pattern! It must be ground driving today!”
She just got done leading Roll through the pattern and now you get to ground drive the pattern. Why do I have to go last?!
“Because that’s just the way it is, Augie! Just stay cool and chill while we do this thing in sync. I love to see if she can match my tiny steps!”
“One…two…three…four. She’s doing pretty good, Augie!”
Finally, it’s MY turn now, Spuds…one…two…three…four!”
“You watch, Spuds! I’m putting my whole body into it”
“Apparently she liked it! That was really fun and EASY!”
“Ah Gee, Spuds, do we have to go back already!”
“I don’t know about you, Augie, but I’m ready for supper!”
“You’re always ready for supper. That’s why you are so PORTLY, PUDS!”
Roll has been off for quite some time during this crazy winter weather that we have been having and due to the extra office work that I have taken on. Today we had an opportunity with warm temperatures, but avoided the mud from the snow by working indoors. First, I groomed Roll with a curry and then the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner is a great tool to promote circulation to the muscles over the body.
Johnson’s Baby Oil in the mane and tail help to protect the hair from the harsh winter weather, drying mud and prevents other equines from chewing on them.
Today we used my Kieffer dressage saddle that seems to fit most of my mules and Roll included with a girth extender. Then I put on the “Elbow Pull” and adjust it so that it helps him to keep his good posture throughout his lesson.
The “Elbow Pull” only prevents him from raising his head so high that he inverts his neck and hollows his back. Otherwise, it affords him full range of motion upward (to that point), downward to the ground and as far as he can stretch his head and neck to both sides.
We went to the indoor arena and he stood like a soldier while I closed the gate and prepped for our lesson in the hourglass pattern. It is extraordinary how core strength stays with these guys even when they are off work for long periods of time.
This is not true with bulk muscle or an animal that has not had the benefit of core strength postural development. The core strength that we develop in good posture is sustained by the equines themselves in their daily routines even when they do not receive forced exercise as long as they continue to move in good posture and rest four-square. Equines that rest with uneven foot placement, or cock a hind foot and drop a hip are not balanced in good posture with a strong core.
When saddling, we do it from the left side (near side) as done normally, but to keep things balanced, we unsaddle from the right side (off side) and pull the saddle back onto the rear end to loosen the crupper and make it easy to remove. When the equine is routinely handled like this, they learn to relax and stand quietly because they know what to expect.
It is amazing to see how much Roll’s attitude has changed in the eight years he has been with us. When he first arrived, he would snort at everything and hide behind Rock. He is now a happy, confident and affectionate 26 year old, 18 hand draft mule. He enjoys his lessons and never forgets a thing!
Trying new things is now done with much less effort and thus, much less drama! Yes, Roll is a bit obese with atrophied bulk muscle right now, but with routine lessons, he will be back to peak condition in no time. An equine that possesses a good foundation built with core strength in mind will be in a position to excel in all kinds of equine activities…because they are never over-whelmed.
Today, Chad brought Roll up to the work station. On October 23, 2017, I had found a nodule on Roll’s lower right jaw line. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand came out right away to check it to determine what kind of growth it was.
We have had sarcoids in the past, but this did not seem to be a sarcoid, but rather, a small cyst that was not attached to the bone. Since it was not attached, I made the decision to get it removed before it had an opportunity to become attached to the bone.
Lucky Three Sundowner had a similar growth on his jaw that WAS attached to the bone and it finally grew to such a size that it ultimately obstructed his ability to eat and he had to be put down at the age of 35 years.
We were preparing to vaccinate the herd, so we opted to wait on Roll’s surgery until after the vaccinations and hoped for a freeze that would kill all the insects. The exposed wound would have a better chance at healing in the colder weather without insect interference. We had to wait for quite a while since our winter weather proved to be unusually warm until today, December 22, when we finally opted to do the surgery.
Greg gave Roll a sedative to help him to relax. I shaved the area heavily covered with winter hair with my #10 blades and then Greg stepped in and shaved it closer with his veterinary-gauged blades.
He then injected the site with a numbing agent and prepped it for the surgery.
The cyst was neatly contained and unattached below the surface of the skin. He carefully cut it away from the skin and was left with a perfectly round cyst that fell out easily.
When cut in half, the cyst revealed granular tissue in the center that is indicative of some foreign agent in the body that was surrounded by tissue that just never abscessed. We will send off the cyst to be tested to make sure there are no further issues to treat.
Greg carefully and neatly sutured the skin along his jaw line back together.
Greg gave me instructions about the care of the wound. Basically, we did not have to do anything, but let it heal. I will remove the sutures in 10-14 days.
Roll was still a bit drowsy when I took him back to his pen. He will not get food for at least two hours after the surgery to keep him from choking. He should heal nicely.
I took a sleepy Roll back to his pen. By tomorrow, he probably won’t even know what happened and he was such a trooper through it all! I am so glad my mules are trained the way they are…not a bit of trouble!
10/26/17: It is MULE APPRECIATION DAY today and the perfect time for an update on Roll! Roll has recovered nicely from his bout with White Line Disease in 2016. He had no workouts during that year, but surprisingly, he retained his core strength and balance throughout 2016 and came into 2017 still in good posture and balance. This leads me to believe that core strength does not necessarily deteriorate as rapidly as does bulk muscle.
Roll had his most recent “leading for core strength postural workout” on May 23rd this year. However since then, I have been unable to pursue any more lessons during the entire summer due to business obligations.
He was scheduled for his regular farrier visits on May 18th, July 14th and on September 21st. During that time, he also had two chiropractic visits and was doing very well with only minor adjustments needed.
On October 17th, Roll had a short ride with Brandy in the Lucky Three Ranch North Pasture after being off all summer. He was rather disgusted with Brandy after she unseated her rider, Bailey, at the beginning of the ride by spooking at a shadow on the ground. Roll did great although I could tell he was a bit stiff from the onset, but loosened up and gained impulsion by the end of the ride.
Roll had his last massage on July 13 and continues to thrive at the age of 26 years old. On October 25, we discovered a sarcoid-like tumor on his right jaw, x-rayed it and will do a removal following next week’s vaccinations.
After being off all summer, I thought he did very well and this only reinforced my belief that core muscle really does sustain itself once the animal has spent at least two years doing very specific core muscle, postural exercises.
We feel pretty blessed here at Lucky Three Ranch and want to share our good wishes for safe and happy holidays with you and your family. Merry Christmas!