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MULE CROSSING: Judging a Show

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By Meredith Hodges

Being asked to judge a show is both an honor and a tremendous responsibility. Just being asked to judge indicates that you have a reputation for being a knowledgeable and respected person in your field of expertise. Accepting the invitation to judge means that you are willing to share this knowledge and expertise with people who may, or may not, accept IT or you! Exhibitors can say that each show reflects only one “man’s” (judge’s) opinion, so not to worry if you don’t do well. As an exhibitor and a judge, this bothers me a little.

If the basics of Horsemanship, or Mulemanship, remain constant, then the consistency among judges should also remain fairly consistent with only a little variation from judge to judge. The variation in placements should be determined by the performance of the exhibitors and not by the personal opinions of the judge. The judge should be a catalyst toward better learning and performance. He or she should try to make their knowledge readily available to inquiring exhibitors and be diplomatic enough about its delivery to inspire and encourage exhibitors to improve their skills. In turn, the exhibitors will be better equipped to exhibit their animals in a favorable light to the public at large and to grow into knowledgeable experts themselves with time and experience.

A good judge serves three major interests: that of his own conscience, that of his exhibitors, and that of the spectators. He must know all the rules and regulations pertaining to the classes to be judged and be willing to select the best animals for the purpose described by the conditions of the classes. He should be objective in his decisions and be able to back them up with reasonable and knowledgeable explanations that will inspire exhibitors to work harder and learn more. He should have a congenial attitude that invites exhibitors to question and learn freely without intimidation.

Judges are human too, and for this reason judges are restricted from judging people and animals that are in some manner closely related to him. This enables the judge to maintain his objectivity and adds more credence to his final decisions. In my opinion, judges should assist in helping exhibitors realize their full potential by helping them to improve their skills through fair, just, and educated decisions. A good judge needs to serve the idea of better learning for the sake of health, wealth, happiness, and above all, safety! A judge can be the catalyst toward learning and self-satisfaction, or he can be the catalyst toward defeat and discouragement. I prefer to be the former, encouraging exhibitors to come to me with their questions and also encouraging them to learn from each other. In our Longears industry, the ideal scenario would be to have exhibitors work at home and with each other perfecting their Mulemanship skills, bring those exhibitions of skills to a show to be judged, then return home with a feeling of accomplishment and more things to work on until the next show and the next judge. To perpetuate the learning process and to continue to learn and improve himself should be a judge’s main objective.

The Mule Skinner’s Classic held June 30-July 1 in Haines, Oregon, was a good example about what I am talking. Never before have I encountered an entire division of youth with such a thirst for knowledge and a desire for good sportsmanship, no doubt inspired by the adults. Application of good Mulemanship skills was prevalent and the mules and donkeys reflected this exceptional conditioning, care and handling. The show itself was obviously handled carefully and with attention to detail, leaving little margin for error or dispute. It is not really too surprising that a group such as this was able to elicit tremendous support from sponsors in their area. Their hard work and hospitality is to be appreciated and congratulated. It said a lot for the kind of people that we have in our industry – that we can all have a good time learning and showing together with our marvelous Longears, amateurs and professionals, exhibitors and judges alike! The whole idea is that each and every one of us has something to offer and something we can learn. To attend a show and to learn something new is to return home renewed and fulfilled, even though you haven’t won. To win without this mutual admiration, goodwill and learning is just another hollow victory!

There were no losers in Haines, only sixth, seventh, and eighth, etc. places! Those who weren’t doing as well as they had expected didn’t make excuses or try to assign undue blame. They realized that everyone has bad days and unforeseen disasters from time to time and it doesn’t mean you’re a lousy rider or trainer, or that you have a lousy Longears. Those who had mishaps or misfortunes were readily comforted by other friends and competitors. The ambiance of the entire weekend show was one of learning and camaraderie. If we can keep this perspective in our industry, perhaps we can avoid the politics that have nearly destroyed the horse industry and continue to enjoy the overwhelming potential of our longeared friends while improving our own skills and allowing ourselves personal growth.

Everyone learned something at the Oregon Mr. Longears Mule Skinner Classic, including the judge! Dick and Debbie Cress and Alan and Elaine Case are to be heartily congratulated for their exceptional efforts in putting on a successful show and for taking wonderful care of this judge! Thank you to all of you who gave your time and efforts to work on the show and make it run as smoothly as it did! Thank you Larry and Fran Howe for coming with me from Colorado to help judge the packing classes and for helping to Ring Steward and to Gary Hodges for his fine photography! My deepest congratulations go to all the exhibitors for a superb effort. Keep up the good work! Thanks to our announcer Roger Harrison. And a very special congratulations to all of our Mule Skinner Classic Champions!

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

© 1990, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Longears Music Videos: Driving

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MULE CROSSING: Handling Your Mule’s Ears

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By Meredith Hodges

Just how sensitive is a mule about having his ears touched? If a mule is handled often and properly, he should be no more sensitive about his ears than he is about any other part of his body. However, if he is rarely handled, mishandled or handled roughly, he can become quite sensitive about any part of his body and in particular, his ears. Bearing this in mind, take the time to desensitize your mule to touch and handling by paying attention to how he likes to be touched in any given area, and then by being polite about handling those more sensitive areas. This is an important part of any training program, both for general management and for safety purposes. This is the heart of imprinting.

The mule that has an aversion to having his ears handled poses a problem with management convenience, but more than that, he can be a safety hazard in many situations. Here are some examples of lack of desensitization causing inconvenience and possibly, a dangerous situation. Inconvenient: Your mule does not want his ears touched, so you have to disassemble his bridle each time you put it on him. Dangerous: Should you accidentally touch his ears while putting the bridle on him, he could possibly thrash his head around and knock you silly! Inconvenient: If you get into a difficult spot on a trail where you have to dismount and move quickly, you may be unable to take the reins over your mule’s head in order to safely lead him. Dangerous: While you try to get the reins over his head without touching his ears, your mule could inadvertently knock you down or lose his balance and fall down while trying to avoid you. The moral is this: If your mule is to be a completely safe riding animal, he must be appropriately desensitized all over his head and body—including his ears—and trust that you will not harm him.

Desensitization should be humane and considerate—never abusive. When we say we want to desensitize an animal, it simply means that we want him to become accustomed to touch and handling all over his body, particularly in areas such as his head, legs and rear quarters, where he is apt to be the most sensitive. An animal that has not been politely desensitized will tend to react more violently to touch. When properly teaching your mule to become desensitized, your touch should be presented in a pleasurable way, so that your mule not only learns to tolerate it, but to actually enjoy it and look forward to it. An old-time method such as “sacking out” is a somewhat crude technique that is used to desensitize an animal by tying the mule in a corner where he cannot flee, and then flinging a tarp or large canvas all over his body, including the head. Often times, it creates more problems than it can solve because it is rarely done politely. A mule that has been “sacked” about the head can actually become more sensitive because this inconsiderate approach teaches him that humans cannot be trusted. He perceives that they will fling things over his head, blinding him and causing him anxiety for no apparent reason. The mule will stand still only because he cannot move, but if he is given the opportunity to flee or fight back, he will more than likely do so. Thus, the old “obstinate mule” myths are actually most often the result of some fault of the trainer, and not the mule. Sacking out more politely will eliminate these kinds of potential bad habits.

Desensitizing a mule that is sensitive about his ears is a long-term process. First, you must maintain a firm, quiet and tolerant attitude. Nothing your mule does should make you angry enough to lose your temper or your patience. Make sure your mule is tacked with a stout, non-breakable halter and rope. While stroking his nose in a polite and soothing manner, ask your mule to come forward, one step at a time, to a stout hitch rail. If he won’t come easily, just snub your lead on the hitch rail so he cannot go backwards, and keep coaxing him forward until he comes. Take up the slack with each step and then hold until he takes another step forward toward the hitch rail. Wait as long as it takes for him to gain confidence enough to come forward. Do not get into a pulling or pushing match with him—you will only create resistance in him and perpetuate avoidance behaviors—and he will win because he is stronger and he weighs more!

When his nose is finally up to the rail, run your lead around the post and come through the noseband on his halter and around the post again. Then tie him off snugly, so that his nose is tied as closely as possible to the hitch rail, making sure there is no slack. Now begin softly stroking your mule’s nose, using gentle yet firm strokes. Next, work your way up his forehead, and finally toward his ears. NOTE: Remember to use soft, gentle yet firm strokes, going with the grain of the hair and never against it. Do not “pat” your mule—it’s too threatening.

Let the tips of your fingers find the base of your mule’s ear (away from the open side) and stroke upward, toward the tip. At this point, he will probably thrash his head back and forth to avoid your touch—just remain slow, deliberate, reassuring and gentle about your approach. When he has allowed you to stroke the ear, even if for only a couple of seconds, leave your hand resting on the ear and use your free hand to feed him an oats reward. Don’t take your hand away from the ear until he is chewing calmly and no longer worried about your hand on his ear. Do this with each ear no more than one or two times each session and then go to his shoulder and work your hand in a massaging fashion over his neck, toward his ears. While your thumb cradles an ear, let your fingers move over his poll. With your thumb, gently stroke upward on the back of his ear, while leaving the rest of your hand over his poll. If he jerks away, just keep going back to the same position of thumb cradling the ear and fingers moving over the poll.

When he will tolerate this, you can then cradle the ear in your fingers and with your thumb, begin to gently rub upward on the inside of the edge of his ear. Do not go too deep into the ear at first. After he is calm with this, you can begin rubbing downward into the ear with your fingers, while cradling the ear in your opposite hand, being very careful not to go too deep. Watch his eyes and allow him to “tell” you how deep to go. If it feels good, his eyebrows will raise and flicker. If he doesn’t like it, he will simply jerk his head away and that is your cue to lighten up. Most mules love to have the insides of their ears rubbed, so find the areas inside your mule’s ear that actually give him pleasure. Each individual mule will be different.

In the next step, you will be in the same position, but you will close your hand around your mule’s ear and hold it with just enough pressure that he cannot jerk your hand loose. Do not hold too tight, grab or pull the ear—just maintain a quiet, gentle hold on the ear and go with his movement. If he pulls away, just slightly tighten your grip on the ear until he stops pulling and then lighten your grip again. Tighten only when he pulls away, and then immediately release when he stops resisting—tighten and loosen your grip as needed, and be sure to follow his movement. He will soon learn that if he doesn’t fight it, there is no discomfort. Never tightly grip his ear and do not tighten your grip any more than you need to in order to hold onto the ear—you never want to induce pain. Once your mule is tolerant of you holding his ear in this fashion, you can introduce the clippers, should you desire, using the same guidelines of tightening gently yet firmly when he pulls and releasing when he submits. However, introduce the clippers only after he has completely accepted you holding his ears.

Introduce the bridle by holding your right hand flat on the poll between your mule’s ears, and by using your left hand to raise the crown piece over his nose and up to his forehead. Slide your right hand down his forehead a little to meet your left hand. When your hands meet, transfer the crown piece into your right hand, insert the bit with your left hand, and then raise the crown piece up to the base of his ears. Slowly transfer the crown strap back to your left hand. Gently cup the fingers of your right hand around the base of his right ear. Now bend the ear forward and under the crown piece and slide it over your hand (and the ear) into its position behind the ear. While keeping your palm firmly on your mule’s poll, slowly move to the left ear and repeat the same movements.
The bridle should now be in place and you can reward your mule. Do not put on and remove the bridle any more than once per session. Your mule needs to clearly know that this is not just some annoying past time you have discovered, but an act of necessity. He will soon learn that if he cooperates, it won’t take too long. Once the bridle is on, get right to the business at hand and forget the ears for a while.

When you return with the difficult mule, tie him as before, stand directly in front of him (with the hitch rail between you) and gently remove the bridle with both hands lifting and sliding the crown piece over both of his ears simultaneously, so there is little pressure on his ears as it slides over them. If he still holds the bit in his mouth, hesitate for a minute when the bridle is off his ears and allow HIM to drop the bit. Removing the bridle this way will help to avoid chafing the ears and will avoid the bit hitting his teeth before you remove the bridle the rest of the way. Always removing the bridle in this fashion will encourage him to drop his head and will prevent bad habits such as pulling away or flinging his head.

When your mule gets used to having his ears handled and being bridled while snubbed and haltered, you can then begin dropping the halter and loosely tying him while he is being bridled. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks before you can drop the halter—this will vary depending on the individual mule, so just be patient. Your quiet, gentle perseverance will eventually win out and your mule’s ears will be desensitized and quite manageable. After you have mastered his outer ear and inner ear, you may find that your mule actually enjoys having his inner ear stroked or scratched, and bridling becomes easy. Integrating washing his face and cleaning his nostrils and ears during the grooming process should further help him to accept having his ears handled. Handling your mule’s ears can actually become a truly pleasurable experience for your Longears.

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

© 1992, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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MULE CROSSING: Showing in Harness

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By Meredith Hodges

Now that you have spent many months teaching your mule to drive and he is doing so well, you have decided that it might be fun to show him in harness. So, what are that kinds of things that a judge looks for in a driving class of mules? Well, it’s basically the same as it is with horses.

The first and foremost consideration for a judge is your mule’s manners. His manners will exhibit just how safe your mule is for driving. As with people, a judge can get an overall impression from the expression on your mule’s face! An attentive and pleasant expression is definitely preferred. The expression on his face will reflect his overall comfort within a situation. If he is comfortable, he responds to minimal aids calmly, confidently, yet promptly. He should reinback easily upon request, and stand quietly at the halt with all four legs squared. His ears will be relaxed, but attentively turned to the driver most of the time. Ears that are rapidly in motion indicate anxiety and distraction.

A major contributing factor in your mule’s overall manners is his conditioning. If your mule has been brought along with a carefully planned exercise program, his muscle growth and strength will increase with little or no stress, as it should in most athletes. The mule that is conditioned in this way will have the strength to pull while maintaining a smooth, steady and effortless gait. He is comfortable in his work. Properly conditioned mules will not exhibit the tenseness that comes from overexertion, a tenseness that can inhibit his entire performance.

How can you tell if your mule is well-conditioned? Touching his body with your fingers at the neck, shoulders, barrel, loins, stifles and rump can tell you a lot. These muscles should be hard and not mushy to the touch. Standing behind your mule, you should begin to see considerable gaskin development. A driving class lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes. If you condition your mule at the medium trot for 20 minutes straight, without any sweating or breathing hard, he should be able to handle the class with no problem. Another helpful hint is to condition him on uneven ground. Then, when he performs on the flat ground, it will seem a lot easier to him. Remember to condition slowly to avoid overexertion, muscle soreness or injury. If you condition your mule beyond what is expected in the class, you won’t have to worry about him being fit for class! And, as long as he is so well conditioned, be sure he is well-groomed as well.

Your mule’s way of going is another important consideration for the judge. In the driving class, your mule will be asked for the walk, collected trot, working trot and the reinback. The walk should be “regular and unconstrained, energetic, but calm with even and determined steps with distinctively marked four equally spaced beats.” In the collected trot, “the neck is raised, thus enabling the shoulders to move with greater ease in all directions, the hocks well-engaged and maintaining energetic impulsion not withstanding the slower movement.” The mule’s steps are shorter, but are lighter and more mobile. The working trot is a pace between the collected and extended trots. The mule “goes forward freely and straight, engaging the hind legs with good hock action, on a taut, but light rein, the position being balanced and unconstrained. The steps are
even as possible and the hind feet touch the ground in the foot prints of the fore feet.” The reinback is “a kind of walk backwards. The legs being raised and set down simultaneously by diagonal pairs, the hind legs remaining well in line and the legs being well raised.” The mule that is conditioned slowly with special attention given to core strength, straightness, balance and bend will begin to carry himself in good equine posture and exhibit these true gaits naturally after a period of practice time.

The next consideration is the appropriateness of the animal to the vehicle he is pulling. A smaller mule should never be used to pull a large wagon, nor should the larger draft mule be used to pull a pony cart! Select a vehicle that pulls easily for your mule and one that is proportionate to his size. The overall picture should be balanced and harmonious. Fifty percent of your total class score will include your mule’s manners, his conditioning, his way of going and the appropriateness of the general turnout.

Twenty percent of your total score is judged on you, the whip or teamster. Your hands should be held at waist level, about three inches in front of your body and about 10 inches apart. “A rein passes between the forefinger and middle finger of each hand and is held secure with pressure from the thumb; the whip is held in the right hand.” You should always sit in good posture and the use of your aids should be almost imperceptible. An expert Reinsman rarely exceeds a 12″ imaginary box around his hands. Your dress should be appropriate to the vehicle in which you ride.

For instance, a formal coach would require a more formal dress than would a two-wheel country cart. Dress must be conservative for the times. Western dress is permitted where appropriate. Hat, gloves, coat, tie, and a lap apron are required. A whip must be held in hand at all times! Always look where you are going, check the judge for instructions periodically and pay attention to spacing in the arena! The remaining considerations for a judge are the vehicle and the harness with each carrying 15% of your total score. The vehicle should be in good repair, appropriate size and style for your mule, and should fit him properly through the shafts and tugs. The harness should fit him as well as possible and should be adjusted correctly, especially the breeching so it can do its job in the reinback.

Often, it is difficult to find horse harnesses that will fit the lighter and smaller mules or donkeys properly, but you can approximate the size you need (i.e. pony, cob, horse, draft) and then make the necessary adjustments, or have a professional harness-maker help you. Your mule should be fastened snugly to the vehicle. Be sure that your collar or breast collar fits your mule properly as this can create soreness and make for a very unhappy mule! Adjust the breeching snugly enough to make your “brakes” effective! One of the most common mistakes made by beginning drivers is adjusting the breeching too loose. This makes it difficult for your mule to either slow down or back straight and evenly, and the resulting slack will make his transitions look abrupt and awkward!

There is a lot to consider as a driving judge, but judges are also human beings, and basically the judge is going to select those mules for placement in the class that HE would most like to drive. If you follow the guidelines that I have described, your Longears will be one of the judge’s favorites!

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

© 1991, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: Wrangler’s Summer Bath

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7-11-19

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!

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What’s New with Roll? Goodbye Roll

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February 11, 2019

Unfortunately, after eight years together, Roll passed quietly from a mild colic and weakness in his hind quarters on February 11, 2019 at the age of 27 years. I rescued Rock and Roll from slaughter in December of 2010. We lost Rock in December of 2011 with a completely shattered hip joint after being rendered sound at the walk with no medications for a whole year. With ring bone and side bones in three hooves, I continued working with Roll and we met our goal of being sound enough to ride around the hay field for several years.

Roll survived a severe bout with White Line Disease in 2016. We had to resect 2/3 of his hoof wall and it only because of his good posture and core strength that he was able to “balance” his way through his treatments which changed weekly. It took eight months, but his left hind foot finally grew back completely (see 2016 posts).

…and afterwards, he was able to be ridden once again.

Roll began his time with me as a suspicious and spooky guy, but he studied his manners, his training lessons and we became the very best of friends. Since most drafts don’t live past 20, I feel blessed to have had him for as long as I did! Just before he died on February 11, 2019 (his hind legs were finally too weak for him to get up after his morning nap), he reached his nose from the ground to my cheek and gave me one of his soulful nuzzle kisses…a sincere thank you for a life well lived! He has crossed the Rainbow Bridge and joined his mate, Rock, that we both loved and missed so much! In my heart, I know we will eventually be together again.

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What’s New with Roll? A Great Massage and a New Friend!

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10-25-18

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!


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What’s New with Roll? Ground Driving the Pasture

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8-31-18

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!!!

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: Sarcoid Treatment

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7-20-18

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!

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What’s New with Roll? Hourglass Pattern, Stretching & Backing

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7-12-18

Roll had his summer bath yesterday and it was a great day for it! It was 100 degrees!

Today it was a little cooler, so we opted to go to the dressage arena and work in the hourglass pattern on the lead rope in his “Elbow Pull” and surcingle.

The twisting in his right hind foot was markedly better today after last week’s workout.  I am glad I made the call to go back to the leading exercises after his riding experience on May 6. He felt sluggish and the right hind foot was not adequately supported and was twisting quite a bit.

Going back to his core leading exercises for the past few weeks has greatly improved the musculature and corresponding soft tissues, ligaments and tendon that support the pastern and fetlock and the twisting has substantially subsided. He now has a much more upward balance!

I find it amusing that these animals really DO mirror what we do, so it is best to pay attention to what YOU are doing as well as what your mule is doing!

Because you can’t necessarily SEE core muscle development, it is hard to tell how much it can help the equine with his overall posture, balance and performance. Once you have engaged in the exercises, you can begin to identify these very subtle nuances in the equine’s way of moving.

We often talk about “head sets” in the equine world and want our equines to be soft and supple in their poll, but what of the rest of the body? When the body is truly in good postural balance, it is easy for the equine’s WHOLE BODY to perform as it was intended.

The animal is soft and pliable throughout his body and you will begin to notice when they are using their whole body and when there are compromised segments. The easiest thing to see is how an animal with adequate core strength will use ALL his muscles such that you can actually see the muscles rippling in motion over the ribs.

The animal without core strength will be stiff and immobile over the ribs and the legs will move underneath the body, but neither adds support nor fluidity to his movement. ROLL is living proof of this drastic difference in conditioning.

We finished Roll’s lesson with some simple stretching exercises…

…then walked to the gate with the lead slung over his neck…

 

…and then backed a few steps, all evidence of his own good postural body carriage. I am so pleased that Roll is doing so well at 26 years old!

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What’s New with Roll? Body Language & the Hourglass Pattern

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7-2-18

Roll and I both needed some exercise, so we did a quick vacuuming, left the Tack Barn and headed for the dressage arena.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so we opted to navigate the hourglass pattern on the lead line in his surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and did some core muscle work.

When you routinely execute gates the same way, your equine will know what to expect…

…and he can always respond accordingly. Consistency breeds consistency. Accuracy breeds accuracy.

Roll is so cooperative that he wants to help me space the rails properly, waiting patiently as he should.

When I’m not sure, he helps with the spacing! First in a straight line…

…and then a diagonal rail crossing.

After the diagonal crossing, we began a turn to the right…

…and re-approach the ground rails…

…then halt in front of the first ground rail, all done with hand signals alone.

He had not worked over the rails for quite some time and hit two rails the first time out. I knew this could be a problem and opted to use my solid ground rails instead of the sand-filled PVC that he could just kick out of his way.

We practiced bending through the corner cones…

…and coming out of the turn onto a straight line.

Then he picked of his feet higher the next time through the ground rails, not a clip at all and into a nice halt.

Roll continues to have issues with twisting the right hind leg, but the core strength leading exercises and squaring up seemed to help quite a bit. The last two times over the rails, he went clean. He was walking much better towards the end of the lesson, so we practiced leaving the arena with the lead rope slung over his neck.

He was a real pro!!! I am sure proud of this 26 year old Belgian mule! This rescue continues to thrive!

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LTR Training Tip #83: Practice Exercises For Good Equitation

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Shenanigans in the Hayfields

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6-6-18

Do you need some help with the lead ropes?
  

The saddle mules are headed for turnout. Where do you think we are going, Spuds?

Looks like we’re headed for the hayfield, Augie!

Looks like you were right, Spuds!
Isn’t it beautiful, Augie?!

What is that big yellow thing, Augie?!
That’s Chad, Spuds…oh, you mean the swather?!

How do you do, Augie? Now smile for the picture!

How do you do, Spuds? Not so sure?

WOW! That big thing sure makes a lot of noise!

Now where are we going, Augie?!

These are some really deep windrows!

And some really tall grass is growing in the jump course, Augie!

Boy, I’ll say it’s tall, Spuds! I can’t see a thing! Where are we going?

Spuds, Augie, Are you guys into having a picnic out here?

You bet! This is really cool!

Smile for the camera, Boys!

We are very happy with you, Mini Momma, aren’t we Spuds?!

I wuv you, too, Mini Momma!

And I love you both!  What a grand picnic!

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Wranglers Donkey Diary: Second Lesson Day

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6-4-18

Simple hairbrush bristles remove more undercoat

 

The loose hair on top scrapes off easily

 

Place girth 4 inches from forearm

 

Lossen crupper strap & insert tail

 

Adjust snugly, but not tight

 

Much improved walking in sync

 

Proper turn through the gate

 

More impulsion & flexibility at walk left

 

First offer to trot easily

 

Begin reverse

 

Improved posture & balance at walk right

 

Offer to trot right

 

Hindquarter engagement before halt

 

Improved in sync back to work station

 

Slide saddle back to loosen crupper – learns to stand quietly

 

Remove saddle

Bristles are longer which is enough to get it all

 

No more shedding blade hair breakage

 

Adjust back girth snug enough to hold the saddle down

 

Scratch rear for relaxation of the tail

 

Place saddle over the center of balance

 

Patient while opening gate

 

Improved gate posture

 

Improved posture & balance at walk left

 

Beginning to find his balance

 

Complete reverse on correct pivot foot

 

Improved posture & balance at walk right

 

Finding balance at trot right

 

We did GOOD!

 

Remove bridle & put on halter

 

Slide crupper off tail

 

Back to the barn IN SYNC!

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What’s New with Roll? Roll’s Insights into Massage Therapy

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5-17-18

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.

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What’s New with Roll? A Walk in the Jump Course

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5-8-18

After about an hour of shedding grooming with the hairbrush, shedding blade and then the vacuum, Roll and I headed out for a walk around the jump course. We started at the Tack Barn and walked through the alleyway between the buildings.

We stopped occasionally along the driveway to square up and he seemed to be reluctant to weight the right hind again, but after a few times, he did better. We stopped at the MULE CROSSING sign for a photo-op.

Then we went down the beautiful tree-lined driveway on our way past the mules in the dirt pen having lunch, and past Jasper Bunkhouse, to the jump course area.

We stopped again at the statue of Lucky Three Eclipse, my hunter champion, situated behind our equipment barn where all the hay equipment is stored. Roll was more interested in the “Ely” statue than he was with the photo-op!

The grass was pretty tall and made for difficulty walking through it, but Roll was willing and did not dive for the grass, but obediently kept his head up, moving freely forward.

As long as he was walking, he was obedient. Then when I stopped him and asked him to square up, he became more interested in the grass and was not that willing to stand still for very long each time he stopped.

I guess the temptation was just too much for him, so I let him have a nibble! The reins tied up to the surcingle only allowed him to crop the ends off the tall grass.

We then walked on a little farther, enjoying the sunshine, the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the background, and the warm weather.

We stopped for another photo-op in the grass, but he did not stay squared up for the picture. He was still slightly distracted by the grass and apparently moved, but at least he wasn’t being pushy about it and smiled for the camera!

He really didn’t want to leave the grass, but he followed me nevertheless and squared up again on the road. At 18 hands, it’s a good thing he is as obedient as he is or he could have dragged me back into the grass!

We stopped again to see the Mae Bea C.T. statue. Roll had to reach out and take a good look at her pretty face!

He did pretty well overall. The walk was just enough to tune up his core. It’s hard to believe that he has now been with me for 8 years considering he was a rescue and supposedly a lost cause when I got him.

Roll is now 26 years old and I hope he still has many good years to come. It was a beautiful day and we both thoroughly enjoyed our walk together. Maybe next time, we’ll go for a ride!

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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Ground Drive Hourglass Pattern with Roll

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“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!”

 

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

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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.

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What’s New with Roll? Cyst Removal

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12/22/17

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!

 

Roll Chiropractor 2 13 17 018 1

What’s New with Roll? Happiness is getting back to good health!

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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.

 

 

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