What's New: Meredith Hodges

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MULE CROSSING: To Wear Breeches or Not


By Meredith Hodges

To wear the breeches, or not to wear the breeches—that is the question. The Western training influence has been prevalent in our mule industry growth here in the United States, while other countries seem to vary with respect to their historical growth. Countries with an older equine history seem to prefer the English style of training, while newer frontiers have adopted the Western style of training out of necessity. The Western classes in breed shows reflect the varied uses of mules and horses which evolved as this country developed, and the bridles and saddles used were built out of practicality and need in a rough country atmosphere.

Today, we have more time to spend training our equines and cultivating our own riding skills. In most cases, the choice of tack is no longer of necessity, but of choice. Fashion, in any country, is supposed to be a statement of individuality and identity. The Western style of dress and tack suggests a hearty, rugged individual, surrounded by wide open spaces, using his equine as a partner for work. English attire paints a picture of dignity, reserve and concentrated skill. The Western image is a wonderfully romantic and picturesque way of seeing oneself, but it really doesn’t allow us the opportunity to improve our equestrian skills to the maximum. Western style riding is as limited as its uses. The smaller English saddle, made with a lot less leather, allows us to feel our equine’s body more closely (with the added stability of the stirrups) while we learn and exercise our bodies to become more harmonious with our mounts. As we can feel our equine more closely, so can he feel better the cues that we to give him. Thus, he can respond more accurately to our commands. However, most men don’t feel comfortable wearing “Sissy Pants” and riding in a “Sissy Saddle”—it just isn’t macho!

As most of you already know, Sally McLean and I got mules accepted by the United States Dressage Federation in 1986. It was a great day for mules, but it was also, almost my husband’s undoing! After a year of training our mules under English saddle in Dressage, we found them to be a lot more responsive and easier to train than they had been in the past. In addition, they were conditioned to perform well in both English and Western classes which only enhanced their versatility. With this obvious success, we decided to train exclusively under English tack. My husband, Gary admitted to this success, but let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he preferred to ride Western and that was all that he wanted to do! After all, everybody has their own preference. My only question was, had he given English a fair enough try before making his decision of preference? Since he had never ridden English, the answer was obvious. My daughter, Dena and I felt that he should at least give it a try!

One Saturday morning, I finished a lesson with one of my students when Gary strolled into the indoor arena and announced that he was willing to give the English saddle a try, but that we would never get him into a pair of those “Sissy Pants!” “Fair enough,” I said, and brought my student’s horse around for him to ride. Getting on was a bit of a struggle, and exercises at the walk went really well, but as soon as the horse began to trot, Gary started bouncing. He was about to lose his balance, so he grabbed the rail to steady himself. The only problem was the rail stayed where it was and the horse kept going, leaving Gary dangling behind on the fence! I thought we would never stop laughing – he looked so ridiculous! Our macho man didn’t have the balance he thought he had!

Gary decided not to give up on the first try and took English lessons at our clinics for the next few months, but continued to train his feisty half-Arabian mule, Lucky Three Cyclone, with the Western saddle. About 10 shows and 35 runaways later, he thought his balance to be good enough to try Cyclone under English tack. Within a couple of months, Cyclone was actually going where Gary wanted most of the time. This was an exciting breakthrough for Gary since Cyclone was the first mule Gary had ever trained by himself. Originally, he had wanted to train him for Western Pleasure and Reining, but he couldn’t get Cyclone to complete a circle without dodging or running off. Mules were supposed to be fun, but this was rapidly becoming an unpleasant chore. Gary asked me what he could do to make the training sessions with Cyclone more fun and rewarding. I suggested that he start with some elementary cavalletti and jumping exercises to add more variety to their routine. A couple of sessions later, they were a different pair. Cyclone became much more manageable and actually seemed to enjoy his sessions. Gary, too… except… after every session he got this weird look on his face… sort of pained, yet happy. When I asked what the problem was, he said English riding was great and Cyclone was improving rapidly, but it made him very sore!

On Gary’s birthday, two weeks before his first English classes at the Colorado Classic in 1988, I decided to take him to the tack store to be outfitted in proper English attire. I didn’t tell him where we were going because I knew how he would react. I just told him we were going to get his present. When we pulled into the tack store he said, “Is this the only place we’re going for my birthday?” So as not to alarm him too much, I told him we would go to the computer store afterwards.

After 45 minutes of coaxing from the dressing room to see how the pants fit, 25 minutes of explanations about why they needed to be tight and another 15 minutes of getting him out of a pair of English boots that were too small, Gary looked the picture of the English equestrian: tall, dark and very handsome in his new sporty attire! And in the next two weeks, he discovered the intrinsic value of his “Sissy pants”—you don’t get sore when you ride! Granted, you may have to take a little flack from a few ignorant cowboys, but the equestrian skills gained and the fun that goes with it far outweighs any adversity.

After a while Gary decided that English riding was, in fact, the best way to train. However, he still wasn’t too interested in “watching cement set” or doing Dressage tests. We decided after two years to start showing in Combined Training with the horses. We signed up for the second day of a two-phase show, not realizing that we would be asked to ride our Dressage tests the same day that we jumped. Two days before the show, Gary discovered that he would have to ride Training Level Test 1 at 9:00 A.M. the day of the show. We reviewed the test the day before the show, thinking that if all else failed I could read the test to him when he rode. Sunday morning, Gary was feeling tired, but confident. I took my place at “B” and prepared to read for him when the announcer explained that only United States Dressage Federation tests could have a reader, but not the same in Combined Training. Gary’s face turned ashen. I climbed back into the stands as he warmed up for his test… at the walk… lost in space! He stopped short below me and quietly said, “Meredith, will you please come here.” I ran down to see what the trouble was. “I can’t remember anything… I can’t do this!” he worried emphatically. I quickly explained the pattern. Gary’s first Dressage test ever in his first Combined Training show and he emerged in third place with a mule in the Elementary Division against 8 horses. Was he ever thrilled!

As my husband gazed into the adoring eyes of his numerous fans, I doubt that he felt less than “On Top of the World!” in his controversial “Sissy Pants.” A flood of compliments on his animal, his equitation and his turnout fell upon his ears, making him swell with pride and self-satisfaction. With a wink of his eye, Gary turned his mule around and walked proudly back to the trailer after the show, feeling very much a tall, dark and handsome macho man!

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, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

TT 97

LTR Training Tip #97: Teaching Your Equine to Spin


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MULE CROSSING: New Year’s Rose Parade 1988


By Meredith Hodges

When we were invited in May of 1987 to represent the American Donkey and Mule Society in the 1988 New Year’s Day Rose Parade, we were thrilled—but I don’t think those of us from Colorado realized just how difficult it might be to get to Pasadena in December!

Since we had to be at the L.A. Equestrian Center on December 26th for practice for an exhibition on the 27th, we planned to leave Colorado on December 23rd—but our plans were hurried by a devastating snowstorm that eventually dumped four feet of snow, or more, all over the state and surrounding areas. Fortunately, we heeded the weatherman’s warnings and hurried out of Colorado just ahead of the storm on the evening of the 22nd. All the way across New Mexico, and as far as south of Flagstaff, Arizona, we drove relentlessly with the storm raising its ugly head at every gas stop, threatening to stop us dead in our tracks! Finally, in Phoenix, after 24 hours of driving, we were safe in the warmer southern climate.

Our dedication to our mules prevailed and we arrived safely in Los Angeles the next day… Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas Day enjoying our freedom from the gruesome trip and explored the impressive L.A. Equestrian Center aboard our mules. The mules were quite happy to finally be out of the trailer and allowed to exercise, but they were not as impressed as we were about being stabled next to Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Silver Fox; after all, he was only a horse!

Practice for our exhibition went smoothly and the following day many visitors toured the stable area in order to meet with the stars of the afternoon’s exhibition. The mules, as always, were among their favorites. We were bombarded with interested folks asking questions and offering complimentary remarks about our Longears. Blue Zebulon, our fearless leader, handsome jack that he is, even managed to line up a photo session with a local photographer. The exhibition itself went quite smoothly. Zebulon, ridden by Fran Howe, led an entourage of mules into the arena cheered on by enthusiastic spectators. After our introduction, we lined up and watched while three demonstrations were performed. First, Gayle Gardner-Mahler gave a jumping exhibition on Diane Hunter’s Tea Party. This was followed by a “Pas de Deux” Dressage exhibition with Gayle again on Tea Party and Meredith Hodges on Lucky Three Sundowner. Vince Silverman finished the exhibition with a Reining pattern on Millie. Then we all exited behind Blue Zebulon to the sound of cheering and applause for our beloved longears. We were all so very proud!

On December 28th, we all dressed “to the max” for a reception for all the Rose Parade equestrians held at the Tournament House in Pasadena. Celebrity guests included Iron Eyes Cody, Monty Montana, and Richard Farnsworth. Good food, good drink, and good company made for a memorable time, lifting our spirits with the promise of an exciting parade and a better new year for mules and donkeys!

On December 30th, Diane Hunter treated us to once-in-a-lifetime dinner experience at the Medieval Times restaurant in Buena Park. As we passed through the gates of the castle, we were crowned and invited by the king to take a step back in time when chivalry ruled and the Knights of the Realm fought for glory and the hands of fair maidens. We supped with the King and fellow Lords and Ladies of the Realms while watching the knights perform outstanding feats of Horsemanship and combat. We departed the castle with dreams of Camelot, whilst we made our way safely back to L.A.

January 1st, 1988, 2:30 A.M. came early as we made preparations to make our way to the parade route. When we arrived at 3:30 A.M., the freeway was buzzing with excitement. Finally at 7:00 A.M, we were escorted to our final waiting area, where we were eventually fed into the parade. The mules and Zebulon were just great, and they seemed to know that they were representing Longears everywhere. They marched proudly in line: Fran Howe on Zebulon, Reggie Register on Tea Party, Diane Hunter on Lucky Three Ciji, Meredith Hodges on Lucky Three Sundowner, Gary Hodges on Lucky Three Mae Bea C.T., Joan Triolo on Rambling Rose, Vince Silverman on Millie, Bill Wolever on Big Red Loretta, Gayle Gardner-Mahler onFrances Bess Scott, Susan Lowery on Joker B’s Jitterbug, and Janet Luke on Joker B’s Jigsaw. Despite noise makers, cheering, bands playing, helicopters, and the like, the Longears made their way proudly down the parade route while we all smiled and waved to the millions of people who decorated the street. Five miles we covered, and for five miles spectators complimented our Longears and bid us a “Happy New Year,” which we joyously returned.

After the parade, we raised a glass of champagne to celebrate ourselves and our Longears for a successful New Year. Then we bade each other farewell and those of us from Colorado hopped into the truck again, and again between storms, hoofed it back to Colorado with dreams of next year’s New Year’s Day Rose Parade!

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.

© 1988, 2016, 2018 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.


MULE CROSSING: My Favorite Christmas Tradition


By Meredith Hodges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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



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



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



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!

TT 82

LTR Training Tip #83: Practice Exercises For Good Equitation


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Another Augie and Spuds Adventure: Shenanigans in the Hayfields



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



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



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



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!

View all What’s New With Roll? posts

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


“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!”


See more Another Adventure With Augie and Spuds posts

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


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



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!


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


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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What’s New with Roll? Happiness is a Fanny Pack Full of Oats!


Roll is standing quietly as he usually does while I was speaking to a tour group with the gate wide open, but this was not always the case with him. He used to hide behind Rock and snort at me when he first arrived with Rock in December of 2010.

Behavior Modification is a reward system of training that requires that the trainer has the ability to distinguish between good and bad behaviors, to reward them promptly and appropriately…and, to do it politely with respect for the animal. The oats are a reward that is both safe and enjoyable for equines, and is something that they will continue to work for.

When dealing with an equine that is easily ten times your own weight, it is hard to imagine that the way we talk, touch and interact with our equine would really need to be ultra considerate, light and reassuring. However, if you want their complete cooperation, that is exactly what needs to happen. For instance, when applying fly spray talk gently and calmly, and be careful not to get the spray in their eyes…or it will burn and they will be less likely to comply the next time!

The same consideration hold true when bathing. Be careful not to get water in the ears, eyes and nostrils…and accustom the equine to cold water by spraying the feet and front legs first and work your way up to the face.

When you are kind and considerate, and give the equine time to adjust, even mechanical equipment like a massage thumper for muscle relaxation, or an equine vacuum cleaner used not only to clean but also to promote better circulation, can become a real source of pleasure and enjoyment for your equine.

When the equine is relaxed and accepting of the equine chiropractor, veterinarian and farrier, they are better able to do their jobs with maximum efficiency and successful outcomes.

And jobs you have to do like clipping, bridling and taking off the bridle all get much easier, preserving the trust between you. Now at 26 years old, Roll is a NEW draft mule!


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