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By Meredith Hodges
“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee:
he is just and having salvation; lowly
and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt
the foal of an ass.” – Zechariah 9:9
These words have been an inspiration to all who have heard them since the time they were written—to those of us who love Longears, the words carry the message of a lifetime and the secrets of a dream. Not only did the Lord Jesus ride into Jerusalem on the back of an ass, but remembrances of that ride are clearly marked on the backs of many asses since in the form of a cross. One can really only guess why asses received this unique blessing, but as the Lord blessed the asses, so they have in return endeavored to bless us with their righteous ways.
It would seem that the asses were chosen because they represent more fully the characteristics in all of us that are just and good. The most evident inspiring characteristic of the ass is his undying affection for humans and the patience he exhibits when dealing with them; an excellent portrayal of this affection and patience is found in Marguerite Henry’s story of “Brighty of the Grand Canyon.” In addition, asses are not possessive creatures. They do not seek to impress, nor do they have inflated ideas of importance. They are humble, not greedy or selfish and are content to give freely all that they have to give. There is no limit to their endurance and no end to their trust. Unpleasant moments are undoubtedly remembered, yet forgiven when requested and owners are inspired to be more constructive in their management and training methods. Within asses, there is a hidden hope of happiness, contentment, peace and brotherhood. The inspiration of these noble characteristics does not go unnoticed as they ennoble those around them.
Throughout our lifetimes, we are faced with challenges and choices, most of which are met by trial and error. Asses limit and simplify our choices, leaving us less room for trial and error and more chance for success. An example of this could be the man who could not make his donkey cross the bridge over a deep, wide canyon. Failing to cause the donkey to cross the bridge, the man spent much extra time walking his donkey down one side of the canyon and up the other. As they rested at the far side of the bridge, a horse and rider approached the same challenge. The horse balked, but the rider forced him onto the bridge. About the middle of the bridge, the boards were rotted and horse and rider plunged to their death – a costly lesson. “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe” (Proverbs). Stop, look, and listen with your heart as well as your ears. Your donkey has much to teach you.
Man has always sought to better himself and his environment. He seeks to set shining examples to all, however, he falls short due to negative aspects in his character. The ass, who has always been humbled, does not seek to set examples, he is an example with his honest and faithful ways. He is quick to accept that which is good and tolerant of all else. This unique character coupled with his physical abilities makes him an excellent life partner.
Perhaps, the most important and unselfish contribution the donkey has made in this world is his willingness to produce offspring not of his own species. We can only imagine the reasons for this. Perhaps, he saw a chance to combine his incredible character with the physical beauty of the horse, again to try to please us humans and make him more attractive to us. But whatever the reasons, mules and donkeys are attracting more humans with each passing year. They instill in us a desire to support and promote their cause, which in turn becomes our cause. What human can detest the cause of happiness, contentment, peace and brotherhood?
It is apparent, like never before, the impact that Longears are having on people all over the world. The shows and events including them have grown tremendously over the last 50 years, and the number of people affected by them has increased so much that we now see people in localized areas putting on their own events. In Colorado, for example, the only shows for Longears were incorporated into larger shows such as the Colorado State Fair and the National Western Stock Show. Today, counties are taking initiative to include mules and donkeys in the county fairs, and local riding clubs are inviting them to participate in annual All-Breed shows. Increased understanding and appreciation for the positive qualities of Longears brings more and more people together all the time. Their generous ways have positively influenced people toward a genuine pursuit of happiness. Why is this phenomenon occurring? Because, “We may not realize that everything we do affects not only our lives, but touches others too. A little bit of thoughtfulness shows someone you care and creates a ray of sunshine for both of you to share. Yes, every time you offer someone a helping hand, every time you show a friend you care and understand, every time you have a kind and gentle word to give, you help someone find beauty in this precious life we live. For happiness brings happiness, and loving ways bring love; and giving is the treasure that contentment is made of.” (Amanda Bradley).
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 1985, 2016, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Today, Chad brought Roll up to the work station. On October 23, 2017, I had found a nodule on Roll’s lower right jaw line. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand came out right away to check it to determine what kind of growth it was.
We have had sarcoids in the past, but this did not seem to be a sarcoid, but rather, a small cyst that was not attached to the bone. Since it was not attached, I made the decision to get it removed before it had an opportunity to become attached to the bone.
Lucky Three Sundowner had a similar growth on his jaw that WAS attached to the bone and it finally grew to such a size that it ultimately obstructed his ability to eat and he had to be put down at the age of 35 years.
We were preparing to vaccinate the herd, so we opted to wait on Roll’s surgery until after the vaccinations and hoped for a freeze that would kill all the insects. The exposed wound would have a better chance at healing in the colder weather without insect interference. We had to wait for quite a while since our winter weather proved to be unusually warm until today, December 22, when we finally opted to do the surgery.
Greg gave Roll a sedative to help him to relax. I shaved the area heavily covered with winter hair with my #10 blades and then Greg stepped in and shaved it closer with his veterinary-gauged blades.
He then injected the site with a numbing agent and prepped it for the surgery.
The cyst was neatly contained and unattached below the surface of the skin. He carefully cut it away from the skin and was left with a perfectly round cyst that fell out easily.
When cut in half, the cyst revealed granular tissue in the center that is indicative of some foreign agent in the body that was surrounded by tissue that just never abscessed. We will send off the cyst to be tested to make sure there are no further issues to treat.
Greg carefully and neatly sutured the skin along his jaw line back together.
Greg gave me instructions about the care of the wound. Basically, we did not have to do anything, but let it heal. I will remove the sutures in 10-14 days.
Roll was still a bit drowsy when I took him back to his pen. He will not get food for at least two hours after the surgery to keep him from choking. He should heal nicely.
I took a sleepy Roll back to his pen. By tomorrow, he probably won’t even know what happened and he was such a trooper through it all! I am so glad my mules are trained the way they are…not a bit of trouble!
10/26/17: It is MULE APPRECIATION DAY today and the perfect time for an update on Roll! Roll has recovered nicely from his bout with White Line Disease in 2016. He had no workouts during that year, but surprisingly, he retained his core strength and balance throughout 2016 and came into 2017 still in good posture and balance. This leads me to believe that core strength does not necessarily deteriorate as rapidly as does bulk muscle.
Roll had his most recent “leading for core strength postural workout” on May 23rd this year. However since then, I have been unable to pursue any more lessons during the entire summer due to business obligations.
He was scheduled for his regular farrier visits on May 18th, July 14th and on September 21st. During that time, he also had two chiropractic visits and was doing very well with only minor adjustments needed.
On October 17th, Roll had a short ride with Brandy in the Lucky Three Ranch North Pasture after being off all summer. He was rather disgusted with Brandy after she unseated her rider, Bailey, at the beginning of the ride by spooking at a shadow on the ground. Roll did great although I could tell he was a bit stiff from the onset, but loosened up and gained impulsion by the end of the ride.
Roll had his last massage on July 13 and continues to thrive at the age of 26 years old. On October 25, we discovered a sarcoid-like tumor on his right jaw, x-rayed it and will do a removal following next week’s vaccinations.
After being off all summer, I thought he did very well and this only reinforced my belief that core muscle really does sustain itself once the animal has spent at least two years doing very specific core muscle, postural exercises.
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!
After being off last week, Roll was more than happy to come with me today. The air was brisk with a bit of a breeze and Roll was even a little snorty walking up to the work station. We spent a good amount of time with the Goody hairbrush getting the undercoat loose and I then went over him with the shedding blade to get the excess on top. He was still shedding hair all over, so I decided to go ahead with the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner serves a dual purpose: it pulls the remaining loose hairs from his coat while stimulating the capillaries to come to the surface of the skin. This increased circulation makes for an extremely soft and healthy coat. He still has a lot left to shed, but his hair now feels silky to the touch. I then put Roll in his surcingle, Eggbutt Snaffle bridle and “Elbow Pull” for his core muscle, postural leading lessons.
Roll practically pulled me down the alleyway to the dressage arena, but was very well behaved when we stopped to give Augie and Spuds a treat of oats. Roll was okay with sharing as long as I gave him more oats, too!
Roll and I then walked to the gate and he went through beautifully as always.
We marched along the pens and gave treats to all the mules who would be his audience.
Roll launched into the hourglass pattern on the lead rope with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He squared up easily, but was still reluctant to put all the appropriate weight on his right hind foot.
He kept an upright balance through the turns and was markedly better in balance over the ground rails.
He even trotted a bit along side of the pens once I got out in front of him, but when I asked him to trot back to the gate, he was too tired! The chiropractor had come out to see him last week and said that he was locked up in his right hip, so it may be he needs another chiropractic visit this week as well.
At any rate, I was pleased with his progress and even though he missed his lesson last week, he still did better than in prior weeks. The hind feet were no longer twisting after his trim on May 19th.
It may very well be that he can graduate to the round pen soon for bulk muscle building. His core is solid now and after his workout, he was much tighter in the abs and filled in nicely over his topline.
Roll is carrying just a little more weight than I would like to see, but he did look less obese after his lesson and when we begin the bulk muscle building, it should disappear rapidly as the fat evolves into muscle. At twenty-six, Roll is doing so much better than I ever would have expected given his questionable history.
Roll was a muddy mess when I went to get him today. He had been lying down and decided to roll in the wet dirt and pea gravel. Thank heavens it wasn’t all mud! I did my best to get most of it off of him, but clearly, the vacuum cleaner was not going to work for anything but getting the hair off the floor. I first went over his body with the hairbrush, then the shedding blade and afterwards, the dandy brush. Then I baby-oiled his mane and tail, put on his gear and we were good to go.
Roll seemed happier today than he had been last week. Roll was walking better and appeared to have gained some core strength back.
Instead of being really off behind, he was only slightly off and did not want to bear weight on the right hind in his squaring up…until the last one when he finally weighted the foot entirely.
Roll’s rein back was much better than last week. I had him checked by our resident farrier, LTR Ranch Manager Chad in case he was developing fungus in that foot (after his bout with White Line in his left hind). better to be safe than sorry, but he showed nothing but a packed-up foot, and that very well could have been the culprit since we just had a really good rain and everything was muddy in the arena where we were working.
It is truly amazing how slight, but visible his improvement has been from week to week. His whole body looked much more symmetrical this time. It is awesome to be able to celebrate each of Roll’s “little victories” along the way at 26 years old! However, Roll wasn’t too sure if he wanted to share his rewards with Sir Guy!!!
Roll decided that celebrating with a friend is probably okay and back to the work station we went to untack and then it was time for turnout!
Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength, postural leading exercises and today, he got his tail washed after a long and dirty winter. he seemed to enjoy getting his tail cleaned before his exercises.
Roll’s attitude is always good and he lets me know when he doesn’t want to go back to his pen afterward his lessons. He would prefer to stay with me all day long if he could.
He is beginning to really shed out a lot after this warm, dry spring. He really enjoys the brushing with a regular hairbrush to remove the under-hair, then the shedding blade for loose hair and finally the vacuum cleaner to promote good circulation. This regimen really promotes maximum shedding and a healthy summer hair coat.
He led well to the arena and went through the gate just fine although he wasn’t as flexible through his rib cage as I would have liked to see.
He did square up nicely when I asked on the other side of the gate.
His leading exercises went well and although he is still weak behind and wants to unweight one foot or the other when squaring up like he did after coming through the gate. The weight shifting is more general that specific and I think as he is strengthened, his stance will improve.
I also noticed that he really “sunk” behind before going over the ground rails…
…and then was able to maintain his posture over the rails, but “sunk” again on the approach every time.
The rein back was difficult for him, but he did comply with the slightest of cues as well as he was able.
When I ask him to put weight down evenly on the hind feet, he does comply, so this could just be more from habit than from actual pain, although there is clearly atrophy of the bulk muscle and weakness in the core muscles. He should improve with time and exercise.
Roll knows that I have his best interest at heart, so he is always affectionate, loving and willing to do anything and everything that I ask, but then I always keep my expectations for him realistic and doable.
Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength exercises. And after having to leave animals without their exercises for long periods of time, I cannot believe how quickly they can come back to good posture and overall strength. Roll had been off his exercises for over a year during his bout with White Line Disease.
When I led Roll up to the Tack Barn a week ago, he was dragging his toes in front, but I did not get it on video. So, this time, I wanted to get a “BEFORE” and an “AFTER” shot. We filmed him coming up to the Tack Barn work station, but after his core strength exercises last week, he still was not dragging his toes. His rhythm and cadence was regular.
My self-correcting device called the “Elbow Pull” puts the equine in their own individual good equine posture and keeps them there throughout the short (15-20 minute) leading lessons. The lessons take place in the hourglass pattern that we use to help them find optimum balance.
The fluid changes of direction in strategic places in the pattern challenge the equine to first arc one direction, then stop and square-up, then proceed on a new arc in the opposite direction.
Each time he stops and squares up, he is rewarded with crimped oats to keep his attention on the task at hand (and I change sides so I am always leading him from the inside of the arc to help maintain correct bend).
The serpentine actions through the pattern act like a “pendulum of balance,” bringing his balance back to center with every movement, so that when he does stop and settle, the internal balance comes to rest at his true “center,” or “core.”
The pattern is always done at the walk on the lead line and can be varied with trot down the long sides, and walk and trot over ground rails on the straight line after the equine’s balance is solid. The “Elbow Pull” cannot do this all by itself.
The combination of the handler’s posture, the equipment used (snaffle bridle and surcingle with the “Elbow Pull”), the action of the hourglass pattern, attention to smooth arcs, straight lines and square halts all contribute to the overall development of good equine posture and core muscle strength. Most conventional training techniques do not address core strength, only bulk muscle development over a weak core.
When true core strength is developed, it takes much less time for the equine to get back into shape after time off. The results of the top line and abdominal development over core muscle strength and balance with the use of the “Elbow Pull” never ceases to amaze me! After doing these exercises with all of my equines for so many years, it still doesn’t seem like it can be this easy…but it is!
Roll is feeling much better and has not exhibited any lameness in a couple of days. I have been concerned about the muscle atrophy that he has experienced since he had the White Line Disease and the lameness that has prevented him from exercising much at all for almost a year. When he walked up to the Tack Barn work station, I noticed that although he was not lame, he was dragging his toes in front. I groomed him with the vacuum cleaner (circulation therapy) and then put on his bridle, surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and started for the indoor arena.
The “Elbow Pull” influence never fails to astonish me! Immediately, Roll was picking up his front feet and walking correctly through the alleyway of the barn and into the arena.
The workout went well, walking as he did in the beginning in 2010 in the hourglass pattern on the lead rope with strategic squared stops at every change of direction (with a reward of oats, of course!).
We traveled over the 1-inch ground rails at the center cones gate. Roll did not miss a step! It doesn’t take much to tune them up when you have laid a foundation of core strength and good posture!
We were a little awkward and off balance in this first lesson after being off for so long, but a few more leading lessons and he will be able to advance to ground driving again…maybe even riding later if we can keep him sound at 26 years old.
I left on his wrap for the duration of the exercise, but took it off after his workout. When returning to his pen, he was no longer dragging his toes in front. When core strength and balance is present, good posture and bulk muscle can be revived relatively quickly.
Roll has had a tough time with his left hind foot first with the White Line Disease last year and now with an abscess in his foot between the bulb of the heel and the hoof wall. Although we have been keeping a poultice on his foot and he seems to be improving, we thought it would be important for him to have a massage with his equine masseuse, Joanne Lang after his chiropractic adjustment with Dave McClain.
We 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.
Massage is not intended to replace the care of a licensed massage therapist or veterinarian and if you are unsure as to the severity of an injury with your equine, consult your vet!
Massage has been an important element in the care and maintenance of all of our equines from the beginning and has increased the longevity of our herd.
Learning to “read” what the equine is telling you is an important part of the massage experience. As you can see, Roll REALLY enjoyed his massage today!
Roll was doing better and then all of a sudden he was very lame in his left hind foot again on February 10th. The only thing we could think of was that he must have twisted it and maybe even caught the boot on something in his pen when he was trying to get up.
He was very warm all over with sweat at his chest, underbelly, around his ears and between his legs. It was an unusually warm day and because it had been so cold and I had not clipped the mules’ bridle paths in a very long time. So, to help cool him off, I clipped his bridle path and sure enough, he began to get cooler and dry off.
We took his temperature and it was in the normal range.
We took x-rays to make sure there were no fractures and there was nothing but the rotation we had seen before.
After our veterinarian Greg Farrand dug around in the hoof, he did find a spot between the frog and the bulb of the heel that seemed to be sensitive and starting to weep.
He was uneven in his hips and seemed to be affected in both legs although the left was worse than the right. We decided to wrap the foot in a poultice again and left off the easy boot in case it was the culprit.
Then we decided to put him on a regimen of “Bute” and call in the equine chiropractor. All we could do was wrap the poultice onto his left hind foot and wait.
On February 13, Roll was exceptionally sore today when our equine chiropractor Dave McClain came out to check him.
There was no real problem in the hip joint, but his fetlock really cracked when he adjusted it, so he was definitely out in that joint.
Dave adjusted the rest of his body and said there probably was nothing other than the fetlock that was affected in the joint, just in the muscles. He said Roll would probably be sore because it was such a dramatic adjustment.
We checked him again the next day and he does seem to be experiencing some improvement although he is still pretty sore. There is not a lot to do but pray and wait. He is undoubtedly having problems that stem from the first 17 years of his life moving in poor posture and not utilizing his body correctly.
Roll came up lame in his left hind again today, so we called our veterinarian, Greg Farrand to come and check him. He had swelling in the fetlock joint and it appeared to have just begun. I supported his joint with a wrap so is would be easier for him to walk to the Tack Barn work station.
We checked for abscessing, but could not find anything. He did seem to be uncomfortable in the other hind foot as well, but not enough for real concern.
However, it is conceivable that it might not be an abscess, but problems arising from his inability to continue his core muscle strength and balance exercises during the time he was dealing with the White Line Disease.
Taking off a piece of the hoof wall where he tested sensitive seemed to relieve the pressure enough so he did have some improvement in his walk. We checked him all over and I even cut off his overgrown ergots while we were talking.
Greg though perhaps the abscess was just beginning, so we put a poultice on the left hind foot to draw out and escalate any inflammation in hopes of forcing it to weep so we could locate it if it was, in fact, an abscess.
We wrapped the hoof with the poultice and Vet Wrap.
And then put the whole foot in a custom-made easy boot that we had used when he had White Line Disease.
I led him around the room and he seemed to be experiencing some pain relief, so we opted to leave him like this for four days with a change of poultice every other day.
As you can see, our core muscle strengthening and balancing exercises really DO make a drastic difference in the overall shape and movement of the equine.
When dealing with an animal that spent so many years out of good posture, it is almost certain you will be faced with numerous issues from uneven wear and tear on the body over the years, especially as they age like Roll at 24 years. We just hope we can pull Roll through this so he can get back to having some fun with his healthy exercise program.
Roll’s bout with White Line Disease began on December 31, 2015 and did not look very promising considering we were dealing with a 3000 lb. animal with two-thirds of his hoof wall detached and full of fungus.
Dean Geesen, our farrier dug out all the fungus from the compromised hoof and cut away the seriously detached hoof wall.
Roll has recovered in record time with our due diligence and willingness to change up the program as needed. There is no cure-all for White Line Disease. It does have some protocol, but if you look back at our postings about Roll’s battle on my Facebook pages and in “What’s New?” on our website, you will see that things can change abruptly in a day.
When dealing with something like this, one needs to think “outside the box” to keep up with the changes and keep the foot on the right track to grow back properly. It takes a whole team: the owner, the handlers, the vet and the farrier working together. We were constantly assessing the shape of the foot, tissue condition, pressure points and balance in the affected foot and hid overall mental and physical health.
We watched the way he moved carefully each and every day. We had to assess how much he was compromising with weight distribution to his healthy feet and trimmed and shod them so they did not become damaged in the healing process.
We did supplement his feed with Hoof Power and would recommend it above all other hoof supplements to help accelerate hoof growth. Dean Geesen, our farrier was certain that it would take better than a year to grow back the foot, if it could even be done. After the first three months, he wasn’t sure that Roll would actually make it.
After today’s trim and a sound diagnoses, Dean admitted that he really didn’t think back in the beginning that he would recover like this. Thankfully, with the conscientious and diligent help from his management team, Roll got full hoof growth back in exactly one year and is now sound with four healthy hooves!
Roll continues to improve after a bout with White Line Disease that began in January 2016. The White Line Disease in his left hind foot is almost completely grown out now!
He is maintaining conditioning pretty much on his own with turnout since I did not want to add any stress to his routine while the hoof was still badly compromised. I was pleased to see that all the lessons that Roll has had for the past six years are firmly engrained in his brain.
Over the past ten months, I have watched him doing his straight forward walking exercises in good equine posture and he continued to square up every time he stopped to rest.
It truly has become his natural way of moving and kept the weight evenly distributed over all four feet during his recovery with the help of shoes on the other three feet to keep the hooves on the healthy feet from wearing unevenly from added weight-bearing.
After the initial onset that lasted about four months, we did use product on the hoof (betadine solution, hoof supplement, etc.) as it was growing out, but once we got past the “critical” stages, we just kept it clean and trimmed properly to promote even growth.
Everything looks great now, Roll is happy and he should be able to begin his lessons again soon!
When Rock and Roll came to me in 2010, they were both in dire straits. We were able to keep both of them sound from December 2010 to December 2011 and although Rock had a shattered hip, with our core strength postural training exercises, he only needed Bute 3 times during that year for a five-day stretch. Roll was able to graduate from the postural leading training to lunging in the round pen and later ground driving. He met his final goal of being ridden around the hayfield, but had a set-back with White Line Disease in his left hind foot that began in January 2016. Roll is now 23 years old and the White Line Disease is practically all grown out now.
I could not be happier with his progress! Today Roll got the shoes replaced on three of his weight-bearing feet and a trim on the left hind.
We put shoes on the three feet so that the balance of the feet would not be compromised as he tried to keep the weight off the injured foot. Our concern was the other three feet could become unhealthy if the weight was unevenly distributed.
The affected foot is growing out nicely and we figure we only have two more trims until he is completely grown out.
By paying attention to the weight-bearing surfaces, we were able to control not only the way the feet were growing, but the musculature in his body as well. He could very well have developed uneven muscle conditioning over the past seven months. Because of his core strength leading exercises and the changes we made in his body before he got the White Line, he was able to sustain his strength and good posture. At twenty-three years old, he continues to improve with each new day!