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March 31, 2009

Observant Equines

Have you ever noticed how fast your mule or donkey can pick up on something having been moved or out of place? Or how easily sometimes they can notices the smallest detail that you might have missed?

Observant Donkey

I had a funny experience with my gelding Andy a few weeks ago. Andy is the sweetest, most cooperative, best trained donkey. I ride him, drive him, show him, etc. But Andy hates shots, though he has gotten better about them since I got him. He's good for the vet treating him for other things, but every time he needs shots of any kind he either has to be put in vet stocks first or twitched tight, then he'll stand nicely for the needles and we can get his shots or coggins done with little or no fuss, fight or ruckus. I've gotten to where I always use a twitch while doing his shots. That makes it so much faster, easier, and the unpleasant part is over before he has a chance to get all unhappy. Just put the twitch on, give the shot, then take the twitch off and give a treat. It's all over in a matter of seconds and no one gets all worked up about it.

He's always been good for me doing any other kind of doctoring he's needed, bathing with a hose, clipping him, etc, even stood nicely while I rinsed the back side of his ears off with the hose last time I bathed him.

A few weeks ago he had a small scabby spot on his side that I wanted to wash with nolvasan. I had a 30cc syringe (no needle) that I thought would work well for holding the nolvasan and applying the nolvasan to the spot I wanted to treat without spilling it all over the place. So I filled it with nolvasan, then walked over to Andy to squeeze it out onto the spot.

When Andy saw me holding the syringe and walking up to him, he got really worried about it! I found out he actually is very observant, and recognizes the difference in the way a syringe looks compared to a hoof pick, brush, other miscellaneous item of tack, etc! I know it had to be visual recognition, because I certainly wasn't nervous about treating him, and I was actually quite surprised at first when he so quickly shied away from me when I walked up to him!

When I realized what was happening, I stepped back, put the syringe out of view, soothed him with some calming words, then relaxing scratches on his neck and shoulder. Then I slowly re-introduced the syringe by quietly bringing it out from behind me and scratching his shoulder with the plunger end of it for a while. Once he decided that needles weren't involved he relaxed, and then he was fine with me using it to squirt the nolvasan on him, and didn't react so much when I went back to refill it and walked up to him again with it to apply more nolvasan.

Very observant donkey!

So don't ever think that your mule or donkey doesn't notice even the smallest of details.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2009

Parts of the Hoof

It's always good to know a little about your mule's anatomy. This overview of the equine hoof will be very helpful if you need to talk with your vet or farrier about a hoof issue.

Donkey Hoof Parts

Hoof Wall
The hoof wall is the hard shell encasing the equine foot. It is their equivalent of our fingernails. The hoof wall protects and supports the bone and tissue structures inside. It is very important that the hoof wall be properly trimmed on a regular basis. If the hoof wall is allowed to grow too long or is left at the wrong angle, it can be very damaging to the rest of the foot and cause many foot problems. A healthy hoof wall should be smooth on the outside, with no signs of ridges or rings and should also not be chipping or cracked.

Parts of the hoof wall:
- Bars
- Quarters
- Toe

The sole is the softer flat tissue on the bottom of the hoof. It has a concave shape and is lighter in color.

The frog is the triangular more rubbery piece of tissue under the center and back portion of the hoof. A healthy frog should be wide across the back and have a smooth calloused appearance. The frog acts as a cushion below the bone structure inside the hoof as the mule takes each step.

Cleft of the Frog
The cleft of the frog also know as the collateral grooves are the grooves that run along both sides of the frog, where the frog joins with the sole.

Bulbs of the Heel
The bulbs of the heel are the rounded rubbery tissue at the back of the hoof. It extends up from the frog up to the hairline at the back of the hoof.

Coronet Band
The coronet band is along the top of the hoof wall just below the hair line. This is softer tissue where the hoof wall is grown. Damage or injury to the coronet band can cause uneven growth of the hoof wall.

Mule Hoof Parts

White Line
The white line is the area on the bottom of the hoof where the hoof wall joins with the sole. This is where the laminae come out at the bottom of the hoof wall. In the first photo above, you can see that that hoof's white line is thicker than some. This is typical of equines who have had laminitis and their laminae have stretched.

The Laminae is the tissue inside the hoof that connects the inside of the hoof wall to the inner hoof capsule and coffin bone. When a horse founders or gets Laminitis, the laminae tissue becomes inflamed, and if the laminitis is severe enough or goes untreated, the laminae will stretch, letting the coffin bone rotate down - thus causing the classic rotated coffin bone seen in many foundered equines.

The term Pastern refers to the section between the top of the hoof and the fetlock joint.

The fetlock is the first noticeable joint above the hoof.

Equine Hoof Parts

Pedal Bone/Coffin Bone
The Pedal bone is the last bone in the equine leg. It is also known as the Coffin Bone or also sometimes referred to as P1.

Second Phalanx
The second bone up in the equine leg is the short pastern or Second Phalanx, also known as P2.

Third Phalanx
The third bone up in this column of foot bones is the long pastern or Third Phalanx or P3.

Navicular Bone
Just below and behind the joint between the Coffin bone and the Second Phalanx is a smaller bone called the Navicular bone.

Digital Extensor Tendon
This tendon runs down the front of the mule's ankle and foot. It connects to the front of each of the bones in the column. The job of this extensor tendon is to extend the bones, or lift them forward. Thus this tendon is the one that lifts the foot forward and up when the mule takes a step. The term "Digital" says that this tendon is part of the equine foot.

Deep Digital Flexor Tendon
This tendon runs along the back side of the equine foot bone column, opposite the Digital Extensor Tendon. The Deep Digital Flexor Tendon's job is to flex, or pull downward and back, the mule’s foot. Thus this tendon is the one that holds the mule's foot bones up straight upright when the mule is standing on them, instead of letting them just collapse under the mule's weight. It is also used to flex the ankle, or pull it up toward the back when the mule lifts it off the ground. The flexor and extensor tendons work against each other to flex or extend the column of bones as the mule moves.

Navicular Bursa
The Navicular Bursa is a special fluid filled sack that sits right between the Navicular bone and the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon. It protects this tendon and bone from abrasion as the tendon slides over this area.

That's a good overview of the parts of a mule or donkey's hoof. Now you'll know what your farrier and vet are talking about next time you talk with them about your equine's hooves!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2009

Belled Tails

Sometimes you will see mules with their tails trimmed in a distinctive "belled" pattern. Here's a little history on where that practice originated.

Back in the early days, the US Army used horses and mules as their main form of transportation in the military service. When they brought in a new mule with no training, its tail was shaved. This type of mule was known as a "shave-tail", and had no training.

Obviously mules in the army had a job to do, and these "shave-tails" had a lot to learn. By the time this mule had learned to find its saddle and carry a pack, its tail hair had grown back. Once it was a competent pack mule, its tail was trimmed in a tassel or bell shape at the bottom of the tailbone.

Later on when the mule had also learned to drive in harness and pull a wagon or other equipment, a second bell was trimmed below the first.

And when the mule had learned to ride, a third bell was trimmed below the second. So a "three-bell" mule was a dependable, well-trained mule that could be used for packing, driving or riding.

In this way any cavalryman could easily tell which mules to pick from the corral for the job at hand. If the mule had a shaved tail, you didn't want to take it out for the job. If the mule had one bell, it could pack. If it had two bells, it could pack and drive, and three bells could do any of the three jobs you needed.

Here is a webpage with several good photos of belled tails.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2009

What is a Zonkey?

Have you ever heard this funny term, and wondered what it was? Well, let me introduce this unique equine - a hybrid cross between a donkey and a zebra.


The Zonkey or Z-Donk is a hybrid cross between a donkey and a zebra, usually a female donkey and male zebra. Zonkeys are usually very distinctively colored - often a medium brown with an overlay of dark black zebra stripes.

Another similar hybrid is the Zorse, which is the result of breeding a horse with a zebra.

The zonkey and zorse can be trained to ride and drive, just as a horse, mule or donkey can. However zonkeys and zorses tend to be more cautious, flighty and quick to defend themselves when cornered, than a mule, donkey or horse. This is their wild zebra side showing through.

Here are several great links for more information about Zonkeys:

The Zorse and Zonkey - Horses of a Different Color

The Zonkey: Hybrid of the zebra and donkey

Zonkeys and Zorses

(or click this link)

(or click this link)

(or click this link)

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2009

Gestation Time for Mule and Donkey Foals

So your mare or jennet is bred to the best jack around, and you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of that precious baby soon. Momma's belly is getting as wide as a barge. But when will she have her baby?

If you know the date your mare or jennet was bred, it's a little easier to calculate. Mares have an average gestation time of 340 days or approximately 11 months, though some people have reported that when a mare is carrying a mule foal she may go a week or two longer.

Mare with rare twin mule foals

Here is a handy charge for calculating when your mare should be due:

Horse Mare Gestation Calculation Chart

Date BredDate Due
(Next Year)
 Date BredDate Due
January 1December 6 July 9June 13
January 10December 15July 18June 22
January 19December 24July 27July 1
January 28January 2August 5July 10
February 6January 11August 14July 19
February 15January 20August 23July 28
February 24January 29September 1August 6
March 5February 7September 10August 15
March 14February 16September 19August 24
March 23February 25September 27September 1
April 1March 6October 4September 8
April 10March 15October 9September 13
April 19March 24October 16September 20
April 28April 2October 25September 29
May 7April 11November 3October 8
May 16April 20November 12October 17
May 25April 29November 21October 26
June 3May 8November 30November 4
June 12May 17December 9November 13
June 21May 26December 18November 22
June 30June 4December 27December 1

Pregnant donkey jennet

Donkey jennets have an average gestation of 365 days or 12 months, though there have been occasional cases of a donkey giving birth to a healthy foal as early as 10 1/2 months or as late as 14 1/2 months from her last breeding date. That makes it easy to calculate the jennet's due date - just write down what date she was bred, then look for a new baby the same time next year (give or take a week or two).

If your mare or jennet goes more than 2 or 3 weeks overdue, it is good to consult your vet, and maybe have him check her to make sure things are still going as they should.

And always keep a close eye on them when they are nearing their due date. If at all possible, you want to be able to monitor the mare or jennet when she goes into labor, so that you can get help fast if she has complications and needs assistance to get her baby out.

Donkey jennet bonding with her newborn foal

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 06:02 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2009

Teaching Respect at the Gate

It's a lovely day outside and you want to take one of your longears out for a ride, but the whole herd tries to run through the gate with you! Does this situation sound all too familiar? How do you fix the problem?

If you have trouble with your mules or donkeys trying to barge through the gate, it's time you teach them a gate routine. If your mules or donkeys are like mine, the more time you spend working with them and training them, the more they crave that one-on-one time. And once they have learned how much fun it is, they are always eager for a chance to join you for a training session. But it's important for them to know when it's ok to go through the gate and when they must wait. It's part of you being alpha jennet or alpha molly in their herd. When you give them permission to go through the gate, they may come through, otherwise they must wait. This is a rule they have to learn, not only for your safety, but for theirs too.

Donkey at the gate

I've found if they tend to be pushy at the gate, it is helpful if I take a dressage whip out with me every time I will be going through the gate for a while until they learn the routine. The whip is not to be mean. It just serves as an extension to my arm to shoo them off when they need to back off from the gate. When I approach the gate to enter or leave their pasture I require them to give me a reasonable amount of personal space so I can get through the gate without them crowding me. If they step into that personal space, they'll get a tap-tap-tap with the whip on their nose, chest or whatever works best to encourage them to back up a step or two out of my space. As soon as they move back out of that space, I stop the tapping - their release or reward.

Then the next step is to train them to have the same regard for my space when I'm leading another herdmate through the gate, coming in or going out. The same concepts apply to that step, except that the equine with the halter and lead on is allowed to follow me (at my pace) as I lead it through the gate, turn it around and latch the gate behind us. When you are leading only one animal through the gate, don't just throw the gate open wide. Walk through it while holding it open only as far as needed for you to walk through, then as far as needed for the mule or donkey you are leading to walk through, and promptly swing it back shut again right behind them.

If another donkey or mule tries to squeeze in to crowd through when you are in the process of leading one up to the gate and through the gate, use your dressage whip as you did before to tap them on the nose or chest and tell them to back up, while at the same time, as quietly as possible encourage the one you are leading to follow you through the gate. At first you may find that the one you're leading is unsure about following, not sure if it's ok, but soon they'll learn that if they have the halter and lead on, they are in the "safe zone", and should follow you through the gate while you ward off any would-be followers. It will be kind of awkward at first, but before long you'll be able to lead one mule or donkey in and out of the gate smoothly without the whole herd barging through.

A few extra notes about the use of a whip in this training exercise:

I usually only use the whip when I need something stiff that I can closely control the motion of. Once your mules or donkeys have learned the routine, you can simply use the end of the lead rope to ward off extra followers, or just wave your hand toward them and tell them to back off. But when they are first learning, I've found it helps if I can more carefully control the motion of the shooing tool so that it is in the appropriate place to ward off the crowding donkey, yet not so wild that it scares off the donkey I'm trying to lead through.

A shooing hand isn't always long enough to keep the pushy donkeys back at a distance while the one I have haltered is being led through the gate. A swinging rope will sometimes worry the donkey I'm trying to lead through, until they learn the routine. So by using the whip at first, I can keep most of the whip relatively still while swooshing the short lash on the end back and forth in front of the pushy donkey. I just swish the tip in the air, not intentionally going after the donkey to make contact, but using it to "protect" the space that I want respected. If the uninvited donkey chooses to walk into that space then they'll "accidentally" get popped by the whip as I'm swishing it - enough to make them stop and take notice that they are invading the space I have set up. I definitely don't recommend hitting or smacking any animal on the head or face. I just wave the tassel on the end of the whip back and forth so that if they choose to walk into that protected space, it's kind of like walking into the space a horse or mule is protecting when it swooshes it's tail. I guess that's a good way to explain it - use the whip lash to imitate an equine swishing it's tail to ward off other equines that are invading it's personal space.

All my donkeys love attention, and will happily come running anytime they see me come out to visit them, but they have also learned to respect my personal space when I tell them to. This makes working with them much easier and safer for all of us.

Try these steps, and let me know how it works for you!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 06:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2009

Erie Canal Mules

Have you ever heard the song "Low Bridge"? When I was a young child I had a storybook with beautiful color pictures to go along with the lyrics to that song. I used to study each picture with awe, and imagine what it must have been like to live in that time when mules pulled the barges up and down the Erie Canal.

Mules pulling barge on Erie Canal

If you haven't heard the song before, here is a recording of the tune:

Your browser doesn't support the EMBED tag, but you can still listen to the music on this page by <a href="http://www.kididdles.com/lyrics/midi/e014.mid">clicking here.</a>

Low Bridge
By Thomas S. Allen

I've got an old mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
We've hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay
And every inch of the way we know
From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal

We'd better get along on our way, old gal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
'Cause you bet your life I'd never part with Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
Git up there mule, here comes a lock
We'll make Rome 'bout six o'clock
One more trip and back we'll go
Right back home to Buffalo


Oh, where would I be if I lost my pal?
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
Oh, I'd like to see a mule as good as Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
A friend of mine once got her sore
Now he's got a busted jaw
Cause she let fly with her iron toe
And kicked him in to Buffalo


Don't have to call when I want my Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She trots from her stall like a good old gal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
I eat my meals with Sal each day
I eat beef and she eats hay
And she ain't so slow if you want to know
She put the "Buff" in Buffalo


I was just thinking of this song again the other day, and thought it would be fun to look for some more photos of the Erie Canal mules. Here are a few of my favorites:

Painting of barge mules preparing for a day of work

A boy driving a team of mules along the canal at Lyons, New York

Photographs from the Ohio-Erie Canal

More barge mules in harness

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2009

About The Breed - Andalucian Donkeys

The Andalucian breed of donkeys, also known as Cordobese donkeys, was developed by farmers in the Andalucian region of Spain.

This breed tends to have a quiet disposition, and a steady, willing & patient temperament. The breed standard minimum height is 14.1hh for males and 13.1hh for females, and some Andalucians can grow as tall as 16hh. They are light dappled silver gray in color.

Andalucian Donkey

In the agricultural census done between 1930 and 1940, there were between 900,000 and 1,200,000 donkeys in this region. They were highly valued in the production of mules. They were also one of the breeds used in the development of the American Mammoth Jackstock breed in the United States.

Andalucian Donkey

But as farming mules were replaced by machinery, and the demand for Andalucian donkeys in the production of mules decreased, so did their numbers. Few Andalucian donkeys can be found in Spain today. With only around 120 to 150 known worldwide today, they are in great danger of extinction. The National Association of Breeders of the Andalucian Donkey is now working to protect and preserve this wonderful breed for future generations to enjoy.

Here are two more links where you can find information on those who are working to save the Andalucian donkey:
Donkeys of Andalucia
Raza Asnal Andaluza (This site is in Spanish. You may translate it to English using Google's Language Tool)

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2009

Highlights for March

Though it may not look like it in some parts of the country, spring is on its way! If not already, the weather will soon start warming up, and I'm sure you'll be as anxious as I am to get out and start doing things with the equines!

I was just browsing through the event calendar on Longears Mall to see what fun events are coming up during the month of March. Here are a couple that you might enjoy.

Mule Ride in San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Trail Ride - March 13-15
If you are located in or near Utah, you'll enjoy joining the Rocky Mountain Mule Association on their trail ride in the Fuller Bottom/San Rafael Swell area. The San Rafael Swell is one of Utah's lesser known treasures. It features beautiful red rock cliffs and desert hills, and is also home to wild burros. What a great place to explore! RMMA is a fantastic group of people to hang out with. I'm sure you'll enjoy this ride!

Houston Livestock Show - March 20-22
The Houston Livestock Show will be holding is donkey and mule events the weekend of March 20-22. This sounds like a weekend of fun! As described on their website:

"A Donkey and Mule Show features classes of talented donkeys and mules jumping, pulling carts and competing with the nation’s top animals."

"This event not only highlights donkey and mule competition, but it also features the popular mule pull, donkey snigging and the donkey single hitch obstacle driving contests. Competition also includes the “Ear of the Year” awards for the donkey and mule whose measurable ear spans are the widest."

Do you know of another exciting mule or donkey event that we don't have listed on the calendar yet? Please send us an email with the info so that we can add it!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2009

Help Stop the Abuse!

I received this email today from Crystal Ward, and would encourage you to help us stop the abusive sport of donkey roping.

Letter from Crystal Ward of Asspen Ranch:

For those of you who are outraged against the sport of donkey roping, please read the story below, where in Mineral Wells, Texas, 20 donkeys were roped by 150 teams of ropers (heading & heeling).



www.mineralwellsindex.com/local and click on "Burro Boys" story.

We urge you to write "letters to the editor" to the local paper;

editor@mineralwellsindex.com cc: donkranch@comcast.net
Mineral Wells Index
Attn: David May, Editor

Please include your name, city, state, and a daytime phone number so they may verify the writer. I understand the Mineral Wells journalist who contacted me last week (Libby Cluett), will write about this issue in the near future if there is enough interest (and outrage). Keep the letters coming folks.

Thank you in advance for a few minutes of your time, to help send a real clear message that roping donkeys simply for sport is not acceptable. Please feel free to forward this email along to donkey/mule longears lists, etc. My website also has an article on donkey roping.

Crystal Ward

Join us to help these donkeys and many others like them!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)