Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rest In Peace Sweet Little REUBEN

My dear Friends and Family,

Yesterday, 8/24/2011 I had to say goodbye to my sweet little Reuben.
During a two week hard battle with pancreatitis, after getting into some food, my wonderful Vet Team and I elected to have surgery on Reuben to see if his problems could be relieved. Unfortunately the surgeon found something unexpected. A mass or tumor the size of a baseball on his pancreas. He had been in so much pain and nothing could be done so I let him go.

My heart is broken.

Reuben was 11 years old but I only had 9 years with him. The day I went to meet him it was like he knew I was there to get him. He ran to meet me and was so excited that he crashed into my feet. On the drive home I had to tie him to the passenger side door because he kept trying to leap on my lap while I was driving!

He was as beautiful on the inside as he was on the outside. Between loving every equine, dog, cat or human that he met to chasing that horse toy ball around the yard like a manic, he lived life at one-hundred miles an hour.
But Reuben knew how to relax and snuggle too!
He would jump up out of a dead sleep if I said, "Let's go feed the Mules!"
He had a bouncy little trot most every were he went.

He went from an untrained stray on a friends farm, to a registered therapy dog with both Therapy Dogs International and later on Wake Med Hospital.
He loved to go and visit the patients and never ran out of love, giving or receiving.
How did he know that the older lady, he was visiting, meant when she said, "Give me some sugar!" that she wanted him to kiss her ears? Some how he did.
How did he draw a young teenage girl, who had not spoken to anyone since her accident, out of her shell?
He always brought smiles to the patients and nurses alike.

I was lucky to have him, some say he was lucky to have me.
Funny, Lucky was his name when I found him.
He had a huge heart of gold and my friend is horribly missed.

Many thanks to my wonderful and supportive Mother!
Dr. Creech and Dr. Peters-Creech at Eastern Wake Veterinary and
Dr. Galllagher at Veterinary Surgical Referral Practice
for their kindness and wonderful care of Reuben.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Donna's Visit To Grayson!!!

October 2011 edition of Mule & More, By Donna Taylor

I left Colin in charge of my pony, three donkeys and my tortoise whilst I set off on my two week holiday to America. My itinerary was as follows: fly to North Carolina and catch up with my friends Joel and Nicole Robinson for one night. Then the following morning, Joel would drive me to Grayson Highlands State Park in Southwest Virginia to meet up with Shannon Hoffman and the Carolina Mule Association.

I was to camp in the mountains for four nights, then drive back with Shannon to her house in Zebulon, NC. The following day I would fly out of Raleigh Airport, NC to St Louis, Missouri where I was to meet Sue Cole, Editor of Mules and More and her family. I would stay with Sue for three nights and then finally fly to Las Vegas and then onto Tropic, Utah to meet up with Pete and Keela Mangum, who run the Red Rock Ride, for three days. I would then fly back to France via the United Kingdom.

It was going to be a crazy two weeks, taking nine flights altogether, but having the opportunity to see old and new friends was going to be a very exciting trip and one that I was looking forward to. I was also going to spend the majority of my time around mules which, as all you know, are so special for me.

My first night was very enjoyable. I got to see Joel’s horses and spend some time with him and Nicole which is always a great pleasure. The next day we drove to Grayson Highlands State Park, where Shannon was waiting for me with her two gorgeous mules, Seven and Sadie Mae. This was going to be my third consecutive year riding with Shannon and I was really pleased to have Sadie Mae to myself for the duration of my time at Grayson Highlands.

The Carolina Mule Association had organised this ride and I knew that I would get to see some of the members that I met last year at South Mountain State Park, NC.

Grayson Highlands State Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and there are many horse trails. The elevation is around 5,000 feet so the weather can change very quickly from blue skies and sunshine to stormy rain clouds. At the campsite, there are 67 stalls for the equines, 38 covered and 29 uncovered. The Park is home to deer, wild ponies, bears and many other animals and birds.

My first day’s riding (Wednesday) was a gentle visit to the Park’s gift shop. It’s only about a 40 minute ride from the horse camp, so we tacked up our two mules and headed out with Tony and Brenda McMasters.

Shannon had told me to bring warm clothes as well as T-shirts due to the variable weather. Well, she was certainly right. Within 15 minutes of starting the ride, the blue sky disappeared, the heavens opened and it just poured with rain. Shannon is ready for any occasion and Sadie Mae had my raincoat securely fastened to my saddle ready for me to put on.

Luckily the rain had stopped once we reached the gift shop. We tied the mules up and bought ourselves an ice cream. Whilst looking around, two ladies walked in with their dog. They looked rather concerned and told us that they had just seen a mother bear with her cubs along a trail. They said they had abruptly turned around and headed in the opposite direction.

I have no idea why, but I have a huge fear of bears and I was starting to imagine that I would be coming across them on all the trails. I mentioned my fear to Shannon, but she said I probably wouldn’t see any.

This did not help me in the slightest on my first night in Shannon’s trailer. At 1:00am, we could feel the trailer gently swaying and something was scratching on the outside. Great I thought, there is going to be a bear outside, that’s just what I need. Shannon got out of bed, found her torch and opened the door. I was not even considering accompanying her and stayed firmly in my bed.

To her surprise, there was a raccoon trying to get into the back of the trailer where it could scent some food that we had left there. A huge look of relief came over my face and after Shannon scared it off, we went back to sleep, only for him to return at 04:00am to have another go at getting some breakfast. We didn’t enjoy the best night’s sleep, but at least it wasn’t a bear that woke us up.

The next day, we were up at 06:30 (Thursday) feeding the mules, cleaning the stalls and then getting ourselves our breakfast. Five of us headed out that morning. Tony and Brenda were with us and also another member of the Association called Barry Greene. The weather was perfect and we had a lovely ride along the Wilson Creek Trail.

Because Tony and Barry knew my fear of bears, they thought it highly amusing to tease me throughout the day about the bears in the park. We went through a gate that read “Bear Pen Trail”. Well, of course, you can guess what they said to me next. Did we see a bear? Not one I am pleased to say, although there were some beautiful deer.

After a good night’s sleep undisturbed by raccoons, we set off for another day’s riding in the mountains. This time there were about 20 riders, but after a few miles, we split into two groups. Shannon and I rode with Jay Lankford. He knows the area very well and took us on some fine trails.

After a while, I was starting to forget about the bears as I was more concerned about the Yellow Jacket Bees that live in the ground. Shannon said that this was one of the worst trips she had experienced with these ground bees. There were many mules and riders that got stung including poor Seven who was stung just above his eye. So, if someone shouted “BEES”, then we had to lope away as fast as we could to escape.

Saturday turned out to be a very long but enjoyable day’s riding, led by Teddy Royale. When we were at South Mountain last year, Teddy had to endure my moaning and groaning about how sore I was. Well, I hadn’t ridden for quite a few months before that trip, but now that I had Tina, I was riding regularly, so my muscles were stronger.

This time, there were nine of us and we rode on several trails heading towards Buzzard Rock Overlook. On the way, we met around 25 cows and their calves on the same path. These cows had extremely long and wide horns, and as some of them were directly on the path we had to be very careful how we approached them.

Some of the cows started to panic and went running along the trail. Great I thought, what do I do now? Shannon told me to keep Sadie as close as possible to the edge of the path to keep away from the cow horns. Sadie kept as calm as ever as they sped past. She is such an perfectly behaved mule.

When we finally got to the rock, we took a group photo, had our lunch and enjoyed the amazing views of the countryside and mountains.

We rode 18 miles that day and as we were heading back to the campsite, we decided to stop at the gift shop for an ice cream. It was also a chance for Shannon and I to do a bit of shopping and buy various gifts for our families.

I found it rather amusing that we had covered 18 miles on our mules, moved cows, dodged bees, looked out for bears and then went shopping and had an ice cream. What a great day!!

On the last day (Sunday) everyone packed up and headed home, except for Shannon and me. Even though we had a five hour drive ahead of us, we decided to go out for one more ride which was so enjoyable.

I was told before I got to Grayson Highlands that it was a beautiful park and I would love riding there. This was certainly true. I had such a great time and would like to thank Shannon for letting me ride Sadie Mae again and also for getting her in great shape for me to enjoy. I would also like to thank the Carolina Mule Association who are all so kind and friendly and have made me feel such a part of their family.

Donna and Barry Greene hit off a great friendship!

Sadie Mae trying to get more than her share of lunch!

Long Horn Cows that Seven and I had to herd down the trail!

Donna and Sadie Mae!

On the last day when Donna and I rode out with just the two mules, this Chocolate Palomino Stallion (Who happens to be my Mom's favorite) just walked up to Seven and they began to nuzzle. I expected at least one of them to squeal but neither did, Seven even rubbed his wither at one point! I could not believe it!

Jerry Tindell Clinic

Shannon & Seven drifting the hindquarters!
Jerry watching as Seven & me work on new skills!
Debbie & Jack get some instruction.
Debbie and I headed down the road with our two red mules towards Holly's place. We got in late and once we got the mules settled it was off to bed. We had an early morning ride with a Clinician named Jerry Tindell. I had heard good things about him from Holly. She and her lady friends had met him at Bishop Mule Days in California, where he is from. They were so impressed that they went to everyone of his demonstrations during the Mule Days. Holly decided that she would like to host him coming to North Carolina. She got a small group together and Jerry flew out for the week to do some riding and teaching. By Saturday we were the last part of the group to have a chance to ride with him. I was really impressed as we started off with ground work in the round pen and him showing us how important it is to get the mules feet moving and going forward. He used Debbie's mule who has probably not had anything done with him like that in a long time. I liked how he made many analogies to drive his point home and used the mule and rider, no matter what their skill level to teach the whole group. We then worked on getting the mules to do a true, one rein stop, something I had always thought I understood, but he took it to a new level! Jerry rode Brodie, one of Holly's mules and talked about getting them to be soft to the bit and bend. He then gave Holly and me an exercise to practice, to start working towards a lead change, something that has been on mine and Seven's list for a long time! He told me to "Ride him like I stole him!" which gave me new confidence to push Seven for faster, quicker and more response to my aids. Jerry also kept reminding us to let him know if we feared something or did not feel safe about doing something. We rode out on the trail for about half an hour after the ring work and had a great time, but boy was it hot that day! Later that night everyone from the clinic met at Holly and Bruce's house for dinner. We all brought something and it made for a great meal! Best thing was Jerry was willing to sit and talk with everyone and answer questions about mules and riding. He said all day, "How can I help you!" This is a rare find in deed. I was excited to find someone, so willing to help, teach and explain things, but also teaching the Ray Hunt style of horsemanship which I have been looking to learn. He is coming back in November and I am hoping to ride with him again!
The next day Holly, Debbie and I went on a relaxing trail ride, were Debbie got to try out some of her new Jerry Training Techniques!
Check out his Web Site at:
Debbie & Jack with Holly and Pearl!

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Mules Confirm that I am truly CRAZY!

Tara riding Sadie Mae, Diane driving Pearl in the Parade!

Diane driving Pearl in the show!

For years the mules have thought that I am Crazy, but now it is confirmed for them!
Got up at 5:30 AM and washed them both down in pouring rain and a thunderstorm. Loaded them on the trailer, ran in the house and took a quick shower and then off we went driving, huh, I mean swimming to the Robbins Farmers Day Fair!
Drove out of the rain that dumped nearly 2 inches on Raleigh just 15 miles south.
We had a good time at the Parade. The mule number was low so I was glad that I went! My friend Tara met me in Robbins and rode Sadie through the parade. I had Seven with his Mexican Mule outfit (Sombrero and giant bandanna to his knees) on and Sadie with her Sunflower hat, necklace of sunflowers around her neck and some in her tail. You could just hear all the people getting excited when they saw us. Kids would say, "Mom look at that one!" and adults were trying to take our photos!
After the parade, we went to the awards and Todd won Best Mule Team, with his Mammoth Donkey team, Sadie and Katie. He was happy to win but also a little perplexed that the Judges did not know there where Mammoth Donkeys. He said he is going to get a sign for his wagon next year!
My friend Diane came with her Donkey Pearl and drive her through the parade! Pearl did so well for this only being her 2nd parade being driven in! Diane was dressed like a country lady with a straw hat with flowers and Pearl had one too. She had flower all over her cart and a basket with fruit and flowers in it. We was surprised and also a little dismayed to win Oddest Hitch.
We started the show and I convinced Bobby to show Sadie in Halter, Western Pleasure and Coon Jumping. We also showed in Pairs Class. Unfortunately in most of the classes we were the only two. There was several driving mules and donkeys though. Several people asked, "Why don't they do this in October or something!" I agree!

Todd's Wonderful Donkeys Sadie and Katie!

Here is a great photo show of Robbins Farmers Day Fair from this last Saturday!
Here are also some time markers to be able to watch for me and some of my friends!!!

Link or put into your web search to play:

Todd Barfield Mammoth Donkeys Sadie & Katie at 1:26 & 1:41 &
Wayne Hussey 4 up hitch
Sadie Mae & Tara and Seven & Shannon at 4:33 and 4:41
Pearl and Diane 4:45
at the end is Odell Hussey, in his late 80's doing demo of stacking logs with his horse Johnny!

Also a photo of my mule doing something kind of neat! The ladies driving Donkey, would not get on the trailer. She had pushed herself to the side and two big men could not get her to go straight again! I brought Seven over and lined him up, drove his shoulder over and told him to push the Donkey over!! And he did it!!! Wow, MULE ARE SMART! I was so amazed that he understood what I needed him to help with!!!