Cool Mule News

That look Jolene gives me?

It’s not one of stubbornness, it’s one of smarts.

Imagine my delight in reading the recent findings of a British study with horses, donkeys, and mules.

To summarize in three words:

Mules reign supreme.

[Jolene, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I ever doubted what you were trying to tell me.] Read more on Jolene.

Dr. Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University and her colleagues tested six donkeys, six horses, and six joleneemules. Each animal was shown sets of two food buckets, each marked with a different symbol.  Read more.

In order to gain access to the food, the animals had to pick the correct bucket.  The mules learned to discriminate between more pairs of symbols than the horses or donkeys, and did so more consistently.
Said Osthaus:

“The mules’ performance was significantly better than that of either of the parent species and got faster over a period of time.  Hopefully, our findings will ensure that people change their attitudes towards mules, which frequently have a bad reputation because they often are mentally under-stimulated and therefore might turn against humans or become destructive. This study provides the first empirical evidence that the improved characteristics of mules may be extended from physical attributes to cognitive function.”

Gotta say, those mules sound like the really bright kids who act out while bored and in a classroom full of less intelligent peers.

More on this research soon!

Deworming Debunked, again

Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t make it right.
That’s the thing with deworming.
Many of us have been dosing our horses several times a year for years with all variety of worming pastes and gels. Valley Vet Supply sells thousands of dollars worth of yearly wormer packs, from standard to premium to apple-lol-funny-horse-faceflavored premium.

Apple-flavored? Really? The horses think it’s all nasty, from my observations.

In any case, research shows it’s wrong.

  • It’s like giving antibiotics unnecessarily. The more you dose horses with wormer, the more likely those nasty bugs will build up a resistance to the drugs.

Research shows it’s unnecessary.

  • According to past research and this recent Scottish study, 80 percent of horses don’t need to be wormed. But folks are unaware of the futility and damage of worming.

Research shows it’s a waste of money.

  • According to another Scottish study, it’s more economical to spend your money on fecal egg counts and then selectively worm the specific horses who have high egg counts.The study, conducted by the Department of Disease Control and the Moredun Research Institute will be featured soon in Veterinary Record

Old habits die hard, but it looks like there’s plenty of incentive to kiss the deworming habit goodbye.

Read more about deworming.

BHP teams with like-minded folks

As we grow, NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are forming partnerships and sponsorships with like-minded companies liberty-300x295and individuals.

Like-minded how?

Read the BestHorsePractices mission statement. You’ll see that we follow a Nature is Best philosophy. We recognize that sustainability and simplicity are essential to horse care and management. The same could be said for our partners and sponsors. They share some of the same philosophies and goals.

Read how Nature is Best helped shape BestHorsePractices.

Whenever possible, we want scientific research to support any claims.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of the horse training, care, and management is in the doing. The goal of BestHorsePractices is to celebrate like-minded doers and call out those who don’t pass this principle.

Like-minded who?IMG_0049

Here are just some of the folks we partner with and feature:

We hope you find time to check them out and give them a test drive. We think you and your horses will definitely approve.

Of Children, Dogs, Horses

Warwick Schiller once told me working with horses wasn’t that different from raising children:
warwick-254x300It’s all about creating a space that has discipline, consistency, and positivity. Create boundaries. Give them the freedom to make mistakes. Firm love.
Those words rang true again when I listened to three top dog trainers recently.
Some interesting sound bites follow. Can you relate them to horse work? Does it remind you of your favorite horseman or woman?

Tom Dokken, of Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels in Minnesota:

The three most important things in dog training:

  • Patience
  • Consistency
  • Having fun.

Dokken on the concept of pressure.



When we give a command like heel, we give Pressure On with a collar. When the dog performs, we take Pressure Off. Your dog is going to learn that Pressure On is something he doesn’t want. He’s going to be working for total Pressure Off.

Rick Smith of Huntsmith, in Montana:

The great American way: I want what I want. I want it right now. That’s not going to work with dogs or with any kind of training. If you know you’re a little short on patience, recognize that in yourself.
Right after no patience comes frustration.
Right after frustration comes anger.

Stop yourself before you get into the frustration stage and see it lead to anger. Put your dog away. Take a walk. Take a breath. Relax a bit. Come back and work with your puppy.
Your puppy has a short attention span. You’ve got to keep your training sessions in short sessions. Five minutes is a long time for a puppy.
Don’t expect miracles the first day, it does not happen.

Charlie Jurney, author, Finished Dog



Make it fun. Make sure the dog correlates training with fun.

Jurney credits his dogs for teaching him the most:
My dog taught me what worked and what did not work in a dog’s mind. He taught me how to train dogs and what a great teacher he was.

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