The Day That Rocked Bob's World

by Molly Shakespear Almo, Ky.

It was the day that would change Bob’s world forever. It started like many others: up early, coffee on, mules fed on their tie line, breakfast cooking on the grill. We were camped at Double M Campground in Shawnee National Forest, located in southern Illinois.
Having ridden in that area many times, I knew the riding would be good. With all the forest trails, streams to cross, and rock ledges, it is a nice cool place to ride in July.
There was a large group of us, mostly from western Kentucky, so I knew most of the other mules and horses on my tie line. We generally all get along as the pecking order has long since been established. With this large of a group, an early start just isn’t going to happen. At around 9 a.m., everyone is finally ready to head out.
Today Jeff Jones is elected, by acclamation, to be the trail boss. Jeff has ridden in Shawnee National Forest for several years so he was the best choice for the job.
The group was only about a mile from camp when (what I call) “the event” happened.
Bob was riding drag on the group of 11 riders. This is his permanent position because of his unorthodox riding methods and general lack of skill in the saddle. (As a side note, let me say that Bob has great difficulty with items that are sharp or hot and he doesn’t have a working knowledge of gravity or balance. This is why Brenda will not allow him to wear spurs or to ride any where except for the back of the pack.)
What happened next is a bit foggy and changes each time Bob tells the tale. What is known is that Bob had stopped along the trail to get a snack out of his saddle bags and to allow Libby to grab a mouth full of grass. At such a time, Bob usually kicks his feet out of the stirrups, drapes the reins over the saddle horn , and sets in the saddle like a rag doll.
It is believed that Libby was stung by a bee, as she took a giant jump sideways, leaving Bob suspended in mid-air, at which time gravity took over bringing Bob to rest on his left side on the hardest piece of Terra Firma that exist in the Western Hemisphere.
A few years ago, (well maybe more than a few) Bob would have jumped up, looking around to see if anyone was watching. Today, however, he just laid there hoping someone was watching and would come to his aide.
Fortunately for Bob, Libby had stopped close enough to him that he could reach up with his good arm, grab the stirrup, and get back on his feet.
By the time Bob was on his feet, Bill Eyre and his mule Herbie had ridden back to render aide. Bob was busy gathering up his glasses, hat, GPS unit, and what little pride he had left. With Bill’s help and the use of a nearby stump, Bob was able to get back in the saddle.
After catching up with the rest of the group, Bob was greeted with many words of encouragement, like “Ride it out,” “Cowboy up,” and “Stop whining.” I think Bob was really touched by their sympathy until he realized the tears in their eyes were from laughter.
On the trail again, we headed into some really beautiful riding, the rock formations and meandering streams were just as I remembered them. Lunch was at a place called Round Rock where there were tie lines for me and my friends and large flat rocks for the humans to lunch on.
During our lunch break, we saw a large mule coming down the trail and he stopped for a visit. We learned his name was Murphy Brown and his human was Chad from Mattoon, Ky.
After a pleasant break and a filling lunch, we were again on the trail. Bob once again was relegated to the drag position. As he was ambling down the trail, he heard someone yell “BEES!” Looking up, he saw his wife Brenda in what was a half-dismount/half-fall from my saddle and me with my head between my front legs, trying to get the bees off my face and ears. Once Brenda was clear of me I headed for the brush to try and escape all the stinging, and Brenda tried to keep the bees off her face and arms.
All was soon clear of the bees and some order was restored. It was discovered that I, and several of my friends, had multiple stings, along with several for Brenda and some of the other humans.
I should point out that bees are not normally a problem this time of year, but I believe the abnormally hot weather had the bee’s confused.
As we returned to camp the last drop of daylight was fading from the western sky - a draining that seemed more a suffocation than a sunset, a final faint gasp as the day died of heatstroke.
Later that evening everyone set around discussing the days ride. However, it seemed to Bob that his display of mulemanship was mentioned way too often.
The next morning everyone was up having coffee and discussing the upcoming days ride, I took this opportunity to lead a human to water to see if I could make him drink. This task proved almost impossible with Jeff.
We look forward to another visit to Double M Horse Camp in the fall. Hope you have safe and happy trail riding.
Chad, of Matoon, Ky., and Murphy Brown

Molly lead's a human (Jeff) to water to see if she could make him drink

Brenda riding Molly and Bob riding Libby

On the tie line
originally published in the 9/10 issue of Mules and More

A "Picture Perfect" Birthday

by Molly Shakespear
Almo, Ky.

It’s May 4 and Bob had loaded Libby, Jazz and myself into the mule trailer. We were headed to Stampede Run Horse Camp (which should be called a “mule camp”) near Whitley City, Kent. We left my human, Brenda at home in Almo as Bob wanted to arrive early to get all the decorations up before Brenda arrived for her big 55th birthday party and ride.

Shortly after getting there Bob had us in our stalls and camp set up. Others arriving not too long after us were my former owners, Bill and Helen Eyre and friends from Shelburn, Ind., with Herbie in his trailer, then Bob’s sister Mary Ann and her daughter Pamela Frasure from Cleveland, Ohio. Everyone got busy getting the pavilion decorated with balloons, streamers, pictures and banners.

Early the next morning campers started rolling in; Ray and Kelly Morrin with their daughter Jamie Coleman, who was immediately named “Probie” due to this being her first ride at Stampede Run. Dave Hueing (a.k.a. Smiley, the one-week mule trainer) was with them. Jimmy Ray (aka Toady) and Mona Doolin, of Lancaster, Kent., Micheal Allen and Barbara Westphal, accompanied by the guest of honor, Brenda, Danny and Donna Dunn, and Jeff Jones, and many others soon arrived. The campground was filled up rapidly.

Following a BBQ, Brenda opened her gifts. I’ll just skip to the best present she received: a blue heeler, Foxy, presented by Stampede Run owners, Ricky and Darelene Hensley. Foxy had been the camp mascot for about three years and had ridden with us each time we had been at the camp. Brenda loved Foxy from the first time she saw her and had always wanted her. As for me…I saw Foxy as a new target to stomp if she got under my left hoof.

Thursday morning it was time to hit the trail. Darelene led us out for a great day, the scenery was even better than I remembered with streams to cross, rock ledges to follow, and overhangs to stop under for lunch.

When we arrived back in camp after Friday’s ride, and all us mules and horses had been cared for, fish cookers were fired up. Much to everyone’s dismay Saturday morning arrived too soon and we made our last ride on the trails. Following another good meal that evening, and sitting around a campfire, it was unanimous that everyone had a great time helping Brenda celebrate her birthday, seeing and riding with old friends, and making new ones for future trail rides.

Happy and safe trail riding to all!

(from the top) Brenda plays frisbee with Foxy. Bill Eyre riding Herbie. The campfire. Jamie Coleman (a.k.a. Probie) with her mule. The trailriders

Protect Your Loved Ones

by Brenda Ammons - Almo, Ky.

Equine Botulism vaccinations can save your mule and donkey’s life

At last the snow is gone and spring is in the air. Preparation is underway to start a new season of riding. Molly Shakespear has been taken out of the pasture and brought up to the corrals. Now is the time for a spring clean up. Molly S. needs to be clipped, new shoes and most important a yearly visit from her vet, Dr. Kim Abernathy-Young. Molly's visit from Dr. Kim will include having blood drawn for cogins and vaccines for Eastern & Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, West Nile, Tetanus, & Rabies. Bob and I also travel with Molly Shakespear and Libby so for that reason we also include vaccinations for Influenza, Rhinopneumonitis, Strangles and Equine Viral Artecitis (EVA). We have found that when it comes to our mules we want all of the bases covered since our mules come in contact with several different equines in our travels to different parts of the country and camping at large horse camps.

Bob and I are adding a new vaccine this year for Equine Botulism....yes, I said Botulism. We were totally clueless about Equine Botulism until a couple of weeks ago. We had some riding friends lose three really nice horses to this dreaded disease. Needless to say these people were very upset. They spent a small fortune trying to save their horses. Of course they wish now that they had known about Equine Botulism. For this reason I want to share some information with you about this subject.

Equine Botulism is a disease that is caused by toxins that are produced from the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum. These toxins are so potent that one teaspoon of the toxin is enough to kill 5,000 horses. Botulism is a rapidly progressive disease that quickly paralyzes an affected horse's nervous system. Unfortunately, this disease is nearly 100% fatal even if it is treated. If left untreated, affected horses usually die within 48 to 72 hours as a result of respiratory paralysis.

There are several causes of Botulism including muddy soil, contaminated feed, and contaminated water. It is believed that the horses mentioned above got into a dry lot with some cattle and ate silage which was contaminated. The signs of Botulism is hard to diagnose because initially it looks like many other diseases. The onset of clinical signs can range from 12 hours to several days depending on how much of the toxin was ingested.

The first sign that you might notice about your horse/mule is muscle weakness and tremors. Later the equine may appear to be colicing. The signs more specific to botulism include severe loss of tongue and tail tone along with difficulty eating and swallowing. The inability to retract the tongue is another sign of Botulism.

Now for the good news: Equine Botulism can be prevented. The vaccine for Equine Botulism comes in a series of three injections. One injection per month for three months. The vaccine is very inexpensive considering it's for your best friend. The cost is approximately $20 per injection with an annual booster needed after the initial injections. Prevention is really inexpensive as compared to approximately $5,000 spent to try and save an infected mule which is usually unsuccessful.

I am by no means a vet so please discuss Equine Botulism with your individual DVM.

I hope you find this information helpful and PLEASE vaccinated your buddy. Safe and happy trails, Brenda Ammons & Molly Shakespear.