Book and DVD Reviews


Wild Burro Tales: Thirty Years of Haulin’ Ass
by Hal Walter 
Review by Teresa Cutler-Broyles
“Hang on. Don’t let go.”
So Hal Walter tells us in Wild Burro Tales, his wonderful new collection that takes us on a wild ride through the exciting and overlooked sport of pack-burro racing, and his life with the creatures that give it all meaning. 
At first glance the book appears to be, simply, about burros and the relatively obscure and unusual sport of running marathon distances partnered with an animal not known for its cooperative nature. Indeed, the stories – 19 in all, punctuated with brief asides that take on a life of their own in their ability to hit hard – are ostensibly about Walter’s experiences with pack-burro racing and the people and animals who make the sport what it is. For anyone interested in knowing the facts – where pack-burro racing originated, why it continues today, what sorts of skills and hardships are encompassed – Wild Burro Tales certainly delivers. And Walter touches on Wild West legend as well as hard 20th Century reality as he opens that world for us.
If that’s all Wild Burro Tales was it would be a great read, but it is so much more. The tales that take us with Walter as he races through the years and over mountain passes with loved friends, both two- and four-legged, also take us through hardship and a certain mystical wonder. Walter’s book, in fact, is an intricate weaving together of real life adventures over 30 years of racing, and a search for a certain timelessness that we find ourselves yearning for as we catch glimpses of its truth throughout. 
Walter and his wife and son live on a small ranch at nearly 9,000 feet in Southern Colorado, and their back yard is boundless, limitless sky and meadows filled with wildflowers, snow, herds of elk and endless possibilities for new adventure. The gift he gives us throughout Wild Burro Tales is the realization that we can all find those adventures no matter where we live.
Walter finishes his book the way he starts it – talking about his burro Spike. At the beginning, Spike literally pulls him off his feet, just as this book does, starting the exciting ride that will end only when we decide to let go. Essentially what we learn is that life is full of wild rides, and the best way to get through it is to hitch yourself to something you love and let momentum and trust — and a hell of a lot of luck — carry you over the summit to the finish line.
As Walter says: Hang on. Don’t let go!
Wild Burro Tales — Thirty Years of Haulin’ Ass is available from the Mules and More book store, and also directly from the author. See the ad in this issue for ordering information or contact Hal at jackassontherun@gmail.com.
 
Mules, Mules and More Mules
Written By Rose Miller
Down, down the steep and rocky canyon wall they went. Nose to tail, long ears flopping, stepping oh so very carefully as they placed shod hooves into small spaces between the hard rocks. Their riders looked askance at the steep drop off, some even shutting their eyes to the beautiful vistas.
The Grand Canyon mules were accustomed to many and varied riders, and seemed not to care that their passengers were slightly nervous; they had seen these rocky paths many times and would seem them many more. Rose Miller was among those riders going down Bright Angel Trail on their trustworthy mules to the Phantom Ranch below where she and her fellow travelers would spend the night and travel back on the Kaibab trail to the top the next day.
By the time Rose returned home to northern Indiana, she had become totally enthralled with those captivating and unique equine hybrids and was determined to find the perfect, safe and dependable mule to ride in her “senior years.” She had owned, shown, bred and trained horses for nearly forty years, and now was ready for the easy life.
What happens next constitutes the story of “Mules, Mules and More Mules,” as Rose searches for the ideal long-eared companion.   Because of her bad back, a smooth-gaited mule that would allow her to sit back and enjoy the ride was desired, but not all was smooth going. Continue along for the trip as she uses her engaging around-the-campfire-story-telling style to introduce her mules: Mirabella, Samson, Maybellene, Ruth Ann, Susie, and Lucinda. You will laugh out loud as she learns the hard way, mules and horses are different, and are not perfect.
Each mule teaches Rose something different, but in the end she realizes that mules have become a new addiction. Anyone who loves to be entertained by and loves animals will surely enjoy “Mules, Mules and More Mules.”
Mules and More Editor Cori Basham said the following about "Mules, Mules and More Mules:" I enjoyed this book. I especially like the little mention that Hoosier and I received. This is a cute story about one woman's quest for the perfect mule. The author learns to love and learn from the mules she encounters on this journey, and readers can benefit from her trials and tribulations along the way. It is a good read for anyone planning on going "mule shopping," and anyone who has ever been will be able to relate to Rose's tale. Rose is right when she says that mules are like potato chips: "You can't have just one." And readers will be closer to understanding why."
This book can be purchase here.
 
Chances Worth Taking: A Claimer’s Story
Written by Patricia McAdams
Review by Cori Basham, Mules and More Editor
"Chances Worth Taking" is an entertaining quick read. McAdams tells the story of an elderly prospector and his journey to find the family he searched for his entire life.
Claude and his mule Clementine had been traveling the west in search for gold to finance a new life. The Artwalds were searching for a new life, too, and a place to start over with their two children. When their paths crossed, it set into motion a chain of events that would alter the way they view their lives forever.
McAdam’s characters teach valuable lessons on what people are willing to trade to help the ones they care about.
Long-ear lovers will appreciate and relate to the struggles the group goes through. Anyone who has made a tough decision about the fate of others will understand Claude's story.
This book could be read by any reading-age child, as well as any adult. It can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.
 
“Donkeys — Miniature, Standard, Mammoth: A Veterinary Guide for Owners and Breeders”
By Stephen R. Purdy, DVM
Review By Hal Walter, Westcliff, Colo.
“Donkeys — Miniature, Standard, Mammoth: A Veterinary Guide for Owners and Breeders” by Stephen R. Purdy, DVM, comprises a health-care overhaul package forequinis asinus.
This 160-page book, illustrated with full-color graphics and photographs, is a handy reference for donkey owners and should be on the shelves of veterinarians who treat these animals. Some information, like drug doses and the use of radiography and ultrasounds, is clearly intended for veterinary use only.
In my 30-year association with donkeys, I’ve noticed most vets apply horse medicine practices when treating these animals. However, while donkeys are equines, Purdy documents some genetic, anatomical and medical differences owners and veterinarians should consider. He also notes that donkeys may metabolize some drugs at different rates than horses.
An entire chapter is devoted to the nutritional requirements of donkeys, which through evolution have developed a more efficient metabolism than horses. For this reason, idle donkeys generally tend to become overweight or obese when fed too much high-quality forages and feeds. A nice addition to future editions of this book would be a section about how to properly feed hardworking donkeys for performance.
The author devotes considerable attention to herd health, parasites and diseases. One refreshing aspect is the recommendation that donkey owners use sound management practices, testing and selective deworming rather than wholesale treatment with anti-parasitics, which can lead to drug-resistant parasites. Purdy also details the digestive and musculoskeletal systems, and the differences in these between donkeys and horses.
Nearly one-third of the book is devoted to reproduction, artificial insemination, pregnancy and foaling. While this information is very important for breeders and veterinarians, many donkey owners will find this material useful only as general interest or background information.
One point of reproductive health that does affect a large number of donkey owners is castration. Intact male donkeys can be aggressive and unpredictable. Unless you intend to use your stud donkey in a breeding program, or have some other specific reason to keep him intact, it’s generally advisable to have him gelded. This book details the procedure.
Dr. Purdy has given us something the donkey world has been lacking — a sound guide for owners and veterinarians in caring for these wonderful and in many cases, hardworking, animals.
Available at amazon.com
Hal Walter is a world champion pack-burro racer and author of “Wild Burro Tales — 30 Years of Haulin’ Ass” available directly from him at jackassontherun@gmail.com
 
 
The Year of the Packer - Bishop Mule Days 2010 with Susie Dobbs
The 2010 Bishop Mule Day was produced by Video Mike Productions (www.video-mike.com). Video Mike and country singer and TV personality, Susie Dobbs, of Tennessee, will take you on a tour of Mule Days in order to answer questions about mules. Susie is shown interviewing well known mule and donkey personalities Tucker Slender, Von Twitchell, Meredith Hodges, Crystal Ward, Roger Downey, Tabitha Holland, and others known for their expertise on mules and/or donkeys.
You will catch brief glimpses of mules and donkeys in action…..running barrels and poles, jumping, roping, costume, driving draft and saddle mules and donkeys, both single and in teams, boot scramble, the Dolly Pardon race and the famous Bishop parade. Russ Anderson is shown driving his 8-up hitch, as well as the magnificent Priefert Texas Thunder Percheron (horses).
This professionally done DVD sells for $30.00 plus $3.00 shipping and runs 1 hour 18 minutes. It can be purchased at www.video-mike.com or by calling 707-226-9193.

Samule The Worthless White Mule
“Samule The Worthless White Mule” chronicles the ups and downs in the early years of one mule’s life. After being abandoned as a young colt, Samule finds a loving home with Diana Schmid, the author. But when Diana sends Samule to be trained, she unknowingly exposed him to starvation and abuse. Though Samule does learn to be saddled, bridled and ridden at the trainers, the neglect he experienced set him back. Diana and Samule work together upon his return home to overcome these setbacks and prove to the world that Samule is, indeed, not  a “worthless white mule.”
This 22-page book is in full color and includes photos of Samule throughout this journey. Though geared toward children 8-12 years old, it would certainly be a good read for anyone looking to raise a young mule and demonstrates the importance of selecting the proper trainer for your mule. This book is available through www.authorhouse.com.

Book Reviews

COWBOYS COMPLETE SADDLE MAKING
Review by Sheila Cross, T Cross Farm, St. James, Mo.
Cowboys Complete Saddle Making by John Hopper is a one of a kind leather crafters how-to book. If you are experienced, or a beginner, this book is for you. The price ($44.00) may seem a little steep, but it has so many project instructions that you should be able to make, or repair, any piece of tack you might need.
Of course, as the title implies, it gives very detailed instructions on building a saddle of your own, as well as explaining many different trees, which, as a mule rider is always informational. He shows a diagram of all the parts of a saddle and many options for swells, cantles and horns. The author shows how to make your own leather trim for stirrups, as well as how not to do things when making a saddle.
There is a section on packing equipment, with many photos to show the different types available.
As a novice at making leather tack and accessories for myself and my mules, I especially like the instructions, and in many instances, patterns, for all the miscellaneous items. The book has instructions for back straps, halter, bridles, saddlebags, hobbles, chaps, spurs and a whole lot more.
John Hopper obviously is very experienced and willing to instruct others in leatherwork. After reading through the different projects in this 360 page book, I am very motivated to get in my workshop and design my own one of a kind western tack and gear. I have many other instructional books and videos, but none this thorough, with such clear step-by-step instructions. I am sure I will refer to this book many times for instruction and ideas, for many years to come.
To order your copy of Cowboys Complete Saddle Making contact Proleptic, Inc., P O Box 17817, Asheville, NC 28816 e-mail: shoptalk@proleptic.net – phone 828/505-8474
 
AMERICA’S RURAL YESTERDAY  Volume 1: Fieldwork
Review by Tim Cross, T Cross Farm, St. James, Mo.
Boo Larrington, the man that first got me into horses in the early 1970’s gave me my first horse, then graduated me to mules in the early 1980’s, told me about when he was disking with four horses two miles from home on his eighth birthday in 1926. His family came to the field with lunch and gave him a pocketknife for his birthday present.
I’ve heard the story more than once, and enjoyed it always and tried to visualize it. I often have thought how different things were then. I have been lucky enough to have a couple of good teams and really enjoy working with them, with Boo as my coach.
This book is 144 pages of a darn good collection of black and white photographs from the period in time when Boo was growing up, showing many different tasks that were accomplished with mules, horses, and a few of the first tractors available in that era.
If you are interested in agricultural history, and seeing photos of how “it was done back then” you should certainly enjoy this book, the first of a three-volume series showcasing the vintage photography of J.C. Allen & Sons, Inc. published by Mischka Press.
The book sells for $24.95 plus $5.00 s/h and can be ordered from Mules and More, P O Box 460, Bland Mo. 65014, 573/646-3934, or online at www.mulesandmore.com
 
THE NEW HORSE-POWERED FARM
Review by Cori Basham, Mules and More Editor
The “green” revolution is everywhere these days. We are always looking to save a little gas and eat a little better, be a little more “Earth” friendly. This book, The New Horse-Powered Farm, by Stephen Leslie, takes that desire to be “green” to the farm. “This book is not about trying to go back to some idyllic past,” says Leslie, “It is designed to be a manual to help us move a few steps forward to a more sustainable farm.”
Starting with tips on how to care for a work horse, different horse-training systems, and the merits of different draft breeds (with a special shout-out to draft mules!), it moves into tools and horse-drawn tillage and cultivation, with a spotlight on whole-farm management.
I enjoyed the profiles on the horse-drawn farmers and their stories of how they came to find what works for them on their farms.
This is a definitive handbook for anyone looking to start a horse-powered farm on a small or large scale. But this book is a good find for any teamster who wants to work with draft power. It can be purchased though Chelsea Green Publishing (chelseagreen.com) or Amazon.
 
 
 
Book Review by Cindy K. Roberts: 
Equine Management and Donkey Training by Meredith Hodges
Meredith Hodges systematic style comes through in her educational series on Training Mules and Donkeys:  A Logical Approach To Longears. Equine Management and Donkey Training correlates with the DVD training series.  A concise and useful guide, the book offers instruction on donkey management, fitting, grooming and preparing your donkey for the show ring.  Meredith’s teaching on how to work with your donkey is very helpful as well as encouraging.  I enjoyed reading her approach in measuring your donkey for athletic potential because this is very crucial to donkey owners that have a plan for using their donks!    Meredith explains on how to assess your donkey’s reaction under pressure to determine if he can move forward with advanced training: have someone hold the lead rope while you make an abrupt move, like jumping and flapping your arms.  What does your donkey do?  If he tries to run off, he’s not the best candidate for equine sports, such as driving, that require a steady animal.  On the other hand, if he stops to look at you and tries to figure out what you’re doing, he’s a great candidate for advanced training.  
The tone of the book stresses the equine owner’s responsibility to finding out the issues and problems to be addressed.  The proper care for the donkey jack to ensure he is mentally and physically healthy as well as safe is addressed.  Meredith stresses the importance of a clean environment, a nutritional food plan, implementing socialization and safety awareness to enable your jack to leading a healthy and balanced life. 
Meredith’s expertise enables readers to understand donkey saddle training, jumping, basics in the round pen, trotting, mounting, patterns and obstacles at the walk and trot as well as addressing the canter. 
Volume 2 covers advanced training in donkeys:  lateral training, lengthening the stride, jumping and equine massage
Mule health management is covered, basic healthcare and common health issues in the mule.  The illustrations on conformation, show ring patterns,  long line exercises, working through and around obstacles are very useful to the reader. 
Drawrein settings are covered as well as dressage information that I found to be interesting and needed instruction to the reader.  This book is a valuable resource to every equine library, five stars to Meredith Hodges on the completion of this project!
Author Cindy K. Roberts is a contributing feature and column writer that has a lifetime experience with equines. Her experience with mules began in 1985.  Cindy is an accomplished mule author and trainer, her most recent book; Life Lessons In The Saddle & Around The Manure Pile is available at www.everycowgirlsdream.com. Cindy can be reached at cindy@everycowgirlsdream.com.
 
Confidence Training for the Western Saddle Mule - by Cindy K. Roberts
Review by Cori Basham, Mules and More Editor
Confidence Training for the Western Saddle Mule by Cindy K. Roberts is a good book for anyone interested in furthering their mule training education, from handler to trainer to rider. She shows that with time, patience, and these techniques it is possible to fix our mules' problems. 
It is one thing to read about how to fix these problems, but it is another to see it how it is actually done. That is why I really like the step-by-step photos showing Cindy implementing these techniques, like how to desensitize and trailer load.
She does not just cover training, though. There is an extensive chapter on nutrition, which will enrich your knowledgeable about your mules’ hay, feed, and supplements, along with chapters on emphasizing the importance of saddle, pad and bridle fit.
Through quotes from other trainers, plus plenty of her own knowledge, Cindy shows you how to have a confident, well-trained mule that wants to please you.
You can purchase this book through Cindy’s website, www.everycowgirlsdream.com, or through amazon.com.