Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Reviews

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: – phone 828/505-8474
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
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 ( 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 Cindy can be reached at
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,, or through

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