Ass-Pen Ranch

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Ass Pen Ranch - Placerville, California - Donkeys, Mules & Horses

We are beyond sad to inform you that Crystal Ward - world-renowned donkey, mule, and horse trainer and judge, as well as activist for the well-being and mitigation of abuse of donkeys worldwide, died tragically on March 7, 2014.

Crystal Ann Ward

October 16, 1955 to March 7, 2014 


Crystal, who was born and raised in Santa Cruz, owned a variety of horses, mules and donkeys since she was old enough to ride.  Growing up in the country and surrounded by horses as a youth, Crystal was fortunate to experience what most young girls can only dream.    

In 1981 Crystal purchased her first mammoth jack donkey (“Cocky Doodle” from Montana) and shortly afterwards her second donkey (“Dry Gulch Michelle” from Oregon). After that she started gradually trading in her horses for the longears.    

Predominately a western rider, she also competed in English (hunt seat), driving, both English and western side-saddle riding. Crystal has been competing in equine events since 1969 including literally hundreds of parades throughout the United States.  She rode in the 1989 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., Oregon’s Rose Festival Parade, Arizona’s Fiesta Bowl Parade, and eighteen consecutive (18) Tournament of Roses Parades in Pasadena, California. 

Crystal dedicated her entire lifetime with equines, from training, breeding and running a boarding facility, which amounts to nearly five decades of equine involvement.  In 1997 The Ass-Pen Ranch opened its doors to the public, designed with both breeding and training in mind. 

Crystal was a judge in the following Associations:  American Mule Assn. - since 1995, National Miniature Donkey Assn. - since 1996, North American Saddle Mule Assn. - (Senior Judge) - since 1995, American Donkey and Mule Society - since 1985, International Side-Saddle Organization - since 1981 and American Miniature Horse Assn. - since 1993. 

She was instrumental in having the public become aware of the donkeys and burros that have suffered through countless decades of abuse and neglect through the hands of mankind and in the wilds through environmental stress and harsh conditions.   

Crystal enjoyed working in her garden, making jewelry, home improvement projects and had become interested in geology and rock collecting.  She recently had set up a rock shop in an Airstream trailer. 

She is survived by her father Harold Ward and brother Steve Ward. Preceded in death by her mother Norma Ward and her brother Greg Ward. 

Private services were held by her family. Celebrations of Life will be held at various Donkey and Mule Shows by her friends.


Crystal's "Donkey Training" DVD is still available and still excellent. It answers all of the commonly asked questions about donkey or burro ownership. With the help of videographer Mike Kerson who filmed, edited and produced this video, it is perfect for owners of miniature, standard and mammoth donkeys and BLM burros. A variety of donkeys are used from weanlings up to mature animals.

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Bay Area Equestrian Network

Bay Area Equestrian Network