- We live independently by our own code.
- We like our coffee strong, like our mules.
- We know all external medicine is either waterproof, blue, or yellow.
- We have no problem eating a sandwich directly after mucking the barn.
- We know, why a thermometer has to have a string attached on the end.
- We are not welcome in laundromats.
- We don’t think anything sexual if someone talks about chains, whips or leather.
- We can raise or lower our voice instantly by 5 octaves to shout at a mule when necessary.
- We speak our own language; we use words that would even embarrass a teamster.
- We would rather quit a relationship than our mules.
- We take our mules everywhere.
- We have better insurance for our mules than our truck and trailer.
- We can define 20 different descriptions and causes for bulges on a mule.
- We know more about our mules’ diet than our own.
- Our mission is to create more work than our job. And we know that mucking a barn is the best cure for depression. Alright! You got this! Any questions refer to www.EveryCowgirlsDream.Com.
Click on the link to watch the mule training video on how to get your mule to use the thinking part of his brain.
I don’t sell snake oil. I don’t promote quick fixes to mule issues. I sell the Whoa Mule Bit/Bridle to work with riders/handlers with educated hands. That’s why I wrote the book, “Retraining the Hard-Mouth Mule” which comes with your purchase; not every mule is a candidate for the Whoa Mule Bit/Bridle. Every mule is unique and they deserve to be schooled and used in their best capacity.
~ Cindy K. Roberts
The hardware works underneath the jaw area on the mule. When rein pressure is applied, the hardware applies pressure underneath the jaw working in conjunction with the noseband that pulls the mule’s nose back down to where it should be.
This is an effective piece of equipment to use in your training program. Once your mule has overcome his bit behavior issues, you can go back to using a bit that your mule likes or keep on using the Whoa Mule Hackamore bridle. More mules prefer using the Whoa Mule Hackamore bridle over having a bit placed in their mouth. Read how mule riders/handlers have benefited from using the Whoa Mule bridle!
My mule journey has brought to me amazing discoveries on what the mule is made of. As absurd as it seems, I cry for them, I pray for their well-being and I like to help others who are in need when working with their mules.
Cindy K. Roberts with Zan Parr Bar performance bred mule, Cache.
In 1985, I started working with mules and donkeys only; at that time I didn’t want to experience another sick horse on my farm and after losing two, I wanted a stronger equine to show and ride trails. I bought mules at an auction, broke out a couple of mules, and didn’t think it was all that tough to do. I didn’t think I was gifted, I merely thought most people didn’t take the time to study and understand the animal they were working with. Knowing that mules have a different mindset, I acknowledged it, accepted it, and worked with it… All this time, I have been captivated by the mule’s perspective and have been documenting my findings along the way. Looking for a way to develop a higher skill set, I bought mules at more auctions to fine-tune them or correct undesirable behavior issues. I bought mules that reared, kicked, and couldn’t be caught and I couldn’t get enough of it. Every mule I worked with was an individual and no two were alike. That is when I knew…I am now in mule college and I am not sure when I will graduate.
Using my creative mind has enabled me to work with a troubled mule, for hours on end. I took the challenge and went to work; the results were remarkable. The late Max Harsha once said, “Pack a sandwich in your hip pocket and strap a canteen to your belt, then go to work with that mule.”
I am passionate about my work and that means I can be emotional. I thank my lucky stars that God is in my heart because I am growing into a better person.
We are going to take an incredible journey; your outlook on life will change, and you will have laughter in your heart. Your mule will look at you differently. I will share with you how I developed a deeper understanding of my mules and how I worked at cracking the “mule code.” Now let’s go to work…
Remember, the mule is a mirror to your soul . . . Keep honesty in your heart so you like what you see and feel.
On the trail, I meet a lot of riders who tell me they want to buy a mule for trail riding, hunting, packing, etc. Here are some of the things I find myself saying to them on a regular basis.
1. Mules will always keep you humble.
If you have a big ego and you end up buying a mule, your ego will be knocked down a few notches. Does your mule load into every trailer, no matter what, and do you like to boast about it? Do it in front of someone you just met and watch in disbelief as your mule suddenly forgets how to load. They will take every opportunity to make a fool out of you, so you better have a good sense of humor since you will be the brunt of all their jokes.
2. Mules will always keep you safe… if you can stay on their back, that is.
A lot of people have the misconception that a mule being their 1200-pound babysitter will keep them from all harm. The thing is, mules are very smart and have a great self-preservation instinct. They DO NOT in any circumstance want to get themselves hurt or to put themselves in a situation where they could die. They will keep themselves safe, whether you’re on their back or not. That includes jumping 30 feet sideways at a potential mule-eating bush or bolting away at a dead run from an angry water bottle/bicyclist/plastic bag/dog/whatever else could kill them. If you have a really good seat, you may not get hurt, but if you’re a rider getting back into the sport because you’ve been hurt/lost your confidence/lost your stirrups and confidence at the same time, you might be unpleasantly surprised.
A horse will jump off a cliff for you, but a mule will watch as you go plummeting off the edge while he’s sitting high and dry.
3. If you end up getting a mule so you have a pack animal that you can use for hunting, you might be disappointed when that said mule is petrified of the smell of blood.
Some mules will pack anything, some mules will lose their minds when they smell blood. Yes, most of them can be trained eventually to get over this but for the guy/girl that only rides twice a year: one to leg their horse up for hunting season and two for the actual hunt, you might be very frustrated and let down and you might even lose your cool so much that you will have the urge to hunt your mule instead of that deer.
4. Mules are not stubborn.
They are extremely smart and will a lot of times outsmart their owner. If you own a mule you will constantly have to be one step ahead of them and constantly be in a state of trying to outsmart them. It’s like conquering a video game, mastering an instrument, or something of the sort to me. Once you figure one out, each one will be easier and easier.
They keep me thinking and always impress me when they outsmart me.
5. Once you figure out your mule and your mule figures out you, you will realize why so many people have mules.
They become extremely loyal and trustworthy and their personalities are so enjoyable. Their surefootedness and brains under saddle will ease you even in the trickiest of trails. They will keep you laughing and bring a smile to your face even if you’re having a terrible day.
This is a post that has been shared on social media by Cross Country Equine.
Decorating the barn for Christmas can be fun and creative; since that is our home away from home, why not? Sharing the holiday spirit with your equine is always special, and while you’re at it, don’t forget the horse trailer needs decorations too! A few things to be aware of, and then have a blast with the decorations!
When hanging lights, be smart about it. Remember, the newer, and more expensive, LED lights don’t heat up. Do not string regular holiday lights, as the dust, hay, and wood in the barn will just act as kindling. And you don’t want to create a fire hazard! Be aware of extension cords, as well. These can heat up, cause a trip for horses or humans, and also become an excellent treat for pests and rodents to munch on. Overloaded circuits are a recipe for disaster.
Know that mistletoe and holly, while festive and lovely, are toxic to horses, dogs, and cats! If you crave that look, go for artificial versions of these holiday favorites. Poinsettias are mildly toxic as well.
Stay away from tinsel and garland. This is too tempting for the barn cats to “hunt” these, then run down the aisle being followed by a long string of holiday spirit. When eaten by a curious horse, it might lead to a blockage. You don’t want a sick horse or mule because of this!
It’s also a great idea to keep all decorations away from the reach of equines. If your barn uses Dutch doors or stall guards, keep decorations far away, or just supervise when your horse can look around.
Some excellent options for decorating barns include wreaths on the barn doors, outside lights, and even sleigh bells. Most barn dwellers like horses, cats, and barn dogs won’t fancy a bell as a snack.
And use artificial plants, to avoid poisoning your pets and you have the benefit of re-using them! Additionally, any artificial pine will be better as it won’t drip sap everywhere!
Something tells me, you got this…carry on, and Merry Christmas.
It’s that time of year; you will want to repair or replace windows and doors and make sure they can close completely to keep out cold winter air and drafts. If you have a bathroom and/or heated wash rack, wrap the water heater with an insulated blanket. Hot water pipes can also be wrapped to help save energy. Refill under stall mats where needed, or haul in fill-in stalls without mats. Remove anything that’s not used during the winter like fans (blow off fan and motor with an air compressor), and any liquids that might freeze in an unheated barn like fly spray, hoof black, fence paint, etc. OK, you are on a roll.
- Harrow pastures. If you don’t have a harrow, use a pitchfork and break up manure piles.
- Spread manure and compost on hay fields and on pastures that are resting for the winter.
- Drain hoses and water tanks: Drain hoses of all water, roll them up, and store them indoors. Unused water tanks should be drained and cleaned with dish soap or a bleach mixture – then turn them upside down if left outside. A run-in shed or a horse trailer that isn’t going to be used during the winter is another good place to store water tanks.
- Clean and store show tack: Give your show tack a good cleaning and bring it indoors for the winter. This will protect it from the damaging effects of extreme temperatures, as well as prevent potential damage from mice and other critters and insects.
- Wash fly sheets, fly masks, stable sheets, and unused halters: Repair any tears in blankets, masks, and leg wraps. Store these items in a sealed container like a tote.
- Clean out horse trailers after their last use: If you don’t plan on using the trailer over the winter, store it inside, or tarp it and cover the tires. Empty perishable items from the tack compartment, dressing room, and living quarters. Remove anything that could get damaged if the roof or windows leak. Put a couple of handfuls of mothballs inside to help repel mice and other pests.
- Fix fences: Ensure fences are in good repair including working electric. Replace rotted boards and posts. You definitely don’t want to be digging postholes in the frozen ground.
- Paint gates: Gates seem to rust quickly in seam areas, as well as areas damaged by use and by horses. Use either sandpaper or a wire brush to remove rust, and then follow up with a coat of primer along with a rust deterring paint.
- Stock up on essentials: Fill the barn with hay, bedding, stall freshener products, salt blocks, de-wormers, etc. helps to eliminate unnecessary trips to the feed or farm store.
- Store first-aid and medication items in an energy-controlled environment. This also applies to fly spray and seasonal applicators. I think you got this! Good job!
Mules and horses are good at this. They know how to get around the hay pile, they know who they can nudge over and who they can boss around. It’s called herd dynamics.
The water trough is another example of defining herd dynamics. There may be an informal line at the water trough, but everyone knows their place. If a horse or mule steps up before his “turn” then ears quickly lay back, and the structure of the pecking order is then reenforced. What pecking order you say? The basic pattern of social organization within a flock of poultry in which each bird pecks another lower in the scale without fear of retaliation and submits to pecking by one of higher rank. That pecking order!
Broadly speaking, a dominance hierarchy in a group of social animals…that pecking order!
Several years ago, an informal race was set up near the levy along the Missouri River between Cowboy the paint horse, and Rawhide the bay mule. They were both competitive by nature and they were fun to ride. The topic of who is faster, the horse or the mule came up and to settle the argument, the race was scheduled on one, early Summer’s evening.
There were horse riders watching on the sidelines along with the crowd of flies and mosquitoes. Everyone was ready…the race started off with a bang! Myself, riding Cowboy down the main stretch, and Bronco Laura on Rawhide the fearless bay mule, are galloping full speed ahead all the way down the throughway. We are moving fast down the entire track! At the straightaway, I
am leaning forward, giving a pep talk into Cowboy the paint horse’s ear to win this thing! Bronco kept the course on Rawhide the bay mule, by yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs, and slapping leather! Cheers and hollering took over the entire valley!
We were neck in neck when all of a sudden, Rawhide took an abrupt rubberneck
move to initiate a Sally-Stink-Eye stare tactic! You know the Sally Stink-Eye Stare Tactic, where the opponent sizes you up in a micro-second. Where you feel in an instant, it’s curtains for you! That Sally-Stink-Eye Stare tactic!
That was the moment that Cowboy the paint horse became fearful of the competition all because Rawhide the mule, eye-balled him all the way down the track! Rawhide the mule won the race by two lengths easy! Another historical moment recorded in the Devil’s Island Boarding Barn Hall of Fame!
There will be a time in your life, for you to compete at what is important to you. Whether it is a job position or being first to the counter at a K-Mart Blue-Light special.
Losing to the competition can be emotional, however, you need to focus on:
- Accepting your loss.
- Keep your spirits high.
- Preparing for your next competition.
- Congratulating the winner right away.
Cowboy the paint horse took the loss pretty hard, so I started one-on-one sessions with him on building his self-esteem. He got rewarded
for the slightest try on his part on whatever I asked of him. And it wasn’t long after that, Cowboy bounced back and became very full of himself. And that’s how you take it on the chin. OK, you got this!
Due to the hypersensitivity of the mule, their mental state can easily escalate into an anxiety level that would encourage bad behavior. You see, mules can feel energy from other equines and from a person. Their intuition is far keener than ours and mules will often mirror the feelings of their rider and respond accordingly. Our world is different from the mule, as humans we view emotions differently than mules do. We may mask our feelings. But in the presence of a mule, these animals can sense the way we really are. When a person interacts with a mule, they become part of the mule’s environment, and that person ultimately becomes a herd member.
One reason some people prefer mules to horses is that the former are generally easier keepers. A mule approximately the same size as a horse, at a similar level of work, consumes less feed. A mule can eat anything a horse eats, but he uses it more efficiently. For the sake of not overfeeding your mule, consult your veterinarian for the best diet for your mule or donkey.
Always remember, you can never force a mule to obey you. If you forget this rule, your mule will remind you when the appropriate time comes. If you try to force the mule, any compliance will be short-lived. The best methods are based on explaining to the mule what you want. If you use a method of restraint, like a twitch or a Scotch hobble, it must be approached with the idea that you are explaining to the mule that you want him to stand still, not that you are forcing him to submit. This is where a good degree of handlers often fail in their mule training.
Handlers often try to “drive” a mule to compel it to do what they wish. Horses may be driven or pushed into an impulsive state of energy. When a whip is applied to the horse, he will instinctively spring into motion (although sometimes not in the desired direction). When a whip is applied to a donkey, his instinct is to remain where he is until he is sure of the situation. If an abusive handler were to continue to whip the donkey, he would become more resolute and may drop to the ground in a heap of defiance.
It is not the donkey’s nature to panic and flee, as may be observed when a donkey is spooked. He will walk or trot (or, in an extremely frightening situation, canter) a short distance, stop, and evaluate conditions before going farther. A spooked horse may bolt uncontrollably over a great distance, causing harm to himself and/or the rider in the process. What puzzles many mule handlers is that in any given situation the mule may act like either the donkey or the horse. The muleteer must recognize and appeal to both the horse and the donkey temperament resident within the mule. Most of all successful mule trainers recognize that the mule is a unique individual.
A mule’s or donkey’s attitude to his work is one of partnership with his handler. While well-trained horses obey without question, mules and donkeys are more task-oriented. They seem to be concerned with the overall job, rather than with isolated cues. Once you have taught a job to a mule, he will continue to perform the task almost unaided and in clockwork fashion. If you interfere with his task by continually giving cues, he will be offended and may resist.
Mules are renowned worldwide for their outstanding muscular endurance, but what gives them this ability to outshine their horse and donkey parents? Hybrid vigor has long been recognized and widely exploited in animal and plant breeding programs to enhance the productive traits of hybrid progeny from two breeds or species. However, its underlying genetic mechanisms remain enigmatic.
Researchers from Northwest A&F University in Yangling, China, set out to understand more about the molecular mechanisms at work in mules that provide this superior muscular endurance.
They said their work, in which muscle, brain, and skin samples from mules, hinnies, and their parents were tested, revealed significant differences between mules and hinnies, as well as differences between mules and both of their parents.
Apart from skeletal muscle tissue, which is the main difference that separates mules from hinnies and their parents, there are also clear differences between these animals in both the brain and skin. The findings, they say, provide new insights into the genetic mechanism underlying hybrid vigor in mules. The work could provide the basis for future studies of the genetic and molecular mechanism of hybrid vigor in donkeys and horses.
Interestingly, the mule has a different odor altogether. He doesn’t smell like a horse and he doesn’t smell like a donkey. This could very well be a factor in sensitive horses decide not to accept a mule as a herd member, simply because of his physiological traits provided by Mother Nature.
As prey animals, horses prefer to stay in herds, and communication is accomplished by body language rather than vocalization and sound. They rely on body position and subtle body and head cues, even the twitch of an ear or the widening of an eye, to communicate within the herd.
Overall, mules tend to be healthier, sounder, and live longer than horses. This might result from hybrid vigor, and the genetic superiority of crossbred animals. Mules are less prone to injuries because again, it is due to their heightened sense of self-preservation.
So why are mules known for being kickers? If you think about it, the horse is the nervous nellie in the mule equation. It is the horse that is prone to kicking and horses are nervous creatures. The horse mare handed down the kicking trait to her offspring the mule. The mule being naturally suspicious and cautious should be worked with or trained not to kick. This is simple enough by tying the mule in a rope halter to a tree or hitching post; using a lunge whip or broomstick merely to touch his legs up and down while assuring him this is ok. If the mule has been owned by a heavy handler, he may be fearful of the whip/broomstick; simply caressing his sides and topline while rewarding him will help him through this process. After several days of introducing the touching of the legs with a lunge whip or long stick (along with moving your hands in closer to the mule’s leg), the handler will be able to ask the mule for his foot. By doing this, a soft cotton rope placed around the ankle and then pulling up while asking for the foot is foolproof. Holding the foot for a second or two is best in the beginning.
When working with young mules (6 and under) keep in mind their mental state is different than compared to a horse. For one, the horse will go along with you and submit to you, whereas the mule will carefully think things through first. Handlers tend to rush a mule’s schooling, not realizing the damage that can be done by doing so. Anytime a mule is lacking an introduction to a new task or lacks foundation training will undoubtedly show up in a mule’s confidence level; and at some time, somewhere it will surface. That is why the working partnership you have with your mule is critical to your training program.
A recent interview with Brock Milam of Milam Mules (Missouri) gave sound advice about working with mules. He said, “To be successful and to really get along with that mule, you have got to take the time and learn that mule. And let that mule learn you. If you let him get by with things, then it is a matter of time before an unskilled rider will decide to trade off for a different mule.”
I think we tend to have so much going on at work and at home that we spend time with our horses and mules as recreation/therapy time for us. We release our nervous energy at the barn, check our cell phones for updates and we tend to lose the connection. Remember when you are with your equine partner, he has a heart and soul…an emotional side to him that is looking for leadership and comfort. Stay safe, ride your ponies, and don’t forget the oats.