Conversation With Your Mule

Cabo the Mule loves conversation.

I’ve had the opportunity to own a lot of wonderful mules in my career. When I was young, I bought mules and donkeys at sale barns. I wanted to learn more and have stories/articles to write about these fascinating creatures and here I am many years later still learning! As I learned, this mule, Cabo loves conversation – no kidding and carrots or cookies are not needed. She just wants to hear a soothing, quiet voice that offers praise and if you don’t talk to her, she will turn her head and look at you for a cue, a word or a whisper.

I’ve never experienced anything like this and I’ve worked with a lot of mules. The (horse mules) ones that have never been kissed are usually shocked at the new sensation and suck back to think about the ordeal. I mean, come on, most guys are not going to be kissing on their mule(s).

I wasn’t sure how Cabo was going to react when I gently smacked one on her; she could have nudged me out of the way, leap back, or throw her head up. From the response I got I instantly knew Cabo has been kissed many times.

OK, so if you’re a guy reading this you can scroll on by or you can admit to your tender side when spending time with your mule. Your mule adds “cool” to your image, because you have the finesse and the right gear to put it all together and look spectacular while in the saddle!

Back to the conversation part of this story. When working around my mule, grooming, picking out feet, saddling, my mule will turn her head around. If I don’t acknowledge her in some way, she will in a short time get agitated. To Cabo, you have to be a working partner; any slight snub on your part and that makes her uneasy. I wasn’t a big talker when I brought this mule home, however I now talk, sing and sometimes dance around my mule. Stay safe and don’t forget to kiss your mule goodnight.

Red-headed Step Mule Finds Home

Ruth-Chewy and Thomas.

You remember Ruth the mule; the big boned, sixteen hand sorrel horse mule that hitched a ride from Oklahoma to live in Missouri. Ruth…big, ugly and friendly.  Ruth was a big part of the family at the Missouri mule farm, or so he thought.  Yes, Ruth is a male mule, and the gender thing was troubling for Ruth. Having a girl’s name was confusing and at times, Ruth felt left out when he was “home alone” in the big pasture; I could feel his pain. Ruth galloped frantically down the fence line braying, bucking and rearing for attention. I understood how Ruth felt, so I rode Ruth several times under English saddle whenever I visited the mule farm. After climbing on top of a tractor tire, I was in the saddle; Ruth and I hit the trails.

Later, Ruth’s owner had health issues and Ruth was not getting the attention he deserved. Now, Ruth was becoming reckless and ruthless (pardon the pun) by charging into the gate while the other mules were present. It was becoming dangerous for the other riders to halter their own mules at the gate and Ruth was just miserable. Quite simply, Ruth will have to go.

Sadly, Ruth was offered for sale under a different name, Chewy. It was decided that Chewy was a more salable name and since Chewy was so ugly his sale price was lowered, and the sale ad was quite blunt about Chewy being so homely looking. Sadly, Chewy was being treated like the red-headed stepchild, the family was hoping and praying there would be a home for this mule…somewhere.

As fate would have it, a family from Kansas came to look at Chewy. A young fifteen-year-old named Thomas test drove “Chewy” in the large round pen while a thunderstorm approached. This was all new to the big mule because “Chewy” thought he was going for a ride, not a boring lesson. The wind has picked up and fingers were crossed that “Chewy” would pass this job interview. “Chewy” was not a bad mule by any means but sometimes, mule karma can hit hard during the most critical situations. It’s those moments when the planets shift for no reason and then mystifying energy will cause a mule to act up for no apparent reason. I’ve witnessed it many times…I was literally holding my breath. Occasionally I offered my opinion to help build this connection because “Chewy” was desperate and needed someone in his life.

In a matter of minutes, Thomas and “Chewy” were working together and “Chewy” was listening, waiting for the next request. Three lightning strikes later, Thomas dismounted and announced he would be “Chewy’s” new owner…but he was naming his mule, Ruth! It was though the heavens had parted; I knew then this was meant to be! I was almost in tears, then we confessed, that we felt sorry for the mule that was really named Ruth because we didn’t think he would be an easy sell, being that ugly.

Thomas proudly loaded his new mule into the trailer and promised he would keep us updated on Ruth Chewy. We waved goodbye with happy tears in our eyes. I was so happy for Ruth Chewy; it was like a mule dream come true; I always believed there is a mule for every person with a job to do and a person for every mule that is looking for a new beginning. Ruth has a new start in life and went home to Kansas…living the life of Riley as they say. Ruth Chewy watches over his new owner, standing over him as young Thomas does his homework in the barn, sitting next to Ruth. Ruth Chewy looks for Thomas every day and greets him with a bray, they are now inseparable. Thomas has ridden Ruth to his summer job, taken him to mule events and is now teaching him how to hobble, ground tie…well, for Ruth Chewy the sky’s the limit.

One day Ruth along with the entire herd, went through a section of fence that had been pushed out on the north side of the pasture. Ruth is not a troublemaker by any means, and he would have never left his new owner but knowing Ruth, his anxiety issues about being home alone got the best of him that day. I am sure that he didn’t want to be left behind. During this upset, Ruth had injured his fetlock and now Ruth is receiving veterinary care while being confined.

Ruth didn’t understand why he was being kept in a stall; this is the longest “timeout” session he has had in his entire life! Young Thomas took care of Ruth and spent many hours in keeping his mule company.  Over several weeks of visits to the vet and the shoer, Ruth is back!

The fences were repaired and now “Ruth shouldn’t get into trouble again,” says his new owner. “We let him back out with the rest of the herd again 2 weeks ago. I hated having him in smaller pens. He does so much better in bigger pastures. He lost so much weight being stalled with his cast.  I’ve tried everything to get it back up. Depression hits equine the same as humans. He is now gaining weight because he’s happier. (He was getting weight gain, vitamins, rice bran and 1 full can of grain. 1/2 can of grain in the evening. I tried alfalfa pellets and beet pulp plus a protein tub at any time he wanted and a round bale of prairie hay. He doesn’t like being confined. Tom loves his mule. Even when we don’t ride he’s always going out and talking with him in the pasture. He just lost weight in his top line. He just walked the fences constantly. Full of energy.”

One November afternoon, Ruth’s owner was sitting in the kitchen talking on the phone; she was in front of the sliding glass doors watching the mules eat. Ruth/Chewy is standing up behind a tree sleeping in the sun. When all of a sudden, he looks like he’s trying to do a somersault. Desperately trying to get his feet under him and falling on his face! Ruth fell while sleeping! Goofy mule! No worries, Ruth is fine. Funny though, Ruth was looking around to see if anyone saw him fall. Make a note, mules do not like feeling embarrassed. please

Now, Ruth Chewy is healed up and his young owner trained Ruth to rear up while he was on his back! Ha! Trigger has nothing over this mule! Tom and Ruth are inseparable. Ruth’s new life is very enriched and has moved up the social ladder. Yes, it’s amazing…bring a mule into your life and they insist on being included with all the social affairs. That was when Tom decided that Ruth needed to go caroling with him at Christmas time, in their local town. Hearing this, made me feel warm and fuzzy for Ruth Chewy. They say Ruth was amazingly cordial according to the manual written on mule standards for social graces. Kids running everywhere, cameras flashing, Christmas lights on the equines and houses and some were flashing. Vehicles between ours and the ranger and local traffic. Tom was in heaven riding his own mule to show off to the towns people. Needless to say,…Ruth was beaming too.

So, there is something to be learned here…every mule has a purpose…ugly mules need love too…never leave a family member home alone…and Ruth Chewy lived happily ever after.