Mother Nature made them this way. Decisive on their likes and dislikes, they are judgmental animals. You might say they view things in black and white. Either they like it or they absolutely don’t. It’s not that the mule has ESP or can read your mind, but he is very good at reading the situation. And a mule isn’t going to work at something that he doesn’t like.
Mules are sensitive; they have a keen sense of smell, acute hearing and they are athletic like his horse mother. The thinking side of the mule comes from his father the jack. This is what makes this hybrid a unique animal to work with. Their high sense of self-preservation is what makes the mule an excellent trail partner. They certainly won’t allow them to be in a situation that could cause them harm.
Comfort is everything to the mule. They will not tolerate ill treatment or endure incorrectly fitted tack, saddles or a saddle pad that does not allow for good wear or comfort. Behavior issues will quickly develop if the mule is in discomfort or suffering from pain. A mule that is experiencing discomfort may toss his head, try to rush downhill, buck, kick out, move sideways, gape at the mouth or even rear.
If the mule’s negative behavior escalates, a vet or massage therapist may be the answer.
The Buying Process Just how do you buy a mule, horse or donkey without getting screwed? It’s certainly not like going to the local dealership to buy a truck, where you select the gear package, pick out a color, test drive it and take it home. Buying a mule can be so involved and shopping alone for a good one is like searching for the Holy Grail. Buying a truck is so much easier! Trucks don’t get parking lot sour and they don’t form strong attachments to other trucks. I have learned that most new buyers are not comfortable with dealing with a seller when buying a mule, horse or donkey. High pressure sales people can be obnoxious to deal with and this makes the buying experience unpleasant. The smooth talking salesmen can be so slick that an uneducated buyer can walk away with a mule that is not exactly what they had in mind to begin with. Buying a mule is a skill set and yes, you can learn it; especially since I wrote the book on it! I will take you through each step on making a smart purchase; you will have the knowledge on how to close a deal and walk away a winner because you bought your mule with better judgment. You will be more confident during the buying process and you won’t be second guessing yourself on your recent mule purchase. You feel better already, don’t you? I know I do, because I see many mistakes being made by both the buyer and the seller; this can be critical to the new mule owner and the mule where neither come out ahead. It doesn’t do the mule any justice to be placed in the hands of an unqualified owner. The outcome for a mule handler that is lacking confidence and a higher skill set makes it into a risky situation. I have seen new mule owners get hurt while attempting to work with their new mule; including the barn help that offered their expertise or services during the handling process. In addition, I have seen mules get hurt due to a new mule owner or trainer that used their own methods in their attempt to manage the new mule. I would like to see changes in the mule industry. I would like to see more educated trainers and handlers in the business. I am hopeful that in time there will be more qualified mule buyers and professional sellers qualifying their buyer before taking their check. That is where this book comes in; it will help to educate the buyer and improve the business transaction between buyer and seller. Let’s learn about seller techniques so you the buyer at least have a sporting chance at mule buying.
The private seller
Reasons individual parties may sell a mule:
1. The mule is more than they can handle.
2. The mule developed bad habits while on their watch. Meaning – the mule owner allowed the habit to develop, which means the owner contributed to the problem
3. The mule was not worked with; was allowed to “settle” in with the herd. This created herd sour, not bonding with the new owner.
4. The mule jumped fences, new owner did not have appropriate setup for this type of mule that liked to wander.
5. The mule did something wrong due to discomfort – the owner did not catch on to the mule communicating this until the mule had enough. (ex. bucking, kicking out, running through the bridle.)
6. Heat cycles were an issue with riding/handling.
7. The seller is unable to show leadership to the mule (leadership, i.e. not control) and cannot develop a partnership.
8. Mule does not trailer well.
9. The mule spooks from various situations which requires an experienced handler to work with the mule in developing his confidence.
Let’s talk about mules! Every mule I have trained or worked with, I have learned from. My life lessons with mules has been fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking and mostly comical. I use to be so serious and didn’t have the confidence to speak to people. Mules have changed all that!
I have several books that I wrote about mules and now I have a podcast about mules and the ranch lifestyle, called Mule Talk! I am always searching for guests to come onto the show, so if you know of anyone, corral them my way! ~Cindy K. Roberts