My grandfather, Wilton Willmann was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He rode in the U.S. Cavalry, was a sharpshooter, and a muleskinner.

He also was a whiskey drinker and needless to say, he had rough edges to him. If he got kicked by a mule, he probably deserved it. But grandfather took riding seriously and insisted that all his grandchildren learn how to ride, and that’s how it all began.

Lieutenant Wilton Willmann’s warfare drill at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Growing up with three brothers and later a little sister, enabled me to become a hardened tomboy carrying a pocket knife and slingshot. My mom was hopeful that I would turn into a lady someday, but honestly, I just wanted to hang out with my brothers or ride any horse kept in the corral.

To keep us busy in the summertime, Dad kept colts in the corral to break out under saddle to sell for extra income. Most of the colts were pretty gentle, and we didn’t hesitate to climb on the 2-year-olds and get them started. If they were too lazy or too gentle, my brothers and I would rig on a bucking strap to see just how those colts would buck. I enjoyed being a kid growing up in the corral with wild ponies and horses; I liked it so much that I decided to extend my childhood.

Because of my heritage, my experiences from my childhood kept me working with mules and horses; I love working with their owners and coming up with solutions to their mule issues. Mules are hybrids and are incredibly smart; they are amazing. My lifetime of learning about these fascinating animals is rewarding to me.

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