How to Measure Greatness

Greatness: The quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent. Dang! Double Dang! I had to leave the mule corral on this one, Do you realize if mules focused on developing greatness, they would be unstoppable? That would keep me in the bleachers for a long, long while. This is what I found in how we, as humans, measure greatness. And interestingly, I also found some of the same qualities in mules:

  1. Authentic – A hybrid is a hybrid, so that clarifies a mule is a mule.
  2. Brave – typically, mules are going to save their own ass, however, there is one mule that comes to mind that rode into danger. General Crook and his mule “Apache” captured the great warrior Chief Geronimo.
  3. Decisive – Once a mule has made up his mind, there is no changing it.
  4. Goal-oriented – This is a good one. Eat in the pasture all night under the moonlight, chase a coyote out of the pasture, play with the cows if they are around, head to the water trough in the morning, roll in the dust and bask in the sun during the daylight.
  5. Humble – If anything, you will learn to be humble when hanging out with mules.
  6. Inspiring – This is where your true test of character will come in. You have to be able to inspire mules.
  7. Justice – A mule will teach you this from day one. Remember, the punishment must match the crime. All mules are different as are their sensitivity levels.
  8. Listener – Mules are great listeners.
  9. Motivating – Mules will teach you motivation. You will spend a lot of time thinking of ways to “convince” or convey a new thought or task to your mule. It’s their job to question your resume or sales pitch. Your mule wants to know why he should hire you? If you can motivate mules, you are doing well at achieving greatness.
  10. Encourage – Mules require this encouragement thing. Keep moving, increasing and growing, and pioneering new frontiers.
  11. Trustworthy – No doubt about it, a mule requires all humans that come into their domain to be trustworthy. They know deceit when they see it, coming from a mile away.
  12. It takes a confident and good mind set to work through challenges that will come along in your equine training program. And, working with mules will no doubt, make you into a better person. The kind of person that has a deeper understanding in how mules and donkeys think. You will have respect for those you work with and will develop a better temperament… and that my friends, is the path to greatness.

Know Where To Hang Your Hat – Status Is Everything

An interesting concept is status. Mules being as independent as they are, know where to hang their hat. They mingle, hang out, and move around in the paddock and pasture, to where it benefits them. They figure out herd dynamics quickly and make it all happen for them. For the mule, it’s all about him or her. Mules get this. They get the status thing and use it to their advantage. Dang! How cool is that?

So, where you hang your hat, is crucial for mental and physical health. So yes, status is everything.

Understandably, prolonged periods of feeling like you’re low status can thus lead to illness and depression. If your serotonin remains diminished for a long enough time, you’ll also become angry and may even feel the urge to violently lash out at others. This is not cool. You really need to take a time out and hang with the mules.

So, this status thing…unfortunately, there is a fair share of unscrupulous “business people” that muddy up a sector of the mule industry. This is nothing new, so watch yourself.

Just as you have an ingrained desire to seek status, others do too, and part of that drive is to connect with high-status people. As your confidence grows, your network of friends and peers will reflect as being positive growth. Remember, status isn’t just about looks or wealth, so this isn’t a purely superficial attraction. Both men and women want to befriend and partner with a guy who brings all kinds of valuable things to the table, whether that’s intelligence, wit, loyalty, or skill; everyone wants high status and hardworking people on their team.

And the mules; don’t want a deadhead on their team or a troublemaker. They go by their rules of conduct in the pasture and around the barn. Mules are good about the status thing. I admire mules that can detect dishonorable intentions faster than the stagecoach that left the depot.

Running an equine business is a challenge. Just remember, developing status leads you down the trail of success; to making new friends, finding romantic partners, and building a rich social network.

And that is why I like working with mules. They will teach you to look deep into your heart and soul; they will humble you and allow you to have a deeper understanding. That’s the deal breaker right there. I think I will hang my hat, right here.

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2024 Mule New Year’s Resolution

Here we are, let’s get at it! If you have questions, you know where to find me.

  1. Start an emergency mule fund. Keep tucking away extra cash for an emergency
    that may come up unexpectedly. Be smart about this, stuff happens, and as you know, you can’t bubblewrap your mules or donkeys.
  2. Clean out and organize your tack room. Use a broom to whisk away the cobwebs, wipe down your leather with conditioner, and cover your saddles/gear with a cover. Dust is destructive to leather.
  3. Focus on riding with a purpose. If you don’t have a purpose, what’s the point? That comes from a mule’s perspective. Not having a purpose develops boredom in the mule, horse, or donkey. Yes, I know you ride for therapy, to get away, to get mule time in, but remember, you’re the leader. Develop your partnership between yourself and your equine. In other words, don’t be a knucklehead. (wink)
  4. Create a plan for barn safety, such as eliminating fire hazards and loose boards. If you are a boarder, offer to help out and make a note of what is needed to keep the environment safe for your mule or horse. Contribute to a mule or donkey charity. And research the charity first to make sure they are credible. You’re doing good here, so keep moving on with the list!
  5. Contribute to a mule or donkey charity. And research the charity first to make sure they are credible. You’re doing good here, so keep moving on with the list!
  6. Build up your stamina and muscle by exercising 3-4 days a week. You don’t
    have to be a Ninja fighter; proper balance and controlling your moves will keep you in the game longer. Moving up and down stairs several times is the simplest and easiest way to develop your agility. My secret weapon is 5-pound weights. I do 25 repetitions of curls, and 10 repetitions of the overhead shoulder press. I will do 10 sets each day and it works for me.
  7. Read a mule/donkey book from a trainer or professional you look up to. If you
    want to be entertained while reading on your favorite subject, pick up one of my books, they’ve been grouch-tested! (wink)
  8. Attend a clinic either as an auditor or rider. There’s always something to be
    learned or shared with others. There are many podcasts and online clinics you can attend to suit your needs. So many choices!
  9. Stay positive and celebrate your progress. Surround yourself with friends and
    family that have a healthy outlook and support your dreams. This is all good stuff here, keep moving, you got this!
  10. Learn to refine your aids (seats, legs, hands, etc…) Remember those Ninja moves you are working on number five on this list? This will help you to be able to strengthen your body and sharpen your riding skills. I see so many riders with poor posture, riding slumped over in the saddle. One false move
    during a ride, and bam! You’re dumped!
  11. On those non-riding days, get involved with horse board games such as:
    The Fantasy Ranch board game allows you to build and manage your own dream stables. This ranching horse board game includes three different levels, making it great for people of all ages. Herd Your Horses is an exciting board game that lets you play from the rancher’s or horse’s perspective. Horse Sense is a board game that will test your own horse knowledge. Throughout the game, you will learn about horse care, health, breeds, and riding. With over 200 hundred horse fact questions, your horse skills will be put to the test. This board game allows you to expand your horse knowledge while testing you on what you know. Gallop Home board game will put your equestrian skills to the test with this intricate board game. Players can try their hand as a horse trainer, with a full range and variety of skills to choose from. Horse Bingo board game, no matter your age, Bingo is something that you can enjoy playing. This rendition of Bingo takes it to the next level by incorporating horses into the game.
  12. Keep a journal. Record or document your rides. Keep a record of time spent with
    your mule. I go back and read the journals I have kept over the years; it is enlightening to me, humorous, and so rewarding!
  13. Here we are, the final round…make this a routine before your turn-in every night: Always check on the herd, say your prayers, and stay true to yourself. You’re worth it and we have a job to do. Remember, I’m counting on you.

Pulls Head Away – Pulls Lead Rope Out of Hands – Evasion Tactic

Cindy,

Thank you for all the great information you provided on understanding and handling mules. Your common sense approach is appreciated.

I have a question that I hope you can help me with. I have two mules that ride, drive, and try lots of stuff with. My 9-year-old molly is pretty advanced in her training, but has a big hole in her fundamentals. I know this is related to respect, but I don’t know how to correct it.

She appears very respectful and will do what I ask her to do. On the ground, she will move in any direction, side-pass away and to me, ground tie, etc. But, if I try to lead her off to somewhere she doesn’t want to go, she quickly bends her head away from me and pulls out of my hands! I am not as strong as a man, so I cannot use brute strength to match her size (she’s 16 hands). What can I do to get and keep her respect? This is the one thing that I HAVE to correct.

Thank you very much for any advice you can give me. ~ Joan

Hi Joan,

I have dealt with this very problem several times and it seems they all were mare mules too!  How funny.  The good news is, you don’t have to be as strong as a man to work with your mule.  I mean, look at me! The fact that your mule “surprised” you and was able to take advantage of the moment . . . well she got away with it so she will try it again.  There are a couple of things you can do: 

  1. You can use a training cable that will give you a better advantage. The Mustang Cowboy War Bonnet (don’t let the name scare you)  I have used this with getting good results. (shown above.)
  2. You can apply the cowboy halter (self-made from a lariat) that tightens when she pulls away from the handler. Go to this link on how to use it:  http://www.cowboyshowcase.com/cowboy-training-halter.html#.WCh7uIWcGhc
  3. You can work her in the round pen to establish respect and control.
  4. You can also use the Whoa Mule Bridle to establish control.  http://www.everycowgirlsdream.com/bridles.html This seems to be the easiest for handlers to use. 

In my experience, mare mules tend to get anxious or act up when they are in season.  Some mares don’t readily show signs that they are in season but their attitude will change. 

When your mule is “thinking” about pulling away from you – you should get a sixth sense about it and be able to react quickly to establish control.  Flexing her to the right and left daily would also aid in establishing control. 

I hope I have given you some workable solutions – I have applied all the above-mentioned training and they have all worked for me, it just depends on your skill set and what you feel like doing.  Thank you for your email Joan – please let me know how you are doing with this and if you need further help – let me know! ~Cindy K. Roberts

Mule is Forward in the Bridle

Hi Cindy
I was lucky enough to find your website. My new mule is Pricilla, she was a Grand Canyon mule. I’m adding her to my two riding horses a quarter horse and a Mustang. She came last week and I rode for a bit in the round pen. The person I got her from said she figured she had been in a curb bit prior. All I had was a snaffle and she did well 90% of the time except, twice she put her head down and walked fast with zero brakes!

😬

This has made trying her out on the trail a little concerning. I found a curb bit in some old tack, haven’t tried it yet. It seems so severe to what I’m used to. Have you had any experience with x-string mules? Would your hackamore be a better option?

Thank you,

Nancy,

Mules that have had a routine or job for so long tend to lose their confidence in a new situation and look for an out or evasion to their new routine. Also, mules that had jobs and were ready to go to work, put their energy into the task at hand. The Whoa Mule Bridle would be ideal for your mule. My book explains how to fit it, use it, and why things didn’t work out for you in the first place.

I like to talk with people first before selling the bridle, I don’t sell snake oil, and I like to take into consideration the age, background, and demeanor of the mule before I ship the Whoa Mule Bridle. Not every mule is a candidate. If I can answer any more of your questions plz let me know.

~ Cindy K. Roberts

Mule Backing Up – Circling as Evasion Tactic

Dear Cindy,

I’m a first-time mule owner; but did manage to purchase a really nice 10-year-old mare mule, Greta. I bought your bridle a few months ago, not for a running away issue, but for when my mule just stops. (Really because she just wants to stop, not because of any real or perceived danger). When she stops she will start backing up or turning in a circle.  She’s good with her ears, takes her bit well enough, and will go on after a few backs and circles.  But I don’t want to fight with her or cause her to buck or rear. She’s fairly lazy which I like and not easily spooked. She gets to stay out in the pasture with horses and some cows and is easy to catch and bring in. I did have some trouble bringing her in at first, but she’s over that.  So I think it relates to being buddy-sour and accepting me. I can see where the bridle would keep her at a slow pace heading back to the barn, but not exactly how it will make her go forward.  I don’t let her go straight back and I don’t unsaddle her when we get back either.

Thanks for your help, Julia

Julia – thanks for your email. I perceive your mule backing up or turning in circles as a form of “I really don’t want to do this right now” attitude. Interesting. The good news is this is easy to correct. Move your mule whether in a circle or side pass her or work her off her forehand or hindquarters.  The point is, to give her something to think about. Also – whichever exercise  you choose to divert her attention – you should be skilled at setting her up and following through with it. You simply want her to think about this new request – encourage her to follow through and reward her. Then you can move onto something else. If all you r doing is riding her and not offering leadership – your mule would prefer to feel secure and comfortable with her pasture mates. I will be around this eve if you need to call. ~Cindy K Roberts (\_/)

Pretty Mule – Bolting & Bucking

Hi Cindy,

I am hoping you can help me. I have followed your website for about a year and I really like what you do.  I have had mules since 1979 and I have done everything from working them in the woods to plowing, dressage, jumping, driving, and endurance riding. I have attached 2 pictures of two mules I had and jumping and trail riding. I have had horses and mules my whole life and I love mules.

Almost a year ago I got another mule after I lost my 38-year-old mule that I had for 34 years. This new mule is who I need help with. She is an appy mule. Her name is Rose, she is about 6 years old, 16 hands, beautiful looking, really good confirmation, beautiful mover, very athletic, very very sweet, excellent to handle, brush, vet, farrier, trailer, loves attention, she trail rides, jumps, lounges. She sounds perfect and she is almost. I have trained and ridden my whole life and this is the first horse or mule that I have not been able to work through a problem.

The problem is, she has figured out how to get me off of her one way or the other, either by bolting or bucking. I am small, 5ft 5in and about 115 lbs. I am very athletic but I am getting older. (I am 63 years old.) So I can’t keep getting thrown off. I am very sad but I can’t keep her. 

I really like what I see and how you work with animals so I was wondering if you would like her or if you know of someone who would like her. I would give her to you if you paid for the trucking. That problem is that I live in Vermont. I know this sounds crazy but I can’t have her go just anywhere plus I need to be totally up front about the problem I am having.

I have attached 6 pictures of her for you to look at her and 2 pictures of mules I had in the past.

I know this is asking a lot of you but I do hope you will consider it.

Thank you for listening to me and my mule problem.

Please let me know what you think.

Thank you, Name Withheld

WOW. This is the heartbreaking news that troubles me when people buy mules. “She is about x years old.” Records are not adequately kept on mules or livestock. And understandably so. This is where you the buyer should educate yourself on what you are purchasing.

OK, the color thing. If you have the skill set to hang tuff and be able to school your mule to the next level, then I say, get the color of mule that your heart desires. That means, when you arrive at the barn with your new mule, you take the responsibility of giving that mule a job, which gives your mule a life. And we are not talking about a life of leisure either. Pack a sandwich, bring your canteen, and start working with your mule. You, the handler/owner will need to show leadership to that mule. And if you are lacking in this, the mule will quickly pick up on this.

How To Buy a Mule & Not Get Screwed by Cindy K Roberts

Do yourself a favor – educate yourself on buying a mule and what to do after the sale. How To Buy a Mule & Not Get Screwed by Cindy K. Roberts – written by someone that has been in the mule industry since 1985. HOW TO BUY A MULE & NOT GET SCREWED – BY CINDY K ROBERTS (everycowgirlsdream.com)

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