New Mule Owner

Dear Cindy,

Although I’ve owned a TW horse for years, I’ve only now become a mule owner too, and have a couple of training questions for you.  My mule is a five-year-old gelding and was used by his previous owner for extensive trail riding.  He is a pleasure to ride, but his ground manners need a lot of refining, and I’m having trouble getting him to do what I ask on the ground.  My two problems:  first, he refuses to stand still / stand by a mounting block for me to get on.  And second, sometimes when I lead him, he either refuses to be led and plants his feet, or tries to push ahead of me. 

The methods I used to teach my young TW mare these things don’t seem to work with my mule.  Can you make any suggestions?

Thanks very much,


Dear Jodie,

It is natural for a mule to want to step away from a structure such as a mounting block.  Then to have someone step up on a block, you are now towering over the mule and this makes the mule nervous.  This is what predators do, right?

There are several things you can do…I will suggest one for starters.  If the mule is not too nervous, you can give a handful of oats as a treat to “distract” him just enough while you step up into the saddle.  However, after mounting, you should pet him and encourage him to stand for a minute before walking off.  Too many riders, mount up and take off and the mule never forgets what is going to happen next, so they take off before the rider is ready. 

I have trained nervous mules to stand quietly at the mounting block.  It takes time and patience.  I quietly move the block, place it by the mule’s shoulder, give the mule a handful of oats to reward him, and next, pet him. There’s no reason to rush this along, I mean, where’s the fire anyhow?

The next phase, I step up on the block, reward the mule at the same time for reassurance, pet him, and tell him how good he’s doing. Sing a little song at the same time if you really want to get his attention. I mean, how many handlers sing to their mule? Ha!

After your mule becomes comfortable in accepting the mounting block with you standing on it, (and if your song was cheery) you should be able to mount up quietly on your mule.  After quietly mounting, encourage the mule to relax and stand for a minute.  It’s not rocket science, it’s just merely taking your time to work through this process.   

This and more groundwork information is available in Answers To Your Mule Questions available here.  Thank you for writing and let me know how things progress for you.

~Cindy K. Roberts

Author: Cindy K Roberts

Cindy K. Roberts has a lifetime experience with training horses and mules; riding the family pony at age 2 was the beginning. Her grandfather, Lieutenant Wilton Willmann a sharpshooter and muleskinner of the U.S. Army Cavalry (stationed in Fort Riley, Camp Perry, Fort Leavenworth circa 1924) gifted her with the insight on mules; and the desire to study and work with them. Shooting firearms and working with horses and mules was desired and expected in the family. Cindy is host of Mule Talk! The podcast about mules. She enjoys the western way of life, educating new mule owners in working with their own mules, hosting mule events, and documenting her own adventures in keeping the cowgirl spirit alive.


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