Do Mules Rule?
Of Course! They were “the bomb” before tractors were invented. Especially for farmers who couldn’t afford farm equipment. Imagine trying to transform acres of rocky, tree-infested soil into bountiful crops without mules and their relatives.
Mules STILL RULE for many farmers of today. Especially with the Amish who, shunning contemporary machinery, depend on thousands of mules for plowing their fields.
Mules are the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. Inheriting the endurance of their donkey fathers, they are generally considered stronger than horses. They are faithful, hard-working animals asking only for food and water for survival.
John Wice, mule expert and rescuer, says mules are easy keepers. “They tend to be more sure- footed than horses, aren’t picky eaters, and are often good watch dogs over their own territory. They have a definite dislike for coyotes – they’ll run them off,” he says.
Wikipedia says mules are the animals of choice in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where at least sixteen commercial mule pack stations continue to operate.
When the going gets tough (steep, narrow trails),
precarious (carrying tourists in and out of the Grand Canyon),
or danged near impossible (accessing/supplying mountain base camps). . .
people need mules!
Are Mules Merely Beasts of Burden?
This may surprise you, but equine trainer and competitor Audrey Goldsmith and her eight-year-old mule, Porter, enter English Dressage Classics all the time. As Porter racks up the ribbons, he and Goldsmith are changing opinions about mules everywhere they compete.
Goldsmith claims mules are extremely trainable and are as eager to please their owners as dogs. “They’re like rideable border collies,” she says. Further, they keep their heads better when they’re scared. Instead of running until they drop or their owner gets control, a mule will run a short distance and stop. He senses the danger is over, and he quits freaking out.
Sadly, mules are forbidden to compete in most hunter and jumper competitions. Chalk it up to old-fashioned paradigms and the fact that a few flighty horses really are terrified of mules.
Why do mules scare certain horses? Maybe it’s their longer ears flopping about like unattached carrots as they trot or run. Or perhaps some of the horses sense their owners’ sanctimonious attitude toward these so-called “lesser” equines.
The U.S. Dressage Federation is an exception to the rule. They allow mules to compete right along with the horses in Dressage.
Same rules. Same penalties. Same rewards. You know…fair and equal treatment.
But wait, there’s more…
Mules Barrel Racing
Besides gulping down Philly cheese steaks, hamburgers, onion blossoms, kettle corn or hot apple fritters at the annual Mule Mania event in Dayton, Washington, every July, you can watch mules in cattle events, barrel racing, English dressage, obstacle drives and even a Fast Ass Express Relay Race!
Washington isn’t the only state in love with these hybrids. California, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Tennessee and many other states have their own Mule Days celebrations.
My late step-dad, Red Myrick, a distinguished equestrian, trained two miniature mules for bird- hunting trips. Those little sure-footed cuties walked behind him and my mom in the field as quiet and humble as could be. When my parents stopped, the mules stopped, too. When they started walking, their mules did too.
Red sure liked his mules, except for the time he had a couple white ones hitched to a small work cart and they took off running. One took the right side of an oak tree, and the other chose the left side. Using the control of a fighter pilot on a war mission, Mom suppressed her laughter until she was sure 1) Red was alive and didn’t need paramedics, and 2) she was safely locked away in her own bathroom. Then she let the snickers rip.
To this day, she can’t tell that story without hee-hawing!
I’ll be sharing more mule facts and stories in future blogs. It’s my small way of extolling the virtues of these fine, worthy animals.
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