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Training a mule to drive

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  • Training a mule to drive

    I have a 16 hand Mule that I want to teach to drive. I have found that mules are much different than horses in many ways when it comes to riding. (Actually when it comes to ANYTHING). Are there any tips out there from mule drivers? What can I expect from a mule when teaching it to drive that is different from a horse? I am in an area with few driving trainers period, and mules are also scarce where I live so I hope some Southern folks can give me some tips to help me along!

    I have a nice minded mule who is a honey. Just don't want to screw her up!

  • #2
    What is the cross?

    It certainly can be done! For example, there is John Henry!
    "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." ~ Jack Layton


    • #3
      I traded calendars with an American friend a couple of years ago.

      I sent her the British "Carriage Driving" calendar with a photo of me as Mr April (well not quite.... it was me driving my horses!"

      In return she sent me a Mules Calendar with mules doing all sorts and including lots of photos of them driving and including this one:

      She sent me it because when I was there I "might" have made a derogatory comment about her mules!


      • #4
        Originally posted by hitchinmygetalong View Post
        What is the cross?

        It certainly can be done! For example, there is John Henry!
        WOW! He's quite stunning Funny I was thinking he resembled my horse minus the ears and then read he was half Percheron like mine


        • #5
          If you contact KC (John Henry's mom) she would be more than happy to talk all day about her training, of not only John, but his "sister" Agnes De Mule. I have seen JH do CT driving , hunt first flight and pull off an amazing dressage test. He is truly a higher form of life. I actually got a chance to take him for a spin!


          • #6
            Insanely jealous!
            "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." ~ Jack Layton


            • #7
              So what is it about mules that makes them different than horses? I want my husband to break one just so we can find out.


              • #8
                Having just spent a weekend with a mule and donkey guy his advice was that mules (and even more so donkeys) don't have the flight response of horses, which means they can't be cajoled with pressure into doing stuff, as they will just stand and take the pressure (and if you get really tough with them they'll remember it and get revenge later). They need patience, but once they get the hang of something they never forget it, so if you train them right they are super steady and reliable.

                I can refer you to the guy and his wife for advice if you like. He's in Connecticut and runs a 4-H program at his farm. PM me if you want.

                Rural Heritage magazine also has lots of info for mule owners, geared towards draft animals, but probably useful.


                • #9
                  Mules have that stop and look instinct/drive from their donkey side. And that seems to dominate the flighty/run for it drive from their horse side.

                  When they don't understand something, or don't yet think it's a good idea, you will not successfully force them to do it. Or should I say, you might, once. They are very smart and they have to buy into what you want them to do.

                  Very few can be trained to really run with a rider, so barrels, poles, jumping, etc- those are possible only with those really bred for it with proven bloodlines that want to move out a little, and in the hands of very skilled trainers.

                  You're in the South? Whereabouts? There are some good mule trainers around...


                  • #10
                    I've know a lot of horses with the same traits so I don't think they would be much different.


                    • #11
                      Well then, get one and find out how right or wrong your current perception is.

                      They aren't better or worse, but they are different.


                      • #12
                        I guess I should add that my husband restarts a lot of horses that have been previously mishandled and are labled "problem" horses. So, with that in mind we probably do get our fair share of muley acting horses Also, a smart horse can be wayyyyyyy more difficult than a horse with average intelligence so if mules are generally smarter I understand completely.


                        • #13
                          Come join our Mules Only group!


                          There is a Yahoo Group called Mules Only where mule lovers around the world share training tips, ask questions and appreciate mules. Please come join us:

                          Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


                          • #14
                            I trained my donkey to drive. Here is what I found out....the fact that donkeys and horses eat hay is about the only thing they have in common. While you can teach a horse to lunge and then school him on a lunge line you won't have the same luck with a donkey. He might go around 2 or 3 times on the lunge then he'll stop and look at you and say "OK, I know how to do a circle, what next?" Once he has learned it, he knows it and doesn't see any benefit in doing it over and over. The challenge is to make it new and fresh each time. When I was ground driving him he was fine for a day or two in the arena but then got bored with it so out into the neighborhood we went. I walked miles behind that donkey while he explored the neighborhood, met the neighbors and generally had a good time. He was absolutely traffic safe once I got him hitched though! I imagine that donkeys and mules have much more in common than donkeys and horses.
                            "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nightmoves View Post
                              So what is it about mules that makes them different than horses? I want my husband to break one just so we can find out.
                              Please don't do this unless you have the guidance of an experienced mule trainer.

                              Mules are much smarter than horses and also much less forgiving so you can't make mistakes with them. They will remember any uncomfortable incident for a long, long time. You also have to be very patient with mules and be prepared to wait out their resistance to something as they can't be forced into anything. Working with a mule is a very humbling experience, much more so than working with a horse.

                              If you want to get to know mules, I suggest you start with one that's already been well trained and learn from the mule.

                              Mules are a lot of fun to work with because they are so smart and learn so quickly.

                              I also highly recommend the training dvd's of Jerry Tindell:

                              Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


                              • #16
                                My husband is a professional trainer there's not much he can't do and I would bet my life that he would have no problem with a mule. I uderstand you aren't going to FORCE them to do anything. One shouldn't have to force a horse, mule, donkey whatever. It's all about teaching them and gaining MUTUAL respect. Here's my husbands website for a little idea of how he trains. www.listentoyourhorse.com


                                • #17
                                  I feel better having seen his site. Not knowing him from Adam, and your inexperience with them (mules) I was a little worried LOL.

                                  One thing I'll say- if he's averse to draw reins, a mule might make him rethink that, at least with mules


                                  • #18
                                    Ha! Ha!
                                    What if the mule you come across to train, just plain doesn't like you or your hubby, but may like the most unlikely person that may come to your barn! It isn't always automatic. It may help if you smell more like a mare than a gelding, they tend to always like mares. My quarterhorse mare acted "superior" to the mules, but they adored her.
                                    And, would you be able to "train" the "he/she just hates dogs" out of your training subject? Some mules perceive the small animal as a threat, and that is the instinctive hangover from "the wild"?
                                    For myself the woman in the family, the one that feeds, cleans, and is on the job 24/7, as opposed to husband,who is around far less...when husband does appear at the barn it is ALL Hail to the Chief as far as the mules are concerned. Husband walks on water....what do you want master? A reprimand from him goes 100 times farther than it does from me. The herd ranking order is recognized across species.
                                    I do notice if I get upset they are on to it quickly and ears go back to position "what is the problem she is having". Very sensitive to any yelling. Their response is to 'clear the area'.

                                    And, they are very good at disappearing in thin air, or sneaking up behind you. I don't know. One lady wrote a book and called it
                                    "In the company of mules" . That experience, in their company is just special, I wanted to say 'like rarefied air', but someone might say, it was just gas! Everytime I sit out side on the patio, our mini mules have free range, the two of mine come and stand next to my chair for as long as I am there.
                                    Kit Carson was the courier to Washington DC from the west...Nevada, Calif., and it was written he always rode a mule because they alerted him, key wording, "alerted him" to danger up ahead. Not, I won't go farther, but, "there is something up ahead, so take caution" be safe and wait and see what it is.....cougar? bear? Indians? people coming along the trail? You have to read them, it's a tool, you don't train that out of them, they train you how to use their skills.


                                    Our drafts are for sale, they deserve a real job to do, and my husband and myself are getting too old to handle the harness, and drive them.
                                    Sorry if I go to adnauseum about the mules....working with them has been the most rewarding experience of my life with equines.
                                    Peg Belvin
                                    Southeast Florida


                                    • #19
                                      Mules are different. I grew up with horses, bought a mule 2 years ago. Lovely animal, reminded me patience is a virtue I need to practice to get perfect.

                                      The old saying is: "Treat a horse like your kid, and a mule like your grandkid".

                                      Mules get bored easily, once they trust you, they'll do things you'd never expect.

                                      My mule is gaited (his mom's a TWH)...he has a nice long canter, I'm lucky.

                                      If I wanted to mule to drive, i'd either buy one already trained or pay a professional to do it...they are different.
                                      "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                                      • #20
                                        Belgian Mule Team

                                        This breeder/trainer at T Cross Farms in Iowa seems to know what he's doing and has a nice Belgian Mule team:

                                        Depending on where you're located, maybe you could contact them?