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Mules anyone?

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  • Mules anyone?

    The small farm I work at just acquired a mini mule (not sure if that is the correct term, but thats what they are calling him). He is small, the size of a large shetland, but he is so freaking strong! I have never been around mules, but i have been around ponies. But never has a pony drug me around like this little guy can! He braces his neck and pulls the opposite direction of where i'm trying to pull him.

    So, what I am wondering is, what are the differences in training mules compared to horses?

    This little guy is 10 year old approximately. He is supposedly saddle and harness broke, but has been a pasture pet for the last 6 years or so. He is a sweet little guy and gets along fine with both geldings on the farm. One of the mares already thinks he is her baby, and they aren't even pastured together...

    anyways, we showed him a saddle today and set it on his back for a bit, but in the end came to the conclusion that we will have to start all over training him to ride.

    Any and all advice and mule stories would be appreciated!!


  • #2
    I have a little bit of experience in training donkeys. Not succesfully, mind you, but perhaps you can learn from my mistakes. Never, ever, ever try to force a long-ear into doing anything. EVERYTHING has to be made to seem like it was their idea in the first place. They are much smarter than horses. If you can make something into a game, they love it. Treats work well. Lots of slow baby steps--slower and smaller at first than you would typically do with a horse. And if they drag you... I don't know. I haven't come up with an answer to that one yet. I put a really rough rope halter on my donk, after getting frustrated with his leading habits. It didn't even faze him--all it did was piss him off and make him pull harder. Try not to get frustrated. Try REALLY HARD not to get frustrated. Bond with him by scratching--they love scratches. Not sure about mules, but donkeys really like it when you stroke the inside of their ears. Good luck--they are so much fun... most of the time!


    • #3
      You are going to have so much fun with a mule!

      Mules are smarter than horses, and less forgiving, so if you make a mistake with a mule, you will have to work harder to earn it's trust back than you will with a horse. They are a very intelligent hybrid and you have to be very clear and concise in their training. I belong to a Yahoo group called Mules Only. I highly recommend joining it as there are a lot of seasoned mule people who contribute: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/MulesOnly/

      As an "accidental" mule owner, I am learning a lot about mules and am so blessed to have one!

      You may also want to check out DVDs from Jerry Tindell and Meredith Hodges.

      A book I really like: Anwers To Your Mule Questions by Cindy K. Roberts.

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


      • #4
        heheh lucky you. One thing, mules never forget anything so, if your mule is broke, he is broke. They have a fantastic memory so dont forget that.

        Secondly, never tell a mule, ask him politely.

        Thirdly, pick your battles, hahahah they are super strong and will win every time if you try with physical power. Logic is what is required. They are thinkers.

        fourthly, enjoy enjoy enjoy.
        Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.

        Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement


        • #5
          There was a mule (full size!) at a barn i once boarded at... I'm not sure what his job was but he was sooo attrative and the most personable animal i've ever met! You could seriously have conversations with him... he'd just stand there and talk to you all day long.
          http://www.clarkdesigngrouparchitects.com/index.html - Lets build your dream barn


          • #6
            He sounds really cute.

            My friend kinda wondered what he'd got himself into when he decide to make a mule and then repeated the breeding a year later in hopes for a match for a team. Well that didn't happen and he started working the older john (1/4 draft horse) in the round pen. He's coming 3 now. He's trained his own riding/ranch work homebreds for over 30 years and really met his match w/ this john. After the first or second "lesson" in the round pen I think he was about ready to shoot him, as nothing he was trying to teach him was sinking in AT ALL!! Needless to say any patience he had for the youngster went out the window quickly and he clearly got incredibly frustrated that he wasn't able to get through to him. Which neither of those things helped the situation any.

            BUT... by the fourth or fifth lesson they finally had a breakthrough together. Then after 3-4 weeks of ground work in the pen he was almost to the point where he was going to get on him. He had him working in tack and doing really well, but weather and time go in the way and he's not worked w/ him again since since he's got a couple AQHA youngsters to keep him occupied that are further along in their training.

            I've had mine own head to head combats w/ this john, as well. He's a very sweet and personable guy, always has been, but he, too, is VERY strong. My g/f and I went to move him and his younger full sister from the lot and back out to pasture one day. Needless to say that ended w/ both of them running around the backyard by the pasture gates and fenceline and playing keep away. We were ready to just shoot them when it took of us over an hour to catch them and actually get them through the gate where they were supposed to go. But then the jenny got fed up w/ the other horses running back and forth in the pasture to entertain the john that she tried jumping the fence right next to the gate and got stuck there, as she was too short to clear it (yearling.) We came to her rescue and not a mark on her or hair out of place, silly girl. That's when I finally able to catch the john again and we exchanged a few words as we walked to the gate ever so nicely.

            Them never forgetting is exactly right on. The aforementioned john mule knows exactly who his mother is. If they're seperated, like when the mare was nursing his younger sister, and he was put back out w/ them, he immediate went to her and started nursing. One on each side and she happily nursed both of them!! Crazy mare!! He tried again after sister was weaned, but she was dried up and he couldn't get anything, though he still tried. Yet his sister didn't try. Never saw that w/ horses before so it was a shock. Had to keep weaning him over and over again and keep him in high enough fence that he couldn't jump to get to her. Very smart that boy.

            They are really something.
            A Merrick N Dream Farm
            Proud Member of "Someone Special to me serves in the Military" Clique


            • #7
              Mules are a lot of fun and amazingly personable. My gaited mule (mom was a TWH) will answer with his "eeeehaw" when I call his name. Most mules also like people...a lot. They'll follow as you walk by their paddock.

              Click image for larger version

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              The Meredith Hodges/Lucky 3 Ranch tapes are very good and will tell you everything you need to deal with your new long-ear...and yep, they are different to deal with.

              There's an old saying, "Treat your horse like your kids and your mule like your grandkids".
              "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


              • #8
                Trak, what a handsome mule!
                You jump in the saddle,
                Hold onto the bridle!
                Jump in the line!


                • #9
                  My family kept a lot of mules when I was a kid and we children had so much fun with them. Rode, used to fly down the road (with red dust flying) on what we called a sled. Really was no more than a wooden platform. Great time.
                  After the mules were all gone and I was an adult with my own place I decided to get a mule. Bought a two year old who definately didn't like people. Owner had an arm broken in two places to prove it. Brought him home and put him in a stall. POP over the dutch door he went. That sucker ran wild and free for three weeks. We'd think we had him hemmed up against something, split rails, board fence, barb wire and pop over he'd go and be gone. Finally he jumped in with our horses and with food and inch by inch I got him to where I could get him.
                  When I started training him it was still an inch by inch process and oh my gosh could he balk and could he back. Found out really quick you weren't going to make him do anything. It took a couple of years but he became the best trail mount you'd ever find.
                  He was never a servant but made a fantastic partner.
                  I wouldn't take anything for the experience of training/teaching this mule but I wouldn't do it again for anything!! Lost my boy a few months ago at the age of 33. That was one of the hardest things ever but he was never sick and was happy until his last several weeks.
                  oh, and it's true mules get even. I was on a conditioning ride once and when i broke for a p and r he wouldn't be still. Kept moving all around and finally I popped him and told him to be still. He had a habit of throwing his head back and looking down his nose at you when he was po'ed. He did that and I thought ooooooh boy. He is going to give me fits when I get back on. He didn't and I was lulled. Got home and my four year old met me at the end of the drive wanting to ride back to the barn. I got off, put her on and as soon as she was settled in the saddle he reached over and bit the fool out of me.
                  <laughing> He knew I wasn't going to do anything to him with her on him and he'd been waiting his chance.
                  I'm sure some mules are born sweet and wanting to please but my boy sure wasn't one of them. He stayed independant and proud his entire life. Treat his with respect and as a partner and there was none better.
                  Have fun working with your little mule. Expect to be frustrated and you won't be as much.
                  You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.


                  • #10
                    Check out The American Donkey & Mule Society and The Mule Paddock at Rural Heritage.
                    The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
                    Winston Churchill


                    • #11
                      Trak: that is one handsome mule!

                      pj: your story made me LOL

                      I have friends I go horsecamping with who ride mules. They've told me exactly what you are all saying and I've witnessed some of the behavior myself.
                      My TWH - all 17h+ of him - is enamored of one of the Mollys.
                      He must be next to her when we ride together. She tolerates him.
                      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                      • #12
                        I am going on Tuesday to look at some sale mules, when I find one it will be my first. I love these stories and the advice, I am so excited to get a mule.

                        Trak, I don't have kids or grandkids, what does that saying mean?


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks so much everyone for the advice. I'll take some pics when i go out there today. he is a little shaggy right now as it is getting to be in the 20s at night here. when i pat him, a big cloud of dust pas up, no matter how much i brush him LoL. Also he is terrified of spray bottles...i was going to put some spray detangler in his tail, but had the foresight to just spray about 10 feet away from him at the ground first to see how he'd react...he flipped out, dancing all around the grooming area. He is going to be quite the challenge!


                          • #14
                            I have a mule and he is definitely different to train than a horse. He's very smart and remembers things (good and bad) well.
                            I'd sum up mule training (some call it "mule logic") like this: You tell a horse to do something, but you have a conversation with a mule about it.
                            My daughter rode her mule on a trail recently, and he balked and refused to go on. She could NOT get him to walk. .Finally she spotted a huge coiled snake on the side of the trail! The mule was taking care of safety.
                            They can be frustrating, but ultimately they make you a MUCH better horse trainer. Check out videos by Meredith Hodges (lucky three ranch) or other mule books to get a better grasp on your new long ears.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Rachel L View Post
                              Trak, I don't have kids or grandkids, what does that saying mean?
                              "Treat your horse like your kids and your mule like your grandkids".

                              Basically, parents tend to tell their kids to do X-Y & Z...they're the boss and they worry a lot.

                              Grandparents enjoy their grandkids, like having fun with them, don't worry about them doing things right now...they just a lot more "have fun" than doing it instantly. Mules like patience and a discussion...all done with a sense of humor and a little less eye on the clock.

                              It's a bit like:

                              You tell a Gelding,
                              Ask a Mare, and
                              Have a discussion with a Stallion
                              "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                              • #16
                                I have a mini-mule as well. You're not kidding about their strength. I have found that he respects a rope halter much more so than a flat halter. He also knows which people will work with him the way he has decided he likes. My partner tries to dictate exactly how Burrito will behave at every second. Burrito will not let my partner catch him. I, OTOH, discuss things with Burrito. He's quite snuggly with me.


                                • #17
                                  Quick question: not to hijack, but what did GM mean in PH in his column this month when he referred to a 'mule' in one of the photos? Not to be dense, but I wasn't sure what he meant. TIA.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    So, i just had to find out if the claims that Levi (the mule) was trained to ride and drive. So I am leaning over his back, jumping up and down next to him like I am going to hop on, and he is fine with all of this. I throw a leg over him, one leg still on the ground, still fine. I haul myself up on him, and he stands like an angel and I get off.

                                    Next day (this time with an audience, his owner and the kid who has been grooming him and doing ground work) hes fine while i lean all over him, so I hop up. he stands long enough to get a picture, then decides to walk off...well he must not have liked the change in his balance bc he trotted of and proceeded to buck me off.

                                    Day 3, no audience, he is still not super happy with the idea of a rider. however, by the end of an hour session, he has let me sit on him, but then tries to get his head down to buck, so i pull him around. He just spins around so much and i slide off due to centrifugal force. (mind you i am doing this all bareback, with reins snapped onto his halter). I finally get him to stand still, then take a few steps forward without trying to get rid of me. I call it a day.

                                    So we'll see what he tries today...He seems to be a fast learner. I wish i had a saddle for him so i had something solid to hold onto.

                                    here is a pic of me sitting on him...


                                    • #19
                                      If he's that small, he's probably a hinny, instead of a mule. A mule is the product of a horse mare and donkey stallion, and tends to inherit the mare's larger height. A hinny, which is much more rare, is the product of a donkey mare and horse (or pony) stallion. (I hope I don't have the combos reversed! )

                                      We've had two hinnies, which were each about 12 hh. They tended to have the donkey feet, but slightly shorter ears than mules. They were often mistaken for ponies. But the personality, stubborness and strength seemed to cross the species line!!!

                                      Oh, and BTW, if your vet needs to sedate him for some reason, ours took 3–4 times the amount that a horse of comparable size would take. Out vet had to keep re-injecting more and more drugs. She finally admitted she was afraid of killing him, but the fourth dose finally did the trick!
                                      "Dogs give and give and give. Cats are the gift that keeps on grifting." –Bradley Trevor Greive


                                      • Original Poster

                                        I am not sure of his exact breeding, but couldn't he be the result of a small (shetland) pony mare with a donkey? He could be a hinny, I agree, but for the sake of the non-horsey people, we just call him a mule...and we aren't sure of his breeding.

                                        He was in a petting zoo type place for much of his early life, and had been neglected and possibly abused. I'm not sure when the lady we got him from took him from there, but he has had a happy pasture pet life for atleast the last 5 of his 10 years.

                                        I'll keep that in mind about the sedation....interesting....