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Mule resources
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Sat Jun 2nd, 2007
Location: Tāhuna / Glenorchy, New Zealand
Posts: 40
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sun May 1st, 2022 06:04 pm
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Hi everyone,

I'm searching through this wonderful forum for some mule-related resources please - about to begin my mule journey in the coming months with a young one.

In particular, I came across this comment from Dr Deb on a thread that started some intrigue for me...

" However, mules and donkeys do have this "rep". They are flatter-bodied, typically, than horses and thus weigh even less for their height, and that undoubtedly helps them. Also, mules in particular are "made of rubber" -- they have very flexible ribcages and their ligaments and tendons tend to be stretchier than in horses, giving them the ability to, for example, kick the syringe out of the veterinarian's hand with a hind foot while the vet is standing in front of the mule's neck. Or kick the cowboy's hat off while he's riding. -- Dr. Deb"

I've been told mules "take longer to mature" than horses, but we don't have a lot of mule enthusiasts here in Aotearoa / New Zealand so it's hard to dig into the community.

I'd love to hear from anyone who might point me in the direction of some helpful resources around anatomy in particular please.

I'm about to get the confirmation series on order and I already own the bitting DVD plus Dave's saddle fit DVD too. I've also been recommended 'Western Mule' magazine and I'm making my way through the friends of the institute list too.

I get that some of this will take a little brainpower and application of knowledge and principles I've learned so far.

Let me know if this is outside of our rules (conscious of the potential for name-dropping). I'm on the google mission but would love to have a bit of a head start from a community I trust.


- D. (Danelle, she/her)

Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3335
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Fri May 6th, 2022 04:33 am
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Hi, Kallisti: Sorry it's taken me a few days to reply. I was sort of hoping somebody else might have jumped in first -- surely we have some mule people who read here!

I just positively LOVE mules -- and I always remember Tom Dorrance's wonderful witticism about the "stubborn" mule:

"People always talk about the 'stubborn' mule, but in all my life I've never seen a stubborn mule," he said.

"But I HAVE seen a mule shut down for a while, to give the person time to think about what the PERSON should have been doing."

And ain't it the truth. So the one main piece of advice I'd offer you, Kallisti, is that mules are like the picky, particular elderly lady you remember from school, who was the school librarian or maybe the one at the town library. This person really, really valued having everything in order, everything in its proper and expected place.

So let us say that a group of schoolkids show up and grab a table and start doing their homework together. They empty their backpacks and there are schoolbooks of various sorts, mixed with library books, on the table while they're there. But then it comes suppertime, and they pack up their things and leave.

But one child has forgotten her math book. There it is on the table. The librarian comes over and picks up all the library books that are there, wanting to re-shelve them; but she also finds this math book, and it doesn't have a Dewey Decimal number and so -- OMG!!!! She doesn't know WHAT to do with it.

That's how a mule's brain works!

Now if a very kind person were to come in there and tell the librarian, oh, this book belongs to the such-and-so school, the librarian would probably calm down, especially if said person were to suggest how the book could be returned or what else to do with it, like put it in the lost-and-found.

And that tells you what your approach will need to be. Show the mule each and every little thing you want it to do, and you will be amazed at how quickly they pick up on it and succeed at it. And once the mule is sure that he's doing exactly what you want, that mule will do exactly that same thing every time the same situation arises.

But if you get impatient and try to make the mule hurry up, or you confront him with a situation he hasn't seen before, then he will buck your ass off quicker and more expertly than any horse on the planet.

And yes, they do generalize. So in other words: show your new mule every toy you can think of, every situation you can artificially construct including noises and lights and wierd stuff blowing or whatever else, recognizing that what you set up in the pen or the arena is a proxy for what may be encountered on real trailrides, and know that all the preparation you provide will make your mule both smarter and calmer in all circumstances.

And the other thing is, be sure to have your ear out....both donkeys and mules are close to being able to talk, no kidding. Watch what they're watching -- just as they watch your every more also. A mule will often tell you where he wants you to look by looking that way and then looking at you to see if you saw where he was looking.

Good luck and have fun....if you have trouble finding a saddle that fits, write in to say so because that's sometimes problematic these days, when so many saddles are meant to fit animals with broader back and broader shoulders than mules tend to have.

And remember this other saying of Tom's: "A mule and a horse are the same, except the mule is more so." Cheers -- Dr. Deb


Joined: Sat Jun 2nd, 2007
Location: Tāhuna / Glenorchy, New Zealand
Posts: 40
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sat May 7th, 2022 08:55 pm
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oooo I'm so excited! This is kinda my thinking - she'll ask me to up my horsemanship because I certainly won't be bullying her into any of it (on the "stubborn" mule).

I kinda like that they'll set boundaries. She can probably teach me a thing or two (understatement).

And thanks for replying, maybe we can turn this into a bit of a repository for others who might come looking for mule goodness later.

I love everything in your reply and particularly "But if you get impatient and try to make the mule hurry up, or you confront him with a situation he hasn't seen before, then he will buck your ass off quicker and more expertly than any horse on the planet."

My plan is to eventually ride the old mountain bridleways between Glenorchy and Queenstown, so pack up and go wild for about a week at a time.

So far "Nellie" (6mo) is showing up beautifully. She seems to jump but stop if she gets a fright, happily holds feet up, largely very respectful of personal space, and I absolutely hear you on them talking. She's very expressive, and I liken her voice to be as clear as my old old boy who I've known for 25 years. The breeders have done an absolutely beautiful job with her.

So far we are trying around 10-15 minutes of something each day (or most) and/or some time hanging out in the paddock.

I won't be planning on any kind of backing until 5yo so we've got a nice long stretch to do all sorts of things and maybe get out on the trails with a few other horses for a walk-along.

Be prepared for mule tricks posts as I may need some friends to share the my #MuleJoy with!!

Thanks Dr Deb, I'll keep working on the network.

- D.

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