For more on Jerry Tindell/Tindell’s Horse and Mule School, visit his website here: http://jerrytindell.com/
To see the full article, purchase a copy of the March 2019 issue here:
For more on Jerry Tindell/Tindell’s Horse and Mule School, visit his website here: http://jerrytindell.com/
To see the full article, purchase a copy of the March 2019 issue here:
Attention TRAIL RIDERS: We are working on our 9th annual trail riding guide for the April issue! Do you have a favorite place to trail ride, a destination trip or local trip, that you would like to see featured? Send your story and photos to us! The last several years we have chosen our April cover from submissions to the trail guide. So this might be your chance to be on the cover of Mules and More!
Attention TRAIL RIDE OWNERS: Do you own a campground, trail ride or overnight campground? Let us help you start the season out on the right foot, by getting your business in front of the eyes of thousands of mule owners! Contact us for information on how to get into our Trail Riding issue.
(Submit stories and photos to email@example.com. Email or call (573)646-3934 for more advertising information. The deadline is Monday, March 4)
by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho
Published in the May 2016 Mules and More
Straight lines, corners and circles. Are you tired of doing the same old thing every time you ride? Weather riding in the arena or down the trail, this is a lot of what you do. In the arena you follow the rail, on the trail you might be going up and down hills and ravines, but you’re still basically going in a straight line. Even if you’re chasing barrels, it’s straight lines and turns.
A few years ago some of my clients and I went to “The Event”, a three-day event held at Rebecca Farm in Kallispell, MT. It was the first time my riders had seen eventing, which consisted of dressage, cross-country jumping and stadium jumping. Though they are novice riders who prefer walk/trot riding, they were really excited to see the versatility of the horses and were saying, “Can you imagine what it would be like to ride a jumper or cross-country course?”
So, that got me to thinking, why not let them experience a course by using ground poles that they could walk and trot over. The idea was a hit and proved to be more beneficial than I ever dreamed. For the course, we used regular white PVC 10 foot pipe and 8 to 10 foot wooden poles. To make it more challenging, we had milk jugs filled with colored water to use as markers. At first we kept the “course” simple. Two poles on the long sides of the arena and one pole at each end. Basically they rode around the arena and walked over the poles. Simple enough. Then to spice it up the poles were placed randomly around the arena, some parallel with the rail, others angled toward or away from the rail. Some were spaced close together and others far apart. The goal was to have the riders hit the center of each pole as they went over them.
At first the riders had a hard time hitting the center marks. Through these exercises they learned that they had to think ahead, plan how to position their equines, and ride with intent over the pole. If they didn’t continue to communicate with their equine right over the pole, the equine would tend to veer off center or sidestep the pole completely. At first the riders had all kinds of excuses as to why they missed the pole, but eventually they began to understand they were the reason their equine veered off, they are the ones who quit riding and just left everything up to their equine. Doing this type of pole work helped show the rider that she had to stay completely focused on the task at hand. She couldn’t get two or three strides from the pole and assume the equine would go over it on its own.
As the riders progressed the pattern was changed to include big open flowing half circles, turns and changes of direction. Again, the riders had to concentrate to be able to hit the center marks of each pole. They had to plan the angle of approach on the turns, use their leg and seat aids to maneuver their equines straight over the poles and look up where they were going. But most importantly, they had to plan ahead so they could hit their marks. As the riders became more confident in their planning and communication skills, the poles were moved closer together and the turns were made tighter. Though the riders were still walking, the time they had to plan and react between poles had become quicker and they had to be more active and focused to get the job done. As they worked on this goal, their riding and control greatly improved. They no longer had to think about using their legs to keep their equine moving straight, if the animal started to veer off, they automatically felt the veer and simply corrected it before the equine had time to miss the pole. They were developing timing and feel. As the riders advanced, their equines also became more attentive and responsive. At first the riders would make wide, sloppy turns, pulling their equines around to go over the poles. Now they were able to come off one pole, do a tight pivot turn and go right back over the same pole, hitting center in both directions.
The next challenge was to arrange three widely spaced poles in a straight line. Two jugs were placed about two feet apart on each pole. The first set on the far left side of the pole, the second set in the center of the pole and the third set on the far right of the third pole. The object was to start over the poles and go through the jugs on each pole. Thus an introduction to lateral work as the equine had to continue going straight, but move diagonally to get through the jugs.
Another challenge was to lay the poles, widely spaced, like a big W and have the riders go down the center hitting all four poles in a straight line. Then the riders would approach the first pole at an angle so they had to weave over the poles to hit the centers. The object is to go slow and make the bends smooth while hitting the center marks.
All of these exercises are easy to set up and ride. They help the rider with their timing and feel, give the equine something more exciting to think about, and help with trust and communication between the two. Once you and your equine become proficient at walking through these patterns, go back to the wider spaced poles and try trotting through them. At first these exercises look simple, but to do them correctly by constantly hitting the center mark is very challenging and will make a big difference in your teamwork.
Susan Dudasik is an equine journalist, PATH Intl. Certified riding instructor and a mule enthusiast. She's competed in numerous trail class events, holds clinics and teaches groundwork and trail classes at Misfit Farm in Salmon, Idaho. The advice given here is meant only as a guide. A professional trainer should handle any serious horse training problems.
--Julie Porter, Spring Canyon Mule Makers, Onyx, Calif.
This is kind of a long story, so I’ll make it as brief as possible. I’m hoping to receive some input and get some information out there for other mule owners/breeders. There are a lot of folks out there who know us here at Spring Canyon Mule Makers. We take our breeding program seriously and have been in the mule industry for many years.
A few years back, we were offered a papered, foundation bred quarter mare for pretty cheap. The lady who owned her wanted to move, so she was dumping horses. We had another mule friend who lived close and she vouched for the mare. At the time, there was also a gelding involved, so my daughter took him. I kept the gorgeous mare. We bred her and got a mule foal out of her.
In the meantime, we’ve had a bloodline since 1985, that we had when we ran our pack outfit. I decided to breed one of our grade mares for a horse baby. I picked out a stallion and found out the grade mare had an ovarian tumor and wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant any more (even though she has since had two more foals). So, I took that breeding and put it towards the foundation quarter mare. She threw a beautiful, big-bodied, great minded quarter filly.
I took the filly every where the first couple years of her life. At two, I started doing some light riding on her. She was easy and went out with the wagons, trail riding, and did a little bit of mountain climbing. She was being a little herd bound, so I decided to pen her up in a small pipe coral away from everyone. At Christmas 2017, I decided that it was time to start doing a little cattle work with her, so I took her to a local sorting. We got there and she was not acting her normal self. I figured with the change of weather, it was under lights for the first time, (yada, yada) that was why she was acting like she was colicy. So, I pulled the saddle, gave her some banamine and hauled her home.
She seemed to be fine the next day, but I gave her a couple days off. I got her out and went to take her for a trail ride. We went out the gate and made it a few hundred yards and she started acting weird again. I was thinking maybe she was going through some two-year-old “stuff.” She locked up tighter than a drum. She was sweating, her muscles were shaking, was breathing hard, and wouldn't move. I tried everything to get her to move. I got off of her and tried to lead her on the ground...nothing. It took forever to get her back home. Again, I left her off for a week this time, keeping her in a small pen again. She seemed to be doing OK at this point, so I got her back out to go ride with a friend. We headed up one of our local mountain trails and by the time we climbed the first ridge, she was having problems again. Again, I got off, and started trying to walk her home. This time, when I got home I turned her back out in the pasture. She paced the fence a couple of minutes, then stopped and urinated and it was blood red, and I knew it was time to call the vet.
I talked with him and he suggested a few things, but he needed to check her out. We started running some tests. The first ones came back and it wasn't a UTI like we were hoping.
With her symptoms, he wanted to run a hair sample on her for the Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) genetic flaw. Unfortunately, she tested positive/negative, which means she carries the gene for the disease and if bred, can pass it on 50 percent of the time. I wasn't even sure what line carried the gene, so I had to do some research on that, as well. Come to find out, it was from that nice foundation mare that we picked up. I had her tested as well and she tested the same.
AQHA has implemented five panel testing requirements for stallions and they're trying to include mares, but so far, that hasn't happened. I did not know these genetic flaws existed until recently. Some that are in this five panel test are pretty extreme.
So, what does this mean? This genetic flaw is showing up in all breeds now, and there are also different variants to this genetic flaw. Each animal has similar problems, but the basics are that during these “episodes,” they shed muscle. It's also been described as “tying up,” and “Monday morning sickness.”
There are forums on Facebook that give lots of information and helpful hints. Some, like our cases, can be “managed” with diet, exercise, and turnout. One of the best things is the horse just needs to keep moving, so being kept in a small pipe corral would mean you would need to exercise the horse every day.
This genetic flaw gets pretty complicated to fully explain here, but there is lots of information online.
Now, to the “mule” side of why I am writing this.
The mare that started all this had recently foaled with a mule foal, so the vet and I decided now would be a good time to test for this flaw on the baby, since I had not been able to find out much information about mules and PSSM. I had even put it out on the Facebook forum. So, we sent in the hairs and he came back with the same positive/negative result.
All those I spoke with on the PSSM forum, including our vet from Bishop Veterinary, as well as a couple of vets from Davis and Michigan State, felt that the mule could carry the gene, but no one can answer the question as to whether mules will exhibit clinical signs. So we are in uncharted waters.
If anyone has a mule that has any signs of tying up frequently, acting “colic-y”, unusual muscle pain, seems to get unusually sore after being kept in a small pen, etc., please have them checked out. We as mule owners and breeders need to due our part and do the research since it doesn't seem to be out there any where. If you suspect one or more of your horses exhibit signs, please have them checked, as well.
I would love to talk with anyone about this. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at Spring Canyon Mule Makers, or give me a call at Julie Porter - (760)378-2222.
by Tabitha Holland, Signature Equine, Morris, Okla.
It all began with a Facebook post that was shared throughout the mule community.
"Anyone know where I could borrow a nice riding maybe reining mule for something at the NRHA (National Reining Horse Association) Futurity?" asked Jessicah Keller.
Jessicah Keller along with her mom Tammye Hutton, sister Sarah Locker and David Hutton operate Hilldale Farm in Brashear, Texas. Hilldale Farm is one of the premiere breeders of reining horses in the industry. They stood the infamous Equi-Stat Elite $3 Million Reining Sire, Nu Chex To Cash. Now, they offer services of their home bred stallions, Gunner On Ice, Sparkling Major, Rowdy Yankee and Heavy Duty Chex. Heavy Duty Chex and EquiStat Elite $1 Million Rider Casey Deary competed on the 2018 United States Reining Team representing their country in the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games (WEG) in September.
Although Keller has made a name for herself competing on the highest quality of horses in the reining pen, she is no stranger to mules and has always had a soft spot for them.
"I showed mules as a kid," reflected Keller. "A molly named Martin's Miss Cody and I went a lot of miles together.”
Jessicah competed in the all-around events on her mule. As she got into reining horses, she used Miss Cody in a couple of her freestyle routines back in 2002 including a “Beer Run” number with Nu Chex To Cash. Miss Cody has since retired but when Keller was invited to enter this year's $20,000 Invitational Freestyle Reining at the NRHA Futurity, she knew she needed something special.
The NRHA Futurity is the largest reining show in the world. The very best reining horses and competitors from more than 12 different countries come to Oklahoma City to compete for an estimated total purse and cash prizes of more than $2 million. Freestyle reining unites the finesse and precision of reining with music, costumes, props, and theatrics. The combination creates some of the most entertaining performances a horse enthusiast could hope to see!
Keller was competing at this year’s futurity in the non-pro division on her 2010 bay mare, Snip O Satellite. Snip O Satellite is the 2018 World Champion Intermediate Non-Pro Horse and has won over $50,000 to date.
Keller had an idea, but needed a mule to complete her vision. She drafted a post on Facebook and received a private message from mule professional Tabitha Holland of Signature Equine.
“I saw the post and was intrigued with the idea of getting a mule in front of an audience like the NRHA Futurity. However, I didn’t know Jessicah and I’m pretty protective of our stock,” said Holland. “I messaged Julie Kennedy, who had shared the post, and I asked for her recommendation. Julie gave her a glowing review. On Julie’s word, I went ahead and told Jessicah that I would bring her a mule.”
Keller explained her idea to Holland and they talked about the different mules Holland had available. They settled on a 12-year-old john mule, Dun It With A Twist.
Twist originally came from Robert Kidd in Pine Knot, Ky. Holland purchased him more than three years ago with the intention of reselling him fairly quickly. “He was a super honest trail mule and we purchased him specifically to resell because we often have clients looking for this type of mule,” said Holland. “Then, one of my client’s father, Dr, Andy Anderson, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was an accomplished reining trainer but because of his illness he needed something very broke and safe to ride. I told him to come try Twist.”
“I’ve ridden quarter horses my entire life and never thought that when I got on a mule I would fall in love, but I did!” exclaimed Anderson. “Everyone should try it!”
Because of Anderson’s extensive background in reining, he worked with Twist on quiet spins each direction and developing his stops. With Twist’s kind demeanor and now a little background in reining, he was the perfect choice to represent long ears at the biggest reining show in the world.
Holland hauled Twist to the show the day before the performance so Keller and her trainer could practice.
“We got a lot of funny looks as I led him into the barn,” laughed Holland. “I was worried how he might react having never been in any kind of a situation like this, but he was a perfect gentleman and a great ambassador for mules.”
The final piece of the puzzle was trainer Trent Harvey. Harvey trains in Marietta, Okla. He has a background in cutting horses and moved to reiners more recently. He was assistant trainer to NRHA Professionals Casey Deary and Jordan Larson before making the move to his own operation. Earlier this year, Harvey piloted SM Steppin Junior to the Reserve title in the L3 Open NRHA Derby. Although Harvey had never ridden a mule, he was up for the challenge.
“That was the first time I rode a mule and I actually lunged him because I had no idea how a mule would act,” stated Harvey.
With everything in place, it was time for the big show. Keller was sixth in the draw of twelve competitors on Thursday, November 29, to compete in the freestyle. With the music cued up, Keller and her mare loped into the arena to the tune of “East Bound And Down” by Jerry Reed, the theme song for the TV series “Smokey And The Bandit”
Keller and Snippy completed spins and stops and were joined in the arena by a golf cart pulling their bootlegged wagon full of beer in true Bandit style. Then, the Smokey, played by Harvey and Twist, galloped into the arena and the chase was on!
“The crowd really woke up when that mule came into the arena! They were already in good spirits from enjoying the freestyle, but that topped it off,” said NRHA Commissioner Gary Carpenter. “Trent offered to let me ride him when I was handing out awards. Twist looks like a lot of fun.”
“The crowd reaction was really good when I came into the arena,” said Harvey, grinning.
When the placings were announced, Keller’s Smokey and the Bandit routine earned them a score of 224 which was good enough for third place and a nice check. Twist was in the arena for all of the award ceremony and many competitors and audience members got photos taken with the only mule at the futurity. Following the results, Keller, Harvey and Holland were interviewed by RFD’s Jenifer Reynolds, host of “Horse of the West.” She stated that Twist would be the first mule to ever appear on their program.
The entire performance was broadcast live on the NRHA website and the mule touched quite a large audience at this premiere event. Keller says she hopes to work with Holland and her mules again to create another memorable freestyle routine.
See the full video here:
Looking for something new to read this winter? Here are three new books to read while cozied up to the fire with a nice mug of hot cocoa to get you through the winter nights!
Children’s author Codi Vallery-Mills of Sturgis, S.D. has just released the third book in her Husker the Mule children’s series. The latest book, Husker the Mule: Adventure Awaits, takes young readers on a back-country camping trip with Husker, his young owner, Carter and a new character to the series a young cowgirl named Caty Lou.
“Kids will enjoy this book because of its fun setting, characters, and pictures while parents will appreciate that it has a message about self-confidence and being open to adventures for their little one,” Mills says.
Once again illustrated by the award-winning western artist, Teri McTighe of Faith, S.D., the book is delightfully brought to life for readers. “Teri always does a wonderful job of creating artwork that enhances the storyline beautifully,” Mills says.
Husker the Mule is based on a real mule that resides at the author’s family ranch. “My family has raised and purchased mules throughout the years. They are smart and fun animals, and while out moving cattle one day I noticed my husband riding our red mule Husker and thought he would make a fun kid’s book character. It started from there,” Mills says.
Through the Husker character, each book gives a subtle lesson to young readers. “It was important to me to have a moral lesson or something that could help children grow in their character, yet be a fun, short read for the whole family,” she says.
Husker the Mule: Adventure Awaits, along with the first two books, is available on Amazon.com for $11.95.
Brandy Von Holten, Mora, Mo., recently released Adventures at Von Holten Ranch: KTM, the first book in her upcoming book series. The books center around animal’s from the Von Holten Ranch, including horses and a mule. Each book is based on real events from the main character’s lives, and told from the animal’s perspective.
Brandy is a certified middle and high school science teacher with her Masters in teaching. She has numerous judge’s cards, won buckles, saddles, and different world and national titles or high placings in several different associations varying from mounted archery, obstacles, cowboy racing, and ranch dressage. Along with her husband David, she hosts over 70 events per year at their trail riding facility in Missouri.
The first book is centered around KTM, who is her primary trail lesson horse. He is on a mission to become a lesson horse to help children fall in love with horses to ensure that his species will have a future home as older generations of horse lovers go to the spirit land. Through his journey, the children learn the difference one positive individual can make in the world.
The second book, due to be released in fall 2019, features JoJo, a Missouri Fox Trotter mule who faces numerous difficulties and prejudices related to not looking like a horse. JoJo’s book will inspire children to not be afraid to go for their goals, even if they do not look like what society says they should. In JoJo’s book, he is highly educated and finds his true calling in the sport of mounted archery.
The third book will touch people from all over. It is about a horse named Chalkboard that must learn to be a productive adult even though she had a bad childhood. Will Chalkboard learn to trust others?
Two other books are slated for the series: Glamour, a small grade mare, must prove she is valuable even though she is small, and Peppercorn will learn to not be a bully, even though she was bullied.
There are plans to continue the series, with books written from the perspective of the dog and the the farm, since Von Holten Ranch has seen many changes being in the same family for over 100 years.
The Von Holtens have been approached about possibly making the book series into a cartoon series. Who knows, there might be stuffed mule animals with an off-centered star and a Stegosaurs mohawk in the hearts of children all over the world one day!
Brandy has been a contributor to Mules and More for two years with articles varying from “Training a Horse vs Training a Mule,” “When to Keep, Sell, or Send Your Mule to Training,” and “Benefits of Tracking Your Time.” If you would like to contact her, you can email her at email@example.com or find her author’s Facebook page “Brandy Von Holten.”
Purchse a copy of Adventures at Von Holten Ranch: KTM here.
Set in Kansas in the 1900s, this tale of a down-on-her luck woman who finds a possible solution to her troubles in a herd of mules is an absolute joy to read. After the family farm is lost, Jocelyn Belle Royal meets a mysterious man and joins a mule drive. It’s not always smooth driving. Run-ins with outlaws and thieves attempt to side-track her journey. She is pushed and tested, but this tenacious heroin persistently drives her mules onward and to do the job she is hired for, not only changing her own life, but the lives of those around her.
Author Irene Bennet Brown paints a lovely picture of the turn of the century midwest with accurate historical events and details.
by Leslie Ballard, Austin, Ark.
Just the other day I was asked, “Who taught you to ride mules and do all the cool things that you do with them?”
My very quick answer was, “Ol’ Trial and Error. Do you know him?” I pondered this very true answer for a while after the conversation came to an end. Just for giggles sake I decided to record some of my very clear-cut examples of Ol’ Trial and Error that has given me a somewhat profound education on dealing with mules. Each one of the instances are true examples, with eight out of the 10 involving my first mule Leroy, to whom I thank God came into my life almost 10 years ago. He has taught me way more than I every taught him.
1. When clipping a mule for the first time, DO NOT try to hold the twitch in one hand, clippers in the other and somehow believe that biting that big ol’ ear in your face is a way to gain a little more leverage. After you make a trip to the dentist in order to repair a tooth, the mule still as a five-inch Mohawk.
2. When attempting to get on a mule bareback in a ditch, (after chasing him two miles down the road) DO NOT have a five-gallon feed bucket in your hand. After a complete stranger wakes you up in the ditch, you’ll be left trying to figure out why your forehead needs stitches and the mule is running down the road again.
3. When hauling a mule in a two-horse straight load trailer, DO NOT try to figure out how, upon reaching your destination, the mule is standing facing the exact opposite way he was when you loaded him. Just go with it -- he’s easier to unload in this direction anyway.
4. After the fifth time the mule has broken into the tack room (shutting the door behind him), DO NOT become alarmed that he has stepped through an old kiddy stirrup that is now hung between his ankle and foot. Just get a hacksaw and cut it off. (Cut off the stirrup, not the foot - no matter how good cutting off the foot sounds at the moment!)
5. While taking your mule to a barrel race as a companion for a horse, DO NOT freak out when, upon returning to the trailer, all that is left of the mule is an empty halter and a horse going nuts. The mule has just loaded himself into a poor unsuspecting attendee’s trailer who left their back door open. Never fear, they will enthusiastically return him to your barn, but only after you have given up hope of finding him and left the barrel race.
6. When loading a mule into a new trailer, DO NOT give him his treat of an Oatmeal Crème Pie before he actually gets in the trailer. If you do, he will stand around silently laughing as you cuss and throw fits for two hours, only to hop right up in the trailer after you walk away to call for help.
7. In pre-planning for a trail ride for the following day, DO NOT put you’re sometimes hard-to-catch mule in the stall for the night for the sake of easier access. He will not only take his stall door off the hinges, he will also remove all the stall doors in the barn. Instead of going on the trail ride, you will be fixing stall doors and chasing horses all day.
8. On the day that your very good friend calls needing help sorting and working their cattle, DO NOT let your mule “hee-haw!” in a blind creek below everyone else’s sight. The bucking, stampeding, and over all general chaos seen in the aftermath is not entirely funny to anyone involved (with the exception of the responsible mule).
9. When on a trail ride, and you must travel straight down a very steep hillside, DO NOT automatically assume your saddle will remain in its proper place. Sometimes riding on a mule’s neck will result in seven stitches to the back of your head. Ironically purchasing a britchen for your mule is much cheaper than an emergency room visit.
10. Finally, as a novice who is teaching your mule to coon hunt jump, DO NOT build your jump out of four panels in the shape of an L with a telephone pole situated between them. On certain occasions the mule will miss the jump, which in turn will cause all the panels to crash down upon you, knocking you to the ground. The mule will come out of the wreck without a scratch but you on the other hand still have to remind yourself, “Small breaths, small breaths,” because cracked ribs really hurt.
Merchandise orders over $25 qualify for a FREE stocking stuffer package between Thursday, November 22 and Monday, November 26. The FREE stocking stuffer package includes:
a mule notepad (40 sheets, 5-1/2 x 8-1/2")
a set of mule laser/copy paper (50 sheets, 8-1/2” x 11")
a copy of our “Mule Poems” book (A collection of poems about, and for, mules! Filled with amusing poems, stories and sometimes true events all about the mules that we love! Lots of mule graphics drawn by some of the poem authors. 88 pages - Paperback).
Once you add your order of merchandise to your cart, add the FREE stocking stuffer package to your cart as well! (Subscriptions do not qualify, only orders of merchandise over $25 qualify.)
But wait, there is more! On Monday, November 26 ONLY - use code “CYBERMONDAY” for 10 percent off of anything with the “clearance” tag, including anything listed in the clearance section, as well as certain items in the signs, decals and license plates section.
We hope you have a great thanksgiving! Don’t forget to give a little extra scratch behind the ears to your favorite long-eared pal, because we know how thankful you are for them, too!
by Cori Daniels, Bland, Mo.
“You know what’s crazy? Five months ago I paid $600 for this mule and it just sold for $10,300.” Les Clancy said this about the winning mule sold at auction at the end of the Missouri Mule Makeover Challenge, held during Ozark Mule Days in Springfield, Mo., over Labor Day weekend.
I don’t know if I would use the word ‘crazy,’ but I would definitely use the word ‘impressive.’ The amount of work that went into that $600 mule to make it bring that amount deserved recognition, which the winning trainer definitely received.
It wasn’t only the winner’s hard work that was on display, but all seven of the trainers who participated in the inaugural Missouri Mule Makeover. They put literal blood, sweat and tears into these animals, and after spending all summer with them, they seemed sad to see them go.
To recap the challenge, seven trainers met in April at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. Seven mules stood tied to the fence. Though this event was inspired by the mustang makeover challenges that take untouched, wild mustangs and pair them with trainers to train and later compete with, these mules had not been “untouched.” Though they were not broke to lead or ride, these mules had been handled, but by what means were unclear. The seven trainers drew for the seven mules, loaded them into their trailers, and headed home to begin the long process of building a foundation of communication and trust with their mules. Some posted about their journey almost daily on the shared Facebook page, keeping the public up to date on daily success and setbacks. Others kept their journey quiet. In then end, they were all brought back to Ozark Mule Days held in the same arena they met in April. They showcased their animals in four special events on Friday and Saturday, and were auctioned off Saturday night.
Ozark Mule Days has been held for years, and if you like fun shows, and like mules, this is an event you shouldn’t miss. It’s a throwback to years past, when mule folks would gather at fun shows all summer long, competing in traditional classes, like barrels, poles, and match races, but also throwing in some quirkier classes, like dizzy bat, back-to-back, and ride-a-buck. I grew up on the back of a mule at these small shows, and learned a lot about riding, mules, and life during those summer shows. Ozark Mule Days captures the spirit of those small shows, and I am thankful it’s held so close to home. My daughters get to experience a part of my childhood, and they have a blast each time we attend.
But Ozark Mule Days doesn’t just have fun classes, there are performance classes spread out through the show bill, and Sunday featured a double-sanctioned (NASMA and Pinto) show. Whether you want to go fast or slow, there is a class for you this weekend.
Both nights opened with a mutton busting, where the competitor with the highest combined score from both nights received a trophy and PBR tickets. The grand entry followed, where competitors, riding or driving their mules and donkeys, all file in and fill the entire arena. Many carried their home state’s flag, and Les Clancy presented the American flag. Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag,” played while Les loped around the packed arena on his trusty mule, Luke. The National Anthem was then sung by Savannah Wood, sitting in the arena on the back of a mule, and she began by asking the crowd to sing along with her. It was a patriotic and touching way to start the evening’s events.
Spectators were introduced to the Missouri Mule Makeover mules on Friday night, where each trainer took to the arena for a brief introduction of their animal, and a chance to address the crowd and judges directly over the microphone. Most of these mules had never been in an arena in front of a huge crowd, so this time was also a good way to see in real time how the mules handle new situations. The judges, Tom Livengood, Donny Oldham, Wes Clancy and Greg Workman, scored the mules during the events on Friday and Saturday, but the scores were not announced and no placings were given.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Lori Montgomery, Crittendon, Ohio. “Even if it’s things not to do. When I left home I said Summer would learn more this weekend than in the entire time she’s been with me.” As she side passed, loped, and did lead changes she spoke about how she and Summer had begun to trust each other.
“Watch what you ask for,” said Matt Caldwell discussing his draw, Leslie. “I said I didn’t care what mule I got, even if it was a fire breathing dragon. And that is exactly what I got.” Though Matt said it took a bit to gain Leslie’s trust, his hard work was evident as he showed off the handle he had put on her.
“I tried to give him back to Les, but he wouldn’t take him,” said Tim Cross, about his mule Ozark’s Senior Citizen. “But somewhere along the line, he became a willing partner.” Tim had been very upfront about Citizen’s progress, but watching him in the arena during the Friday night spotlight, it was hard to believe there had been any setbacks.
Chris French’s spotlight was tinged with a bit of sadness, as he first told the crowd about the freak accident that killed Cheers, the mule he originally took home in April. He received a new mule, Dixie, and also explained that even though he had less time with his mule than the other trainers, the mule that he got as a replacement didn’t have the same type of background as the others. “This mule did not have the problems that some of these other mules had,” said Chris. Chris explained that he and Dixie progressed quickly. “Her third ride was in the mountains, and I showed her in a mule show on her eleventh ride.”
Leon Raber described Radar as one of the more challenging mules he has had. “It’s been hard. He was scared to death of the saddle,” said Leon. “It took two months to get to where I could collect him. ” Leon said that he has never put as many miles on a mule as he has Radar, and that because of that, he is very confident on trails.
Arizona’s Hotshot 19 was Sharla Wilson’s first mule. “I learned more than she learned,” said Sharla. She rode Hotshot primarily in English throughout the weekend, and said she had done a lot of team sorting, as well as jumping.
Following the trainers spotlight, Friday night’s Mule Madness began. Spectators were treated to lots of fun classes, including egg and spoon and musical tires, as well as a crowd-judged open gaited class. It was a late night for those who stayed to compete, but everyone I spoke to said the loss of sleep was worth it.
Saturday morning began with a halter class for the Mule Makeover trainers and mules, used to judge how the mules handle on the ground. The mule jump followed, as well as poles and barrels.
Saturday afternoon, the trainers took the Makeover mules through a trail course, where they worked a gate, side-passed, and crossed a rocking bridge, .
The free-style event was held Saturday night, with each trainer getting time in the arena to present the very best attributes of their mule. They each picked out their own music to perform to and brought their own props to help show off what they had taught their mules over the summer.
Les began the night by explaining the process of what went into this challenge. “Some of these mules had their issues and problems,” said Les. “But they are about to show you what you can do with hard work and determination.” He also announced that he had secured a trailer for the winner of next year’s challenge.
All of the trainers and mules put on a show for their crowd. Matt Caldwell went through a waterfall made of pool noodles, walked through a plastic pool, and pushed a soccer ball. Lori Montogmery cracked a bull whip, shot a pistol, roped a barrel and pulled it behind her, then side-passed and jumped the barrels. Leon Raber rode into the arena while sitting on Radar who was standing on a flat bed truck. The pair also went through the noodle waterfall and across the tarp. Sharla Wilson, dressed like a fireman in honor of her mule’s namesake which she chose in tribute to the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in the wildfires in Arizona, showed an impressive display of hunter hack jumping, even jumping through one jump that was on fire. Chris French put his young son up on his mule to make a lap around the arena, as well as doing some cowboy mounted shooting. Shane Vaughan did cowboy mounted shooting, flying lead changes, roll backs and spins, as well as a cutting and roping a cow in the arena. He ended his performance by laying Gypsy down. Tim Cross pulled a tire, crossed a tarp, and pushed the soccer ball. Most trainers got on and off of their mules, as well as picked up all four feet.
Once the final scores were tallied and it was time to announce a winner, all seven mules and trainers were called back into the arena. This was the same arena where these trainers were introduced to their mules 120 days prior. I was there the day they picked their animals up, and I saw how they acted on that very first day. I couldn’t help but think about what would have happened to these seven mules if it hadn’t been for this challenge. It wasn’t just a “makeover,” it was a chance at a second life. These mules were given the foundation and the training to make them “productive members of society,” so to say. These mules probably wouldn’t have had much to contribute if it hadn’t been for being selected for this competition, and as I watched from the bleachers, I thought about how I hoped all of the trainers know what an impact they had made on these animals.
An auction was to take place as soon as the winner was announced. Les announced that Shane and Gypsy had won the event. The auction began and the number climbed higher and higher, stopping at $10,300. The remaining mules were auctioned off in no particular order. Lori, Chris and Tim all opted to pass on the money and take their mules. Matt sold his for $2,100 and Leo sold his for $2,000. Sharla Wilson sold hers for $4,600, all of which was funds raised by Ozark Mule Days to purchase a mule for Nate and Tara Medcalf who lost their animals in an accident earlier in 2018.
Saturday night’s Mule Madness began once the auction was over, kicking off with a crowd judged open western pleasure class. Barrels and poles followed, both with a $200 payback, as well as more fun classes. It was another late night, ending with the youth, women and men’s mule race.
Sunday morning started with a church service, officiated by Wes Clancy. Sunday’s show was double sanctioned, with both NASMA and Pinto Association points being awarded.
Some of the trainers reflected on their time with their animals. “I’m not good with words,” warned Shane, but he had a very touching message about his time with Gypsy. “Late last night after most everyone went to bed, I walked back through the barn to check Gypsy’s hay and water, and I might or might not have shed one small tear. I got to thinking about what words would describe the emotions that might have caused this. I came up with a lot of words, like ‘happy,’ ‘sad,’ ‘worried,’ ‘lucky,’ and ‘relieved,’ but the main word is ‘blessed,’ for so many reasons. I am blessed for being chosen to be in this competition with so many nice people...and to have gained six new friends. I am blessed for the time I got with Gypsy. I am blessed that I get to do what I love for a living and I get to do it with the love of my life, Amy Heitland.” Gypsy went home with Shane and Amy for another month of training, and Shane reported she had definitely found a good home.
“Radar went from being afraid of stepping on blacktop to gravel, to a mule that had so much trust and faith in a human that I was able to hop him on a flatbed trailer and haul him into the arena,” said Leon. “I am pretty dang happy how he ended up. Radar actually competed in a driving class during Sunday’s show with his new owner. “I think he did pretty good for the first time in open blinds,” reported Leon.
“This was a great journey,” said Lori, who sold Summer after the auction. “Summer has a great new home and I told her it was all up to her now. She made me very proud.” Summer has since competed at her first Pinto show with her new owners, who reported she was “amazing!”
“Dixie was awesome and gave me everything she had the last couple days,” said Chris. “She didn’t sell, and I really couldn’t be happier for it. She has come a long way with her training over the last 70 days, and I feel she’s only going to get better.”
“We have no words!” said Tara Medcalf, who is now the owner of Hotshot. “We fell in love with Hotshot and wouldn’t you know it, she will now be my best friend and partner in all things! We will be back next year to see everyone and have some fun. You have helped heal our hearts in a way that no one could ever understand.”
Plans for next year are underway, with some changes coming to the schedule.
Did you catch Mules and More’s commercial on the new TV show, Mules of America? The first episode features lots of neat shots from Ozark Mule Days in Springfield, Mo., and the Boone County Draft Horse and Mule Sale in Sedalia, Mo. It also has gives some insight into Dave Recker, the Mule Enthusiasts, and his introduction to mules and his training techniques.
View the full episode here:
What wonderful mule news I have for you this month... An owner and her mule have just made history and I believe that mules will be getting a lot more recognition in the United Kingdom from now on. It is all down to one lady, and a mule called Wallace the Great.
British Dressage is an organization that oversees all affiliated dressage competitions and training in the United Kingdom. British Dressage is a member of the British Equestrian Federation. There are approximately 14,000 members of the British Dressage and 2,000 competitions a year. The rule book states that only ponies and horses can enter a dressage competition. It has never allowed mules to enter any of these events until now.
There are various types of membership, but by being a member it enables you to compete at any level, in any competition and at any championship, and at affiliated shows.
Lesley Ratcliffe is the guardian to Wallace the Great. He is an 11-year-old, 14hh mule that was found roaming around a village in Ireland. He was rescued by The Donkey Sanctuary and brought over to the UK, and after some time, Lesley fostered him. He now lives in Gloucestershire in England with another mule and two donkeys.
Lesley’s friend Christie Mclean started riding him and both ladies found that he had a lot of potential in dressage. However, Christie was turned down from official dressage events and was told that Wallace could not be a member of British Dressage because he is a mule.
Christie decided to fight for the mule’s right to be treated equally to a genuine horse or pony, which are considered different species. So, in July this year the British Dressage conceded that mules would now be allowed to compete as a testament to inclusion and diversity in dressage, making the sport more accessible to all.
For the very first time in the UK, Wallace the Great competed in a British Dressage Quest Club competition. He beat eight fully horse competitors with a score of 67.4.
These are Christie’s words after the competition:
"I think this shows that mules are equal in ability. I believe Wallace wants to do this. It’s a double achievement – he has made history for mules and British Dressage. It is a historic day which will never be repeated… a landmark. We will be having a glass of bubbly this evening to celebrate.”
Christie and Wallace the Great have really made a name for themselves and there have been radio interviews, many articles in national and regional newspapers about their achievement and also appearances on the television. Plus they are now getting invitations to other equine events.
For me being such a mule enthusiast, I cannot tell you how much this is a huge boost for mules in the United Kingdom and hopefully Europe too. I am over the moon that this has happened.
I believe the majority of equine owners are happy with this news, but there are always a few that kick up a bit of a fuss. I heard an interview with one lady who said that her horse was quite spooked by Wallace at the competition and she would now have to start getting her horse more accustomed to these equines if more were to compete at dressage events.
I owned my late mule, Sweetheart for approximately four years and I can only recall one or two times when a horse became a little wary of her. I rode her to various sponsor rides and we did lots of general hacking with friends and we never experienced any problems with other horses.
There was only one occasion, when I was out riding in a forest and two horse riders were approaching us. One horse became quite nervous of her but the rider wanted to chat for several minutes as she was so interested in Sweetheart. It was so funny because the horse couldn’t take his eyes of my long eared girl, and when we said our goodbyes and parted, that horse was so happy to ride off and leave us behind.
There is a small part of me that wants to say, “Well, it’s about time!” Mules are amazing. I believe that there should never have been a divide between horses, mules and donkeys. All equines should be treated as equals.
But this is the best news possible for welcoming mules into, not only the dressage arena, but into all disciplines. Without Christie’s perseverance this never would have happened so we have a lot to thank her for.
This is a huge breakthrough for mules and I am now hoping that people in the United Kingdom and Europe will read about Wallace the Great and maybe say to themselves… well, I wonder what it is like riding a mule, and maybe they will want to know more about these beautiful intelligent creatures.
Yeah, mules rock! Oh, it just makes me want to go out there and buy another mule!
by Lenice Basham, PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.
I am not sure why - but we had the opportunity to attend the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration this year for the first time. It is an amazing event and I would encourage anyone who has a day or two available at the end of July to go to Cheyenne Frontier Days.
One of the highlights of 122nd Cheyenne Frontier Days was the parade. The parade, held four times during the 10 day event, is held in downtown Cheyenne, beginning at the Wyoming Capitol. It is an incredible parade. There are the typical marching bands, bicycles and floats, but the team and wagons are the star of the show.
“At the end of WWII, teamsters from across the United States gathered in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade and Grand Entries. The teamsters brought a variety of heavy draft horses, light draft horses, mules and saddle horses. Some came early enough to round up cattle to be used during the parade” (cfdrodeo,com). In modern day, teamsters are invited to submit an application to be included in the parade to the Parade Chairman. All teamsters are screened looking at personal attributes, dedication, work ethic, commitment, animal handling skills, desire to carry on the Western traditions and if they live the Cowboy Code of Ethics. They committee then invites those applicants to be a part of the celebration.
The teamsters bring their own teams and harness. The teams are housed at the fairgrounds. Teamsters are required to bring their own supplies needed to take care of their teams. Stalls are provided for their stock. The teamsters and outriders are from all over the United States - with some coming from as far as Wisconsin or Texas. The wagons used are a part of 126 wagons restored by the Carriage Committee and Tom Watson’s Wagon Doctor’s volunteers. The Wagon Doctor’s take care of all of the historic wagons which are on display at the fairgrounds during the Frontier Days. Tom Watson is a certified wheelwright (someone who can build or repair wagon wheels). Each year his volunteers restore a new wagon or carriage.
For each of the four parades, the teamster is assigned a wagon. The wagons are also used to transport VIP’s during the grand entries each day at the rodeo. These wagons are amazing and the variety of wagons on display in this collection is incredible. The collection of wagons was valued at over $1.75 million in 2013. Many of the carriages and wagons come from homes and ranches around Cheyenne. “When automobiles replaced the wagon, most sat abandoned in barns and yards” (cfdrodeo.com). A museum was built in 1978 to house the collection. Before that the wagons and carriages were stored under bleachers and outside. They had to be cleaned each summer for the event. Cheyenne Frontier Days believes that it is the world’s most extensive and impressive horse-drawn carriage collection. There is a great deal of information about the collection if you visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Museum.
The parade participants are required to dress in vintage clothing. They can wear clothing that meets the criteria that they bring with them - or they can dress in vintage clothing supplied by the Parade Wheels Committee. Each teamster has an outrider during the parade to ensure safety. The outrider is also required to dress in vintage clothing.
It takes 450 volunteers helping to run each parade. The parade lasts approximately 1-1/2 hours. There are announcing posts located at various places along the route for the announcer to share information about each participating included in the parade.
Lee and Stacy Marriott, of Stover, Mo., have been participating in the parade for the last few years. They have a four-up of gray Percherons. They head to the Cheyenne Frontier Days seven days prior to the first performance with their Jack Russell, Jack. They stay until the last performance participating in the Grand Entry. They even participate in the cattle drive the same way that the teamsters did at the end of World War II. There are multiple videos that they have posted on their Facebook page, Rockin M Ranch Western Emporium about behind the scenes of the horses and the parade. Seeing the view from the prospective of the teamster during the Grand Entries on the track is a view you will rarely get anywhere else.
Jerry and Yolanda Stroup, Western Rose Ranch, Lowndes, Mo., have participated in the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade for 14 years and 56 parades. This year Yolanda hauled the main Committee chairman in the Yellowstone coach in the Grand entry.
Cheyenne Frontier Days is known as the Granddaddy of them All. They will hold their 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days from July 19-28, 2019. Take a few days and experience this parade.
(These photos by Lenice Basham)
World renowned barrel horse trainer and competitor Lance Graves hails from Hartshorne, a small town in Oklahoma. From humble beginnings Graves rose to win some 28 World and International Championship barrel racing titles enroute to nearly two million in lifetime earnings. Graves and his team, known as LG and Company, also host and produce the annual Lance Graves International Championship Barrel Race each Valentines week at the iconic Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla.
“I began barrel racing at a young age. It’s an amazing sport, fun and excitement the entire family can enjoy. I have dedicated my life to the promotion and advancement of the sport. A big part of that has been to introduce our event to new people of different disciplines,” Graves explained.
Graves has won championships in almost every barrel racing and breed organization in existence. He even parlayed his love of barrel racing into an Extreme Mustang Makeover Slot Barrel Racing Championship in Alvarado, Texas, with Mustang Sally and was third in America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Makeover barrel race with rescued claimer Rodeo Buckle for the Retired Racehorse Project in Lexington, Ky. So, where would a man like Graves go next to promote barrel racing and reach new audiences? Enter Wilburton, Oklahoma’s Mark Ward, a highly decorated National Championship Chuckwagon Racer and long-time friend of Graves.
“Some girls had posted on social media, joking they thought LG could win a barrel race even if he was riding a mule. So, I just told him I had a couple of mules if he wanted to try out the theory,” says Ward.
Mark is not your everyday muleskinner. He, along with his wife Bobbi, and father-in-law Bobby Dean Hill, and brother-in-law Travis Hill, along with the Oklahoma Gang, have hosted the What About Bob chuck wagon races for the last nine years at the Ward Ranch just outside of Wilburton. “Bobbi has ridden with Lance for years, and been all over the country barrel racing with him. Lance is the kind of guy that is always up for a challenge and we all thought it would be fun to try a team of my former championship chuck wagon racing mules and see what could be done with them in the barrel pen,” Ward commented.
Wards team included It’s Hawk Two, a 2005 model and her younger sister, Eye Hawk Three, born a year later. Purchased in 2008, the team began their chuck wagon racing career in late 2009, but it was 2010 that proved to be their banner year. The team won 14 races and were the ACRRA Champions, the MCRA Champions, and the 2010-2011 team of the year. Eye Hawk Three sustained an injury and she and her sister were turned out and What About Bob continued racing with their other teams.
Ward said, “I thought they would be the perfect pair to attempt to cross over into barrel racing. They are granddaughters of noted AQHA race horse sire, Mr. Eye Opener. I knew they could run a little bit and had quite a bit of life experience. I hoped that would give Lance a head start, but the only problem was they had been a driving team and hadn’t been used under saddle. We had 45 days of riding put on them and then sent them to Lance to do his thing. It didn’t take long until things started shaping up and they began learning a second career.”
“It’s easy for me to respect a talented athlete of any kind. I knew these mules were already champions in their first discipline. As a trainer this is exactly how I approached them; with the respect a champion deserves. I felt a connection early on with Two, the older and smaller of the sisters. She is smart and I think I amuse her,” Graves laughed. “For whatever reason, Two is always interested in what I have to say. She has allowed me to teach her the skills she needs to be able to maneuver the barrel racing and pole bending patterns at a high rate of speed. I called Mark and told him I felt like the younger sister, Three was the bigger, stronger athlete, but it was Two that wanted to be my partner and wanted to please me. I told Mark to find us a barrel race and let’s see what we had.”
The race they found to debut their team was the 2016 Donkey and Mule Congress in Tulsa, Okla.
“We really had no idea what to expect when we entered; it was their first show and anything could happen. We had to give them the opportunity to start somewhere,” said Ward.
Younger sister Three drew first in the running order and her performance was anything but desirable. Three was terrified! She turned the first barrel, spooked, ducked left, and headed back out the gate,” laughed Graves. “Fortunately big sister Two was last in the draw and we had a few minutes to get ourselves together. Two was pretty unsure of herself, but she has a lot of trust in me. When they called her in I asked her for her best effort and she gave it.”
Lance and Its Hawk Two won the Championship by daylight and her second career was off and running! Literally! The team had a long break due to both the Ward chuck wagon racing schedule and Lance’s racing commitments at Remington Park. It was actually a year later at the 2017 Donkey and Mule Congress before they made their next appearance.
“We had some time before this show, so we introduced pole bending to our girl’s schedule. Two won dual championships in both Open Barrel Racing and Open Pole Bending, while Three stepped up for reserve in both events,” stated Graves.
“Both mules worked great at Tulsa. This time we didn’t want to give them another break, so we began looking for other shows to enter and compete. That is when we found their next competition, the Fort Worth Stock Show,” said Ward.
The mules didn’t disappoint in Texas either. Its Hawk Two won Open Barrel Racing and Pole Bending Championship, while Eye Hawk Three won reserve championship titles in both events.
From there the team traveled south to the Houston Livestock Show for what would be the best (and worst) show yet for the MW/LG group.
“I train and ride AQHA race horses. While schooling a filly in the starting gates she flipped over backwards and stepped on my head and back when she was getting up. Luckily, I was wearing my helmet and safety vest. The filly broke my T8-T9-T10 and T-11 ribs. I had seven days to get ready for Houston. Mark and Bobbi are friends, not just clients. Bobbi told me to rest and recover and she would just scratch the mules. I declined and told them I had a week to rest and I would be fine to race them both,” Graves explained.
“The show started out successfully with Two winning Open Barrel Racing, and Three chasing close behind. But, I was really feeling the four broken ribs after I made the first two barrel runs, said Graves.
“I was up on Three first in the draw of the pole bending. She made a decent run, but was really hitting the ground hard with her front feet when she was turning. She really jarred my ribs and I was really in a lot of pain. I had about 15 minutes before Two would compete, as she was last in the draw. I knew Two was going to give me her all and I owed it to her to give her the best I had in me. So, I cinched up the body brace I was wearing, and when they called my name I sent her,” Graves related.
Two and LG won Open Pole Bending Championship and posted their personal best time ever. As a bonus, the pair was named HLSSR Mule and Gymkhana All Around Speed Champion.
“We feel like their career as speed event mules is just beginning. I’m so fortunate to be able to compete and train for a living, and blessed to have great friends like Mark and Bobbi Ward to enjoy these great animals with me. Our next event was the PtHa Long Ear World Championship show June 21, where both mules competed in Open Barrel Racing and Open Pole Bending,” Graves said.
The Ward team of Its Hawk Two and Eye Hawk Three competed at the above show in Tulsa. Lance and Two held the line to remain undefeated in the mule competition by gathering dual World Championships in both Open Barrel Racing and Open Pole Bending.
“I’m so proud of Two! She was really focused and laid down super nice runs. One thing I always count on her to do for me is to go FAST and she really ran when I asked her,” stated Graves. Three also had a great show and won two Reserve World Championship titles. Ward commented, “We always have a great time when we are all together with the mules. The fact they win a little is just icing on the cake for us. We really appreciate the PtHa for including the Long Ear Registry in their world championship show. We can’t wait until next year!”
Graves said, “We are happy to have had the opportunity to compete with many great cowboys and cowgirls at the shows. None of this could be possible without our amazing sponsors…Best Ever Saddle Pads, Sooner Exiss Trailers, Cowgirl Tuff-B Jeans, Zesterra and Bluebonnet Feeds.”