FEI Proposed Rule to Exclude Mules From Competitions

Wallace The Great

Wallace The Great

by Donna Taylor

Last year, a mule, Wallace The Great, not only won a dressage class when he was competing against horses, but overturned the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) rules allowing mules to participate in national dressage competitions in the United Kingdom. 

In January 2019, the FEI rewrote it’s definition of the term “horse” to allow mules to compete on the international stage. Wallace the Great and his owner made history and it was a great day for mules.

However, in the United Kingdom in late July there have been many articles written in the national newspapers relating to Wallace the Great and a change in allowing mules to participate in dressage competitions. 

Wallace the Great is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and female horse and was previously allowed to compete because the rule book stated that a horse is defined as being “born from a mare.”

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports are now threatening to change the rules. They have said “The Italian National Federation has put forward a proposal to amend the definition of horse to clarify that mules are not considered horses and therefore cannot compete in FEI competitions. This proposal is supported by the FEI veterinary department and FEI board. The recommended change will be voted on in Moscow in November.

The current definition states that a “horse: refers also to a pony or other member of the genus equus unless the context requires otherwise. A horse shall be born from a mare.”

The new wording is suggested as: “horse: refers also to a pony or other member of the genus equus unless the context requires otherwise. A horse shall be born from the union of a mare and a horse stallion and classified as equus caballus.”

Christie McLean, who rode Wallace the Great in the dressage competition, started an online petition to show FEI just how much the world supports it’s longeared equines. The petition hosted at change.org states the following: “The primary argument against mules states that ‘mules are not horses.’ This statement is quite literally only half correct; though mules are not horses, they are most definitely half horses. They are used in all the same facets as a horse (riding, driving, pack, etc) wear the same tack, and are trained/ridden in the same manner as a horse. They display the same gaits and can perform the same training maneuvers in competition. For these reasons, an official should be capable of judging a mule amongst horse competitors. Mules have more in common with horses than not and therefore should be viewed simply as another breed. 

Allowing mules to compete will open equestrian sport to a whole new set of members with which will come increased participation, fresh ideas, a larger volunteer pool, and more opportunities to grow and improve equestrian sport throughout the world.”

At the time of press, there were over 20,500 signatures on the petition. I sincerely hope that the FEI take note of the number of people who have signed it.

I cannot tell you just how disappointed and angry I am to hear this news. Will this new rule change affect mules worldwide? We will have to wait and see. I really thought that in the United Kingdom I would now see a change in the equestrian world and see the popularity of mules increase. The owner and rider of Wallace the Great did a fantastic job promoting mules and they received so much attention and publicity nationwide. If I have any more news, I’ll certainly be letting you know.

'Rock Candy Canyon' - Bryce Canyon, Utah, National Park

by Chief Noel Stasiak USNR Ret.


Do you remember when you were a kid and got your hands on some rock candy? I still see rock candy now and then, but I never buy it. Our tastes change. 

Recently, my wife and I made a road trip with our grandchildren out west and, of course, mules were on the list of things to see and do. Something I saw brought back old memories of that childhood treat.

We had been planning this trip for quite some time and made reservations for a mule ride down into Bryce Canyon, Utah. We have three mules on our 76 acres, a regular size donkey and a mini donkey, so I’m familiar with these lovable creatures but my wife and grand kids are amateurs when it comes to riding. They have all been on a mule/donkey a time or two, but that’s about it. It took some convincing to get them to agree to hop on and take the plunge down the canyon with the mule in charge of their life.

When my wife Leigh contacted Bryce Canyon Lodge, they assured her that their mules would take good care of their riders, no matter the expertise of who sat in the saddle. They all felt reassured after that. She was told these mules know their jobs and do them very well. I preach this stuff all the time, but I know my mules better than my wife and grandchildren do, and it takes time to develop confidence in something that weighs six to eight times more than you do. 

None of us had ever been to Bryce Canyon, so excitement was in the air. Leigh’s grand kids, Wesley and Kelsey, are 14 and 15 respectively and I’ve got them convinced that mules walk on water. They’ve been around our equines and have ridden them a time or two but they are both still under instruction and couldn’t handle them by themselves.

Let me start off by saying the wranglers at Bryce Canyon Lodge were fantastic. The group of them could fill a rain barrel with all their mule wisdom. 

The official name of the organization is Canyon Trail Rides and is run by Tawn Mangum. The organization/venue was founded and started by ‘Grand Pa Pete’ in 1973. Two of the wrangler, brothers Kwincey and Cache Mortensen, are Tawn’s nephews, so it’s all one big happy family. 

All three of these guys have a personality as big as Texas. I guess you have to when your supervising a bunch of mule rough skinners. It was obvious that they were in charge when they were handling the mules, and the mules knew it. It takes a lot of skill to manage this amount of mules, about 300 between three different parks. Tawn has been doing it for around 19 years and he loves it. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to mules and donkeys; I’ve only owned and worked with mine for about five years, so while they were prepping the mules and horses for the trip down the canyon I was all ears and eyes. I studied them like a hawk, consuming everything they did. To me, the whole show was a lesson.

We stayed in a motel just outside of the Bryce Canyon Park. There are plenty of places to stay and lots of conveniences like restaurants, gas stations, motels, grocery stores, etc. We arrived at the lodge at 7 a.m., which is the meeting place. I’m always early (thanks to my military training). The greeter came in at 8 a.m. and we signed liability statements and were checked off of the list. The corral was just a short walk away from the lodge. The adrenalin started to pump when we saw the string of equines coming up from the holding area to the prep area. Of course, we were first in line, I introduced myself to Kwincey and Cache, and told them we owned some mules and donkeys back home in Missouri and would like to make sure we were assigned mules rather than horses. They were very accommodating and after asking us our riding expertise, they assigned us our mules.

Once everyone was assigned a mule or horse, we had a little help getting on, and introduced to our guide. Our guide’s name was Cordell, and when we got to the beginning of the trail he gave us some instructions and wanted to know who was an experienced rider and who was not. Kelsey was obviously the least experienced (except for maybe Leigh, but she was frozen with fear and didn’t say a word). Cordell took Kelsey’s lead rope for the first ten minutes of the trail, and then she was on her own. I was proud of all of them. It was a mundane and routine trip for Cordell, but for our crew it was an exhilarating, frightening and a memorable experience. I want to thank Cordell for tolerating our inexperience and keeping us safe. 

As we descended down the trail, I began to think that I was responsible for this adventure that could end tragically. No matter how safe this trail ride is advertised, it was obvious that the potential for danger existed. They have a perfect record but there is a first time for everything, so I was a little nervous. After an hour on the trail, it was obvious the mules were in charge and they were not going to allow any mishaps. This was their turf. They do this every day, know every step and are concerned about their safety as much as yours. 

So I began to relax and admire the scenery. I love a new adventure. With every new adventure a lesson is learned, and these insights enhance our lives. I began to see the splendor of the surrounding environment, thought about the years it took to create such a remarkable spectacle, wondered how all this beauty had slowly evolved over millions of years, these masterpieces of nature, all here for my enjoyment. 

It all started with a simple dream. I was tired of city life and the rat race. I wanted to get back to nature. I discovered mules, of all things, and admired their simplicity, their beauty, their ability to tolerate adversity, and I thought it was a fine example of what life is all about. I was an unexpected guest of the world of mules.

Without my sudden interest in mules, I probably would have never met so many wonderful people that share the same interests, or visited so many unique or exotic places. This canyon was one of them. I call this story ‘Rock Candy Canyon’ because as I rode down the steep trails, all the rock formations, rock towers and pinnacles reminded me of rock candy from when I was a kid. The first time you see this phenomenal creation of nature, you are overwhelmed with emotions. The first thing that comes to mind is how long it took to develop into what it is, and then that reminds you of what a small speck we are in the scheme of things. It makes you think of how our life span is but a split second of eternity. 

As we went down the trail, I tried not to lose focus. No matter how much confidence you have in your mule, when the edge is just a few inches away and the drop is a thousand feet and you are responsible for three other people, you tend to stay alert, to say the least. Halfway down the trail, the endorphins are kicked in, I felt like I had accomplished a fantastic feat (it’s all relative, of course, but it felt good). Not everyone rides a mule down into Bryce Canyon; it’s not for the faint of heart. If you have that spark deep in your soul, mixed with a little imagination and curiosity that makes life interesting, and are willing to take some chances, this ride is for you.

Tawn Mangum runs three locations where you can ride mules at three locations, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and the North Rim of Grand Canyon. (There is also another organization that you can also ride down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We stopped there and visited with the mules a few days later on our way back to St. Louis). Whichever trip you make, remember that you have to make reservations in advance, especially for the Grand Canyon, as they have up to a year wait. The cost for Bryce Canyon was relatively cheap, about $90 per person for a fantastic three hour ride. They also offer a ninety minute tour for $65. Where else can you find such grandeur, beauty and excitement nowadays for this price? The scenery is breathtaking, with radiant cliff towers to kiss an azure sky, pristine canyons carved deep into the desert sandstone, and mile after mile of twisting canyons full of pinnacles of rock formations doing a balancing act. It’s a scenic wonderland, all for your entertainment. The cowboys and mule skinners are highly skilled. The mules are, well, mules; I can’t say anything bad about them.

Since I became interested in mules five years ago, they have had a huge impact on my life. In those five years they have taught me many things. They have enriched my life through joy and through sorrow. To those who know their history, they are an inspiration. For me, when I’m on a mule riding around the farm or riding deep in some majestic canyon that looks like rock candy, when I’m in the saddle, I’m on top of the world.

Jake Clark's Mule Days 2019

Our August 2019 issue covers the 2019 Jake Clark Mule Days and Saddle Mule Auction held in Ralston, Wyo., in June. For the full story, including the high sellers of the sale, order your copy here: https://www.mulesandmore.com/back-issues/august19

This event always has the best photos, and this year was no exception. We could have filled a full issue with photos, but there is only so much space available, so we included the rest of our favorites here!

Photos by Lenice Basham, PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

Friday’s Trail Course

Saturday’s Parade

Saturday’s All-Mule Rodeo


Win a year’s subscription to Mules and More Magazine, Mules and More Cap and Ozark Mule Days shirt at Ozark Mule Days!

1. Snap - Snap a picture with your mule

2. Hashtag - Post it to Facebook with a caption saying what you are most excited about at Ozark Mule Days and include the hashtag #mulesandmoreatozarkmuledays

3. Win - You will be entered for a chance to win a one year’s subscription to Mules and More magazine.

Get bonus entries if you tag Mules and More Magazine and Ozark Mule Days in your posts!

(Winner announced Saturday at Ozark Mule Days)

For more information on Ozark Mule Days - Call Les Clancy (417)343-9412 or email ozarkmuledays@hotmail.com

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The 2019 Great Celebration Mule & Donkey Show

The 28th Annual Great Celebration Mule & Donkey Show was held last week in Shelbyville, Tenn.

The event hosts several associations, including the AGMA World Grand Champion show, the NASMDA National Championship Show and is a NMDA sanctioned show.

She’s A Painted Jewel and Noelle Salmons were the 3 and Over, 58” and Over Molly Mule Halter champions

She’s A Painted Jewel and Noelle Salmons were the 3 and Over, 58” and Over Molly Mule Halter champions

More photos from the halter classes

Gaited Halter at the 2019 Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show held in July in Shelbyville, Tenn.
Perfect Percy and Shelley Reddish won National Champion Mule Obstacle Driving , National Champion Pleasure Driving Mule, and National Champion Mule Pleasure Driving Turnout

Perfect Percy and Shelley Reddish won National Champion Mule Obstacle Driving , National Champion Pleasure Driving Mule, and National Champion Mule Pleasure Driving Turnout

More photos from the mule driving classes

Donkey Driving

Thomas Arnold and Clara May won NASMA National Champion Youth Pole Bending (with a faster time then the adult class winner). This pair also won the NASMA National Champion Youth Barrels class

Thomas Arnold and Clara May won NASMA National Champion Youth Pole Bending (with a faster time then the adult class winner). This pair also won the NASMA National Champion Youth Barrels class

Oklahoma Speck and Jimmy Porter won the donkey barrels class

Oklahoma Speck and Jimmy Porter won the donkey barrels class

Brianna Basham and BB won the NASMA National Champion Open Mule Barrels class

Brianna Basham and BB won the NASMA National Champion Open Mule Barrels class

Open Mule Reining Champion C More Leg, exhibited by Tim Phillips and owned by Sarah Stephens

Shelley Reddish on Perfectly Percy and Robert Kidd on Foxy Duns and Roses in reining

Reserve High Point Junior Mule Mossy Rocks High Plains Drifter, exhibited by Matt Caldwell and owned by Larry Martin

Reserve High Point Junior Mule Mossy Rocks High Plains Drifter, exhibited by Matt Caldwell and owned by Larry Martin

Great Celebration High Point Walk Trot 10 & Under Lilly Huckaby and Pistols and Posies

Great Celebration High Point Walk Trot 10 & Under Lilly Huckaby and Pistols and Posies

Patrick McCuiston in barrels

Patrick McCuiston in barrels

Look for more coverage of the show in an upcoming issue! In the meantime, to see your photos featured in the show results section for this show, email them to mules@socket.net

Terri Hurley and MV Ben’s Limited Edition (Silver Amateur English Equitation and Amateur English Equitation Champion)

Terri Hurley and MV Ben’s Limited Edition (Silver Amateur English Equitation and Amateur English Equitation Champion)

Sarah Stephens on C More Leg (Open Mule Working Hunter Champion)

Sarah Stephens on C More Leg (Open Mule Working Hunter Champion)

June 2019 Cover Story: Mules in Finland

When Kaisa Määttänen attended the Horse Fair in Finland, she spent most of her time answering countless questions about her mule. “I was constantly speaking about mules,” said Kaisa, who lives in Järvenpää, Finland, “and it was great!

The Horse Fair attendees had a good reason to be curious about mules. Though there are about 70,000 horses and about 400 donkeys in Finland, there are only 26 mules in the country. Finland is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia, with a population of about 5.52 million. In comparison, horse-back riding is more popular in Sweden and has a population of about 300,000 horses. Mules made their debut at the fair this year when Kaisa and her friend Anu Koivisto brought three for a weekend of demonstrations in conjunction with the Finnish Donkey Society. 

“The mules were in their boxes during the weekend, and so many people came to see them and ask questions about them.” said Kaisa.  

The small group put on demonstrations both days, speaking about their mules and their feeding, care, riding, and driving. They also spent some time setting right some common misconceptions about mules. 

“Here we call all equines ‘mares,’ ‘stallions,’ or ‘geldings. We don’t have different terms for ‘jennet,’ ‘jack,’ ‘molly,’ or ‘john.’ Many thought there was no need to geld mule stallions,” said Kaisa. “Of course, we corrected this.”

The three mules highlighted at the Horse Fair were Kaisa’s mule, “Mulli,” and Anu’s mules: a smaller black mule with socks who’s pedigree is unknown, and a big grey gelding who is out of a Percheron mare, both of which were bred in France. It was a two-hour drive from Anu’s barn to Tampere where the Horse Fair was held. “Anu just bought a new trailer for four equines, though usually in Finland we use small trailers with space for two equines. Trucks and big trailers are not popular here,” said Kaisa. 

The small black mule wore a traditional wooden collar and demonstrated pulling. The Percheron cross was ridden by a Arvi Martikainen in a mule saddle imported from Brazil. 

While the mules certainly became “celebrities” over the weekend, Arvi is also a bit of a celebrity. 

“He is not an average boy, he is quite famous here!” said Kaisa. “He started making his own jewelry and keyrings at the age of 11 and was at one time known as the youngest entrepreneur in Finland.” He is now 14 and has made enough money to buy a new horse for himself. He competed at the Horse Fair on Sunday with his horse, and they came in second in show jumping.

Kaisa and her mule also have quite a few fans, as she blogs in Finnish and has a popular Instagram account. “It was very nice to meet readers and fans face to face. Many of them told me, ‘Oh, she looks so small!’ My mule is about 14.1 hands, but she looks a bit taller when she has tack on and I’m riding her,” said Kaisa. 

Kaisa has had an interesting journey to becoming a mule owner. After all, with the small number of mules in Finland, it’s definitely surprising she found herself with a set of longears. 

When Kaisa was 15, her local 4-H was looking for someone to take in a donkey jack and Shetland pony gelding for the winter. “I’m from a farm, and we had cows and three box stalls for boarding horses. The horses that had been in boarding for two years had just moved, so our stables were open. I had ridden horses for two years and I knew about their keeping and feeding.” Her parent’s are not ‘horse people,’ but the family managed to board the horses for friends - just feeding and turnout.

She really wanted the Shetland pony to come to her farm for the winter, but in order to do that, the donkey would need to come, too. “Our ‘boys’ arrived in August, and the donkey jack was a pain in the ass!” said Kaisa. “He escaped the electric fence and ran to the neighbor’s stable. I was about 40 kilos (or 88 pounds) and the donkey was over 200 kilos (440 pounds), so I was really struggling when I walked him outside or inside from the pen.” 

But the struggles didn’t last long, and by Christmas, Kaisa and the donkey were fast friends. “It just took a long time to get to know him.” He had some abuse in his background and didn’t like to lift his feet. “The farrier needed to sedate him for the first two trims, but after that he was better to trim than the Shetland pony!” As time went on, she was able to earn the donkey’s trust, and that felt great.

The ‘boys’ stayed with Kaisa and her family for four winters. She moved into her own flat, and her parents said the horse and donkey couldn’t return to the farm for the winter without her there to take care of them. 

So Kaisa spent some time without any equines, but continued to be keen on donkeys. She published four issues of the first ever Finnish donkey magazine from 2007-2008 as part of her studies. During this time, she went to see the donkeys in Finland and got to know their owners. 

There were only about 250 donkeys in Finland at this time. Kaisa went to interview the owner of a hinny, who was sired by a Finnhorse stallion and a 120 cm (47 inch) Irish donkey jennet. Kaisa rode the hinny while visiting. “He was great - so calm, beautiful and nice!” said Kaisa. 

In 2008, Kaisa helped establish the Finnish Donkey Society. She has held both the secretary and president positions, but left the board this year after 11 years. “We have had new active members joining, and I realized I just didn’t have enough time anymore.” 

She purchased her first horse in 2009, a Finnhorse gelding, and kept him three years. But she couldn’t do the kind of trail riding that she wanted to do with him. He wouldn’t leave the barn alone, and when she would ride with someone else, he crowded the other horse. 

“The real turning point at the end of my horse owning career was when I got to ride that hinny on the trails,” said Kaisa. “It was the first ever mule ride for me, and he was perfect! I just threw a saddle and bridle on and he didn’t hesitate to leave the barn with me. I thought about the mule and the nice ride I had on him for a couple of days, and then I sold the horse.” 

Kaisa thought she wanted to either buy a mule or a big donkey. She was considering competing in Dressage, and thought a mule would suit better for that event. But she didn’t buy a mule for many years.

She began searching for a mule in 2015. “I think we had about 15 mules in the whole country at that time,” said Kaisa. “I already knew all of the Finnish mules, and their owners, and none of them were for sale.” She focused first on Germany, but their mules were usually a draft-type, which was not what she wanted. During her search, she found out that Spain produces a lot of mules. “If you are familiar with Brazilian mules, they are like the Spanish mules. Elegant, smooth movers, beautiful, light...I wanted one like that!” said Kaisa. 

She found someone who helps find mules from Spain and contacted her. After three months, she had found two mules. Kaisa picked one, but was later informed that even after two months of training, it was still “very green.” So, she switched her sights to the mule’s sister, who was supposed to have had three months of training. She was also suppose to be over 15 hands tall. But the mule that arrived at her new home, a boarding barn about 10 km (6 miles) from Kaisa’s house, was 14 hands. “Well, at least she was a molly!” Kaisa joked. 

“My mule didn’t have a name on her passport, so I named her in Finland when I registered her with the Finnish National Horse Registry, which has to be done when an equine is imported,” said Kaisa. She chose Buena Chica as her registered name, but went with Muuli (which means mule in Finnish) for her barn name. “She was so shy and so small when she arrived that I was going to send her back to Spain or sell her in Finland. I named her Muuli so I didn’t get too attached to her.”

Muuli hadn’t been handled much and was afraid of people. It took a week until Kaisa could catch her, and it took another two months until she could catch her when she was inside her pen. “But the funny thing was that when I had her on the lead rope, she would follow nicely. I was also able to brush her when she was tied. I tamed her with oats for the first week. Every time she would come to me, I would give her oats. I wanted her to think I was the coolest food vending machine in the world, and it worked! When I was able to catch her, I started to work with her in the round pen, and also send her away. That worked, too!” 

Kaisa didn’t give up on Muuli, and continued to work with her. She sent her to a trainer to train her for riding, and visited several weekends so she could work with Muuli and the trainer. “I did a lot of groundwork and positive reinforcement. I still use positive reinforcement quite often, even from the saddle, if something is very hard for my mule. She seems to get a lot more motivation if I give her a treat after my praise.”

The temporary name stuck around, and so did Muuli. Kaisa now spends 4-5 days at the barn, and usually rides Muuli in the arena or on trails. They live in an area that only has about 1-2 hour trail rides. She has a Dressage lesson each week and typically rides English, though also has a western saddle. “I don’t see any big difference between the two, I want to ride her lightly and with only little pressure,” said Kaisa. The pair have also entered into their first endurance competition. “This is the first official competition for us and the length of the race is only 17 kilometers (about 10.5 miles).” 

Kaisa and Muuli are great representatives for the longears in Finland, and continue to educate those they meet about mules and donkeys. “People are always asking me for more information when I tell them that I have a mule. ‘What can mules do?’ ‘Are they stubborn?’ And all the time I answer that donkeys and mules are not stubborn or stupid, it’s that people don’t understand how they think. An animal always has a reason why it is doing something.” 

You can follow Kaisa and Muuli on her Instagram, her handle is @rosamiii and she posts partly in English. 

June Issue Extra: Jerry Tindell Explains Benefits of Groundwork and Building the Circle

Beginning in the March issue of Mules and More Magazine, Jerry Tindell, Tindell’s Horse and Mule School, has been explaining the importance of ground work, both loose and on a lead, the six steps of ground working, and the benefits of teaching these steps to your mule.

Purchase back copies of Mules and More that contain the articles that explain these steps in further detail here: https://www.mulesandmore.com/back-issues

View the March video demonstration here: https://www.mulesandmore.com/blog/2019/3/1/march-issue-extra-jerry-tindell-explains-stage-1-round-pen-from-the-march-issue-of-mules-and-more?rq=tindell

View the May video demonstration here: https://www.mulesandmore.com/blog/2019/5/3/may-issue-extra-jerry-tindell-explains-the-6-steps-of-groudworking-from-the-may-issue-of-mules-and-more

For more on Jerry Tindell and Tindell’s Horse and Mule School, visit his website: http://jerrytindell.com

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Creating Trust and Respect with mules and donkeys Is Easy as 1-2-3

by Brandy Von Holten, Mora, Mo.

(Originally published in our January 2018 issue)


Have you ever had someone demand something when you would have gladly done it if they would have asked nicely? Have you ever had a boss that was too bossy? Think about how much more could get done if every request was asked, then told, and then demanded. This is the basis of earning the trust of people and of your mule. Of course there is way more to this than asking, telling, and demanding a cue. You must always ask first, and you must always follow through with your demand. If you are wondering what in the world I am talking about, then read along with me and learn how creating trust and respect with mules and donkeys can be as easy as 1-2-3.

All training begins on the ground. I ask that my mule back up, demonstrate all gaits from the ground, and yield the hind quarters. Let’s start with sending them around. With my lead rope in my left hand, I will raise my left hand, point, and look at my pointing hand. This is me “asking” my mule to read my body language, which I consider a level 1. If the mule does not depart, I will then cluck or kiss once. It is imperative that you only make the noise for a short amount of time, because if you turn into a kissing machine or clucking machine, you are begging.

The verbal cue is a level 2. If your mule has still not budged, it is time for level 3, which is the demand. I will actually make contact on the hind quarters with the extra rope in my right hand. It is crucial that you do not threaten with the rope but go ahead and fulfill the demand. When I explain this concept to my students, I discuss children that know that there is a consequence and children that know that there is not any follow through. I would disengage the hindquarters and begin again. The most important part of this training exercise is that I must always present the level 1. No matter how many times you are forced to go to a level 3, you must always start with a level 1. Here’s why.


Your mule is trying to learn how to communicate with you. If you are predictable, and always do a level 1, level 2, and then a level 3, then your mule will understand to start seeking to complete the task at a lower level. Eventually you will be able to get your mule to a level 1 in all commands from the ground and saddle. Your mule will respect you because you fulfill the level 3, but can trust that you will use the lowest level if they comply.

In the saddle, the exact same philosophy can be used. If you wanted to turn your mule to the left, you would first look to the left. Looking without the use of your hands or legs is a level 1. A level 2 would be to squeeze with your right leg. Level 3 is to lift with your left rein. So many people completely leave out level 1 and level 2 when turning and immediately go to using their reins. From the mule’s stand point, you are a jerk. He/she had absolutely no idea that you wanted to turn and you went straight to the piece of metal in their mouth that works by pressure on the tongue, the corners of the mouth, the bars of the jaw, and possibly the poll and roof of the mouth. If you consistently turn by looking and then leg pressure, followed by the use of your reins, this allows your mule the ability to learn over time that he/she can trust that you will do the levels in order. 

Every maneuver I ask my mule to do has a level 1, a level 2, and a level 3. If you are predictable, your mule will learn to comply with the least amount of pressure. They figure out that they can rely/trust in your mulemanship. If you always give your mule two options before reaching a level 3, they will respect you because you always give them cues before you use your level 3. Trust and respect are as easy as 1-2-3, but now forcing yourself is the real problem. I have found that I have to implement change, one maneuver at a time and make a mental effort to always try to remember to use the different levels. Not only do we need help with our mules, but our mules need help with their riders.

Brandy follows this up in the June 2019 issue with “Simple Ways to Have a Better Relationship with Your Mule.” A single copy of the June issue can be purchased here: https://www.mulesandmore.com/back-issues/june19

Trail Riding Tips from the 2019 Trail Riding Issue!

Granny’s Trail Tips…


This is Mules and More’s trail riding issue and I want to remind riders with all the weather issues this year, all the snow and rain and flooding, to be extra careful. Some of our trails have washed out and others are not very stable. Water crossings can change with such dramatic weather. Trust your mules, they know better than we do about the ground or dangers. Many times, my mule has alerted me to dangers that I did not see. I learned very early on to pay attention to where those long ears are pointed and to be patient and watchful.

Keep current on the status of the rides you are planning on attending, since some have been cancelled because of the rain. The Palm Springs Guest Ride had to be cancelled in March because of damage to Palm Canyon. The deep water crossing, the old picnic ground, and both sides of the river drop off were closed and the Agua Caliente Indians have closed many trails until they can check for damage and repair them. 

Be sure to check your tack as well as your floor and workings in your trailer before your first rides out after so much rain, snow and every other kind of weather this winter. Check the hitch, the subfloor and any rust areas to be sure they’re strong enough before you head out. Once you’re trailering out, be sure the road ahead of you is in good shape. Don’t risk your life or the lives of your animals to poor maintenance. We hear bad stories every year. Please don’t be one of them.

When the flowers begin to bloom, that’s a good reminder to start packing bug spray for you and your mule. Bugs of all kinds will sure be out. Check and restock your first aid kit. You can put in meat tenderizer for stings: make a little poultice of it and stick it on the bite area. If you ride the desert, bring a fine-toothed comb to pick the cactus out if you get in it. Put cold water on the area, that releases the thorn and will be easier to get out. Duct tape can also work and should be in every emergency kit. Be careful and have a great spring!

Mule Girl Tips…


Deb Bennett, Oregon, said, “The best trail riding tip I can offer is ride with people you trust and share your goals of creating well-broke mules, staying safe, and never rushing through an issue only to have it worse the next ride. Take the time needed to create confidence in yourself and your animal.”


Robin Reagan Compton, eastern Oregon, said, “Ride with people you trust and take a small emergency medical kit. Use obstacles along your ride for training tools.”


Dorinda Hennings said, “Teach your mule to cross water slowly and not in a rush. Going down banks should be slow and careful and safe.” This photo is of Miss Sarah Lee and Dorinda crossing one of many creek beds on a trail ride


Anne Chavasse Cooper, North Carolina, said, “I always try to be aware of my surroundings and not be lulled into complacency. My mule’s ears are antennas and tell me a lot about what they may be thinking. Always be ready for what may or may not happen.” This photo is of Murphy and Lulu stopping by the water before heading on down the trail in the Croatan Forest of eastern North Carolina.


Patti Achilly, Sedona, Ariz., said, “Use your environment for training, don’t just go down the trail. Use rocks, bushes, and trees to practice communication. It makes for a better mule and a stronger relationship.”


Nicole Wirgau, Wisconsin, said, “To prepare for trail riding each year, I love doing lots of trail walks - especially with a new mount. Give them lots of exposure with a solid leader on the ground! Its also a great way for me to get in shape before I climb aboard for a long ride.” Photo taken at Friendship Trail, Neenah, Wis.

Our April Trail Riding issue is filled with recommendations, tips and tricks for mule and donkey riders!

Purchase a copy of our Trail Riding issue: https://www.mulesandmore.com/back-issues/april19

View our 2018 Trail Riding guide here: https://www.mulesandmore.com/mulesandmore/2018/03/mules-and-mores-8th-annual-trail-riding.html?rq=8th

New Arrivals!

Foaling season is here! Don’t forget to send in your 2019 new arrivals to Mules and More to see them in an upcoming issue. Proud new parents have been submitting mule and donkey foal photos for many years, and we are looking forward to seeing this year’s new crop of foals!

Email photos in their original file size and format to mules@socket.net with the subject line “New Arrivals”

Using Ground Poles for Fun and Challenging Rides

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.

PSSM and Mules

--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 japorter1.jp@gmail.com, on Facebook at Spring Canyon Mule Makers, or give me a call at Julie Porter - (760)378-2222.

Mule Slides Into a Guest Appearance at the Largest Reining Show in the World

by Tabitha Holland, Signature Equine, Morris, Okla.

Trent Harvey and Dun It With A Twist in Freestyle Reining at the NRHA Futurity, set to “East Bound and Down,” the theme song from “Smokey and the Bandit”

Trent Harvey and Dun It With A Twist in Freestyle Reining at the NRHA Futurity, set to “East Bound and Down,” the theme song from “Smokey and the Bandit”

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?

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!

Third Husker the Mule children’s book released

Husker Adventure Awaits.jpeg

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.

Missouri Mule Owner Write Children’s Book Series


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 vonholtenranch@yahoo.com or find her author’s Facebook page “Brandy Von Holten.”

Purchse a copy of Adventures at Von Holten Ranch: KTM here.

Miss Royal’s Mules by Irene Bennet Brown


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. 

Cover art is by Bonnie Shields, the Tennessee Mule Artist. Miss Royal’s Mules is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble ($25.95 for a hardcover or $7.99 for the Kindle version).