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

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)

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.”

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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:

https://mbasic.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10218193230128282&id=144789705694&_rdr

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

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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

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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

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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). 

Ozark Mule Days and the Missouri Mule Makeover

by Cori Daniels, Bland, Mo.

The Grand Entry at Ozark Mule Days

The Grand Entry at Ozark Mule Days

“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. 

Mules Across America

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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:

http://farmnranch.tv/programs/mules-of-america-tv/

Mule Makes History in the UK

From Across the Pond...

by Donna Taylor, Puylaurens, France

CHRISTIE and Wallace

CHRISTIE and Wallace

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!