From Across the Pond...
by Donna Taylor, Puylaurens, France
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!