Repurposing Retired Race Mules

by Gayle Stegmann, Gem State Mule Company, Rathdrum, Idaho

Laurice Webb on retired race mule Blue McGee, PhD, with Bernadette Bullington, age 12, in the background riding another retired race mule, Slick Shaun Schlager Photography

I am often asked what we do with race mules when they are no longer racing. There is a misconception that racing can have negative implications to a mule. I learned this first hand. When I was struggling to locate a mule prospect for the upcoming racing season in 2017, I put my request out on Facebook to a group that has some 4000+ members. From the feedback I received, the one that stood out the most was “Why wreck a good mule by putting it on the race track, enough with this nonsense?” I was shocked as I had no idea there was this perception out there. While this article is not to convince anyone of the good that comes to these mules from racing, it is merely to educate those who are not familiar with the mule racing industry and share with you some pretty awesome stories about what happens to these mules when they are no longer racing.

Gayle Stegmann on Miss Lourella, Shaun Schlager Photography

First off, let’s answer some common questions “right out of the gates.”

How far do they race in training and on the track?

It is broadly known that mules have strong self-preservation tendencies which they come by way of from their ancestor the donkey. In training, we have to take this into account as you cannot push them as hard as a horse; they will shut down. We typically work them approximately four-five days a week, 800 yards with a combination of loping and trotting. On the track, they race a 350-440-yard sprint….much less than a horse. There is one race in Ferndale, Calif., that is 800 yards, but this is the longest.

How old does a mule have to be before it races?

It is mandated that because a mule’s knees are not filled in enough until the age of three, they go onto the track a year later than a horse.

Do molly’s typically run faster than johns?

It is a proven fact that molly mules are generally faster competitors than john mules. We prefer molly’s as they have far less self-preservation tendencies, something to consider when prospecting a gaming mule.

Do the mules generate a good betting handle on the track?

The interest in mules vs. horses on the track in racing is phenomenal. The paddock areas are full of viewers and conversation. Mules are a novelty, and as such, garner a significant level of interest, thus a tremendous amount of money being wagered. Additionally, there is a degree of unpredictability with mules compared to horses relative to who is going to win, so the payouts can be very good.

How long have mules been racing?

Mule racing with pari-mutual wagering had its first debut in July 1978. It really wasn’t until the American Mule Racing Association was formed, to promote mules at recognized distances in the sport of racing, that the industry really took shape. With Donald W. Jacklin for the past 16 years as President along with a full board and secretary beside him, the mule racing industry he really gained national recognition and great successes.

Do you see a lot of racing related injuries to the mules through years of racing?

Because they run a short sprint, there is far less wear on their legs and body through training, or otherwise. If there are injuries, it is almost always related to a gate issue, or perhaps they spooked in training and attempted to jump the rail. If there are issues with legs or tendons, they are typically directly related to an accident that occurred and not wear and tear from repetitive racing down a track. Mules are so smart and sensible, that we do not see many injuries and if we do, they are typically ‘freak accidents’ in nature, similar to what can happen in every day trail riding when a moose jumps out from the trees.

How old can mules race?

Loretta Lynn was the oldest mule to race. She was still winning races at 19 years! If mules are running well and making the trainers money, an average retirement age is 11-15 years old. Most retired racing mules have come to the end of the career by way of age, or track record, not because of injury.

Speaking of making money, can the owners make money in the racing industry?

The purses are not nearly as large as they used to be, due to state funding drying up for the race tracks, and the betting handles are down across the board on the race tracks. Additionally, workman’s comp is quite expensive, and owners pay a significant amount of money just to get the mule to the gate. However, because they run by speed index, if your mule is the faster one in that speed index or happens to be the fastest on the track consistently, then yes, there is money to be made. However, most owners, including myself, do it for the love of the sport and promoting the mule breed, not the money to be made.

Gayle Stegmann riding English on retired racing mule Blinkie

So, what really happens to a mule when it’s racing career is over? It really depends on the owner and this individual being able to identify the right purpose or desired life style for this mule.

Often times, while in the off season, owners will keep their mules in shape by going on long trail rides, or endurance racing competitions. My late race mule, Apache Ripper, went on to become a 4-time World Champion Endurance Racer.

We still hold the record to this day, finishing a 26.2-mile race in 1:32 min. Don Jacklin, of Rathdrum, Idaho, who is my father, and was the trainer at the time and Apache Ripper’s owner, was able to identify a unique ability in this mule that was different than all others. He had the ability to get his heart rate down to a certain level very quickly and thus, had a distinct advantage at the vet check, as well as his strong work ethic in daily training. Were it not for Don identifying and repurposing this mule into an area his unique genetic ability could be capitalized on, he would not have accomplished these feats.

Chloe Pimley, now 18, on Passum Maybelline, a retired race mule she has owned for 9 years now.

Roger Downey, Albuequerque, N.M., an accomplished mule breeder, owner and endurance competitor, competes on many of his retired, and currently in use, race mules. He has multiple mules to pick from depending on their level of training and their capabilities at a certain mileage. Again, he has been successful in identifying those unique and special qualities that are applicable and desired for that purpose. He has competed on Crystal Palace, Jodi Nelson, Ears Looking at You and Bismo in multiple Tevis Cups and 50-mile races. “Having a racing mule to compete in endurance competitions is a prequalification to his selection process,” said Roger. Generally, if a mule has had a successful racing career, it translates into athleticism, highly competitive and successful outcomes.

CANDEE COFFEE on retired race mule Mandy’s Turn competing at Man Vs. Horse photo courtesy of Man Vs. Horse

Candee Coffee, on her mule, Mandy’s Turn, has competed in many endurance races, including one of her most notable races, Man vs. Horse. Year after year, riders and runners converge in the Eastern Sierras from all over California to compete in this uncommon opportunity for man and beast to compete shoulder to shoulder with each one gaining a new respect for the other. The race boasts an 11-mile, a Marathon, a 50K and a 50-mile distances.

One of the greatest mules of all time, Czar, owned by Jacklin and trained by Ed Burdick, was a World Champion on the race track and is now, at 26, still competing in gaming with exceptional times! He is the first mule EVER in the history to win the California State Horseman’s Association finals at Watsonville, CA in 2002. He has competed against horses and finished in top spots at National Horse Omoksee events.

MARK MATTOX on retired race mule Lilac Lady competing at the Northwest Trail Competition in Eugene, Ore.

Mark Mattox, Mesa, Washington, has taken his retired race mule, Lilac Lady (Leah), to National Trail Championships throughout the state of Oregon. He competes in some 20 Trail events annually. He is now “looking forward to exploring dressage and more versatile ranch horse competitions, proving that a mule can compete well in these events, through much time and effort”.

If one attends Bishop Mule Days, the majority of the top mules competing or past competitors in the gaming events are retired race mules, including Blue McGee, PhD, Pete Cooper (5x World Champion owned by Downey), Rhoda Nelson, Jethro, Becky Ann, Miss Lourella, Navajo Lady, Blinkie and many more. All of these mules are running comparable times to horses in poles, barrels and stake races. In our region, the mules stack up in 1 and 2D against horses in virtually every gaming event. So much so, that many are taking a second look at the mule as a gaming option or enhancement to their gaming animal line-up.

Trainer and accomplished competitor Matt Fournier has built a niche in his business by purchasing off the track mules. “I like how they have been exposed to all kinds of things so they tend to be a lot less reactive, which could be interpreted as gentle,” said Matt. A mule called ‘What Mule’ was sold to a man in California that uses him to wrangle cattle. Matt was able to identify the mules desire to move in and around cattle and found the right fit for him to reach his full talent and capabilities in this unique area.

The legendary Black Ruby who was inducted into the Mule Racing Hall of Fame in 2009 and has earnings in excess of $250,000, at 26 years of age, takes her new repurposed job very seriously. According to Mary McPherson, owner, “She now mentors our young mules and instills athleticism and forward motion to better prepare them for their racing career.”

Mary also has mules, including Outa Idaho, Classy Recruit, Dash of Rust,

andRecruit’s Irish to name a few who all enjoyed successful racing and endurance racing careers and now work with Trinity Jackson, Heart to Heart Ranch, in their therapeutic riding program and compete with these same kids in endurance racing.

Jesika Harper, Athol, Idaho, on retired racing mule Red Rooster

Not all retired racing mules end up in competition. Jesika Harper, Rathdrum, knows this firsthand. She purchased Red Rooster, a john mule who only days prior, had come off the track.

While discussing Rooster’s attributes, I told her, “He seems to take the track with him.”

She thought that would translate well in the mountains but said, “I didn’t fully appreciate what that meant until I experienced the careful way he navigates technical areas compared to horses I have ridden. Having had success on the race track, he also learned the discipline of an athlete. With his good work ethic in tow, he’ll go all day without a complaint then walk up to you eagerly the next day to go again.

I’m thankful I didn’t listen to my initial doubts questioning how a race mule could become a great riding partner. I’ve enjoyed riding more in the last four years than all the time before.”

From world champions to pasture pets, retired racing mules have enhanced the lives of mule lovers across the globe and it has been rewarding to be a part of this unique, one of a kind pairing!

Message from Don Jacklin:

American Mule Racing Association President

The luxurious life of the race mule certainly changes upon retirement. Gone are the days of twice daily super high-quality food buffets, daily baths, currying, combing, refreshing exercise, and quality human social interactions. However, the future remains bright for the retired athlete.

Race training and conditioning has developed a full potential of the fast twitch sprint muscle mass, thus opening a window full of opportunity for a bright future in all performance events, from gymkhana, trail competition, dressage, mountain and trail riding, to even competitive endurance racing.

The race track clatter, noise, and commotion has conditioned the race retiree to better accept parades, hootenannies and other public displays and celebrations.

One small alert area shows up during race transition activities: Race mules are not sensitized to the rear breeching nor crupper. The first day or two of transition training makes for interesting and exciting rides.

I can think of no better animal for a quality riding future than a retired race mule.

Remembering Ed Burdick...

Ed Burdick recently passed at the age of 79. Ed and Ruth Burdick are legends in the equine racing industry. Ed is well known for having earned the title of ‘Leading Trainer’ from Bay Meadows and throughout the state of California multiple years. In the mid 70’s, Ed trained Galverman, a quarter horse who set many track records. Ed also worked alongside Randy Bradshaw as assistant trainer in the late 90s where he trained world class race horses including Artax, a thoroughbred who went on to compete in the Kentucky Derby through R.B. Entrepreneur and Austrian born billionaire Frank Stronach saw the great potential in Ed in the early 2000s and hired him to get babies broke and ready for sales. Adena Farms is considered the ‘crown jewel’ of horse racing facilities located in Canada, Kentucky and Florida. It is considered one of the largest horse training operations in the US. Ed’s career rounded out what was a two-person training team with the love of his life, married 56 years, Ruth, and together, training for Donald W. Jacklin from 1995-2003, he trained several world champions racing mules, including Czar, his favorite mule, Taz and Chinook Pass. After retirement, Ed competed very successfully on Czar in local, regional and national competitions against horses in Omoksee. He was truly among the greatest ambassadors to the mule industry and will be greatly missed.

The Boulder Mail Trail

story and photos by Steve Westhoff

Boulder, Utah, is fairly well known, at least locally, for being the last town in America to receive their mail by mule train. Sometime around 1933 a road was finally built to the town with the help of the CCC, but prior to that it was pack mules. The trail leaves from Escalante, Utah, and goes more or less straight to Boulder, which is 16 miles away. The trail crosses three canyons, by far the deepest and steepest is Death Hollow. The old timers say in their diaries they rode between towns in five hours, but when I went across it the first time last year it took me 10 hours.

It has become a popular hiking trail but very few people I know ever ride it. Part of the reason it took me 10 hours was just finding the trail on that much slick rock was a challenge and nobody has cleared the trail through the bottom of Death Hollow for a very long time. It was very slow going.

The scenery was incredible and the historic trail was amazing to me, knowing they used to take draft horses and mule trains through these canyons.

One of the stories I’ve read was that a local pioneer farmer was leading his two draft horses through Death Hollow. The Boulder side of Death Hollow has a very narrow slick rock trail with exposure that is several hundred feet. Thinking it would be better to take his horses across the narrow trail one at a time, he stopped, tied one of the horses up, led the other one across and tied him up. He walked back down and across to get the other horse, started back up across the trail and met the one he had taken over first, half way down across the trail. He had to back the first horse up the trail while he led the second horse. None of that would be for the faint of heart.

Escalante is well known for the Hole-In-The-Rock trail where a group of Mormon pioneers spent five months building a wagon trail across the 2,000 feet deep canyon of the Colorado River. Some of the lesser known trails like the Boulder Mail Trail almost go unnoticed.

Escalante and Boulder are in Garfield County which is nearly 97 percent public land. With the Canyons of the Escalante River, side canyons of the Colorado River, and Boulder Mountain over 10,000 foot in elevation it is a mule riding paradise, which is evidenced by the pictures accompanying this story.

“We ranted and raved about the trail enough that our wives wanted to see it,” said STEVE. “So we rode in the Boulder Mail Trail until we got to the Death Hollow overlook and had a picnic. It was a long, beautiful day.”

Many stories of this area can be found in local historian Jerry C. Roundy’s book, Advised Them to Call the Place Escalante. Lodging for horses and mules, guests and trailers can be found at Escalante Cabins & RV Park ( on the west edge of Escalante, which I own. I have been ranching here locally for 20 years, own five mules and a horse. I have a wealth of knowledge of trails and these parts. Feel free to contact me if you would like ride these beautiful canyons.

These photos were taken in the fall on a different trail down through the Escalante River Canyon, between town and the bridge on Highway 12

A Connection Deeper Than Words: Roman IV’s Ima Big Star’s Journey

by Lyn Ringrose-Moe

For those of us who own mules, we are never surprised at how well they can perform when up against other equines.  I am fortunate enough to be one of the founding partners of the fairly new, but highly popular discipline of Cowboy Dressage. It has been an amazing journey creating a discipline that is inclusive, not exclusive. Where a rider’s soft feel and partnership with their equine is paramount. It’s no surprise that mules excel in this discipline. The past two years at the Cowboy Dressage World Finals, mules have dominated the Top Hand Competition. In 2016, Audrey Goldsmith, Sisters, Ore., rode her mule, Heart B Porter Creek to an amazing win in Top Hand, Kellie Shields came in third on Call Me the Fireman. In 2017, Kellie came back and maintained a strong lead throughout on her mule, Fireman. In both Top Hand competitions, there were only two mules competing and several horses. Part of the Top Hand Competition is the rider switch – the riders who rode these mules as their switch ride were amazed at the level of training and rideability. Because these mules were out in the general public, folks have taken notice that there is another option for something wonderful and fun to ride – a mule!

My own personal journey with mules started when I was a small child.  My first ride was my grandmother’s pack mule.  He taught me a lot!

In 2013, my husband John and I were looking for a mule for him. Kellie contacted Kathy Rohde to see if she had a nice mule for sale. That is how we met and acquired Roman IV’s Ima Big Star. Star was five years old and 16.2 hands.  We were in love. John asked me to train her for him, so I started putting on a foundation based upon my background in dressage. We started using Star at various expositions up and down the West Coast to spread the word about Cowboy Dressage. She was a super star every time out. She amassed quite a following of admirers and fans. She also excelled in Cowboy Dressage, where she was developed slowly and carefully. This summer I needed a new goal, something for myself. John had been struggling with a bad knee for several months and it was finally surgery day, June 29. While waiting for him to get through surgery, I decided to dip my toe back in the traditional dressage court. But who to ride? I had sold my FEI level warmblood, so was searching – then I remembered! Dressage is good for any equine – what about Star? We share an unusual connection and partnership – she knows what I am thinking most of the time, I swear! She is lovely with lovely gaits. OK, Star it is…now the work begins. I travel most week-ends teaching Cowboy Dressage clinics throughout the US, Canada, and Australia, so fitting in the required number of recognized USDF/USEF sanctioned shows was no easy feat. It was amazing to me that every time out, we received a qualifying score. In two months time we were able to qualify for the California Dressage Society State Championships and the United States Dressage Federation Region 7 Championships to be held in September at Murieta Equestrian Center, Rancho Murieta, CA. I was so proud that we qualified, so of course we were going. And, go we did.

But first let me tell you that a year ago Star suffered an injury to her hock that looked to be career ending. Finally, in February 2017 my vet contacted me to say she had learned of a new procedure that might help Star and asked if I were interested? Of course! We tried the procedure and amazingly, it worked. Star was back to work, carefully. I wasn’t sure how much she could take or if she could hold up to harder work. I was careful and brought her along slowly. She was doing well, so I started asking her to go forward, paying close attention to the correct use of her back and topline, since her back is a little long. Star has always been really connected to me and tries so hard to accommodate me. I am always humbled by her heart and try. When showing her in dressage, I was surprised that judges often commented on the harmony and partnership that we demonstrated, something they don’t often mention. I know we have a special relationship, so it was no surprise at the Dressage State and Regional Championships we did very well. There were 335 spectacular horses who all had to qualify to attend, and our lovely mule (who also had to qualify)! We ended up tenth in the State of California for Open Training Level, and eighth in USDF Region 7 (Nevada, California, Hawaii). She did it all with grace and class. I was so happy to place among all the lovely horses that were competing.  It was an honor and so wonderful to be part of this very large show. We had so many people who were curious about mules and ended up really loving what they saw. The frosting on the cake was we just learned that Roman IV’S Ima Big Star has been named Open Training Level mule of the year for the USDF All-Breed Awards program. This award is sponsored by USDF and AMA together for the top scoring mules competing in dressage. I am still in shock at how well we did, not because I don’t think she is awesome, but because we were up against some truly amazing competition. In all my years of training horses, I have never shared the type of relationship I share with my mule. I have trouble explaining to people why I ride a mule. It goes deeper than words. She is my partner and my friend.

Granny’s Adventure Continues...

by Anna Arnold, Romoland, Calif. 
photos courtesy of Kelley Jo Locke
November was a very busy one for me…not that I can’t find anything to do, I am always ready for a call saying let’s go, or do something. I get my neighbor, Maggie to feed the animals and take my dog to my daughters. I don’t have to pack, as I usually have it ready to go; grab a coat and let’s go…and that is just what I did.
I had gone to lunch with a client and friend of my daughter’s and mine, Jeanette Batton. She was talking about going to the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV in a few days and mentioned her friend was unable to go and would either of us like to go with her. She had tickets and rooms at South Point where the rodeo would be held. Well, yes, of course I wanted to go. So plans were made, and after a few stops to pick up some adult beverages and snacks, we were on our way. Jeanette is great to travel with, as she is an ex-highway patrol gal and knows her ins and outs on the highway. We arrived and went to watch the show; this was a wonderful rodeo, with members of many tribes from the U.S. and Canada competing in all the regular events.
Along with the rodeo there was a trade show. Many tribes brought authentic rugs, clothing and jewelry for sale. I had gotten an old Choctaw necklace years ago and was told it had been made by an Indian woman in Oklahoma. Well, being part Choctaw, I bought it. Now I brought it with me and asked some of the beaders to take a look at it. They were so careful with it and said, “Yes, it was old and very well made, you must be very proud of it.” And believe me, I am. I had to buy a beautiful little string of beads to go with it. So, now I will be wearing my beads, along with my pretties Danny has given me. I am a lucky lady.
After the rodeo we returned home. I then began to get pictures and stories from Danny Locke, Firebaugh, Calif. and his daughter Kelley Jo Locke of Fresno, CA. They planned a ride down the Grand Canyon some time ago and had asked me to go along. Well, I only have a four hour butt and knew I couldn’t make the six plus hour jarring ride down the canyon, sleep and ride out the next day. So, I wished them well and asked them to send me pictures. The following is my conversation with Kelley Jo:

How did you decide to go on this trip? 
Dad’s 80th birthday was coming up and I was trying to think of a gift for him. I thought of the Grand Canyon, as I never know when they will stop allowing mules to go down, and we could never make it down and back on our own two legs! I wanted his 80th year to be something special, and this trip was!

How long in advance did you have to make plans?
I called last November 1, one year in advance. I wanted to go in the spring, but you had to call on the first of the month that you wanted to go, so I missed that opportunity.

Was there a weight limit for riders? 200 pounds.

How long was the ride down and back?
I took five to six hour, depending on the group you were with, and how many stops they needed, i.e., dropping things on the trail, taking coats off or on, and so on. There are a couple of bathroom breaks, but none of us needed them, other than the lunch break at Indian Gardens, half way down.

Where did you sleep?
The night before the trip, we slept in the Thunderbird Lodge, then we slept in a cabin in the Canyon at Phantom Ranch, the following night we stayed at the Maswik Lodge.

What did you do for meals? 
We had very little on the way there; Dad was trying to make the 200 pound weight limit, and he had several pounds to go! We had grilled veggies and fruit and yogurt. On the mule ride they supplied a box lunch, turkey sandwich, fruit and trail mix. Once at Phantom Ranch, they cooked us a great family-style steak dinner. After the ride, we ate at El Tovar, a fantastic restaurant.

How did you decide what mule you were going to ride?
Our mules were assigned to us. When the mules were brought in, they kept yelling at one mule, Cuco, so it was Cuco this and Cuco that! I was thinking, I don’t want Cuco, but guess who I got! She ended up being perfect for me. Dad got Bert.

Why did you have to face the drop-off side?
As most people know, mules have great survival instincts. If spooked, they will not jump off the cliff. It also allowed the hikers to walk behind us. If they faced the wall and spooked, they could take a deadly step back, or they could kick a passerby and knock them off the trail.

What was your experience like?
Exciting, terrifying and humbling. Oh, and exhausting! But worth it…definitely a trip of a lifetime.

Would you do it again? 
Dad can’t wait to go again. I am happy with my experience and would like to take the rim ride next time. I would like to spend more time at the top. I didn’t get to see everything.

What about the other people on the ride?
Well, they were all great sports, even though they were first timers on mules. We made long time friendships with two ladies from Australia.
On the way home Danny and Kelley Jo took a side trip to Boron in the Mojave Desert. The mine is still in operation and I’ve written about the mine’s history and the mule teams there in other articles. There is a nice museum to visit if you’re even in the area.

When they returned home, Danny had to get his mule ready for the ranch sorting and trail trials being held at the Slender Ranch in Sanger, Calif. I told him I would meet him there, and was once again on the road. I drove six hours to the Slender Ranch. I got there a little early and Tucker was going out to chase cattle, so I rode along. And guess who I rode? Yep, the famous Donk-a-Lena, Hall of Fame Champion. We rode around their beautiful place after I got the OK from Mary Lou to ride her mule. Like me, she is very picky about who rides their mules! Thank you for such a sweet ride. Tucker did some trick riding on his famous race mule, ShuFly, but nothing was hurt and we went on.
The event was well attended. Some of our mule buddies showed up…Jason Smith and family, along with Jennifer Jones-Lauzon and daughter, Payton. Mary Lou also lets Payton ride her mule, and she rode her in several events. Later, Payton took her saddle off and was playing games with other youngsters.
By this point, Danny was a pretty tired man; I would be too. Riding the Grand Canyon, and then the sorting and trail event takes a toll. The Slender family invited us to the house for supper and a little get together before the show. Danny had team roped in his younger years, and all kinds of stories were told.
We stayed over until Sunday, as the show was late getting over and the morning fog was heavy. Danny went back to Firebaugh, and I traveled to Winchester. Now it’s Thanksgiving and we were both about traveled out, so we stayed home and enjoyed our families.
Another hit over the holidays was that of my handyman, Scott Johnston who suffered a stroke Thanksgiving Day. Thanks to his son’s fast recognition of what was happening, he got Scott to the hospital quickly, and it was caught in time. He is home now recovering. I sure do miss his company and help.
Speaking of recovering, our friend Sandy Powell, a photographer in our area, was injured in a wagon accident earlier this year. She was thrown out of a wagon, run over and dragged quite a ways.  Somehow, through all of this, she’s kept a great sense of humor. After the wreck Sandy was strapped to a backboard for hours and had a huge pain in her tush the entire time. The ambulance ride took hours, then the emergency room visit took even longer. After seven to eight hours, when she was finally able to get up and move a bit, a huge rock came out from underneath her; the rest of the gravel in her pants came out also. What a relief for her!
Our good friend, Porch Pig Patty Rustin Christen is having some of her own problems with her dad, Harry Kim. He’s been laid up after surgery and then Patty had to put down her trusty sidekick, Hank while she was taking care of her dad. My gosh, these girls are tough.
Lots of good rides are coming up out our way. March brings up the Palm Springs Guest Ride the last weekend in March, then the wonderful desert ride at the Boyd Ranch, out of Wickenburg, Ariz, Mule Madness is the middle of March, and their ad is in this month’s Mules and More. And somewhere along the way will be an 80th birthday ride for an ole mule lady.
I want to wish all you readers and mule lovers a wonderful New Year. God got us through 2017 with a lot of ups and downs. Make the best of each day, and remember to be kind and tell your loved ones how you feel. Time slips by quickly!

Look for me on the trail or at a mule gathering. I’m the Granny wearing a big hat, cool boots and riding a fine mule.

Finding the Right ‘Tool’

by Lori Darlington
In September 2017 I took my Morgan mule to a mulemanship clinic in Clare, Mich., hosted by TS Mules (Ty and Skye Evans). I was having trouble with her and everyone was talking about the ‘tools’ this guy has to work with mules. I was excited and scared at the same time; excited to gain knowledge, but scared because my little mule has a range of problems. It turns out she only had one problem, an owner who did not get her requests for security and direction.
If you can imagine everything that can go wrong at a clinic, it did the first day. As I was walking my mule Roseannah out of the barn wind caught a 10’ by 10’ white canopy and blew over us like a big kite. This set Roseannah’s frame of mind for the next two days.
The first day she bolted and bucked at everything. For example, an audience member stood up from her chair and sent ‘Zannah into a bolting tornado; this was kind of how the entire day went. Ty kept instructing me to “get to her feet,” and tried to give me the directions on how to do this. “Her attention is not on you,” Ty said.
When the clinic was over I drove home bawling my eyes out. “To what extreme do I have to go to make my directions mean something to my mule while she is in this frame of mind?” I thought. “How do I get her attention on me? What the heck is ‘get to her feet’ and what does that mean?” I didn’t need clichés, I needed answers.
The next day was even worse than the first, with freezing temperatures, 20-30 mph wind gusts and pelting rain. Before the class I was ready to give up. Zannah was just beside herself with fear. I’ve never seen her like that. I spoke with Ty a moment about not completing the clinic…trying to come up with all kinds of excuses. I don’t really recall his exact words, but it was something like, “If you don’t want to learn to help your mule, you can quit.”
“How can he say that?” I thought. “How can he possibly think I don’t want to help my beloved mule? He doesn’t know anything about us!”
My friend Charlie just happened to show up that day to watch. Charlie spoke with Ty a little about the situation, and turned to me and basically told me to saddle up and get my butt out there (in a nice way, of course). It reminded me of a John Wayne quote, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t courageous, especially in front of my friend Charlie, who is the most courageous man I know. So, I saddled up and went out.

Lori and Roseannah’s first TS Mules Mulemanship Clinic

It was so miserable, at one point I thought I was going to pass out. Roseannah was the queen of wild bolting. I actually dismounted for a couple of minutes to catch my breath, only to get back on a cold, wet saddle. My butt was now soaked and cold. But, Ty hung in there, so I did, too.
I felt like I was just trying to survive. I wasn’t even able to listen to the class. I felt abandoned, ignored, and sad (pathetic really). I was very sad for my mule, who I love so much, and was just beside herself with fear.
As the day ended, we were walking out the gate when my little darling took a double barrel shot at Ty with both hind feet! Oh, I thought it surely couldn’t get any worse. Ty dismounted and dealt with the situation swiftly. I thought he is really going to hate us now (that probably couldn’t have been further from the truth). But, this instantly fixed the gate issue she was having. Ty kept saying, “She feels the need to protect herself because she doesn’t have a strong leader.” Once again I thought, great, what does that mean? And, how can I fix this? I can’t seem to “get to her feet” (whatever that means) when they are stuck to the ground, ready to bolt any second.
Ty kept telling me to keep her nose tipped into the class, keep her focus on what we were doing. At first I didn’t think this was a big deal. Zannah’s attention was on everything within a mile radius, she wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to bolt. She spent the entire time looking everywhere but at the task at hand. So, I paused for a moment and put a lot of thought into this. Could this small, subtle thing be a custom ‘tool’ just for my mule?
On day three, the clouds parted and it was truly amazing. Turns out Ty actually did know more about my mule than I did (who I have owned her entire life). Perhaps he had us sized up the moment we got off the trailer? How did he do that?
Every time she looked out into the distance for Godzilla, I gently tipped her nose back into the class. As I did this I kept a handle on my patience by repeating to her, “It’s OK Zannah,” or “I got your back Zannah.” This helped me to convey my intentions to her. I had to tip her nose back to the class over and over, about 30 times a minute. It took a great deal of patience and calmness. I knew if I lost my patience with her I could permanently defeat us both, and she would lose what little faith I could build with her at this point.
Then, after about 1,000 times of this, I suddenly felt her jaw start to soften and become quiet…then I saw her eyes start to soften. Trying to contain my excitement I thought, “I can build on this.” Next, her neck softened, and her head came down a little. Then her shoulders and back softened...followed by feet! I thought, “Oh, the way to her feet was through her nose!” Ty was telling me how to fix my problem the whole time. Something so subtle was so important to my insecure mule. How did he see this? I was trying to fix the symptoms. Ty was trying to point me to the cause. I’m so glad it finally dawned on me. Overnight my fearful mule became a more trusting individual. It was so outstanding that a couple of people in the audience were teary-eyed as we walked by them, relaxed and on a loose rein. It was hard to hide my own tears, as well, but I didn’t want Ty to see me be emotional. This will change my little mule’s life forever.
This ‘tool’ that everyone talks about is not a cliché. It’s very real! Although I think it can be difficult to see something, it’s an understanding of the most subtle cues and the ability to get to the foundation of the problem. I think this is Ty’s and Skye’s super power. They know mules and it’s like they can see into their souls. It was on me to listen to what Ty kept trying to tell me. It took me two days to realize he was trying to direct me to this tool the entire time.
I can apply this tool to all my equines. That one day was worth all the trouble I went through to get there. So, I just wanted to say to anyone who might feel defeated, keep trying to find the ‘tool’. I’m pretty sure Ty will root out what your mule needs. If he could see it with us, he can see it with anyone.

God bless Ty and Skye for putting up with humans like me, which includes late night texts from a defeated (and whiney) woman who was just not getting it.

Missouri Mule Days

by Sue Cole, Editor
In June this year Missouri Mule Days, Inc. was formed consisting of the following Board of Directors: President – Rob Tucker, Owensville, MO; VP – Cindy K. Roberts, Chesterfield, MO and Directors – Becky Tucker, Owensville and Teresa Mayberry. This hard-working, energetic group did a great job of putting together their first, of what they hope will be many Missouri Mule Days.
This year’s event was held at the Golden Hills Trail Rides site just outside the small town of Raymondville, MO. The facility provided everything a vendor, clinician or spectator would need for spending September 21-24 in the beautiful Ozark countryside. In order to help support a newly formed event of this type, I agreed to set up a booth. Not having the necessary accommodations for camping out for three nights I was very pleased to learn there was a 30 unit motel on the grounds and that for a very nominal fee, breakfast and the evening meal would be served in the trail ride dining hall.
For those with the ever popular mule trailer with living accommodations there were a large number of campsites with electricity and water-hookups, for a slight fee.
The group invited people involved in the mule industry living in Missouri.
The program began at 2 pm Thursday with Dave Recker of Columbia giving a clinic on Teaching your Mule to Lay Down, this was followed by Cindy Roberts, one of the founders of Mule Days, giving a presentation on How to Buy a Mule.
Friday’s schedule included Problem Solving & Mulemanship by mule trainer Loren Basham of Pair-A-Dice Mules from Belle; Recker once again was in the arena with his presentation. Saddlemaker Len Brown of Oak Grove, talked to a group on Correcting Saddle Issues, ending the clinic sessions; Basham gave another clinic. Throughout the day, those present could visit with Equine Dentists Brianna DeMoss of Bland, along with her mentor and his fiance Darrel  Wellen and Sarah Milligam of Illinois.
Friday and Saturday evenings found groups sitting around their camps visiting with old friends and getting acquainted with new mule people.
Saturday morning, Basham gathered together a group on mule back to get a little experience on Cow Working, followed by demonstrations from Recker, Brown and Roberts. All three days found Steve Dawson taking groups of riders to view the scenic trails, riding to a near-by cave and crossing a clear Ozark stream, Big Creek.
Evening entertainment also consisted of a Mule Trail Challenge. Women’s division was won by the very experienced mule lady Kelli K. Livengood of Bolkow. MO riding Copyright’s Chantilly Lace; 2nd Kim C. Noyes, Leslie, MO riding Otis   and 3rd Brianna DeMoss on Bonnie. Men’s division winners were 1st Sam Shetler, Boonville, riding Socks, 2nd Loren Basham riding Dixie Bell and 3rd Richard Carmack, Glasgow, MO on Babe. 
Nashville recording artist Jesse James was in concert two nights and several riders participated in a Mule Ranch Sorting.

There were several vendors located on the grounds, giving those attending an opportunity to shop for mule-related items, while enjoying an hour, a day or a weekend in the Ozarks. Plans will be announced soon for the dates and location for Missouri Mule Days 2018.
Alison Daniels riding "Smalls"

Camri Jones riding "Dixie Bell"

Participants in the cow working clinic move cattle in the arean

Shawn Beck on the trails - photo by Kelli LIvengood

Steve Dawson - photo by Kelli LIvengood

photo by Shawn Beck

Branding a mule owened by Cindy Roberts

Cousins, Sisters & “Best Friends”

Riding the Gila Wilderness

by Audrey Stogsdill Beggs

R-A Mule Ranch, Sims, Arkansas

Our DNA says we are first cousins, but our hearts say we are closer than sisters and the best of friends. Our dads were brothers, Claude and Clyde Stogsdill; her name is Claudia Stogsdill Sharp. We are neither one considered “a spring chicken” and one of us is already on Medicare. We not only share DNA, but we share a love of riding and a sense of adventure. So, that is how we decided on an all-girl/ride pack trip at Gila Hot Springs Ranch located in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico.

Becky on Dashee with pack mules Star and Molly

This all started when my husband, Rickey and I drove to Cliff, NM last July and bought a wagon advertised in Mules and More by Russell Dobkins. I wrote a story about that trip (see “He Wanted a Red Wagon for His Birthday,” in the October 2016 Mules and More). 

Returning home I was telling our farrier Travis Coffman,about the trip and he asked if we went to Gila Hot Springs. When I told him we didn’t go that far north, he then told me about an outfitter there, Becky Campbell. Later I “Googled” Becky and found she had an outfitter company for hunters, but also took out riders furnishing Tennessee Walkers, and packed mules into the Gila Wilderness.

The Gila Wilderness is 558,014 acres of unspoiled land, with deep canyons, rugged mountain peaks, hot springs and a thick forest. This remote part of southwestern New Mexico became the first designated wilderness area in the United States. The Gila Wilderness lies in what is known as a transition zone, between desert and alpine forest; all of this makes the Gila very unique, offering a wide variety of life forms and magnificent scenery.

Sierra on Rebel with Pardner crossing the East Fork of the Gila River

After doing the research I sent Claudia an email and asked, “Is this something you would consider doing?” I sent the link to the website and our plans began to take form. Claudia and I had drifted apart since we were kids, but reconnected about three years ago when she had a cousin’s get together when she lived in St. Charles, Mo. I attended the get together and we have seen each other a lot, and talked at least once a week since then. She has been to our little mule ranch, and rode our mules twice in the last three years. She loves to ride, so naturally we had a lot to talk about. Claudia is retired but volunteers at an Horses for Heros facility that has therapeutic horseback riding for veterans and children with special needs. She doesn’t own equine and she says this scratches her itch to be around horses.

Audrey on Slim and Claudia on Mindy

I made reservations to fly, meeting up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. From there we flew to Albuquerque and rented a car. We spent the first night in Old Town. We had planned on a sunset ride on the Sandia Tram, but it was cloudy and we were exhausted after our long trip, so we stopped at the little restaurant below the tram for a drink and snacks. We decided to go ahead and do the tram since it was too early to check into the motel. We boarded the tram with about 30 others; the ride up was a lot of fun. We got off at the top and walked around looking at the surroundings. We were at 10,000+ feet elevation and the air was pretty thin. After our long day, with very little sleep, and our drink, we were feeling the effects of it all. We had the chance to take the first tram back down, but decided to wait for another. That was not the best decision as after boarding the tram, and we were about halfway down, the wind came up with a vengeance. The tram was swinging and swaying so they had to stop the tram about halfway down the mountain; wind gusts were in excess of 80 mph, and this was not the most pleasant place to be. They let us hang over the mountains at least 30 minutes before we could get to the landing. There were at least five little ones, under five years old, and they were not happy. One gal just sat and looked at the floor and cried…I felt like joining her before we got down! Finally they got the tram moving; it was quite the experience and not one we plan to do again. It was a memory for a lifetime!

“Our Holiday Inn in the Gila Wilderness where Claudia and I slept. Spud and Pardner are beat after a long day of riding in the Gila Wilderness,” said AUDREY

We were up early the next morning and drove the old Route 66 through Albuquerque. They are restoring the old area and it will be magnificent when finished. We left Albuquerque, drove to Socorro and thru the mountains on the western side of New Mexico, the same route Rickey and I had taken to get the wagon at Cliff. I wanted to show Claudia the mountains, and stopped to say “hi” to Russell Dobkins, having a great visit with him and his wife, Ada.

We left their place and headed to the Gila Hot Springs Ranch, hoping to get there before dark. We decided we had enough gas in our Nissan Versa to make it to Silver City, not knowing there were some pretty big mountains to cross to get there. I was driving, and all of a sudden I see a flashing light on the steering wheel that said 40 miles to empty…this was an “Oh Crap” moment. We had just passed a sign that read, Silver City 29 miles. When I panicked Claudia looked at the gas gauge and said not to worry we still had two bars on the gauge, explaining as long as you have a bar there is nothing to worry about. When it went to one bar I started worrying, then there were no bars and I was really worrying. Then the miles reading went to a straight line. We turn off the a/c and Claudia said to just coast when we go downhill. I told her we had to go UP hill to be able to coast. I told her now was the time to pray. Of course, we had no cell phone signal, and there was not a house, a cow, horse, or mule to be seen. We did make it to Silber City, but I swear we got there on a prayer and gas fumes. From then on when the gas gauge showed half empty we filled it.

Becky with nieces Sierra and Christy getting ready for the trip

We arrived at Becky’s about 7 pm, after 40 miles of narrow road that had many switchbacks and at times it felt like you were going right off of the road into the canyon. Claudia is afraid of heights and was white knuckling it all the way. We spent that night in the apartment at Becky’s and she informed us where to meet her the next morning to get our horses for the trip.

When we got to the trail head Becky, her brother Angus, and a niece Christy, plus Christy’s three children, Sierra, Cayden and Lanie were all helping get the horses and mules ready for the trip. It was a family effort. Claudia and I put our stuff on a table to be loaded into the panniers and we just stood back to watch and take pictures. Fifteen year old Sierra went with us on the ride; Claudia and I were impressed with the teamwork everyone displayed.

It turned out to be Becky, Sierra, me and Claudia on the ride. We all rode Tennessee Walkers, and Becky had two pack mules, Molly and Star loaded with all the supplies. I had not ridden a horse (only mules) since 1990. Becky put me on a 7-year-old by the name of Slim, and Claudia rode Mindy, a mare. Sierra and Becky rode Rebel and Dashee (named after Cowboy Dashee in the Tony Hillerman books. We were accompanied by Ginger, an Australian shepherd, Pardner, a Great Pyrenees and Spud, a precious mixed breed. Spud had a horrible cut around his neck where he had supposedly got into a fight with a pit bull. It did not look like a dogfight, but like someone had taken a knife or box cutter and tried to decapitate him. He had about 60 stitches in his neck, but he was a fun dog, and even though he had some age on him he loved the ride.

Not long after we left camp and headed up the mountain, Becky turned around and told us to look down at the trail. There were mountain lion tracks on the same trail, going the same way we were going. They were not real fresh, but it was still a little unnerving way to start our three day ride. All we saw were tracks, never any real mountain lions.

The first day we rode about 14 miles into the Gila Wilderness. Becky has 25 acres and a cabin she has had for many years. Her dad came to this area in 1929, when he was 16 years old. He started the outfitting company in 1940 and it is still run by his children. Her cabin is in the East Fork Canyon  of the Gila Wilderness. She took her first outfitters out at the age of 15, and is still going strong. Her dad’s store, Doc Campbell’s at Gila Hot Springs is still open and ran by family members.

We had beautiful and awesome scenery on the trails. Claudia said later she thought we cross the Gila River at least 150 times in three days; I’m not sure how many times we crossed it, but we did so many times a day. The dogs loved the water and would be waiting on us when we got to the river.

Audrey with Slim

We had wonderful lunches prepared by Becky and Sierra for the trail, and would stop and sit for a while at a beautiful spot Becky selected. This was a time to take pictures and see the beautiful scenery. We arrived at the cabin about mid-afternoon on Monday. We helped Sierra set up the tent and get stuff unloaded off of the mules. Becky’s water supply is a pitcher pump and it had to have some work done before we could get water. It gave us a chance to have a glass of wine and help with what we could to prepare dinner. There was a propane refrigerator and propane cooktop. Later that night Pardner, the young dog started barking. Claudia worried that we had chocolate energy bars in our bags and that was a sure sign of having bear bait in the tent. I assured her that it was just the young dog, and if there was a bear there, all three of them would be barking. The older dogs never barked so I wasn’t very concerned. Spud slept right next to the tent on my side and I could hear him moving in the leaves during the night, so I felt pretty safe.

Claudia with Mindy

We were amazed that Becky took the halters off the horses and mules and turned them loose into the 100 acres; it is totally fenced, in the middle of the Gila Wilderness. She put cowbells on one of the horses and one of the mules, and off they went. Claudia said she sure hoped they came back the next morning, as we had two more days of riding. The next morning they were there for their feed.

As were just riding the canyon on Tuesday, Becky didn’t take the mules, we left them on a tie line. We rode about four hours and crossed the Gila River at least 20 times. We had lunch at an old dwelling that looked like something the Pueblo Indians had built. We felt some spring water coming out of a mountain, and it was very hot. We saw beautiful wild flowers and native plants to the area. We had dark clouds that morning when we left camp and by the time we returned we had encountered very high winds and sleet, which didn’t last long.

Claudia and I had a glass of wine and it didn’t take any time to get to sleep that night. The moon was full, but we were too exhausted to stay up and enjoy it.

As we were unsaddling a lady came by on a mustang and three pack mules, plus a young black and tan hound. She was repairing fence for a guy that owned the neighboring cabin that had belonged to Becky’s brother. This was quite unsettling to Becky’s horses and mules. The next morning Becky had to put on her boots and go after her stock; they were not happy that we had the company within our little area. The horses, especially Slim, was not a happy camper. Becky rode over to the lady’s camp and asked her to come get her horse and mules. She had been using a chainsaw and it was a little unnerving, not only to me, but to the horses. After she got her horse and mule, our bunch started settling down. While Becky and Sierra saddled the horses and loaded the packs on the mules, Claudia and I put the bear boards on the windows and cleaned the cabin.

One of the neighbor’s mules stayed behind and followed us all the way out of the camp, until we got past the gate and into the wilderness area. He was braying the strangest bray the entire time and wanted to go with us. We were very glad to get out into the wilderness area and get started back to base camp. I know I had a sigh of great relief to be away from the strange animals. I was ready to lead Slim and cross the Gila River. I told Slim it was not only unsettling to him, but to his rider also!

We took a shorter way back to camp, down a very steep mountain with lots of switchbacks. Claudia didn’t know what a switchback was, but I assure you she does now. As I stated earlier, she doesn’t like heights, so I told her to just look at the trail in front of her horse, to not look to the side, or in front. When we got to the bottom I would say she didn’t just have sweaty palms; her palms were dripping with water; but she was a trouper and she did it. We didn’t have sleet this day, but it did rain just before we got down the mountains. We didn’t worry about putting our slickers on, as we had been in these clothes for three days, and it wasn’t going to hurt us to get wet. All we needed was a bar of soap to go with the rain shower.

This was an awesome trip and we had such a wonderful time. We are already making plans to go back next May. Becky hopes to retire soon, but has assured us she will be there next May to take us on another wild adventure into the Gila Wilderness.

Life is a journey…enjoy the ride

Mules and More Magazine 2017 Christmas Gift Guide

Our Christmas Gift Guide is the place to highlight your product as the perfect gift this Christmas season! 

There is great pricing on display advertising available, but Mules and More is also offering a Christmas Gift Guide in our November issue. This affordable option for advertisers is only $55, which includes 50 words of text highlighting product details, an image, price, contact info, and how to purchase. (No text to be written on the image). 

Since the gift guide will go in the magazine, as well as our website, you get double the exposure. We will also share the gift guide on our Facebook page, as well as in our email newsletter. The gift guide will print in color in the magazine, and in the digital version, also we will link to your website or email. 

We are excited to be able to offer you this cost-efficient, effective way of bringing you sales this Christmas season! Our November issue featuring the gift guide will go in the mail October 25 and online shortly after. The deadline is October 2. The rates and sizes for monthly and 3 month and 6 month discounted ads are attached.

Our November issue also marks the beginning of our 28th year of publication. In addition to our gift guide, another exciting promotion we are offering is a free ad on our website to anyone who places a color display ad with us this month. Ads will remain on the website for 30 days and will also contain a link to your website! The rates and sizes for monthly ads are attached. (Although the Christmas gift guide does not qualify for this promotion, our full page, 2/3 page, 1/2 page, 1/3 page, 1/4 page, and 1/8 page color ads do qualify. We can set these ads up for you, or provide our specs if you are sending it camera ready. Please ask if you have any questions at all!)  

Contact us today to reserve your spot!

Questions? Call the office at 573-646-3934 (Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) 
or email

We have been in business 28 years and some of our advertisers have been with us since the beginning. Let us help you get the word out about your mule and/or donkey business or products.

For more information:    Mules and More Magazine
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P.O. Box 460 - Bland, Mo 65014    Fax 573-646-3407

“Mule Power!” Two Mules and the Texas Joust Championships

by David Kaemmerer, Worden, Ill.
photos by Shawn Carlson

DAVE and Buttons lance breaking in the joust

Jeff Johnson and I had been training my mules Buttons and Milly two to three times a week for months to get ready for the joust in Texas. This “Lysts on the Lake Joust” brings together some of the best jousters in the world, and we were both honored to be invited this year. I took second in this joust last year, losing by one point to a veteran jouster and mentor. This was Jeff’s first invitation to this prestigious joust, and we both trained hard and came to show these horse folks that mules rule. 

When my wife, Jeff, and I loaded the mules and left on the 15 hour trip, I thought I was suffering from allergies. As we travelled across the country from St. Louis, Mo., to Austin, Texas, I realized what I actually had was the flu. To make matters worse, we drove through a bad storm for most of our all night drive, adding to my stress.  

When we arrived, we first made sure the mules were settled and cared for, and then began unloading our armor from the truck bed. I had been up for 36 hours at this point and  I was tired. As I attempted to lift my armor box over the truck wall, it slipped, and the weight and weird angle bent my right wrist back, giving me a decent wrist sprain. I found our cabin, crashed, and tried to sleep it off.

The competitions didn’t start until the following day, so the next morning we let our mules rest and get used to the site. That afternoon, Jeff and I decided to stretch the mules out and show them the site and ride a little in the tilt lane with no armor. We were working on tacking up when I stepped down out of the back of the trailer and right into a grass covered hole, bending my ankle sideways and throwing me to the ground.  I was told I shouted, “YOU GOT TO BE FRICKIN KIDDING ME!” (only I didn’t use “frickin”).   My first thought as all that pain shot through my ankle was,  “You just broke your ankle, dummy, and have to joust tomorrow!” As I laid there, people ran over to help me up.   After they made fun of me for not shouting “ouch,” we determined it was a very bad sprain but not anything broken.  After about 20 minutes I realized if I didn’t roll my ankle side to side, I could hobble along. Once I climbed in the saddle, my boots and my stirrup kept my ankle from rolling.  I could ride, but it was painful. As I rode Buttons around, I was  thinking “First the flu, then a light sprained wrist, and now a bad sprained ankle. I am in trouble tomorrow - if I can even joust at all.” Riding while sick and injured in 80 pounds of armor in 90 degree heat was not much to look forward to. Jeff said that he felt sorry for me, but he also jokingly commented that he and Milly wouldn’t get anywhere near me. Not only was I a flu carrier, I was obviously cursed and they didn’t want my bad luck to rub off on them.

I had one thing going for me, and that was that Buttons and I had trained a lot. I think my mule took pity on me because she was riding great. Everyone went to dinner that night and I ended up leaving early due to cold shivers. I went to bed early and hoped for better luck in day one of the three days of upcoming competition.

The next morning I woke early and realized the flu was full on. I put my tall, tight boots on after taking a bunch of medicine and drinking Gatorade. The boots gave my aching ankle better support and I could walk and ride easier, as long as I didn’t roll my ankle. My wrist was hurting but not enough to keep me from holding a lance. Day one was all jousting, with three sessions of five jousters each. We would joust three passes with the four others in your session for 12 passes. The five lowest scores of the day from all 15 jousters would be eliminated in day one and only 10 jousters would move to day two.

I don’t recall much of day one. I was so sick, feverish and sore. I told myself to just go joust and whatever happens is meant to be. I think that thought relaxed me and gave me an “I don’t care anymore” attitude and I didn’t stress. Buttons ran perfect making my job much easier. I knew I had done pretty well, but had no idea what my score was. At the end of the day they tallied the scores and I was amazed when they announced I was tied for first place with another jouster, and Jeff was in second place by only a couple points. Jeff and I and our mules made it through the first round of eliminations. While many of the folks went off and celebrated, I cared for my mule, had more medicine and Gatorade, and went to bed early again.  

DAVE and Buttons jousting

Day two was a games course called The Hunt and two more sessions of jousting. The five jousters with highest scores would progress to the finals the next day. I awoke feeling a little better, so I took less medicine and forced more liquids. The Hunt is like a cross-county course with jumps, ditches and obstacles, combined with targets to hit with sword, spear and bow. Jeff and I have done lots of this skill at arms games over the years with our mules, and we both did well in The Hunt. When we started to armor up to joust  in the afternoon the temperature had risen and the humidity climbed, making it like a sauna.

 JEFF JOHNSON and Milly in the hunt

DAVE and Buttons in the hunt

My good friend and sports photographer Shawn Carlson arrived with his wife to watch us joust. Shawn is a former St. Louis resident who now lives in Houston. My wife’s brother, sister-in-law, and their young children arrived from nearby in Texas, as well. This was the first time these friends and family would all see me joust, so there was no pressure for this sick mule rider. 

I was feeling better, but not a 100 percent. As I finished armoring for my session, Jeff and Milly jousted in the session before mine.  They kicked ass (pun intended). Milly was showing us that all that practice had paid off. Jeff was jousting well and on target. Numerous veteran jousters and judges commented on how far those two had come and how well they were doing. I was very proud of my mule and my buddy Jeff. They were making a great team and their efforts showed. 

My session went pretty well. We got to the field early and I spoke to my niece and nephew and other kids in the crowd.  This chatting before hand tends to relax Buttons and I. I was no longer feeling like total death and, though the humidity was bad and I was still a little feverish, my mule took pity on me again and ran well. I can’t stress enough how much of a difference that makes. All of what we do happens in a few seconds and the mule running well makes my job worlds easier. I can just focus on my seat, my lance control and targeting. She ran perfectly and that made jousting, even when sick, easier than it should have been. 

We were on our final passes of that session with my final opponent, when we hit each other at the same time, and both our lances stuck on each others shields. The hit was one of the hardest I have ever taken. My head whiplashed forward as my shield whiplashed back from the force. The two came together with what felt like an uppercut to my chin. I was then rocked backwards like a giant hand had slowly shoved me continuously back. I “almost” caught myself with my legs, but my cinch had loosen and my saddle slipped sideways leaving me hanging horizontal to my mule. My mule stopped running after the hit at end of the lane (as she was trained to do) and I assume she felt me hanging sideways. I knew I couldn’t go back up from this far down and would only continue to slide. I quickly looked down to make sure I wasn’t going to land on a post and decided with the saddle half way down to her belly I might as well let go. The ground was only a few feet away at this point, so I dropped. The crash a man in armor makes hitting the ground is pretty loud and brutal. My armor fits and protects me and it was a controlled fall. I knew the crowd, judges and staff would be alarmed that I was badly hurt, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t. So the moment after I hit the ground, I rolled to my feet, jumped in the air, waived my arms, and yelled “Tadaaaaaa!”   This brought cheers from the crowd. I was still swarmed with people wanting to make sure I wasn’t hurt or concussed. As they tried to figure out if I was OK, my friends led Buttons off to check her and reset her saddle. They asked me questions to ensure I was “all there,” but all I was worried about was finding out my score from my pass. I had broken the lance all the way for a full four points. They laughed at me and said I must be fine. I assured them I was, and after taking a minute to calm Buttons, check my saddle and assure my mule it wasn’t her fault, I climbed back on to finish what was the last passes of that days last session. 

Luckily for me, two things happened during that freak hit.   One: my niece and nephew got fussy right before hand and their parents, along with my wife, had went to the parking lot to say good bye. They missed their uncle being unhorsed (well, really un-muled, or knocked off, or whatever…they missed my fall from grace). Two: Shawn stopped shooting photos when he saw I was coming off, much to the disappointment of my jouster buddies who wanted to relive and re-share those not so precious moments. (Thanks, Shawn, I owe you one, or probably more than one).

Late that night they announced which five of the original 15 jousters would progress to the finals on the third day.  Again, I was happy to see the list included Jeff and Milly.  Their first Lysts and they were in the finals! The list also included Buttons and I. We had made it, and two mules would be in the finals against three horses and their riders. I would be competing against my buddy, and I told him good luck, and that as long as one of us mule riders win, it’s good.
The day of the finals, I awoke feeling pretty good. I mean, comparatively, that is. After feeling like I was dying and then feeling like the death warmed over, feeling just “OK” was a great feeling. I put my armor on was full of energy and felt like I could lift draft mules with one hand. 

The morning activity was a Mounted Combat, a battle in armor with Batons. Batons are kind of like lightly padded baseball bats. This event, like the skill at arms games, would not add to your joust score but would add to your total score for grand champion. The order you were eliminated equaled your points. Eleven armored riders were competing. If you were eliminated first, you received one point. If eliminated second, you received two points. If eliminated last, you received 11 points. So, score wise, you wanted to be one of the last on the field. A total of five hard blows to your armor from your foes would eliminate you. I felt great and Buttons flew into this combat. This combat is much like old WWI Bi-planes dog fighting. You never want to stop and you want to out-ride your opponents by circling or spinning in place and getting behind them. It’s about fighting, but it’s much more about riding skill and maneuvering.  You can only turn so far around in the saddle to defend yourself, so getting behind your opponent is a big deal. Also, this was every man or woman for their self, no allies. If you stopped fighting one person, you had to worry about another foe coming up on your own flank. Mules are great at this kind of fight, as they typically turn much faster than most horses, and Buttons can turn on a dime and give you some change. We chased down opponents, spun in place and charged others and shot off at a run when I suspected I was being flanked, only to circle back in on our pursuers. Generally I was having a great time as I was finally feeling good. Buttons and I were the fourth from last to be eliminated. I was feeling good and ready for the joust finals that afternoon.  

 DAVE and Buttons in hot pursuit

When the finals began Jeff and Milly were breaking some lances for max points and running smooth as a team. I was feeling good and Buttons was riding nice and looking in great shape, not looking tired and maintaining gate nicely. All the conditioning and practice had both mules still strong on day three. I was not sick and my ankle and wrist pains were drowned by the adrenaline. So I felt jazzed to be jousting and everything seemed brighter after days of sick, stress and being miserable. Even the weather was cooler that day, with a nice cool wind. 

Everyone in the finals was getting some good breaks, so it could be anyone’s win that day, but I felt it was a mule’s time to win this. Jeff was going to have to work for it to beat me today. Finally it came time for Jeff and Milly to ride against Buttons and I. As I approached the lane, just before I took off, I yelled “Mule Power!” at the crowd and slammed the visor on my helmet closed, as we both grabbed lances and charged our mules at each other. We came together with a crash, almost as hard as the hit the day before that had unseated me.   I felt myself rock back and thought, “Oh no you don’t!” and righted myself into my seat. I was not about to be unseated again and not by my friend riding my other mule! We both roared with laughter after this titanic hit. We rode by to clasp hands as best friends enjoying this moment we had trained so hard to get to, and took our places to charge each other again for pass two of three.  

By now both Milly and Buttons had a huge following among the kids. We each spent a fair amount of time before and after each session with the kids and had told them if they cheered for the mules (not us) the mules would hear their names and run harder. Even through our helms we could hear them all alternating shouting “MILLY!!! MILLY!” and “GO BUTTONS GO!!”. Milly the draft mule thundered down the lane at Buttons. Buttons the Thoroughbred mule raced down the lane to meet her. Jeff and I struck each other another solid set of hits. I could see all the passes we had made in practice in these runs. Outside the tilt lane, as we passed each other to return to our ends of the lane for the final pass of three, we paused to shake hands again. I lifted my visor and said, “Hey, Jeff! You’re in the finals of Lysts on the Lake!”

He grinned and replied, “Hey, Dave! So are you!”

“One more pass?” I asked. 

“Yes, sir!” he shouted back.

We returned to our ends and raced at each other to strike each other boldly one more time that day. Both of us spent some time praising our mules, showering them with treats and thanking our very loud pint sized cheering sections of kids.

The scores would be announced shortly after. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I had run pretty well that day, and my mule had done far better than me. But I knew Jeff and Milly had done well, and so had a few others. It was a happy surprise when they announced Buttons and I had won first place in the joust! Jeff and Milly had taken fourth place, a noble showing for the pair in their first Texas joust. They then again honored Buttons and I when they announced we had won the Grand Champion of the tourney, meaning highest points total for all events at Lysts. They gave me a beautiful silver ring for the joust prize and a very awesome silver pin for the Grand Champion. 

We had many of the Joust staff and judges come to us after the event and tell us how nice it was to have two mules that were trained, safe, well behaved and knew their job (while some of the horses were acting crazy).  

A big thanks to my awesome wife Kris for tolerating my joust craziness and obsessiveness, and big thanks to all the Texas Joust staff, the ground crew and those who squired for Jeff and I. We can’t do all that without your help. 

Two mules went to the Texas joust and made it to the finals. One mule won the championship and joust. Chock up another set of wins for the mules of the world. Soon there will be a third mule jousting with us as our mule Rose continues to train. Hear that jousters? A mule storm coming at you soon!

Dave has started a gofundme account to help build an outdoor arena to hold free medieval practices for the mules and his students. See more at 


Jake Clark Mule Days 2017

by Lenice Basham, PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

The 20th Annual Jake Clark Mule Days was one for the records.  Not because of a record setting mule price – but for the quality of mules that were offered for sale this year.  This group was one of the best across the board that have ever gone through the sale ring.  Over 30 different mules scored a 100 on the trail course.  This wasn’t because the judges were handing out high scores, but because they genuinely deserved them.
The Jake Clark Mule Day experience begins on Wednesday with Mounted Shooting and ends on Sunday when the last mule exits the sale ring.  For those there to purchase a mule, this experience allows for five days of watching, riding, petting and talking mules with the sellers. As Jake encourages potential buyers in the catalog, “Please be sure to talk with the consignors, investigate the mules qualities and be honest with yourself about your abilities to get matched up with the right mule.” 
It would be hard to find a buying experience anywhere else that allows you such access and such observation of mules for sale. Buyers could spend months traveling from state to state and farm to farm and only see 10 or so mules. This event allows you to see 83 high quality mules in one place for five days. Buyers will have already targeted mules they are interested in through advertising in Mules and More and the online catalogue which provides extra photographs and links to videos of the mule that presents additional information. It really is an amazing experience for mule buyers,  one of the most unique experiences that buyers can’t get anywhere else in the world.  
Every mule that goes through the sale must go through the trail course. The obstacles are those that will help a buyer by providing skills that would occur when they get their mule home. The trail course requires saddling, bridling, loading in a trailer – certainly things that every buyer would need to see. There are obstacles like crossing downed timber, standing still, crossing a bridge, dragging a log, leading another mule, crossing a creek, going through a gate, and it ends with putting on a rain slicker. We have all been there when it starts to rain and somebody’s mule runs off when they are trying to put on their slicker. You might not think it is a skill you might want in a mule – but it sure comes in handy when it is necessary and you are caught in the rain.  The trail course provides buyers the opportunity to watch, take notes and eliminate mules on their list just as much as it allows for buyers to put a circle and a star next to the mule they love in the catalog.  
In order to get a mule in the sale, consignors have to be a repeat, reputable seller or submit a video and undergo a screening process to consign a mule.  Most sellers have consigned for multiple years.  Jason Wilf, Pleasant Plains, Ark., and Jeff Tift, Sheridan, Wyo., have been a part of the sale for almost every sale Jake has had in the 20 year event. Each year, about 10 new consignors are added to the list of approved consignors.  All consignors submit their mule’s information in January. Jake reviews each mule submission and those that do not meet criteria are excluded from the sale. His goal is to bring together the best quality mules in the industry. He sets up the entire experience to show the best qualities of the breed and each year he accomplishes this by bringing better trained and better minded mules to his sale. 
The high selling mule, a 6-year-old, 16.1 hand black mare mule, was consigned by Jeff and Christina Tift. The catalog listing indicated that the mule was a very classy coal black mule. Jeff really liked the mule and had used her for most everything on the ranch and in the mountains. He had roped cattle, started and flagged colts, hunted  and guided on her, rode her down the highway to church and just truly enjoyed her.  She was noted to have a good ground covering walk, be soft in the mouth and ribs and had a great neckrein. She was thought to be out of a Thoroughbred mare and a mammoth jack. The buyer spent hours talking and watching and visiting with the Tift’s during the week.  The mule brought $28,500 when she exited the ring. 

JEFF TIFT riding Raven, who he and wife CHRISTINA sold as the high selling mule of the sale. Raven was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Roger Haley of Ventura, Calif., for $28,500

There was a tie for the reserve high selling mule. Both PairADice’s Piper (consigned by Loren Basham, Belle, Mo.) and Miss Kitty (consigned by TJ and Jake Clark, Ralston, WY) brought $26,000.  PairADice’s Piper was a 10-year-old, 14.1 hand sorrel mare mule. She was an outstanding trail mule, the perfect size to get on and off of, and was stout enough to carry anybody. She had been ridden endless miles on the trail and would go anywhere you pointed her. She is going to make her new buyer the perfect trail riding partner.  Miss Kitty was a 6-year-old, 15.2 hand black with blue roan highlights, mare mule.  She was used in TJ and Jake’s strings for three seasons on the mountain, over an extensive number of trails during their summer and fall season both being ridden and being packed.  TJ used her all spring to ride on cattle and doctor calves.  They felt the best part of her was her terrific mind. 
Reserve High Selling Mules Piper and Miss Kitty, who both sold for $26,000. Piper was consigned and shown above at left by LOREN BASHAM. Miss Kitity was consigned by TJ CLARK and shown above with CORT Snidecor in the parade

*These are based only on the sale prices that were announced in the ring at the time of the sale. This does not include those mules that were declared as a no sale in the ring and then sold after the sale.
Under 14 hands:  $7,750 (only 1 mule)
14. to 14.3 hands $8,447 (24 mules)
15 to 15.3 hands $10,338 (34 mules)
16 hands $11,718 (8 mules)
John Mules  $8,900 (30 mules)
Molly Mules  $11,284 (36 mules)
Eight mules were passed out in the ring, and six of these sold outside before the sale was over
First time sellers:  Average $7,357.  The range was $3,000 to $18,500 for new consignors, with Chris Knudson as the highest first time seller at $18,500.  He rode his mule Barbie bareback and bridleless into the sale ring.  She was a 15.1 hand, 7-year-old, sorrel mare mule.  
The second highest first time seller price was $10,500 consigned by Ike Sankey, who sold Amanda, an 8-year-old, 16 hand sorrel mare mule.  
We had beautiful weather for the parade and rodeo on Saturday. The parade was again led by Codi and Colby Gines pack string. It is a beautiful thing to see 25 loose mules lead the parade, with the mountains in the background and the wind softly blowing. The rodeo was high action and a great fun-filled afternoon. If you have never seen a wild cow milking in action, you need to attend next year. It’s an arena full of cows, mules, cowboys/cowgirls and ropes – along with yelling, cussing and bawling cows and a lot of laughter.  The mule race was exciting again this year with Loren and his son Cole’s race mule, Betty, taking home the buckle. It is a tough race across a rock filled pasture that is no way a flat race track.  The mules start at the end of a pasture and race toward Jake’s barns and the arena. The crowd stands along the fence line cheering their favorite. Team roping was fast, serious and professional this year. With ropers like Matt Zacanella and Junior Deiz, along with the ropers that come all the way from Texas, with times of under five seconds the norm.  It is a lot of fun to watch. Alyssa Fournier from Oregon had the fastest pole and barrel run. She had nice runs at the rodeo, as well as at the barrel races all week held in the evenings. The rodeo is a family event – with all ages of the family competing in the day’s events. 

Between the family friendly atmosphere and the quality mules everywhere you look, this event is a great way to spend a beautiful Father’s Day weekend in Ralston.


LACEY WILF riding Loretta, a 6-year-old 14.1 hand mare mule who sold for $6,000

Wesley Wells, Missouri

Driving CodI and Colby Gines’S pack string down the highway to start the parade 

Consignors and exhibitors riding in Saturday’s parade

BRUCE HOHULIN, Morton, Ill., riding Lady A (left)

MARK BAILEY at Saturday’s rodeo

Are Your “What If’s” Causing Issues With Your Mule?

by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho

I had an interesting ride with some new acquaintances last week and it really brought home how a person’s attitude and perspective affect our equines. Our group consisted of myself riding my mule, Ginger, two experienced riders and a novice rider, all on horses. We were just walking along a nice country dirt road that all the equines had been on before. The main thing that caught my attention was how all three horse riders kept worrying about what their horses would do. For the entire ride the riders were constantly commenting on things their horse might spook at. Honestly, I really didn’t see that the horses were having any issues; they were just walking down the road. It was the riders that were constantly looking for spookies. They commented, “I can’t believe he didn’t spook at the sprinklers,” or “Wow, he didn’t freak at the four-wheeler,” or “That bird almost spooked him.” It was sad that they had such little trust in their equine partners and that they thought the horses were so spookie.  One gal even commented that her goal for the ride was to not get run away with or dumped. I don’t think they made one positive comment about their horses during the whole ride. They were too focused on the “what-if’s” to have any fun.
Actually if something had happened, it would have been a self-fulling prophesy. The riders were so intent on being “on alert” for anything that “might” spook the horses, that they were sending signals to the horses to be on alert, too.  Though the riders had little clue they were doing this. As I watched them, they were tense and looking ahead for “spookies.” As soon as they saw something of concern, they would tense up, hold their breath, take a tighter hold on the reins and stare at the object. For the horse, suddenly the leader on its back was on alert, so there must be something to be concerned about. As soon as the horse started trying to interpret this and look for the danger, the rider would tense up even more. It was a vicious circle. Then when the horse did react, the rider said, “See, I told you, he spooks at everything!”

 What if he spooks from the sea horse? Notice how the reins have gotten tighter, I’m leaning forward, there’s tightness in my shoulders and hands as well as tension throughout my body and my heels are turned into the mule’s sides. Though the mule tentatively approached the object, he didn’t do anything. But because of my tension, his ears are back, head up and tail swishing

The “what-if’s” can happen to anyone, any age or skill level. It’s a human thing and often we don’t even realize our insecurity is having an effect on our mules. In fact, we don’t even realize we are reacting in any different way but our mind says one thing and our body says another. We may think we aren’t concerned about something, but our muscles tense up, our breathing changes, our hands get stronger on the reins and we tend to stare at what is concerning us. Mules’ are very sensitive and can feel these subtle changes in our bodies and they react accordingly. 
I’m terribly prone to the “what-if’s” and have to work very hard to overcome them. I can come up with tons of negative scenarios when doing something new with my mule. Will she spook, bolt, jump, refuse to go forward? As I’m thinking of these things, my body starts reacting and then I feel my mule start to tense up. Thus, it’s actually my fault, not hers.
Overcoming the “what-if’s” is an individual process and each person has to find their own way to deal with it. But, the biggest step is to first recognize and admit to yourself that you have this problem. The power of our thoughts is very real and can influence how our mule acts. When talking about your mule’s behavior, what do you say? Are you positive or negative? Is everything your mule’s fault? Something I’ve noticed as an instructor is that as folks get older, they comment that their mule spooks more than it used to. Perhaps it’s the person that’s becoming more cautious and their mule is picking up on that.

Most folks don’t even realize how their body language changes when they start to think about the “what-ifs.” Here I’m relaxed with soft hands and working on light contact as the mule is willingly moving forward. My foot is lightly resting in the stirrup

The next thing is to work on not holding your breath and tensing up your body when riding past a “spookie.” Don’t look at it, focus on something in the distance and ride with purpose forward. Now, here comes the hardest part! Try not to pull on the reins. You can shorten them in case you need to use them, but don’t pull back. Push your hands forward to “allow” your mule go forward. If your mule is really sensitive, just clinching your grip on the reins is enough to communicate your anxiety. Personally, this is one of the hardest things to do since I’m just sure my mule will jump forward or take off.  It takes everything I have to actually keep the reins loose and not tense up.

Riding should be fun, but not if it’s turned into a dreaded challenge to get your mule down the road without him spooking at everything. If this has been happening, the next time you ride, spend some time really evaluating what you are doing. Are you looking for things your mule might spook at? Are you tensed up or holding your breath? Give your mule a break and consider that you might be part of his spooking problems. Your mule will thank you for it!

Shawnee Mule Ride

Mule riders from Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Georgia at Whiskey Cave on one of Angie's guided rides

Shawnee Mule Ride: 
Big Hearts Create Memorable Event
by Angie J. Mayfield, Loogootee, Ind.

Where can you see nearly 500 pretty saddle mules in one place, meet new mule friends, reconnect with old ones, enjoy a free meal and dance, and trail ride in the most scenic place in the Midwest? Well, only at the McAllister and Friends annual Shawnee Mule Ride, of course. The event grew by leaps and bounds this year with mule riders from 26 states and three countries visiting High Knob Campground to trail ride and explore the 280,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest from April 9-15. Some came the weekend before, some stayed a few days, and some stayed the entire event, but all left with new friends and memories of our scenic paradise in southern Illinois. 

This year, organizers added fundraisers to the event to help a little muleskinner in need. Briar Phillips, a 4-year-old mule rider from Kentucky, is suffering from kidney cancer, but his family came to the event to enjoy what Briar loves best, riding and camping. Big-hearted campers donated cash, plus saddles, hay, tack, drawings, artwork, welded horseshoe art, and other items for benefit auctions on Friday and Saturday and raised more than $10,000 to help Briar and his family. Brock Milam and Steve Dawson, who sold mules during the week, also donated a portion of their profits. It was a truly humbling, blessed week. As Anthony McAllister said, “This is what the mule world is all about.”
Anthony “Bull” and Cathy McAllister, who have been camping and riding at High Knob and Shawnee since 1983, their daughter Katie Eastin, and JoJo Moomey, owner of High Knob since 2009, were the main forces behind the event, working tirelessly to plan, prepare the 50-acre camp, advertise, and ensure everyone enjoyed their visit. They could be found each morning answering questions, going over maps, organizing and guiding rides each day, and loaning out tack and mules. Late at night, the McAllisters were visiting around the campfire, while JoJo was usually still checking in campers and making sure everyone had what they needed. With more than 160 sites, 80 covered stalls, water, electric, a laundry area, hay, tack supplies, and free coffee, she had it covered. JoJo was also kind enough to open her hay field this year to accommodate all of the riders and to close the camp to horse riders and mushroom hunters so we could have a true mule only event. JoJo’s sister, Sherry Richerson, served meals at the cook shack. Permanent campers helped guide rides. Kathy Lawless of Michigan organized the fundraisers, Roy and Beth Landers of Illinois donated the hog, Joe Hamp of Illinois cooked it, and Ival McDermott of New Jersey donated commemorative coffee mugs. Mule riders really are the best!
Some other highlights from the ride were the tack swap on Friday evening, with campers socializing, trading and selling tack, plus vendors, including Linda Brown with the Mule Store out of Pennsylvania, Beth Newmaster of Indiana from Mule Girls, Tucker Tack of Arkansas, and local Amish shops. In addition, Mary Steere Photography set up photo shoots at the ride all week. Then, everyone enjoyed a hog roast and dance on Saturday night. Little Tucker Mayfield opened up with “Down on the Corner,” singing and playing his banjo, before the Johnny Williams and the Steelherders Band took over with country and southern rock music.
Although anyone with a mule already owns a trophy and all of the mules were awesome (not one accident all week), I donated trophies and presented several awards at the event. The farthest traveled was Chris Hostletter from New Mexico (who drove 1,400 miles). The cleanest mule and stall was new this year and awarded to Brett Schwalb of Edwardsville, Ill. The orneriest mule went to Mark Allen’s mule Johnny Ringo of Missouri. The oldest mule rider was Dan Mickler, 81, from Lawrenceville, IL. Youngest riders (Li’l muleskinners who rode their own mule) were Briar Phillips, 4, of Kentucky and Tucker Mayfield, 7, of Indiana. The Prettiest Mule trophies were awarded to Tammy Bradley and Ophelia of Florida, first place; Brock Milam of Missouri and his two mules 4 Socks and Josie, second place; and Thomas Dessitel of Louisiana and the mule Cherokee (owned by Richie Ramara). Finally, the Best Trail Mule award went to Billy Frank Curry’s mule, Sonny, of Georgia. Curry is nearly blind, so his mule really takes care of him. Second place was of Keith Hawley of Tennessee. Third place was 13-year-old Taleya McVeigh of Illinois and her mule, Whippoorwill. Riding bareback and barefooted, she deserved first but we couldn’t make the guys look too bad. 
Of course, even with all of the fun activities, the best part of the week was helping a little boy in need and meeting new mule people and their beautiful long ears. It’s always great to see the excitement of first-time visitors after experiencing the phenomenal trail riding at Shawnee. Although some riders explored the trails on their own, others took advantage of the many organized rides scheduled each day for various landmarks, such as Garden of the Gods, Hurricane Bluffs and Initial Tree, Rice Hollow and Whiskey Cave, Dead Man’s Canyon, and others.
We were blessed with 70-degree weather most of the week. It rained one day, but it gave campers a chance to rest and relax, visit, and ride the ferry across the Ohio River to the Amish shops. 
There are so many to thank and so many memories to cherish from the 2017 Shawnee mule ride. Check out the High Knob campground website or McAllister and Friends Shawnee Mule Ride on Facebook. Make plans to attend next year. It will be the same dates, April 9-15. We’d love to meet you and your mule. Until then, Happy Trails. I’ll see you out there!

Mule friends Kelli French, Loree Brown, Dan Sheridan, Steve Dawson, and Jim Jacob having a good ride

Tucker and new mule Josie, bought at the Shawnee ride

The "outlaw" gang of mule riders shooting the bull: Anthony McAllister, Mark Duncan, Loree Brown, Jim Jacob, Dan Sheridan, Kelli Kaye French, Steve Dawson, and Rex Williams

Doug, Angie and Tucker Mayfield and their mules June, Sonny, and Booger

Taleya McVeigh, 13, and her mule, Whippoorwill, that won 3rd place for Best Trail Mule

Angie J. Mayfield is a professor, author, and lifelong mule lover who has ridden mules in 48 states and six countries and has logged more than 6,500 trail miles just since she started keeping track in 1999. If you’d like her to come try out your favorite trails or mule ride, contact her at

2017 Boyd Ranch Mule Ride

story and photos by Katherine M. Cerra, Buckeye, Ariz.
The answer to the question, “What do you carry in your saddlebag?” is age dependent. Me, being 56-ish, along with others in that age bracket, experience frequent reminders of injuries of the past when out enjoying ourselves.
Pain meds and Maximum Strength Flexall join my cache of first aid items, hoof pick and Leatherman Tool. The first two items are very much needed, so come the four-mile mark of a ride I don’t have the personality of a snarling coyote with it’s leg stuck in a trap.
And with age is suppose to come knowledge gained by experience. I’ll be darned though if I remember to thoroughly wipe the Flexall off my hands with baby wipes before using nature’s restroom. Being 16% menthol, I am here to tell you that by not practicing in thorough hand wiping, you will experience sensations where you probably shouldn’t be feeling any sensations. Oh my gosh!
So with my saddlebags packed, camera, GPS, extra batteries, my two mules Floppy and Izzy, and my trusty German Shepard co-pilot pup Sophie all loaded, we headed out to the Boyd Ranch Mule Ride, located north of Wickenburg, about nine miles east of Hwy 93 in the Wickenburg Mountains overlooking the Hassayampa river.
This was my fourth year attending the ride, which has been going on for five years now.  My first two years it was just Floppy and I, and then the third year I added my new mule Izzy. This year my 8-month-old pup Sophie attended. 
I love this ride because of the people and riding.  Though I started off not knowing anyone, it has since turned into more like a family reunion with good down-to-earth people.
Each year the “family” gets bigger. This year there were 64 riders and well over 70 some animals, so...lots of braying going on.
We’ve had a lot of rain here in Arizona, so with safety in mind some of the rides had to be altered due to the presence of quicksand in the Hassayampa, as well as some downed barb wire cattle fencing that was taken down by rushing waters.
On Thursday I went on Cathy’s 9.8 mile ride. There was a 697-foot difference between the minimum and maximum elevation with an overall 1,309-foot in ascents. We saw a coyote making a mad dash up the hillside across the way and a jackrabbit dashing up the hillside we were on. I think the jackrabbit was glad he wasn’t the main entrée on Mr. Coyote’s menu that day.
After the ride, Brad Pyles and his seven-month -old Rottweiler Chief joined Sophie and I for some play time in the Hassayampa. Sophie is a water diva and with her encouragement Chief joined in on the romping in the water.
Friday was the ride of rides: Scott’s now infamous ride into the Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness. I went on this ride the year before and it was pretty and challenging. Izzy was my mule of choice for the wilderness ride for both years.  This year Scott re-routed the approach into the wilderness, which got a thumbs up from me. The approach this time was along a jeep trail that runs up to and along the boundary of the wilderness (versus riding a wash the year before).
Once in the wilderness area we took the same trail as before, with the only difference being we didn’t cross the Hassayampa. The river was running pretty good, but it was running muddy and you couldn’t see the rocks and/or sand that lay beneath, so we trekked through some old mesquite and landed back on track. The ride was 22.2 miles with nine hours in the saddle and I think everyone’s bodies were reminding them of the time.  There was a 1,055-foot difference between minimum and maximum elevation with 3,320-foot in ascents.
The sharpest descent of the wilderness ride was the same spot as last year where we were left wondering what the heck happened to Scott. He seemed to have disappeared. Just mere minutes before he had told us to take our cameras out as the views were going to be awesome…only thing is he forget to tell us that the descent we were about to make was going to be a butt-pucker.   Seeing how I knew what to expect and I recorded the descent.
Arriving back at the ranch I, as I’m sure as others, was ready to roll off the saddle. And what a pleasant and most appreciated personal pit crew awaited my arrival; Dwight Beard, Donna Norgaard and Debbie Humphries. Thanks so much for your help!
I took the day off on Saturday and caught a ride in a wagon and milled around the ranch. Come 2 p.m. it was time for the Mule Ramble. I think the events (keyhole, barrels, ribbons and obstacle) were a nice mix, ran smoothly and enjoyed by all.  The highlight for me was watching the Masters of Driving (Dwight Beard, Donna Norgaard and Ray from Montana) strut their stuff in the arena. Ray, who I hadn’t met before, likes to leave an impression on people he meets and forever will I remember him as Spartacus, as he showed up dressed in Roman garb driving a chariot.
The Farewell ride was led by Bonnie, another awesome trail boss. Bonnie spends quite a bit of time on the trails in the area and found several spots where we could safely cross the Hassayampa River. Luckily, where we crossed, Floppy didn’t need his water wings. Mother Nature turned up the furnace on Sunday and I was glad we weren’t riding the Wilderness area that day! The Farewell ride was 10.3 miles in length, 648-foot difference between minimum and maximum elevation and 1,442-foot in ascents. This was one of the prettiest short rides. We rode up through a wash into a canyon that had yellow poppies all over the canyon sides.  Very, very pretty. Out on the trail enjoying the high temperatures was a Desert Tortoise. I always feel privileged when I see one of these creatures out in the wild. He had his head tucked in his shell as we passed and I could have sworn I heard him mutter “ass.” Yep, that’s what we’re riding buddy.
Too much to tell and some of which was missed, went on during the event;  music, gold panning, orienteering, a pirate maiden pouring shots, bonfire, socializing and a fox scurrying up a rock canyon.

What goes on, on the Hassayampa stays on the Hassayampa. And even if tales were to be told, one would never know the truth because as legend has it once you sip on the waters of the Hassayampa you never can tell the truth again.

Illinois Horse Fair

by Sue Cole, Senior Editor
photos by Lenice Basham. PairADice Mules
LOREN leading a young mule during a clinic
The 28th Illinois Horse Fair was held March 3-5, 2017 at the State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. This 3-day event is produced by Horsemen’s Council of Illinois located in Quincy. Theme for this year’s event was Horses & Heroes. 
A very reasonable advance admission fee could be purchased at a discounted rate, or at the gate for a slightly higher fee. This fee entitled those attending to all events on the grounds, including 40,000 square feet of “shop ‘til you drop” vendors booths selling fashion, tack, gear, equipment, beautiful trailers of all sizes and price, nutrition information for your mules and donkeys, along with a large variety of food for yourself. Along with all the entertainment, the admission fee entitled you to a full-color, educational program that included a schedule of the activities, as well as advertising for equine products and events.
Two separate arenas were in use for mule and horse clinics, along with breed and sport exhibitions, a stallion parade and horses for sale. Carriage and wagon rides were provided for those attending also.
During the weekend awards were presented to horse and horseman of the year. There was a celebration of veterans, law enforcement, first responders and therapy groups.
Clinics and educational programs were presented throughout the weekend, with Loren Basham of PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo. giving six individual clinics on Building a Braver Young Mule and Strengthening the Connection for Mature Mules. At Basham’s final clinic Saturday afternoon there was a packed house. Loren, and his wife, Lenice, were kept busy between clinics visiting with, and answering questions about mules, in the stall area. His choice of a mount for the weekend was an extremely personable 10-year-old sorrel molly mule, Mary Lou. Mary Lou is consigned to the upcoming Jake Clark Saddle Mule Auction in Wyoming.

We were glad to see mules included in this very entertaining, educational event. 

A demonstrator at the Horse Fair

LOREN working with a young mule


LENICE answers mule questions prior to the clinic

NASMA 2016 Year End Winners - Youth

2016 NASMA High Point Youth 10 & Under

2016 NASMA High Point Youth Donkey

2016 NASMA High Point Youth Mule - Top 10

(featured in our March 2017 issue)

Mules and More's 7th Annual Trail Riding Index

Here are our favorite suggestions for trail riding clinics, campgrounds, and trail riding vacations!
Pick up our April issue of Mules and More to see our full 7th annual Trail Riding issue!

Trail Riding Clinics

Building a Better Trail Partnership with Clinician Karen Lovell

August 5, 6 and 7, 2017
Rocky Mountain Mule Ranch, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta
This clinic is designed to improve the communication between you and your mule. You will work towards achieving this goal by building a strong and trusting relationship that will produce a willing and confident animal. Come stay at the ranch. 
Rocky Mountain Mule & Saddle Co.
Rocky Mountain House, AB, Canada

Overcoming Challenges with Your Horse or Mule with Wild Bunch Mule Co. 

April 28-29, 2017
Whiskey Ridge Ranch in Malvern, Arkansas
Address bad habits, fear, personality conflicts and obstacles in this clinic hosted by Mark and Jennifer Bailey. Instruction in the arena and on the beautiful trails of the ranch and surrounding properties Cost is $300 for two day's instruction with all meals included. Entertainment is proved for Saturday evening. Please RSVP for a clinic participant spot. Spectators are welcome and admission is $24 for two days. 


Fort Valley Ranch Horse & Mule Campground

Fort Valley, VA
Whether you are looking for a guided horseback ride on one of our sure-footed trail horses or bring your own horse, Fort Valley Ranch, nestled in the Massanutten Mountains of the National Forest, has the perfect setting.  We have miles of marked trails on the Ranch as well as direct access to trails in the George Washington National forest.  Hourly, half and full-day rides, as well as multi-day Ranch Packages, are available.  Centrally located in the Shenandoah Valley, minutes from Luray Caverns in Luray, VA and only 1.5 scenic hours from Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

Whiskey Ridge Ranch - Malvern, Arkansas

Whiskey Ridge Guest Ranch features guided and non-guided rides on scenic trails and ponds for fishing and swimming areas. Stalls and trailer hook-ups with water and electric are available. There is a 150 x 250 covered riding arena with bleachers with a full team roping set-up, barrels, poles, jumps and obstacles. Riding lessons are offered. Come ride with us!
Whiskey Ridge Guest Ranch

Buck Fever Camp Trail Rides - Southwest Colorado

Be on your own on trails, or be guided. Move cattle from one pasture to another. Camp in our wall tent, next to a pond with trout, or stay in our cabin. Or you can bring your living quarter trailer and stay in our camp with full hook-up, with a nice fire ring for your group, or put up your own tent.
Arrange for a chuck wagon dinner prepared for your family or group.
Arrange for a wagon ride, this would be an early evening ride, this would be an early evening ride to get a better opportunity to see elk and other wildlife and a beautiful sunset. 
Our ranch is 1,200 acres and borders BLM Land, so there is plenty of riding available. 
Bring your own mules and horses.
Call for details (661)303-0005. 

Turkey Creek Ranch - Newcastle, NE

Turkey Creek Ranch is a dream destination for horse riders. We offer two fully furnished cabins and a campground with electric hook-ups, picnic shelters, shower house, and horse pens. We have miles of mapped trails and an obstacle course you won't find anywhere else!
Call to reserve your spot today! Weekends fill up quickly! 


Riding Vacations

U-Trail's High Adventure Destinations

High adventure destinations and wilderness pack trips enrich and renew your spirit! Reconnect with the natural world on horseback: Gila Wilderness alpine adventures in southwest New Mexico; Unique and stunning destinations each day, including historical sites; Experience Ancient Indian Cliff Dwellings; Pristine solitude, clear running creeks and endless vistas; Observe elk and deer in camp

Attitude vs Strength

Stephanie proved to Ginger that, despite her physical size and strength, she was a strong, dependable leader that would follow through and not pussyfoot around about her intentions.  They have a relationship built on mutual respect

by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho

Physical strength isn’t everything, especially when dealing with mules. Some folks still believe that to handle a mule you need brute strength, bigger bits and chains on the halter. But that theory doesn’t apply to all mules, though granted, there are those that may need some stronger input. Often, one of the most basic things folks overlook when handling equines in general is attitude and follow through. 
Stephanie Middlebrook is one of my riders. She just turned 28, has cerebral palsy and might weigh a hundred pounds dripping wet. She’s been active with horses since she was five and believe me, this live wire doesn’t take any guff of any of our equines. She doesn’t have the physical strength, but she sure has the attitude of a lead mare, and the equines know and respect her. Though she is non-verbal and just communicates through sounds, Stephanie gets her message across. They also know she will follow through on any corrective action she might have to use.

Stephanie’s first mule encounter was with John, an older john mule that has now passed on. She rode him a bit and did lots of in-hand trail with him. Since they were doing so well together, we thought it might be fun for Stephanie to do an in-hand demonstration at the Salmon Select Mule Sale. So she was going to step up to Ginger, my show mule who’s an opinionated, aged molly. For me, Ginger has always been solid and does what she’s asked. So I thought she would be a good match for Stephanie. Ginger thought she was going to have other ideas.

We were in the trail area where Stephanie was going to lunge Ginger for the first time in the open. Stephanie had lunged her a little in the barn and that went alright. The open area proved to be a different story. Since things went well in the barn, I didn’t hesitate having Stephanie try in the open since the demonstration would be in a big arena. Stephanie held the lungeline and whip and I held the line about six feet behind her, basically to keep it from tangling around her. Stephanie always knows that if anything happens, she’s just to drop the line. Well, Stephanie sent Ginger out on the line and started her going around to the left. Suddenly Ginger snatched the lead and took off across the field, surprising both Stephanie and I. We both let go of the lungeline.  I hiked out, got Ginger and brought her back. Stephanie sent her out again and at the same spot, Ginger snatched the lungeline and was off again. She had never done anything like this before. 

I gathered her up again and Stephanie and I reviewed our strategy. Once was a fluke, twice was planned so we had to be ready for her. I told Stephanie to send her out again and at the spot she took off, to snatch the lungeline as hard as she could and yell “WA,” her sound for whoa. Stephanie sent her out again and at the same spot, we could see Ginger’s nose tip outward. That instant Stephanie pulled on the lungeline with all her might and as Ginger’s nose came inward she yelled “WA” at the top of her lungs! Ginger hit the brakes, her eyes grew big as saucers and she looked at Stephanie. I was trying hard not to laugh at Ginger’s expression.  Stephanie puffed up to her lead mare attitude, looked at Ginger and motioned her to come to her. Ginger did exactly as she was told. Walked up next to Stephanie and stood like a perfect lady. 

Stephanie sent her out on the lungeline again and as Ginger neared her escape spot, Stephanie shook the line, gave a verbal reminder and Ginger politely continued around the circle. Ginger got the message! It didn’t take brute strength, just attitude and timing. Stephanie proved to Ginger that, despite her physical size and strength, she was a strong, dependable leader that would follow through and not pussyfoot around about her intentions. Before long they were working various in-hand obstacles including very tight back throughs and bridges. And, for their demonstration, Stephanie worked Ginger on the lungeline, changed directions and even sent her over a small jump.

Last fall, Stephanie started working with Bonnie, first in the barn doing in-hand work and some obstacles. She’s been on Bonnie twice and this spring hopefully she will be riding her more often. This is a challenge for both of them. Because of Stephanie’s physical condition, she sits differently in the saddle, her leg cues are different and she uses her reins differently than we do.  Bonnie isn’t quite sure what’s expected of her and is having to learn a new set of rider cues as well as to understand Stephanie’s vocal language. And, Stephanie will have to figure out how to communicate her intentions to Bonnie. 

Watching Stephanie working with the equines often reinforces the fact that they are comfortable and respond well to a confident leader. It’s not a person’s size or physical strength, but their heart and attitude that make the best training tools. 
Walk with me! Bonnie confidentially walks with Stephanie off lead

Stephanie and Ginger doing their demonstration at the Salmon Select Horse Sale

Getta and Stephanie helping Bonnie get used to Stephanie’s verbal and physical cues

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 equine training problems.

Big South Fork, Tennessee: A Beautiful Fall Adventure

by Angie J. Mayfield, Loogootee, Idaho
Tennessee is a beautiful state, especially in the mountains when the leaves are changing colors and the air is perfect for a warm campfire. I physically mourned when I heard the gorgeous Gatlinburg area was on fire. As a kid that was our annual family vacation, and I have so many fond memories of the mountains and wildlife there. 
Another gorgeous area of Tennessee not, affected by the fires, lies further north, bordering Kentucky, and that is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It encompasses 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau and surrounds the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. With miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, there is a wide range of equine trails and other outdoor recreational activities. Rich with natural and historic features, it’s a great place to pack up the family and the long ears and spend a weekend or a week. 
There’s a lodge and several equine campgrounds in the Jamestown and Oneida, TN areas of Big South Fork. The first time we went we stayed at True West, which was very nice, but I must admit as an extreme trail rider I was a little disappointed at the wide, road-like trails. However, our November trip this year gave me a whole new appreciation for South Fork. This time we stayed at Honey Creek Campground, about 30 minutes north of Jamestown near Allardt. More secluded but with a bunkhouse, a clean, roomy shower house, and numerous stalls and electric campsites, we were impressed. And the owners are sweethearts who were so helpful and friendly. We even met some great mule Facebook friends from Nashville, Debra and Wilbur Brooks, who came over to visit, sit around the campfire, and listen to Tucker play the banjo.
The trails, however, really won me over to the Honey Creek area. The camp connects to 150 miles of scenic equestrian trails that vary from easy to OMG! We loved it. One trail was literally named the “Oh Sh**” trail, and some rock hopping was required. Little Tucker was with us, and he managed the trail fine, except when he lost his toy pistol and was quite upset. But we ended up finding it and then he was back to having a blast on his little mule, Booger. 
Many of the trails out of Honey Creek run along the beautiful winding White Oak River. The White Oak runs along the old O&W Railroad bed, which served the old mining and timber camps in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, and has since been turned into part of the park's equestrian trail system. After a firm swat on the rear, we convinced the mules to cross the old O&W railroad bridge over the river. It was quite exhilarating and great practice for our upcoming adventure to the Grand Canyon with our mules in March. 
Friday it was 73 degrees and sunny. Saturday it was 42 degrees and cloudy. And I thought 30 degree changes only occurred in Indiana! Thankfully I had packed our long underwear, gloves, and hats. The cold front didn’t stop us from riding 20 miles Saturday, making a big loop along the scenic overlooks and then following the river. Then we explored some of the more adventurous trails on the way back to camp, barely making it in by dark. Fortunately, it didn’t rain as predicted. The outcroppings, giant boulders in the river, and various flora from holly bushes and mountain laurel to pines and hardwoods were breathtaking and distracted us from the cold wind. Most of the trails were covered with a layer of colorful leaves or pine needles, and we didn’t see a soul on the trails all weekend. It was magical and one of the most relaxing weekends I’ve had in awhile. And oh, how good that campfire felt after the ride. 
Our trip reminded me never to let a first impression of a place be my last one. Big South Fork is definitely on our annual trip list now. It’s not far from home but offers great trails, scenery, and camps for all types of mule riders. There are also plenty of gravel roads and fire trails around to bring your wagons so we plan to bring our mini mule and cart next time. We’re going to spend a few days at Honey Creek and then drive down and ride at Cades Cove next year. My New Year’s resolution is to trail ride as many miles and visit as many places as I can, including the final two states in the U.S. I haven’t ridden in. So many trails, so little time! 

Angie J. Mayfield is an author, professor, and columnist for three magazines who has ridden in 48 states and six countries on her mules and logged more than 6,000 trail miles just since she started keeping track in 1999.
View from the O&W railroad bridge at Big South Fork

Doug, Tucker, and mules at the Double Arches near Honey Creek Campground

2017 Jack Index

Looking for a jack to breed to, or to buy a jack? 
Then save these two pages. Here is all the information you need, gathered in one handy spot.

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Mules and More Magazine