Cimarron "getting high" in 1989 - Photo by John Sheally III
by Max Harsha
Author of the Mule Skinner's Bible
This is the time of the year when you can get cabin fever...and some of us start thinking about getting a new mule.
A lot of what you should look for in a mule depends on your age and your experience with equine. The older you get the more you need to look at purchasing a very, very well broke mule. This mule should be one that won’t booger at anything or jump out from under you. This type of mule is few and far between and darn near impossible to buy, even if you happen to find one. Some of the best purchases I have made of this type of mule have come up due to a divorce or financial difficulties.
This would generally be a mule I had seen at one time and had told the owner that if they ever needed to sell their mule, to call me. When they would call, I could not get there fast enough to get ahead of the proceedings. Most of these people knew I would give a fair price, so they called me first.
Most of the mules I look for are under 15 hands, out of a smaller quarter-type mare and sired by a Spanish jack. The jack would generally not be over 13.2 hands, or at most 14 hands, but well made. Mules with good dispositions are usually out of mares and jacks with good dispositions.
There didn’t use to be as many mules with good dispositions as there are now. In the past, if a farmer had a mare with a bad disposition, he would breed her to a jack instead of a good stallion. Years ago, for some reason, many jacks had a poor disposition, so the resulting mule was ill-tempered, too.
So, when you are thinking about that new mule, look for one that is quiet and has a good disposition. If the mule is spooky when you walk up to him, or is head shy, leave it alone and look for another.
The photo on this page is of Cimarron, a mule I owned; she stood about 13.2 and I could coon hunt with her. She had a super disposition and all my kids learned how to ride on her. She was very intelligent and would stand perfectly still until the kids would get on. They couldn’t get her out of a walk until she knew they could ride well enough. She could sense how much they knew. One time my wife Pat and I went to go riding with some people. I saw that this man’s wife was very tense on the mule her husband had given her to ride. I asked if she was uneasy about the mule and she replied she was. Pat, who was a good rider, was riding Cimarron, so she and the lady traded mules for the ride. We were riding along and came to a little creek, which normally Cimarron would have loped across, but she sensed this lady couldn’t ride well and she walked down into the creek and back out like she was carrying a sack of eggs.
Cimarron was very athletic and Pat heeled steers off her. I headed off of a mule I called Cajun Miss. Irvin Williams of Moravia, Iowa, was putting on a mule show up in southern Iowa and he was also having a team roping at the same time. Well, I was just starting Cajun at heading and they were having a team roping over at Unionville, Mo., during the county fair. We decided to take Cajun to the fair to get her used to the crowd. It had just rained that day and the roping box was very muddy. I told Pat to get in the heeling box and get ready, as I knew Cajun was not going to stand good in the heading box. I told the gate man to not pay attention to my mule and when I nodded my head, regardless of where my mule was, to open the gate. Actually it gave Cajun a little advantage because as I was turning her around I would nod my head and she didn’t have time to bog down in the mud. There were 50 plus teams entered, all horses but Pat and I. We won the first go and Pat caught both heels on the second go, but we were out of the money. We got third in the last go, which placed us second in the average.