No Foot, No Mule

by Marlene Quiring

Ponoka, Alberta, Canada

Daisy, who is now sound, giving family members a ride, including a two-year-old grandson who cried when he had to get off to give someone else a turn

Ignorance is not always bliss! As a child I was always ‘’horse crazy’’ but never had the opportunity to even be around them. Once I left home, the first thing I did was to go out and buy a horse and I was very lucky as that mare turned out to be a gem. Now, having raised mules for a good part of my married life, I find I still have a lot more learning to do. In this case, it was a long overdue lesson in the importance of a properly trimmed and balanced foot.

Out of the many mules I have raised over the years, one I kept is Daisy, now a 16-year-old sweet natured molly that allowed me to train her to ride and drive with the help of several friends. However, her “working career’’ has been rather short lived. She got very ill when she was young and our vet was never able to determine what was wrong with her but she did recover. Then, a few years later I had to take her for surgery as she had become a “roarer’’ which meant she was easily winded if asked to do too much of anything. That surgery was almost a disaster, but with about 75 percent recovery from that she was useful again.

After that Daisy spent most of her adult life being off and on lame. Her soundness seemed to come and go. I’ve spent my share of money on x-rays, examinations, massage therapists, chiropractors etc., trying to find out the problem and treat symptoms. Nothing ever really showed up except stiff and sore shoulders and with what I know now, that only makes sense.

Last spring, while Jerry Tindell, horse and mule trainer, from Oak Hills, California was in Alberta teaching at the clinics sponsored by our Alberta Donkey and Mule Club, I had him take a look at my 28-year-old saddle mule Smokin’ Joe. Jerry has also been a horse and mule shoer most of his life so I figured he might know why Joe was not moving like he use to. Smokin’ Joe had been totally sound until last year when he became ouchy on his left front. Other friends, experts and farriers had checked him out with only limited success as to why he favored that foot.

Necessity being the mother of invention: Put one welder, one farm tractor, and one farrier together and you can modify a shoe
Jerry checked his feet and showed me that Joe’s heels were under slung and were contracting, especially on his left front. He had too much toe and his heels were unbalanced and had been allowed to get lower and lower. Without the aid of proper farrier tools, Jerry and my husband Roy (a welder) managed to modify a pair of shoes that would help Joe. Jerry trimmed Joe’s toes shorter, made sure he was balanced side to side and put shoes on him that gave him more heel support and would allow for his foot to spread out and stop the contraction of his heels. He also put pads on his feet for added protection. Joe was sound immediately and has stayed that way.

Now when a farrier comes to do feet, I insist that Joe be trimmed and shod as close to what Jerry did as possible. What a lesson for me this has been. Just because someone is a farrier, and even if they have been one for many years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they always do a good job of trimming mules or donkeys and may even do poor jobs on horses too. It’s up to us as owners to ask questions, give our input and work together with our farrier and vet. If neither is open to our input, it might be time to find another.

After seeing the help that Smokin’ Joe received from Jerry’s trimming and shoeing, I had him take a look at Daisy too. Guess what? Daisy had much of the same thing going on, also the left front being the worst. So we built more shoes and did more proper trimming. Daisy had been lame this last session for most of the year. It was painful to watch her move some days and when she got up from a rest, she moved like she was riddled with arthritis. Jerry said this may not be the complete fix to her problem, but it should help and only time would tell. She too had under slung heels and unbalanced feet. The next day, Daisy was moving easier and by the time she was due to be reset, she was moving 80 percent better.

Having my current farrier follow Jerry’s work on her feet, she was reset to the same degree and in another few weeks, I couldn’t see that she was unsound at all. Roy got out his saddle and we went for a ride and Daisy moved out 100 percent. What a change from a mule that suffered daily just to get around to one that floated over the ground. You can’t imagine how awful I felt that Daisy had suffered all these years because no one recognized what was going on with her feet.

Now, because of one person’s knowledge and care, Daisy has been given a new lease on life. Never would I have thought that it was actually such a simple basic thing as improper and out of balance trimming. I always felt that Daisy’s feet especially did not look “right’’ after a trim job…I should have listened to that instinct years ago! My mules and I owe Jerry Tindell a great deal of gratitude for the work he did on them and his willingness to help when no one else had been able to help.

Jerry says that it’s safe to say that in most cases, mules and donkeys may require a steeper hoof angle than a horse. If proper angle and toe length according to the angle of shoulder is not correct, the animal will develop movement problems and could contribute to lameness. Improper trimming over time can cause a scenario similar to my problems above with my mules.

Jerry suggests that owners communicate and get more involved with the work their farriers do on their animals. It may also be necessary to consult with your vet and make sure that both professionals are “on the same page.’’ A good farrier will take into consideration your concerns, and should be open to working on something that doesn’t seem quite right to you. Your vet may also need to be consulted to make sure that there is not some other reason for the lameness.

Jerry’s solution was to shorten up her toes giving her a steeper angle, which she needed to give her an easier "break-over" point. She also got shoes with trailers, also wide enough to leave room for expansion all around. Notice the big gap at the back of her heel, now given support with the longer shoe. Many farriers are leery to do this as they feel it is too easy to then pull a shoe, but in these cases, the support must be there and we had good luck with keeping the shoes on until the next reset. She didn’t require pads, as we would not use her until she was sound.

If you have questions or concerns about your own stock and their soundness you are welcome to contact Jerry by phone at 760 403-3922 or email him at his website at Jerry would be glad to answer any questions anyone has regarding their stock.

Marlene is a long time mule fancier and resides with her husband Roy, 5 mules and 4 retired brood mares at their home in Ponoka, AB. She has been a member of the Alberta Donkey and Mule Club for many years and has been their newsletter writer for almost as long. You can contact her at

Becoming a Great Student

 by Jerry Tindell
Horse and Mule Trainer, Oak Hills, CA
Howdy friends and neighbors. Have you ever taken a class to improve your skills or to learn something new and came away wishing you had gotten more out of it? Maybe there were distractions like someone sitting next to you who can’t wait to tell you their troubles or their life story. Or even worse, they are telling you how much they know about the subject and are talking over the person you are there to learn from. It is very distracting and very annoying. I know because I have been there.
We take classes and attend clinics because we love our mules; we want to improve our skills, confidence, and courage. Being both a student and a teacher, I have benefitted from both aspects of the learning process. The teacher is there to share their knowledge with the student and has certain expectations for them. The teacher expects them to come to class and be ready to learn, to be an active participant, and to apply what they have learned in the lesson by practicing. The teacher is there to help you succeed. So how can we improve our learning as students? It really falls into three categories: before, during, and after the lesson.
Once you decide you would like to take a class, do some research. Find out about the teacher’s style. Is this someone you want to watch, learn, and take advice from? Once you decide to sign up for a class with him or her, find out what will be covered in the class. Is it something that pertains to what interests you? What do you want to get out of the class?
Prepare yourself before you arrive. Leave your problems and worries at home. Come with an open mind; leave your opinions at the barn and expect to learn something new. When you arrive turn off your cell phone or put it on silent. This way it won’t distract you or anyone else. Once the class starts stay focused. If someone is distracting you, move away from them. It’s your time and money, so make an effort to get the most out of it. Apply yourself and become actively involved with 100 percent commitment. Take notes; ask questions and get clarification; ask for help with your specific problems. However, do not ask for advice if you have no intention of taking it. We need to be open minded and be willing to accept what the person might be there to teach us. Take the advice if you like it; if you don’t, then leave it alone, but at least give yourself the opportunity to do one or the other. Be open minded, because if you are going to stick with your own opinion it doesn’t do any good to show up and ask for someone else’s opinion anyway. So be willing to listen and apply, or to consider those changes that might be necessary.
When you get home review your notes within 24 hours. You might remember more than what you wrote down. Build an outline, create a plan, and use it. Be willing to try something new or be willing to consider changes to make improvements. As I mentioned, I’m a student and I consider myself a great student. Do you know what the difference is between a good student and a great student? A good student is a person that studies during class. A great student is a person that studies in between classes. So become that great student. You will get a lot more out of your lessons and they will have more meaning to you.
I think it motivates the person that you are learning from when the students are more engaged. The next time you are able to go and work with someone be prepared; be attentive and serious; apply yourself and be willing to work toward your goals. Enjoy spending time with your mule, have fun, and don’t get a kick out of it.
Jerry Tindell of Tindell’s Horse and Mule School is a professional horse and mule trainer. He has been training and shoeing horses and mules since 1971. His unique training abilities help mule owners understand and apply proven techniques to communicate in a soft, safe, and secure manner with their animals. He can be reached at, or by phone at 760.403.3922, or by email at