I have recently become very interested in mules, I would love to ride one just to see what it was like. I've also been looking online, mostly browsing and wishing I had more money, to see about buying a trail mule.
So, if you have a mule, tell me about him/her, what do you do with your mule? How are they very different than horses? Photos are very welcome :)
I don't own one, but I used to compete against a couple.... they won EVERYTHING. Gah. Those were the most well-trained beasts i've ever seen! If you train one correctly they'll do anything for you. Plus they're so darn cute! However, very few people have the patience or experience needed to take a mule to that level, so i'm still sketchy about the whole thing.
The guy who owned them did tell me that they are great trail mounts. They tend to be a little bit more sure-footed than horses, and his were a lot less spooky. His were also trained not to step on you, which he demonstrated for me, lol. If I lived somewhere in the mountains where I could trail-ride all day I would 100% buy myself a mule. I think they do ok in other disciplines too, but if I remember correctly they're a bit different from horses in that their chest muscle is connected ( horses have two)...which makes their gaits a tad bit weird to sit. Dunno 100% if this is true though.
I absolutely love mules, and would recommend a well-trained one as a trail mount =)
Mules make very good mounts with the proper training. The only thing is that most horse trainers can't train a mule. They have a different way of thinking and you have to handle them differently than you do a horse. We've had driving mules around pretty much all my life though we've only had a couple that were ridden as well. If you can get a good one, then they are dang good, but if you get a bad one, then they are dang bad.
Mules, in general, are smarter than horses than tend to really think things through before reacting. But, that can be a bit of a problem during training because you can't just tell them to do something the way that you can a horse. They need to see a good reason to do what you are asking them to do. The best suggestion I have for a first time mule owner (even if you are very experienced in the horse world) is to get one that is already well trained. It will cost more than a horse with comparable training but it will be a lot less frustrating than trying to figure out how to train them on your own.
This is the only mule that I've had the opportunity to ride very much. He was a part of a driven team but his mate died from West Nile and my Dad broke him to saddle after that. He was certainly an interesting ride LOL. His gaits did feel different than a horse. They weren't uncomfortable or hard to ride, just different.
I am not a trainer by any stretch of the imagination but I can totally understand an animal needing a good reason to do something. If I got one I would get one experienced with trails and already broke to ride, I don't think I could handle training one.
I rode a reining mule once at a clinic, while the trainer giving the clinic rode the stallion I brought to the clinic. A privilege, I was honored. This trainer had mules competing against horses in reining and the mules were winning. I believe this trainer was the president of BC chapter of NRHA. Anyways she said when her mules won, some people would make snarky remarks, she would tell them to take their horses home & then bring them back when they were trained good enough to beat her mules. I loved that gal, ended up taking my then 3yr old to her for training, not only because she rocked as a trainer, but she had a sharp tongue.
I have always loved and admired mules. I WILL have a gaited mule one day when I can afford one .
I used to do a lot of organized trail rides (hundreds of riders). The mules would outshine the horses. I remember specifically one instance where a man was trying to get his mule to go through a huge mud/water puddle. The mule refused. Finally a guy on a horse offered to go through first so the mule would follow (yeah right). The horse willingly walked in and instantly sunk to its belly in mud. That mule was no dummy!
They are smarter and they remember EVERYTHING. So everything you do with them, they will retain. Training and handling methods are different and should not be left to the novice mule owner. Buy one completely finished, experienced and exposed from someone who is willing to teach YOU how to work with the mule and have the best relationship possible with him.
Something else to consider is they have a natural aversion to dogs many times. Some do and some don't, but those who do will hurt or kill a dog in its pasture. This is important to ask if you ride with your dogs or bring dogs to the pasture with you.
The only thing I have to add is that mules, like donkeys, have an exceptionally strong survival instinct. This is where their "stubborn" reputation comes from. They won't walk off a cliff because you tell them to. They won't climb a steep hill with bad footing that puts them at risk to slip, no matter how much you try to force them. Bottom line is you can't force a mule to do anything, you have to bargain with them. :)
I have loved mules for a lot of years. I never had much experience with them until working as a trail guide at a ranch for a few years. We had several mules in the string, and I developed a real healthy respect for them. As long as they were well treated, they have amazing work ethics, and they would go farther, longer, and stronger than any horse on the property. They are also, IMO, a much smoother ride than most horses. I actually don't get all the rage behind gaited mules....a mules natural gait is so smooth already!
This is Lola, my *est. Somewhere between 1 and 2 year old molly:
I have a mule named Sugar who you can see in 'my barn' She definitely has a lot more personality than the horses and has always been pretty easy going. She loves people and was very easy to teach to lead. She was also the easiest to teach to lift her legs for the farrier. She can be a pain at times, but she's extremely lovable. Posted via Mobile Device
I don't own any but I work with 3 of them, Dick, Richard, and Belle.
They are pretty well trained but if they don't want to move you aren't moving them, and if they don't want to stop your not stopping them. But once they are trained they are great. All three of them ride bareback with a bridle and solid snaffle. They are nice but pushy if you don't train them.
Their gaits are a bit more choppy, cross a donkey's weird gaits with a horse's normal gaits and that is kind of what you get, the trot it a weird choppy, bouncy gait, at least in our mules, who are Belgian x Mammoth Jack Stock bred.
However they are sweet and love treats and are a dream to work with on a good day, however occasionally you get bad days, like last week the owner's 8 year old son tried to ride Dick and he just kept trying to buck him off, so we put him on Belle and the owner got on Dick and made him behave.
However they don't normally put a lot of force into bucking it is usually just a small cow hop.