Horses vs mules for trail/packing

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Horses vs mules for trail/packing

This is a discussion on Horses vs mules for trail/packing within the Trail Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category
  • Mule or donkey for trail riding
  • Breed of horses for packing on trails

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    12-15-2012, 07:01 PM
Horses vs mules for trail/packing

I know this is a horse forum, but I'm considering buying a couple mules for pack and saddle animals for a trip on the Great Western Trail. I was hoping to get comments from folks with experience with both horses and mules on the trial as pack and saddle animals. I have very little experience with mules, but what experience I have had has been good. Up until recently I have always packed horses.

Many of you are aware that I am planning a pack trip for 2015 on the Great Western Trail. I have started the process of collecting gear and getting plans laid. I am still not certain I have the right horse for this trip. If I decide she's just not the right animal, I may end up going with a mule as a saddle animal instead of a horse. Having a hard time with the decision, as I have always enjoyed the relationship I have with a horse. I have been told a good mule is like getting the best of a good horse and a good dog all in one. I think I would like that.

Your comments and advice would be appreciated.
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    12-15-2012, 07:04 PM
Mules can be awesome. Some not so much. Just
Like horses. Mules can and will handle worse terrain then a horse
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    12-15-2012, 07:35 PM
I was around mules some when I was younger(definately not an expert LOL), a guy that I started colts for when I was in high school was an 'ol mule skinner :) He liked riding a horse, but packed mules. From what I understand mules will get attached to a horse rather than other mules. He used to ride a mare that he used as a "bell mare" and could turn them loose in a meadow at night and they would stick around.

Good Luck on your ride!
    12-15-2012, 11:40 PM
Originally Posted by COWCHICK77    
I was around mules some when I was younger(definately not an expert LOL), a guy that I started colts for when I was in high school was an 'ol mule skinner :) He liked riding a horse, but packed mules. From what I understand mules will get attached to a horse rather than other mules. He used to ride a mare that he used as a "bell mare" and could turn them loose in a meadow at night and they would stick around.

Good Luck on your ride!
I've read that (mules bonding with horses), which is why I am still considering riding the horse and buying two pack mules. I've also been told a mule will bond to it's handler, much like a dog does, if it is handled well. That intrigues me, as I tend to bond with my horses more than they bond with me. I suspect a lot of us do.

Also, I'm not totally convinced that a mule can handle tougher terrain than a horse. I've had horses in some mighty tough terrain that have handled it pretty well. I am pretty confident that if both horse and mule are trained similarly they are both pretty capable critters. I am aware, however, that mules have a different response to danger, which may make them a bit safer in difficult circumstances. From what I gather, a mule's response to danger is to freeze, whereas a horse's normal response is to RUN!!! I can think of a number of circumstances wherein that would definitely be a virtue.

Having said that, I know of one instance in which my brother-in-law (who used to own several mules) was riding with a friend looking for shed elk antlers. They rode down a gulley and came to a sharp dropoff of about 4 feet. My BIL's mule never hesitated, but simply slid his front legs down off the drop until he was sitting on his haunches and his front feet touched the bottom of the dropoff, then he slid his haunches off the dropoff. No problem and didn't even have to jump. His buddy on the horse had to go nearly a mile to go back and around the dropoff. Now, I don't think my horse would do it quite as slick as that, but I'm pretty sure I could get her to hop down that drop without too much ado.
prairiewindlady likes this.
    12-16-2012, 09:02 AM
I pack both horses and mules. I pull my string about 500 miles every august. There are good horses and mules and there are bad horses and mules. If you are looking for good mules try and make the Salmon select horse and mule sale in Salmon ID mid April every year. If you have any gear or packing questions feel free to email me at its all we do !

stevenson likes this.
    12-16-2012, 10:39 AM
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Not very relevent, but I do think that my mules might be mixed up! XD Two out of the three have almost no use for horses and would rather hang with eachother or the donkey.
    12-16-2012, 10:53 AM
My mules love their mares !!!!
    12-16-2012, 11:03 AM
I'm partial to horses for several reasons. One, I like gaited stock, and very few mules are truly well gaited. Two, I've seem more serious accidents form mules being stubborn than from horses. Three, mules seem to be much slower to respond to training than horses, and require different training methods.

I have not found one to be any better or worse at handling trails, even difficult ones. This is more an individual trait. Never found anyplace our horses would not go that a mule would.

A good gaited horse can also be a good pack horse, not very likely with a mule.

In either case, if your going to ride challenging trails in the mountains you want a dependable mount, that's sure footed and well trained. No place for a green one of either species.
    12-17-2012, 10:15 AM
I don't own mules. So my opinions is probably not worth much. But I have ridden with others on their mules and never had a problem going where they went. One spring I rode the Green River Utah trail ride. The leaders of the ride were all on mules. We came to a section of ledges and they told all the horse ridders to get off and lead their horses, But the mule riders could stay mounted. I thought that was pretty biased advice. So I stayed on my green colt and went over the ledges just fine. Just to prove that even some young horses can easily do what an old mule can do. It's more about the training the animals personality than it's breed.

Here are some of the horse riders climbing back on their horses

This was public open ride with folks from all walks of life and experiences, But everybodies horses were dropping off steep embankments

Wes Taylor puts on the Extreme Outlaw rides in Southern Utah and most of his rides are mustang horses and he rides with the mule riders all the time

So as far as go any where, I think the horses can go most the same places the mules go. As far as other attributes. I think on a 1500 mile trip like you are planning, any equine will need shoes or boots. You can't ride 25 miles a day for 60 days straight on barefeet. Horse or mule. Forage, Maybe the mule dan do with rougher forage than the horses. If you are depending on graze in desert areas, The mules might have an advantage.

As far as packing, We have used both animals. The mules do well as packing, But then my mares do a pretty good job also.

I think the bottom line is you need to find your livestock and be comfortable with them. If you have plans for mules beyond your one summer ride. Great get the mules. If you need saddle horses, then buy saddlle stock and teach them to pack.
Dustbunny likes this.
    12-17-2012, 10:33 AM
Originally Posted by TrailheadSupply    
My mules love their mares !!!!
our too...a little too much. Lol.

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