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Hello! I just joined this group because I am having some problems with my 14.2 14 year old black John mule. I bought him from a nice lady because he was meant to be a companion for her mare but the mare ended up hating him.

I was told that we was always at the gate for you and very friendly. I was sent walk, trot, canter and even him doing a small jump in some old videos she had of another girl riding him. She did warn me that he can be a bit pushy.

I brought him to my house and I rode him the next day at a walk on the road and he was perfect. In our beginning rides he was would walk fine (we only went on the road) but at random times during our ride he would turn into peoples driveways then stop and refuse to move forward. When I would ask him to go he would start backing up further into peoples driveways.

I started bringing a small crop on rides so when he would do it I would give him a light tap on the shoulder and he would immediately start leaving even though it was only a light tap. He no longer does that but the very first time I went to trot him he gave me a buck.

The previous owners said that he had never bucked before so I was shocked! I started doing lessons on him and the first lessons went great but they started putting me in the tiny ring with three other horses which made me nervous cause they were always so close and little kids were riding them.

He was also alone at his old place and we didn’t know if it was cause he was mean to others or something. I started just using there horse and practicing on him at home and once I got through cantering I was trotting alone on my mule in the back field.

I noticed he would get nervous out there and I was only able to ever canter him twice because of the bucking at the trot and I wanted to figure that out first. We only do one-three and a half mile rides but after a mile he gets agitated and wants to go home or bucks when I say no. Sometimes he wants to turn a certain way and I say no and he gives me a buck.

He’s thrown me three times now then I went back to groundwork. I did some round penning and he did walk trot and canter nicely and I also taught him to clear the fronts, clear the hinds, centered circles (he does not lunge and bolts when asked to trot on the lunge line), he also backs up nicely, softens at the poll and does nice lateral flexion.

I was wondering what you think it is? He does not respond to leg cues and seems to only know direct rein even though he came with a dog bone Argentine bit with a roller. I have been using it because he opens his mouth super wide so the bit goes through with the d ring I have.

Any suggestions?

He gets pretty anxious so I bought a second mule to be his buddy and now he’s super attached to her. Also the ground is frozen and icey so he is off work until the ice melts.

Also I had two other people try to ride him that were more experienced and one was super aggressive with him so he gave her a few good bucks and she bailed. A nicer girl rode him for only a little bit and he gave her a small buck too. Anyways, sorry for the long post but let me know if you have any advice!
 

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I don’t have experience with mules, but I would get his saddle checked for proper fit. Assuming you are using a different saddle then the one his old owner used on him in the videos of him being ridden, he could be bucking because your saddle doesn’t fit him correctly. I would also have a chiropractor out. My mare once started refusing to pick up one lead out of the blue, so I had a chiropractor come and adjust her. She picked up her correct canter lead no problem after that. Once you have any possible physical problems cleared up, I would start back into riding slow. Take him on short rides. Just walk and let him relax. Don’t push him farther than he feels comfortable with. You want to make saddle time and time spent with you enjoyable. So if he usually wants to turn back after 30 min., only ride for 20. Since you say he’s going to be off work since the ground is frozen, focus on getting any saddle fit issues cleared and have a chiropractor out. Groom him, do things he likes to do. Clicker training is something you could try with him as well. Please don’t do ground work and round penning to get him to respect you. Respect is not something animals understand. You are just going to teach him that when you’re around he’s unhappy and is forced into doing work.
 

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I don’t have experience with mules, but I would get his saddle checked for proper fit. Assuming you are using a different saddle then the one his old owner used on him in the videos of him being ridden, he could be bucking because your saddle doesn’t fit him correctly. I would also have a chiropractor out. My mare once started refusing to pick up one lead out of the blue, so I had a chiropractor come and adjust her. She picked up her correct canter lead no problem after that. Once you have any possible physical problems cleared up, I would start back into riding slow. Take him on short rides. Just walk and let him relax. Don’t push him farther than he feels comfortable with. You want to make saddle time and time spent with you enjoyable. So if he usually wants to turn back after 30 min., only ride for 20. Since you say he’s going to be off work since the ground is frozen, focus on getting any saddle fit issues cleared and have a chiropractor out. Groom him, do things he likes to do. Clicker training is something you could try with him as well. Please don’t do ground work and round penning to get him to respect you. Respect is not something animals understand. You are just going to teach him that when you’re around he’s unhappy and is forced into doing work.
Thank you! I was thinking about having a chiropractor out. I bought the saddle with him but it was brand new and not the saddle from the videos but I checked the fit and the lesson people commented and said that it fit nice. I have also used a different lighter saddle on him before and nothing changed. I only did the round penning to see if he bucked without me on him with just the saddle and didn’t really do it for respect. I was following the Ty Evans weekly mulemanship challenge videos. They have helped his ground manners a lot and hopefully help me teach the moves under saddle at some point
 

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I don’t have experience with mules, but I would get his saddle checked for proper fit. Assuming you are using a different saddle then the one his old owner used on him in the videos of him being ridden, he could be bucking because your saddle doesn’t fit him correctly. I would also have a chiropractor out. My mare once started refusing to pick up one lead out of the blue, so I had a chiropractor come and adjust her. She picked up her correct canter lead no problem after that. Once you have any possible physical problems cleared up, I would start back into riding slow. Take him on short rides. Just walk and let him relax. Don’t push him farther than he feels comfortable with. You want to make saddle time and time spent with you enjoyable. So if he usually wants to turn back after 30 min., only ride for 20. Since you say he’s going to be off work since the ground is frozen, focus on getting any saddle fit issues cleared and have a chiropractor out. Groom him, do things he likes to do. Clicker training is something you could try with him as well. Please don’t do ground work and round penning to get him to respect you. Respect is not something animals understand. You are just going to teach him that when you’re around he’s unhappy and is forced into doing work.
Oh and I did incorporate carrots into his ground work when I was teaching him the moves
 

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I have always been told that Mules are not the same as horses. They take a special kind of rider and if you are not a mule person they know. That doesn't mean you can not be a mule person - but you have to learn to be one.

One of my trainers has won several championships at the bigger mule shows and he let me ride his at state fair one year. She was really neat but I could tell she was just babysitting me.

She actually was entered in an AQHA Versatility class that year and won. The horse that placed under her was a Mustang I think. Then the QHs came in.

My farrier is also a big mule person and he says the same thing. You have to speak mule so my suggestion would be to try to find other mule people to help you out...
 
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I have always been told that Mules are not the same as horses. They take a special kind of rider and if you are not a mule person they know. That doesn't mean you can not be a mule person - but you have to learn to be one.

One of my trainers has won several championships at the bigger mule shows and he let me ride his at state fair one year. She was really neat but I could tell she was just babysitting me.

She actually was entered in an AQHA Versatility class that year and won. The horse that placed under her was a Mustang I think. Then the QHs came in.

My farrier is also a big mule person and he says the same thing. You have to speak mule so my suggestion would be to try to find other mule people to help you out...
He has taught be a lot about mules and how you have to make them think it was there idea. Like when he would stop on a trail so I would circle him until he decided it was better just to continue down the trail. The I find them strangely like horses though and obviously not all mules are alike. The two mules I have now are complete opposites! I love them both equally though because they both have different good and bad qualities. I live in New Hampshire so mule people are rare and I don’t know of anyone else who would be willing to help
 

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My thought is saddle fit as well. Using a different saddle on him once won't tell you anything. If he's sore he will still "act up". Bad fit creates sensitive and sore areas and those can take a while to get better if he's been ridden in an ill-fitting saddle a lot. You could post pictures here for people to have a look at, but I would recommend a professional saddle fitter. It sounds to me like there is an underlying problem and you won't be able to get rid of the behaviours you don't like unless that problem gets fixed - training doesn't fix pain.
Best of luck!
 

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My thought is saddle fit as well. Using a different saddle on him once won't tell you anything. If he's sore he will still "act up". Bad fit creates sensitive and sore areas and those can take a while to get better if he's been ridden in an ill-fitting saddle a lot. You could post pictures here for people to have a look at, but I would recommend a professional saddle fitter. It sounds to me like there is an underlying problem and you won't be able to get rid of the behaviours you don't like unless that problem gets fixed - training doesn't fix pain.
Best of luck!
I have tried giving him long breaks and seeing if it would help in case he was sore but he still bucked and I have tried bareback twice and one time he bucked me off an the other time we only did it for like 5 minutes. I am planning on getting a chiropractor out here before I start riding him again and hopefully it will stop. He got real nervous acting on our rides before so I don’t know if it’s from pain or because he was alone and felt threatened. I am thinking about borrowing a small arena (after he gets adjusted of course) and tying him buddy to the gate to hopefully calm him. What are some signs that the saddle doesn’t fit? I tested to make sure that the saddle doesn’t rock or move side to side. Here is a picture of him without the saddle and with my tack set up. I don’t have ones that show saddle fit yet but I can take some later. Also I haven’t measured him compared to the gullet but I will also do that later. On rides my saddle seems to slip from side to side but it doesn’t without the pad. Do you think that means it’s too narrow?
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Many mules have a roached spine. There was an excellent video by a mule rider on how he makes a pressure relieving cit out in his wool pads for his mules.

found it
May not be your issue but it seems there are a few differences in fitting mules from horses, there are a lot of videos on mule fitting that may give you an idea what’s wrong.
 

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Many mules have a roached spine. There was an excellent video by a mule rider on how he makes a pressure relieving cit out in his wool pads for his mules.

found it
May not be your issue but it seems there are a few differences in fitting mules from horses, there are a lot of videos on mule fitting that may give you an idea what’s wrong.
I have actually watched that video and a few others like it! He does not seem to have a reached back and his spent is not raised up further than his flesh. When I started riding him I didn't use a rear cinch only a crupped but now I use a britchen and a rear cinch.
 

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I'm not familiar with mules, but it may be a pain issue, with the bucking. Have you tried doing some groundwork, and seeing if he bucks then also?
 

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I'm not familiar with mules, but it may be a pain issue, with the bucking. Have you tried doing some groundwork, and seeing if he bucks then also?
Yeah I said in the original post that I have been doing ground work and I round penned him with the saddle on to see if he would buck then also. He didn’t behave badly at all but he did show he was a bit barn sour.
 

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Thank you! I was thinking about having a chiropractor out. I bought the saddle with him but it was brand new and not the saddle from the videos but I checked the fit and the lesson people commented and said that it fit nice. I have also used a different lighter saddle on him before and nothing changed. I only did the round penning to see if he bucked without me on him with just the saddle and didn’t really do it for respect. I was following the Ty Evans weekly mulemanship challenge videos. They have helped his ground manners a lot and hopefully help me teach the moves under saddle at some point
I would definitely have saddle fit checked. Your trainer and people in your lessons probably aren't professionals, and although they might know a few things about saddle fitting, they can still be wrong. I would also see if you could find a saddle fitter who had experience with mules. If it is saddle pain that's causing him to buck, its probably also making his back sore. So even if you were to ride him bareback or in a different saddle that fits, it might still hurt him. Saddle pain would also condition him to link pain with you riding him, so even if you were to give him time off and let his back heal (assuming it is a saddle fit problem), he would react negatively even though health issues have been cleared up. I really hope you find out what's going on!
 
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