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Young Trail Mule
SOLD 1/1/2007 Brn Mule
Sorrel Molly SOLD
Sorrel John SOLD
 
Our Mule Training Program
at Equines by Design
"To train a mule, you have to be smarter than the mule."

We have been raising and training quality saddle mules for almost 30 years now, more years than that with horses. We've learned a lot about what works...and doesn't work!...with these intelligent animals. You have to "out-think" a mule, not "out-muscle" them!

We don't take in outside mules for training--we have more than enough mules of our own here that need to be worked with. And we are able to work with our mules on a time table that works for them...we don't have to push them to make them into a "30 day wonder", we take the time it takes!

We start and train our mules in a simple smooth snaffle.  We don't rely on some special bit that "has 4 points of pressure" (e.g.bars of the mouth, curb chain, poll and rope noseband) or gimmicks --we teach the mule how to respond to the pressure and release of the snaffle.  It's not the bit--its the training that makes a difference in whether or not you have a mule that you can force around in the direction you want to go...or have one that is a willing partner.

Our training techniques are based on natural horsemanship principles. We are fortunate to have been able to devote time and energy to learning from and riding with great horsemen such as Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman and Peter Campbell. Their experience and expertise in working with the equine mind, rather than physical force, have helped us work with our mules in a way that develops them into a "willing partner".

We also ride with the best trainers in each discipline that we can find. Lou Moore-Jacobsen out on the west coast is tops in her field - hunter/jumpers - whether it be horses or mules! Bar S Quarterhorses here in Texas helps us with the reining mules -- and an incredible support in many other areas! And a noted dressage instructor helps me work toward a better understanding of "dressage", the french word for a "system of training", this system is several hundred years old! We enjoy "ranch roping" (quite different from competition roping) and use the rope and work with cattle to settle the mules.

Our mule training program may be a little bit different than the brags and claims of some horse and mule breeders. We raise quite a few mule colts here...but we don't imprint. We leave the colt alone with his mother and allow her to teach him respect for her...and how to act like a mule. The colt learns that he can come to us for petting and scratching...but he is not allowed to treat us like another mule or horse. No pushing, playing, kicking or biting--he has to treat us with more respect than he offers those of his kind. We halter break them when we can - it may be at 7 days and sometimes doesn't happen until they are 7 months old. But it is a soft, quiet process and we have never had any problems.

We have found the imprinted mules to be too pushy and disrespectful. "Personal space" is important with animals, horses normally allow a sufficient amount of this space, donkeys very little. You will notice this if you will watch how donkeys act together in a group, also if you have ever trained a donkey, they don't respect your personal space like a horse will. A mule is a half donkey, so you have an in-built problem here. The mules that have come here already imprinted seem to want to treat the human as they would another horse or mule--and it takes me longer to make sure they respect me so that we can start on their training program in this case.

We teach our mules groundwork (how to work at the end of a 12' lead, change directions, disengage, give to pressure, etc.). We use a 60' lariat rope to get them used to the rope touching them everywhere and we use the loop around their neck, legs, barrel, under their tail, etc. to teach them to yield and also prepare them for hobbling and the saddle. Our mules are "taught" to load (we don't just entice them with food) so that they load everytime. Some mules are started as 2 year olds, with work in the roundpen, saddling, giving to the bit, being ponied out on the trails and some light riding. Other mules may not get started until they are 3 or 4. Whatever their age and stage of training, they do not get more work than they can handle physically or mentally.

We often joke that we don't spend our time training so much as entertaining. The mules are so smart and learn so quickly that we find it necessary to constantly change their training lessons, environment and jobs so that they don't get bored!

We ride our mules with a snaffle, moving up to a curb if they are going to be shown. That is just the "cowboy" way that we are accustomed to, riding a mule in a snaffle or bosal hackamore for several years until they are a "finished" bridle mule. So our gentle, broke trailridng mules respond to two-handed snaffle guidance. They don't "plowrein", they are used to a direct rein from a snaffle or bosal. Our more expensive mules that have a LOT of riding, and maybe getting ready for the showpen, we do put in a curb bit because that's how they have to be shown. But for the most part, our mules work in a halter, bosal or snaffle the best.

Yes, we know how to teach them to neck-rein - we ride reining horses, so our idea of what neckreining is different from the people selling mules that state their mule "neckreins"... not a pretty sight...50 pounds of pressure and the animal cranks its head the opposite way. If I say one of our mule neckreins and follows your weight, then expect it.
We train mules that perform as "willing partners" on the trail and in the showring.
Black Molly SOLDGood Trail Mules SOLDSOLD4 yo Broke to Death!Mule TrainingPhoto Album
Backtrailing (photos)...Sold.