Lately, Marty has been objecting to using his pen for evening feed. This has been quite frustrating, bearing in mind that he has gone into the same pen to be fed twice a day, every day, since he came home five months ago. It shouldn’t be a problem. But what started out as slight hesitation turned into needing to be coaxed in, and then became a refusal to go in at all.
Apparently he wasn’t talking to me that day.
I haven’t changed anything. He didn’t come into the pen and have a horrible experience; he’s getting the same food; I haven’t started feeding earlier/later than normal. He seems genuinely anxious about going in, and will often stand and boggle at the hill field on the other side of the fence instead.
Ben is also super scary, but that’s standard.
On Saturday we took Xato and Cash out for a little walk into the Punchbowl and back.
Luckily for us, mules are all-terrain vehicles.
Look at this lovely lady! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about Missy the short-eared mule. Her lucky owner, Denise, lives in America but spent five years in the UK where she learnt to drive horses and owned a couple of our fantastic native breeds. She fondly recalls a childhood spent having fun and exploring with her pony – something that induces a lot of nostalgia in me, too!
1. Please introduce us to your mule!
This is Missy the Mule! Missy is a 15 yr old brown/dun molly who stands about 14 hands. Breeding unknown. Born on Old Rag mountain in Virginia and used primarily as a trail mule in the Appalachian mountains.
She is a been there done that mule. She is not spooky; has had barking dogs and herds of running deer go by us on trail. Only thing she got scared of was a big stump … stopped, snorted, and we walked aaarrround the scary stump.
She loves her treats of peppermint candy. Sometimes if you are not paying attention she will grab one from you then take off running … she doesn’t go far but plays this silly game. She is great for farrier, but does NOT like vet … last time he gave her a shot she took off with the needle in her neck and ran around the field squealing! She is good with the grandkids, and my husband (who is not a horse or mule person … loves to look at them but doesn’t ride … helps me with chores, though!). She will push me sometimes to see what she can and can’t get away with. Hard to stay one step ahead if a mule!
Xato is off work at the moment because I’m a little concerned that he may still be having issues with his back. He has a chiropractor booked to come and see him in just under two weeks time and I don’t want to risk aggravating the problem if there is something up.
Still made him bring in Iris’ rug and the haynets, though.
Oh yes: so this is a shortear problem, but it was so awful that I felt the full horror had to be recorded here. Would you LOOK at this pony? That rug was yellow when I put it on the night before!
I mean … seriously. Just look at him.
Five years ago, Ben hosted a UK clinic for an Australian trainer called Ross Jacobs. I had only recently started dating Ben, although I’d known him for years, and so had only recently been introduced to this thing called horsemanship. It seemed a bit wack to me but I was rather keen on Ben, so I tried my best to understand the thing he was most passionate about. I spectated at a two-day clinic in Hampshire and went away feeling like I understood it: or rather, I understood what I wanted to understand, and disregarded the rest.
The following year Ben and I went to Australia and spent the better part of a week staying with Ross and his wife, Michèle. We rode every day, generously tutored by Ross. It was during this week that I began to have an uncomfortable metamorphosis.
I started to realise that the thing I thought I was good at – horses – was not a thing I was good at at all. This was quite an alarming notion and I did a very good job at shutting down and vehemently denying it to myself. What was this bloke on about? Why did it matter if I led a horse in with a tight rope or a loose rope? I still got them from A to B! The outcome was still the same! I didn’t have time to correct every little thing.
And so the week ended and I, fuming, indignant, went home.
“Use this one,” said Ben. “Ross looks really despairing.”
Fortunately for me, Ross’ teachings had managed to lodge themselves in my brain and, over the following year, they began to filter through. I had moved down south and was looking after Ben’s horses quite a bit, and I also picked up a groom job at an eventing yard. Slowly but surely, I began to realise how much nicer it was to handle a horse who was tuned in to what I was doing and asking.
Our second Great UK Mule Round-Up is an end of year special. I asked my mule-owning friends to tell me something about their mules that made them happy or proud in 2016!
Val simply said, “The birth of our Willow” – and who could argue with that? :)
Working with Xato continues to be a pleasure. He had nearly a whole week off over Christmas, which I think is the longest he’s gone without doing anything since he arrived!
A golden mule in the golden dawn light.
We tried his breeching on a few days ago because I’ve been desperate to see him in the whole set-up since he arrived. It came with the saddle and breastcollar which I bought second-hand and I assumed it had also been used before; but after struggling to undo the buckles, I don’t think it has! Further evidence of this appeared when we put everything onto the last hole and it was still too big for him – apart from the breeching itself (the wide strap around his bum), which comes up a little small. Xato isn’t exactly a small and dainty mule. Based on this, I can only assume that the breeching set was originally made for an extremely long, rather narrow mule … the rare limousine mule, perhaps!
Ah well, I’ll just have to dig out my leather punch and make a few alterations. We won’t be going rock climbing in the Punchbowl anytime soon, anyway.
The length isn’t too bad, but it sits too low on his butt and needs to be raised once I put some extra holes in. He has worn a full driving harness before so this wasn’t new to him.
On January 2nd, Mulography will be 2-years-old. This time last year the blog had been silent for nearly two months; quite simply, because I was too miserable to write anything. Things with Marty were not going well and, after being repeatedly disappointed, I had just about run out of hope. I found myself caught between feeling dread at the thought of having to work with him, and guilt at not doing so.
A very agitated Marty in March 2015, refusing to be caught and running around being horrible to everyone instead. I’d almost forgotten that he used to do this.
Our first hinny! I was under the impression that hinnies were generally much smaller and more horse-like than mules (I’ve had a few people ask if Marty is a hinny), so when I saw Chewy’s photo I was awestruck and had to ask his owner, Carolyn, if she would like to share his story. Not only did she kindly oblige, but she told me a little about his famous half-brother, Too Tall, as well.
Carolyn also provided so many gorgeous photos that I had a hard time choosing only five! She and Chewy have covered many miles across many kinds of terrain. They are a great team.
Chewy near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
1. Please introduce us to your hinny!
My hinny is called Chewy. He is 16 3 hands (quite tall for a hinny). He is gaited, but I have to work too hard to make him gait, so I just enjoy him! We also have his half brother, Too Tall,who is 17 hands. He is naturally gaited; just drop the reins and he does his thing. They are both bred out of a mammoth Jenny and a homozygous paint American saddle horse.
2016 has been truly horrendous for many reasons … so I feel a bit selfish for saying that, as far as my mules and I are concerned, it’s actually worked out pretty well*. But how could I hate something that introduced me to Xato and helped Marty to finally find some kind of balance in his anxiety-ridden life?
* I say, frantically touching wood, crossing my fingers, throwing salt over my shoulder, and praying to various deities.
Due to my computer dying a few weeks ago, I lost many of my photos. In fact I had just completed a mule year-in-review slideshow when my hard-drive gave up! …I don’t think it was related. Fortunately, I still have the blog photos that I’d uploaded to Flickr.
I met seven new mules (including Xato!) in three countries, and rode one new mule in two countries. There was lovely MA in Wales, spotty boys Tomeu and Jordi and glossy Dolores in Mallorca, and back in England I met Sarah Weston’s Henrietta and RSPCA Lockwood’s Humpty. I am very sad to say that both Dolores and Humpty have since passed away, and I consider it a privilege to have met them before they went.
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