Team Half-Ass and the Mules of Engagement

Xato has been in a separate paddock since he arrived nearly four weeks ago. Obviously, I don’t feel good about this; he can see others at all times and shares a fence line, but it’s not ideal. I’ve been trying to put the herd together but we have hit a few complications:

  1. Marty and Xato have not formed the BFF relationship I was hoping for. Mules play rough, mule boys play really rough, and Marty and Xato are borderline murderous as far as I can tell. So I’m not keen on leaving them unsupervised.
  2. We had two weeks of heavy, incessant rain which made the ground very slippery. I was reluctant to let the mules hoon around on such slick terrain – apart from the fact that i didn’t want anyone hurt for their sake, how ironic would it be to finally get a riding mule only for him to pull a tendon!
  3. Xato had conjunctivitis, and I didn’t particularly want him to pass it on to anyone. The thought of trying to administer eye drops to Marty twice a day was particularly horrifying.
  4. Little Mare is still on boxrest and so one of our horses has to be with her at all times. Otherwise, I would have put one horse out with Xato and another out with Marty; it would still have been slow progress bringing the whole herd together, but at least everyone would have had a buddy.

Last Tuesday I finally found myself with a couple of free hours, so I put Cash in Xato’s paddock and let Xato out with Marty. My initial introduction had involved all three, but Marty and Cash had ganged up on Xato so I thought it would be fairer to do a one-on-one.

Initially, things went well. The mules didn’t seem that interested in each other.

“Hello strange beast.”

Cash went to greet the Magical Hedge Pony.

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Mule Round-Up: November 2016

During my internet wanderings I recently came across the Mules UK website. Sadly, it hasn’t been updated in a few years and I heard that it will be taken offline soon – which is a shame, as I went through the archives and really enjoyed seeing all the mule stories!

It got me thinking about the reason why I started Mulography in the first place. Sure, part of it was because I felt I was boring my friends by talking endlessly about Marty, and here was a place where I could channel my obsession. But it was also because I wanted to create the kind of thing that I, a fledgling mule owner who was in way over her head, would have liked to read.

I wanted to show that it wasn’t always sunshine and sparkles (and that you are not a failure if you are struggling), and I wanted to see what other UK muleteers were up to and feel like I was part of a community. Joining the British Mule Society helped massively with the latter! The Three Muleteers blog was also a great source of information and encouragement.

Anyway, this new Mule Tales variation is my nod towards Mules UK and the great mule round-up they started. Every month I will share photos and updates from our UK friends. You will also have a condensed update on what Marty and Xato have been up to, for those who don’t want to read my blah-blah and would like a TL;DR version!

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Team Half-Ass and the Agility Play Day

I think I’ve mentioned my interest in horse agility on here before; Marty and I have played with “wild agility” in the past, back when we were still going out for walks, and once it became apparent that he was probably not going to become a riding mule I started looking for things that I could do with him instead.

Agility appealed to me because it seems that, in order to do it well, you need to have an excellent foundation in groundwork. All the things about the way my mules handle that I consider important are required here: it can’t be done if you’re pushing and pulling on each other!

Agility not only helps you work on and improve those basic leading skills, but it prepares your horse or mule for many other situations that they might encounter during their life – for example, going under arches or through narrow gaps is great preparation for loading.

It’s also an excellent bonding exercise and can help improve confidence.

A fantastically weird photo of Marty and Dad.

…Oki, maybe this is just the effect Dad has on mules.

Through a comment on a Facebook thread I discovered Online Horse Agility, which sounded like a lot of fun, but I had no idea where to start when it came to creating my own course. Fortunately, I’d been following Horse Agility Sussex & Kent and I messaged Sue to see if she would be able to come to Surrey for a lesson. Much to my delight, it turns out that she has another client nearby and so we were able to arrange a date.

Ben took Xato, I had Marty, and my mum came along to have a go with little Cash pony – he was an honourary mule for the day!

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Posted in agility, desensitisation, half-ass mulemanship, marty mule, photos, the way mule thinks, things that are scary, xato mule | 1 Comment

Mule Tales: Chico

Jacqui was one of our early Mule Tale tellers, with the story of her wonderful boy, Polo. Now she’s back to tell us about Chico – you may have seen him recently take part in the Animals In War memorial service in London!

All images copyright © Jacqui and Clive Tilley.


1. Please introduce us to your mule!

Chico is one of our five mules. He also lives with one Paso Fino pony and two donkeys. Chico is 15 years old and was quite dappled when we first got him but now he is really grey.

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Team Half-Ass and the Half-Ass Scoreboard

It seems to me that the boys are trying to one up each other in as many trifling ways as possible.

For example, last Wednesday we had our EP, Emma, out to trim the herd. As I mentioned last week I wasn’t sure about Xato’s hindfeet, so I’d told Emma that if she didn’t want to trim them then that was absolutely fine – safety is paramount. However, I was fairly confident about his fronts. He had been getting a little bit better each time I handled them, and I’d also made sure to bring him down to the yard to have his feet picked out: I remembered how long we spent working on feet with Marty, only to find that he didn’t associate the stable yard with a place where his feet could be handled! As far as he was concerned, feet were only picked up in the arena or, sometimes, in the field. I didn’t want to meet the same problem with Xato.

A comparison of their hoof shape (Marty on the left, Xato on the right), because I thought the difference was interesting.

Forty minutes later and with one stomped toe (Emma’s, not mine), I was beginning to regret thinking that his fronts would be easy. We didn’t even attempt the hinds as we were running out of time and still had the rest of the herd to do, but I imagine he would have been just as bad.

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Proposed USEF rule change to allow mules to compete

Did you know that in the US, mules are not allowed to compete in certain events? Under United States Equine Federation rules, they are not considered “equines” and so can not compete in affiliated events. Some disciplines such as endurance, combined driving, and dressage allow mules to compete at USEF sanctioned competitions. Other disciplines such as eventing do not allow mules to compete in rated shows. Supposedly, this is because of the potential for mules to be a “distraction” for the horses (I won’t voice my opinion on that matter!).

Photo used with thanks to Tabitha Holland

However, USEF have had a “mule rule” proposed during their annual rule change season and it will be coming up for vote in January. I was contacted by a fellow mule enthusiast and asked if I could help spread the word, as it is vitally important to get as many mule owners onside as possible. This is what they had to say:

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Posted in photos, riding, shows, us mules | 4 Comments

Mule Tales: Banjo

I still feel bad about missing out on a Mule Tale last week … so hopefully this gorgeous little guy will make up for it! Banjo lives in New Zealand, which makes him the first of our Mule Tales from the Antipodes. He is an extremely special chap with his own Facebook page. His owner, Kim, tells us all about him here:

All images © copyright to Kim Rhind.

1. Please introduce us to your mule!

I’d like to introduce my (first ever) mule, Banjo. He was born black, but is definitely going to go grey – as his summer coat comes through there is grey in his flanks and lower legs, so it’s inevitable. He turns one on November 22nd and is currently around 13 hh.

Banjo’s mother, Showtym Duet, belongs to the Wilson sisters who recently had a television series here called Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas, about their journey taming and training New Zealand’s wild horses, known as the Kaimanawa horses, and they take a keen interest in Banjo too. When he was just five weeks old the Wilsons had a big open day at their property with over 300 visitors, and they asked if I’d take Duey and Banjo along for a meet and greet. A horse foal of that age would never have coped with that outing, but Banjo took it all in his stride and made the most of all the people who wanted to get to know him. He is a very sociable critter!

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Don’t do that with your foot, Xato.

Xato arrived during a particularly cold, wet week in the UK, but this week the climate is a lot more clement for our Mallorquin expat. I’ve actually left him naked for the last couple of nights because it’s been dry and the temperatures have been around 11/12c (in November!!). He approves of this: I don’t think he much liked wearing his rug, as although he’d stand and let me put it on and fuss with it, he would shake his ears when I did it up and would occasionally bludgeon me with his enormous battering ram of a head.

It really is a very big head.

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Team Half-Ass and First Contact

My first weekend as a dual-mule-owning-fool has been pretty great. Saturday was a bit of a wash-out (welcome to England, Xato!), but luckily the rain paused long enough for Xato and I to have our first groundwork session before I had to go to work for the afternoon.

Asking for a bend.

On Saturday night I also had my beer that I’d been saving for Xato’s arrival. ;)

On Sunday we had actual sunshine, so everyone got to be naked (apart from me) and I spent a blissful five hours at the yard: doing chores, working mules, and generally just hanging out with our hooved family. I did a little bit of pole work with Marty in the morning, which he seemed to enjoy – until the cows came through into the hill field, and he decided he wanted to pull ugly faces at them instead. Still, it gave me an opportunity to work on his focus.

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The Golden Mule Comes to England

I hope you can forgive me for another week without a Mule Tale … can I make up for it by sharing a gratuitous amount of Xato photos instead?! It’s just that, if I wait until the midweek slot, I fear I will have EVEN MORE Xato photos and then the blog will drown in a sea of golden mules. At least this way I can spread them out a bit.

How is he so handsome?!

So, Xato arrived in the early hours of Wednesday morning and was taken straight to LOC HQ. Having been given notice of his arrival on Monday morning, I had spent two days flapping around like a dying fish as I tried to organise transport to bring him the final leg of the journey; LOC could not bring their big lorry into my village, and I had not been able to book a secondary transporter until I knew when he would actually be in the UK (there had also been talk of LOC maybe being able to deliver him after all). Wanting to stick with people I knew and trusted, I contacted the chap who usually takes Ben and Iris to clinics, and the company who took Marty down to Devon, but neither were available for a Wednesday pick-up. Fortunately I then contacted Neddy Stobbart who was free all day! Although I hadn’t used her before, she came highly recommended and I knew she had a natural horsemanship approach to handling so I felt safe entrusting Xato to her.

This was very much an 11th hour booking, but once arranged I could breathe a huge sigh of relief and start preparing myself to worry about everything else instead.

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Posted in european mules, gotcha day, herdlife, importing mules, marty mule, photos, rugs, stables, travelling, xato mule | Leave a comment