I thought I would write a little bit about our track at the moment. This is the second year that we’ve run one over winter, and I’m trying to learn from the mistakes we made last time!
The idea behind keeping horses on a track system, or “Paddock Paradise”, is to try and create a more natural environment for them to live in. Based on research by farrier Jaime Jackson, these pastures aim to recreate a wild horse’s lifestyle as closely as possible and, in doing so, help to create a healthier and happier horse.
Standing at the top of the track, and looking down the left side. As you can see I’ve left this section of fencing in place for too long and they’ve worn a muddy track around the corner.
Followers of the Mulography Facebook page may well have seen me mention Buttons once or twice (ha). Medieval games and mounted combat are precisely the kind of thing I dreamed of doing when I got Marty, and so when I found out about Buttons the jousting mule I was thrilled. It meant we had a role model to aspire to!
Unfortunately, as you know, my plans with Marty took a decidedly crooked route and although I haven’t sworn off the idea entirely (Xato would make an excellent caparisoned charger, don’t you think?), I had long since let go of any notion of doing so with my little brown mule.
While talking to David, Buttons’ rider, I happened to mention this and he replied with a fascinating and inspiring story that I just had to reproduce here, in full. It is well worth the read.
“Don’t give up on your mule just yet,” said David. “Mules have a higher self preservation than horses. So it can take some time to teach them that combat activities are just a game and are safe.”
Jeff riding Ruthanne, Dave riding Buttons, Kris riding Kate and Tim riding Milly on way to mounted combat battle in Mississippi.
Little Mare, the other livery on our yard, is on her third week of boxrest. This means that we are still on the routine of bringing our horses in to keep her company: Iris in during the day, and Cash in at night. You wouldn’t think that having one stable (albeit one stable occupied 24/7) would add so much extra work to our daily chores, and yet it does. I can’t believe some people do this voluntarily! They’re probably not as lazy as I am.
If anyone was interested, the fabled El Dorado can currently be located just outside Barcelona. It turns out that El Dorado is not a city after all – it is, in fact, a mule.
Xato began the first stage of his journey to England last week, loading sweetly onto a trailer and catching a ferry from Mallorca to the mainland. He will be staying there, with many other mules for company, until we are able to finalise dates to bring him home. LOC Transport currently think that they should be able to collect him in the last week of October, and so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Samhain arrival! Samhain (Halloween) was recognised by the ancient Celts as the beginning of a new year, and in modern Paganism gold is one of the colours associated with Samhain; so – as an incorrigible storyteller – I think it would be rather portentous for the golden mule to appear on or around that date.
Why yes, I do elevate my animals to mythological status. I think it’s the least I can do for them.
I ‘met’ Django’s owner, Candace, because she posted a photo online of an incredible charro saddle she’d bought. I commented to say how cool I thought it was, and I’m glad I did as it’s led to this fantastic Mule Tale! I could sit and listen to the adventures of Django and friends all day. I think you’ll really enjoy this one … but then, I think that about all of them.
Django is a 3.5 year old mule out of a Belgian/Arab/Paint mare and a mammoth jack. When not eating, he would love to become my personal teddy bear. Having affectionate horses never prepared me for the dog like adoration that he has for me. It’s quite humbling, and certainly reciprocated.
In this week’s edition of making the most out of a bad situation, I decided to turn the Haunted Field concept to my advantage.
Since that Saturday night when all hell broke loose, our herd have been extremely wary of the right hand side of the track. At night, I would only move the fence for grass on the Safe Side because otherwise I’d come up in the morning and find Iris and Marty ‘trapped’ at the very end of the Bad Side, unable to come round to the gate unless I went and fetched them. I rarely had time for that!
During the day, Marty and Cash would get grass on the Bad Side but it was clear that they spent as little time there as possible. Although the grass was always eaten, there were no poo piles left in the vicinity. I found the latter rather interesting, because none of the horses would defecate anywhere but on the Safe Side – and only in a certain area. There wasn’t even a little squishy poo left in fright to be found on the Bad Side, or in the limbo-land along the top of the track.
Look, I’m a horse person. It’s kind of my job to pay attention to poo. Gods know I see enough of it!
Horses hold something of a monopoly when it comes to films about animals, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are a few mule movies to be found as well! However, I have a confession to make: I haven’t actually watched any of the feature-length films on this list. I certainly meant to, but I can’t remember when I last had the time to sit down and watch an entire film! Between that and the fact that none of these are on Netflix yet, I knew it was going to be a very long time before I could share these trailers with you if I intended to review them first.
So instead, I present them to you unseen. I hope they are worth sharing – for the laughs, if nothing else!
Tommy and the Cool Mule
Has anyone watched Racing Stripes? I’m imagining that this is the mule version of that illustrious movie. Released in 2009 and starring the voice of rapper Ice-T as the eponymous longears, Tommy and the Cool Mule is a story about a young boy who discovers a talking mule and must win a race in order to stop his family ranch being bought by villainous Kevin Sorbo. You know – the usual deal.
Something a little bit different for you this week! Since I began collecting Mule Tales seven months ago, the initial template has occasionally been altered to suit different topics. Today sees a new variant, where instead of focusing on a specific mule I interview someone who has the privilege of working with them.
I have always been aware of mules as I grew up in Africa where donkeys and mules are used as working animals. My family have owned donkeys and horses for years but sadly never a mule! My first hands on experience with mules was when I began working at RSPCA Lockwood Centre around 4 years ago. They had a mule called Humpty in the donkey herd who I was told was “feisty” to say the least and I knew before even meeting her that I would love her! A few months later another mule arrived at the centre called Jethro, he was entire, nervous and aggressive and even more of a handful than Humpty! I made it my mission over the last few years to make friends with these animals and created a unique bond with each of them. I have been mule crazy ever since!! Sadly we lost Humpty a few weeks ago and she is sorely missed. Jethro was finally rehomed a few months ago and is thriving in his new home.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought some much longed for poles so that I could liven up our groundwork and start practicing for agility. I’d been looking at showjumping poles online, but they were very expensive – particularly as I wanted several of them. So instead, Ben and I took a trip to the local wood yard and picked up eight fence posts for £2.50 each. That’s my kind of price tag!
Ground poles are born: we cut off the spiky ends, thanks to Ben’s Dad, and smoothed the edges so that they were 100% mule safe. They were also briefly used to haul a broken pump out of the water tank, proving that they really were a very useful buy!
In Ostia, an ancient harbour city situated around 20 miles South West of Rome, there are the remains of a 1st century bath-house known as the Baths of the Cisiarii. The name comes from the mosaic in the frigidarium – a large, cold pool that would have been used after the bather had visited the hot and warm pools. In it, arranged around the four edges of a pictorial city wall, are lightweight, two-wheeled vehicles that were the Roman equivalent of Victorian England’s hansom carriages.
Like the hansom, these vehicles – known as a cisium – were driven by a cisiarious, a driver who could be hired to take passengers on relatively short, swift journeys. They could be found around most city gates, and their speed was highly reputed and spoken of in many texts. For example, the Roman lawyer Cicero, in his first major litigation, spoke of how the news of Roscius the Elder’s death crossed the approximately 58 miles between Rome and his home town of Ameria in just 10 hours. That is not excessively quick, perhaps, but for comparison modern day endurance riding allows 12 hours to complete a 50 mile ride.