This week we are, once again, covering multiple mules! Multiple multi-purpose mules, in fact. Marvelous!
Sorry, I’m a sucker for alliteration. I asked Ethel to write about her wonderful working mules after my mum snapped some pictures of the team at Hollowell this year. I see many images of mules doing agricultural work in the US, but had never seen any here in the UK so was thrilled when Mum sent me the photos! Thank you very much to Ethel for taking time out from her busy schedule, and I hope you all enjoy this Tale.
Image © Chris Maydew
1. Hi! Please introduce us to your mules.
I’ve got 3 mules: my pair, 13.2hh Queenie and Reuben, both coloured mules. I’ve worked these two since I had them, mainly ploughing. They’re now 25, I’ve owned them for 15 yrs – they came up for sale in local horse market.
My other mule, Maybell, is 14.2 hh. She is mainly ride and drive but has also been ploughing, too. I got Maybell from a guy in Swansea when she was 7, she’s now 17. My pair are now retired, only doing the odd demo, but my big mule Maybell I still ride and drive.
As a mule owner I find they have more character than a horse and I’ve learnt you can’t treat them like a horse, they’re more like kids. My mules have traveled all over the country including Ireland, going to ploughing competitions.
Due to a combination of extra work and a bad back, I haven’t had much time to play with Marty during the week. Saturday was ruled out because my back gave up and I spent what should have been mule time lying on the floor instead, and on Sunday we had a crisis and I was able to appreciate the benefit of previous groundwork sessions first hand.
I’d arrived on the yard around 9:30am to see that everyone – our three, and the little Arab mare who also lives there – had broken out of their respective paddocks. My initial thought was that I was going to have a very long morning trying to round everyone up, as Little Mare’s owner was on holiday, Ben was out teaching, and I was in charge of them all. Then I realised that a) part of the solid arena fencing was completely smashed, and b) there was blood on the Little Mare. Rather a lot of blood.
I thought it might be useful to gather together a list of places where you can at least meet, if not ride, mules in the UK and Europe. I haven’t visited them myself (yet!) so I can not personally vouch for them but these are the places you can go. If anyone has ridden with the companies mentioned here and would like to write a review, I would be very happy to publish it here!
Currently, there are no commercial places to ride on mules in the UK – although the following trekking centres have at least one mule on staff, so you may be able to ride with them instead!
- Oxhey Western Trail Rides [Website] [Facebook] If you’ve ever fancied being a cowboy for a day, then you’ll want to give these guys a go! They have many wonderful horses and ponies to ride, and are the home of the Mules UK – Napoleon, Nelson and Marmite.
- Wern Trekking and Riding Centre [Website] [Facebook] The Brecon Beacons are a gorgeous place to ride anyway, but here you might catch sight of MA, the Percheron mule – he’s been on TV and in Vogue! Wern Trekking provides gentle treks, more challenging hacks and arena lessons so there’s something for everyone.
- Hepscheid Longears Trail [Facebook] Run by Nathalie, whose mule Tizanes featured here, the Hepscheid Longears Trail is a small outfit but is a fantastic way to see the Belgian countryside alongside knowledgeable mule riders!
- Les continent des Mules [Facebook] Les continent des Mules is a riding school / therapy centre rather than a trekking centre, but they do such wonderful work that I would recommend contacting them and seeing if you can arrange a visit. You can read about them here.
- Trekking Mule [Website] [Facebook] What better way to see the Pyrenees than with a mule companion? Although the mules here are for pack, not for riding, Trekking Mule boasts a huge itinerary of trails of varying duration and difficulty. I would thoroughly recommend checking out their Facebook page for some beautiful photos of the scenery.
- The Ass-ential Stevenson Trail [Website] I don’t know many details about this trek, but it was something that I stumbled across a while ago and so I thought I would include it here. Maybe there is someone intrepid enough to check it out for themselves! It is a 27 mile walking trail, spread across three days, with a mule carrying your gear.
- Maultiertrail.de [Website] [Facebook] Offering trail rides from a few hours to a few days, these guys are probably your best bet for muleback riding in Europe. They also run courses from horse whispering to how to tackle different types of terrain. Kaisa of the Muuliprojekti blog wrote a post about her week-long trek with them here – it’s in Finnish, but there are plenty of photos! You can also watch her video compilation here.
Image copyright © Kaisa Määttänen
Eagle-eyed readers may recognise Flash from this article, in which I attempted to showcase some of the many different types of mule. He certainly is a good looking boy! Not only has Dorinda written about him here, in the standard Mule Tales format, but she’s been generous enough to share a short story with us as well. Read on and enjoy!
All images copyright © to Dorinda Hennings.
1. Please introduce us to your mule!
Let me introduce you to my mule, DH Hopehaven Flashin My Strut. He is a 13 yr old 14.1 bay tobiano gaited Tennessee walker mule gelding.
I didn’t try him out before buying. I did view videos and did a lot of interviews beforehand. He had been ridden extensively on trails for a couple years, but had been pastured for three years and not worked due to his owner’s failing health. Flash came to us in December 2015.
Flash was timid, not very confident, and would stand stiffly while being petted or handled. Flash was going to have to have patience, love, and time to be a good trail partner.
For the first four months we did a lot of groundwork, lots of time just being groomed and petted. He learned to like apple slices and carrots very quickly.
I rode him around my place but had a friend take him for five weeks to trail ride him out on roads and other long trails to make sure he was safe, as I am an older woman. He basically just gave him a refresher on trails.
Marty had a busy day on Sunday. I took him out for a walk in the morning (on our own! The confidence coaching is working!) and in the evening we did an in-hand dressage test, just for fun.
The walk was short – a mile down the lane, around the green, and back again – but successful. I was able to practice changing and directing his thought, as Anna had taught us, on two occasions: the first was when he froze rigid because there was an elderly gentleman walking down the road and using a stick (obviously for the purpose of beating mules with), and again when a fluffy cat appeared briefly on the lane ahead of us before disappearing up the bank and into the undergrowth.
As I mentioned in my second Introducing Xato post, Xanthe was kind enough to take us to meet other mules during our stay in Mallorca.
The first two mules we met were the gloriously spotty Tomeu and Jordi. Xanthe had rescued them as youngsters, brought them on, and had recently rehomed them to a lovely new family. They are both out of the same dam but Jordi is a lot smaller than his brother Tomeu, because the mare was underweight and trying to suckle Tomeu while pregnant with Jordi. Xanthe also said that Jordi was a lot shyer than Tomeu, which I found interesting. He reminded me of a slightly bolder Marty, in fact. I guess that’s a case of nature over nurture!
I was wondering when we’d meet a Muffin! This little guy looks a bit like a Marty mini-me, don’t you think? He lives in Wales with his human, Sarah, who runs Shoreline Trotters – providing donkeys for beach rides, birthday parties, hospice visits, weddings and more. Muffin is gorgeous and I’m so glad he’s finally found his person!
All images copyright © Sarah Nethercoat.
1. Please introduce us to your mule!
Hii! This is Muffin, my four year old mule. I haven’t had him long but have a large herd of donkeys and a large herd of horses so he just fits in, though he prefers the ponies over the donkeys.
I’m feeling quite excited at the moment, as it seems like I might – at long last – be approaching the stage where I stop talking about all the cool stuff other people are doing / all the cool stuff that I want to do, and actually get out there and start doing it!
Today was a hot day for a mule who insists on growing his winter coat already.
On our second day in Mallorca, we made another evening visit to Xato and Tally and this time I was dressed to ride.
I took Xato out for a short walk in hand first, and was thrilled to see how adventurous he was. He had no qualms about leaving his buddy in order to go exploring, and I loved how easily he traversed the smooth rocks and the low branches.
Nathalie runs a small trekking business in Belgium with her four mules, and when I saw a photo of Tizanes I just had to ask for a Mule Tale. What a cool looking mule!
Nathalie says that her other three mules are much easier than Tizanes. It makes me feel better to know that not everyone’s mules have been hoof-perfect all their lives … but I guess it’s the challenging ones who make us into the muleteers we need to be.
All images copyright © Nathalie Leplang.
1. Please introduce us to your mule!
So … this is Tizanes, the oldest of my 4 mules. She is 9 years old and comes from a Fjord mother and Grand Noir du Berry father. She has 1m37 shoulder height [That’s 13.2hh to us Brits! — Sari]. I bought her at the age of 3 and a half in Poitiers, France, about 800 kms from home. Along with her, we bought her half sister Aurore, at that time 1 year old.