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:


With the passing of this rule, mules would be able to participate in all non-breed related divisions at USEF competitions. These include hunters, jumpers, eventing, reining, western, vaulting, and others.

The current rule states:
GR126 Horse
1. The term “horse” as used in these rules denotes either a horse or pony.
2. In all levels of all Federation licensed Driving and Endurance Competitions and in the case of any other Federation Rule as it relates to the Driving or Endurance disciplines as the context permits it, the term “horse” shall also include a mule. See DC Annex 9, EN102.1.

And the proposed rule is:
GR126 Horse
1. The term “horse” as used in these rules denotes either a horse or pony.
2. In all levels of all Federation licensed non-breed specific divisions, which include carriage Pleasure Driving, Driving, Combined Driving, Endurance, English Pleasure, Equitation, Eventing, Hunter, Jumper, Parade Horse and Saddle Horse or Pony, Western Equipment, Reining, Vaulting, Western, and Western Dressage, Driving and Endurance Competitions and in the case of any other Federation Rule as it relates to the Driving or Endurance disciplines as the context permits it, the term “horse” shall also include a mule. See DC Annex 9, EN102.1.

Photo used with thanks to Sammi Majors.

The USEF BOD will vote at their Annual Meeting during the week of January 11-14, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Between now and then, the membership has an opportunity to comment on any rule, including this one.

Unfortunately, although USEF does seek comments on all their proposed rules, they are really only interested in comments from USEF members or their affiliates. Sadly, for most of us mule people, we do not have USEF numbers because so many of us cannot compete at USEF’s competitions. It is my feeling, however, that if enough mule owners, trainers, riders, and competitors share their support for this rule despite not having a USEF membership, USEF might be willing to accept our comments because the rule does directly affect us. Additionally, it would show USEF how many potential new memberships they may have IF the rule is passed and all these people could be paying members.

Photo used with thanks to Olivia Knott.

There are a couple ways someone can comment and show their support for this rule:

    • If they are a USEF member or a member of an affiliate organization (even if the membership is inactive), mule supporters can log in to their account at usef.org and comment on the rule GR126.2.
    • If someone does not have a membership but knows someone with a membership, the mule supporter can ask his pro-mule friend to comment on the rule on his behalf.
    • Mule supporters without numbers are also encouraged to reach out to USEF or their affiliates by emailing or calling them directly. USEF Customer Care can be emailed at CustomerCare@usef.org or contacted by calling 859-258-2472 and showing support for rule GR126.2. I might remind USEF that mule supporters don’t always have a membership because they currently cannot compete BUT this rule directly affects them and their voices should be heard.

Photo used with thanks to Courtney Colvin / Jasmine Smith

When contacting USEF and commenting about the rule, I think it is so very important for supporters to state WHY the rule is a good idea. Many people make uneducated excuses about why mules should NOT be included in sanctioned competition so educating people and sharing how wonderful mules are is important.

      • Mules are raised, trained, ridden, fed, and treated no differently than horses
      • Accepting mules would provide access to educational opportunities and programs for mule owner/riders
      • USEF would see an increase in membership
      • Divisions that already allow mules (dressage, combined driving, endurance) are having success with competing mules without any issues
      • A mule-welfare issue: mules and competitors would be held to the high standards for drugs, medications, and microchipping
      • The intrigue of mules can bring new interest and excitement for many divisions and competition
      • Mules can be as well behaved or ill-behaved as any horse (stallions, green horses, green riders) … the argument that mules are unpredictable is not valid
      • Many other reasons I am sure!

Photo used with thanks to Friedericke Hucke.


Although I am a British mule owner, I think it is very important to help support our American friends and their wonderful mules so please share this information where you can. To my knowledge there is no such ruling on this side of the pond, but then again I don’t know of any UK mules who are competing in eventing or showjumping – or even competing against horses, full stop. I would love to hear from you if you are a UK mule owner and competitor, whatever your discipline!

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4 Responses to Proposed USEF rule change to allow mules to compete

  1. Kaisa says:

    If you are competing in UK under FEI rules, as we are in Finland, then donkeys and mules are allowed too 🙂

    • herecirm says:

      That’s interesting! I heard from a German friend that mules are not allowed to compete in higher-up events in Germany, so I wondered if we would be under the same rules.

      • Kaisa says:

        I googled and I think that allmost every country is under FEI. In fact, finnish society is voting this sunday about a little change in rules to clarify this. It said before that “These rules apply to horse and pony” and in the future it will be “These rules apply to horse and pony and to all equines” 🙂 I asked about it and this change is going through because it is straight from FEI rules.

  2. Jermain Presnell Lowe says:

    I would very much like to see these rules change to allow mules in all competitions and donkeys.

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