Always a pleasure never a chore, Xato.

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 Based on this, I can only assume that the breeching set was originally made for an extremely long, rather narrow mule … the rare limousine mule, perhaps!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.

Our steering and brakes are coming along nicely. He still has a way to go before I can safely hack him out – right now my level of control is dependent on how generous he’s feeling. If he was to truly take fright at something and leave, I would have as much input as a flea! Ben led us a short distance up the lane and back a couple of weeks ago, which I’m counting as our first hack but was really little more than a glorified pony ride. It was all good experience for him though, and I was able to practice asking him to listen to me in a different environment.

I have been practising slowing to a stop and asking him to rein back by tilting my weight backwards, and then to go forward again by tilting forwards.

I think I’m doing the same thing in the saddle here, but honestly – who knows.

Here is a short video from New Year’s Eve, which was the first time I felt him begin to offer some real lightness. I wish I had a video of our early rides to compare! I know we have some sticky moments and you can see that I lose his mind at the end (in fact I start to lose it as we go past the gate on our first turn), plus a billion other things to pick at, but it’s all progress. Definitely plenty of room for improvement though.

I’ve also started riding him back from the field we’ve been working in (without Ben leading us). Our arena remains unusable, so we’ve been using the front paddock on the other side of the property. This revealed a new issue to work on: the first time Ben went to open the gate, Xato immediately barged forward and would have gone straight through if Ben hadn’t been in the way. This was a surprise to me as he is very good about gateways while being led, and I did not expect him to be so different under saddle – but of course, he is still not as confident with a rider as he is with a handler.

Fuzzy golden nimbus ears.

We have spent the last two sessions working on this with him and I am now able to halt him in the middle of an open gateway, which is a pretty big change from what we started with. It’s not perfect by any means, but I am still very pleased with him!

This mule really loves to work. He is always keen to interact and never misses an opportunity to get his headcollar on and go do a job. This evening I was putting Cash pony’s halter on in preparation for bringing him in for the night, the herd gathered round us, when I sensed a disturbance in the force. Turning, I saw the group divide as Xato’s enormous head scythed through the crowd, his pinned ears parting them like a shark’s fin. He practically tried to climb into Cash’s halter with him.

What an unbearably handsome lad.

It finally happened, I’m turning into a mule! Honestly, I very rarely take selfies, but apparently I do it all the time with my mules. They’re just as interested in fooling around as I am.

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2 Responses to Always a pleasure never a chore, Xato.

  1. Nathalie says:

    Keep up the good works!!! You’re doing well you two!!! Love the face-pictures 😄😄

  2. Debbie Whiteley says:

    Love the selfies xx

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