Muleteer Tales: Xanthe

Xanthe should be familiar to many of you as she is the lady who gave me Xato – his real mum, as he is keen to remind me (“My real mum would let me chew on this gate.” “No, Xato, she wouldn’t.” “…Totally would.”). Based in Mallorca, she has a wealth of experience regarding mules and has been involved with Intelligent Horsemanship, using mules as her project theme when working towards her Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship.

What some of you may not know is that Xato isn’t the only mule who she has helped find a forever home here in the UK! For those of us who have wished for a longear of our very own, Xanthe is essentially a fairy godmother. She is keen to continue helping people find their long-eared soulmate, and if you are searching for a mule then please contact me at herecirm@gmail.com or via the Facebook page and I will put you in touch with her.

You can read my story about importing Xato here.


A baby Xato!

1. How did you get involved with mules?

I had seen mules working the land and pulling carts as a child but had never taken any further notice of them. My involvement started due to the surprise that my draft mare came with inside her!

When I phoned the previous owner to let him know that Jeca had arrived safely he told me that he had given me a present by getting her covered by a Catalan Jack, not exactly what I wanted.

On 7-6-2016 the surprise was born and I decided that I needed to have a crash course in mules because he was not keen on being handled. I was working towards my Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship and decided to use mules as my project; I was able to find several mules of different sizes and ages to work with, and I became hooked because I found them fascinating.

Dolores: before, during, and after! Xanthe says of the last photo: “Mallorquin farriers are used to having the feet held up for them, hence I am doing so in the photo.”

2. Could you tell us a little bit about your project? What were your results?

The object of my project was to see if mules react in the same way as horses to the horsemanship methods as taught by Monty Roberts.

For the three months I gave myself, I had several different cases:

Clapa, a 30-year-old molly mule who had had a very hard harsh working life, with whom I did a Join Up. I found it very moving to find that she understood every single movement I did and she did a really beautiful Join Up.

Gwendoline and Caroline were two mollys bred by mistake (nobody thought that putting a Shetland pony mare and a donkey jack together would produce little mules!), they were totally untouched and regarded all humans as terrible creatures. Their owner very kindly had a round pen built in the paddock where they lived so that I could get them in one at a time. I was able to get Gwendoline to wear a pad saddle and be long lined and Caroline, who was more wild, I managed to get a headcollar on and touch her all over.

Dolores was a terror to be shod (drugged, tied up tight, nose twitch, ear twitch, foot tied up, tail tied up etc) so I decided to see if I could make everyones life easier by getting her able to handle her feet without all the extras. The first time I picked her front foot up, she balanced on the two feet the other side and kicked me with her back foot just above my eye so I ended up with a fantastic black eye! I started by touching her legs with a false arm and, once she was ok with that, I used a padded crutch to get her to lift up her back legs. At the end we were able to hot shoe her on a loose rein with no problems at all.

Then we have Xato, the cause of everything. He was being a stroppy toddler/teenager and would refuse to be led anywhere unless he thought it was in his interest. He was not violent, he just planted and would refuse to move in any direction. So he was introduced to the Dually headcollar, leading by using angles to get a foot to move, and I also introduced him to all sorts of different things to walk over: old blankets in different colours, a very smelly dog blanket, wooden boards, solid wood pallets, old carpets, tarpaulins. Most of these had to be smelled and pawed before they could be walked over but he soon learnt that planting was not an option.

Apparently Xato was small and dainty once!

3. What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your project, and was there a particular point where you really fell in love with mules?

The biggest lesson I learnt from my project was that mules are much more intelligent than horses!! They are also fantastic problem solvers, if a mule gets itself in a bad situation while tied up it will not panic and pull back, it will stop, think and get itself out of the muddle it is in. If they trust their human they will let them do anything to them and they will try the utmost to do what the human wants.

Since then I have had a couple of Aha! moments:

The first was thanks to Sarah Weston. I had bought two starving spotty mules which were basically untouched, and they wanted to remain that way as the only contact they had had with humans was unpleasant. At first I followed the Monty Roberts rule of no hand feeding and I was unable to catch them. Sarah suggested I try a bit of clicker and giving them a hand fed treat — it was a miracle, they suddenly decided that perhaps I was not the devil and I started to catch them and do things with them.

The second was thanks to Sari Maydew, when she came to meet Xato she gave him lots of scratches which he loved, she was far more energetic about scratching than I had ever been. Later in the year I went to collect Alaska and after 90 minutes of the owner being unable to catch her, I asked for the bucket of bait and got her putting her head in the bucket through the open headcollar. Then I started with the Sari-strength scratches and she decided I was worth trusting. The headcollar was on very quickly and then we loaded her into the trailer.

I think I fell in love with mules when I saw Xato for the first time, I could not believe what I was seeing as I was expecting a black mule and he was such a funny colour.

Some of the mules that Xanthe worked with on her project.

4. Regular readers will be aware that you introduced us to Xato, but since then it sounds as though you’ve helped a few other mules find their way to new homes in the UK – can you tell us more about that?

The aftermath of sending Xato to his new home with Sari in the UK has been quite an adventure. I thought I would buy a pony or a mule to keep my Suffolk Punch company as he would have ended up all on his own, so I started searching what was available locally.
I discovered a PRE mule who was just a yearling (Alaska), a ridden and driven Menorcan mule at 6-years-old (Frances), and a baby out of a Standardbred trotting mare who had been weaned very early (Inka), plus a load of pot bellied tiny ponies. There was also a very handsome Mallorcan mule who was going to be the first mule with a full pedigree as both his parents are pure bred Mallorcan, mare and jack.

I sent the photo of the Mallorcan to Sari and, having asked permission of the breeder, we published it on Mules UK. Due to this, Reb got in touch with me and asked if it would be tall enough to be ridden. I said yes for sure. We corresponded back and forth and I sent her various photos of mules for sale and she fell in love with the PRE mule. I went to see her and reported back to Reb, who said yes please and named her Alaska. After 18 months looking Reb finally had a mule!

In 2009 Dominic had contacted me to see if I knew of any mules that would be tall enough for him to ride, but things did not work out then. Having seen Xato’s adventures described on the Mulography blog he contacted me again just before I received Frances, who travelled over from Menorca. I sent him a photo and some videos of Frances and he said he would very much like to have her. I said OK but that I must keep her for several months as she is underweight, needs her teeth done and has never been vaccinated. We have agreed that she will travel over to the UK in May when she will be in better condition and hopefully the English weather will be nice to her.

When I published a photo of Frances and Tally the Suffolk Punch together I had several people ask how much I was asking for her. As soon as I knew that she was going to Dominic I contacted the people who had shown an interest and asked if I could help find them their dream mule.

Meanwhile my spotty mules (Tomeu and Jordi), full brothers which I rescued from starvation a long time ago and have played with on and off, came home because they kept escaping from their new home and galloping up and down the road in the dark which gave me heart failure as well as keeping the local police very busy!

Annabel contacted me as she was looking to buy a mule in the autumn. We exchanged messages and she mentioned that she would love an Appaloosa mule so I offered her Tomeu, she agreed on the condition that he was a minimum of 14 hands. We measured him at 14.1 so if all goes to plan he will travel to the UK in September, avoiding travelling in the summer heat.

I have really enjoyed pairing up mules and humans. I request full information about where the mule will live (they are usually used to living out 24/7) and the person’s previous experience before I will let a mule go to a new home. At present I have:

  • spotty mule Jordi, 13.3h
  • bright bay Inka who at 6 months measures 11.1h
  • Naranjito and Cuntakinte who are 8 and 5 months, out of pedigree Comtois mares
  • 2-year-old draft molly Cris
  • 3-year-old Elegante out of a PRE mare

I would love to continue finding lovely homes for mules so if anyone is interested please get in touch, I do not want to make a profit just cover my expenses.

There is a Xanthe there somewhere – she’s just hidden behind adoring mules!

5. You’ve helped a lot of people find their long-eared soulmates; do you think you might get another mule for yourself?

The idea is always in the back of my mind, I would like another mule for my own use but it is so hard to choose and I don’t want to be comparing them to Xato all the time. At present I am hoping that Inka will stay with me as I am growing fond of her and it would be fun to start another right from a baby. But then I go and see other ones and am tempted by them! Am already planning another trip to the mainland looking for two specific mules for people in the UK and I also have a Swedish contact interested. Time will tell…


If you would like your mule to be featured here, or if you have a mule story that you would like to tell, then please contact me either via this blog, message me on my Mulography Facebook page, or email me at: herecirm (at) gmail.com. I would particularly like to hear from UK mule owners (purely because Mulography is about owning a mule in the UK), but am more than happy to take worldwide submissions!

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