I apologise for the lack of written updates recently; gone are the days where I could wax lyrical about the minute intricacies of my mule days, boring you senseless with my blow-by-blow view of what happened/what might have happened/why what happened happened. I no longer have the brain capacity to retain all that detail in my head and I don’t have the time to tell it even if I did. I am juggling so many things that I have to prioritise, and sadly Mulography does not pay for mule food – or for my food, come to think of it (if you would like to help out a poor struggling Mulographer so that she can afford to drop her other jobs, check out Horsemanship Magazine – Facebook page here – and marvel at our extremely good value for money. Share it with friends who might like it! And yes, this message is brought to you by an editor who has no shame. I did it and I’d do it again).
Anyway, your best bet is to keep an eye on the Mulography Facebook page as I tend to keep that fairly active; uploading a photo or sticking together some videos does not take a lot of effort.
If you do follow the Facebook page, you’ve probably seen me mention the #MyHackathon campaign. The Hackathon premise is to ride 100 miles in 100 days, raising £100 in the process for the Brooke charity. Xato and I – and recently, Marty and I! – are taking part on behalf of The British Mule Society along with a number of other British mule owners. As we are dotted throughout the country, we’re riding separately but combining our miles to reach the grand total before the end of October.
Our JustGiving page is here, and you can also donate by texting MULE66 and the amount in pounds that you wish to give (i.e. MULE66 £1) to 70070. At the time of writing, we’ve raised £274 so far and travelled a combined total of 227 miles – that’s ridden, driven, long-reined, and in-hand!
Xato has contributed 23 of those miles since the beginning of August. Marty has done 2.5 miles, which he is very proud of! I’m a little ashamed to say that I hadn’t taken Marty out for a walk since my birthday last year, but I don’t think the time off has done him any harm; I’ve still been doing bits and pieces with him, he just hasn’t had the pressure of being asked to go out into the big wide world and perform. I think that’s helped him.
I was particularly pleased with him as, while on our walk, we met a couple of annoying dogs; a big Newfoundland who started it all, and then a little terrier thing who came running out at top speed. The big dog was more bark than bite, but it refused to back off and had begin circling around behind us when the terrier arrived; by this point I’d had enough, so I took a couple of big, energetic steps forward and cracked the tail of my rope against the road, about five inches from the dog’s nose. Funnily enough it turned and fled! As you may remember, a meeting with dogs is what stopped Marty and I going out as much as we had done. I was pleased with how he handled this encounter, and I was pleased that I was able to show him that I could protect him and that I was useful to have around.
Xato has also done admirably well. We’ve had a few longer rides, including a 6.5 mile hack along new trails for my (pre)birthday – this involved riding along a section of road with traffic travelling much faster than any he had previously met on the lane, but he took it all in his stride. He loves going to new places and exploring!
I had hoped to have a big ride out on my actual birthday, too, but on our way down the lane Xato suddenly pinned his ears and flung his head up as the road began to slope downwards. He only reacted at the crest of the hill, and he walked on with no other sign of displeasure, but it seemed like an odd thing and I mentioned it to Ben. A few metres later we made our way down a steeper hill, and he did the same thing. Apart from these two brief head-tosses he was walking out fine and did not seem reluctant to go, although he felt a little lethargic; but his behaviour did not sit well with me and I decided that I would rather cut the ride short rather than push on and risk making him sore.
He had also had two intense reactions to Iris spooking, which is unlike him: one before we’d even left the yard, the second shortly before we turned for home. Whereas he would usually react very slightly if at all, on that day he went absolutely rigid, head up, and with a very palpable current of fear thrumming through him. I’ve noticed that he moves on from these little frights extremely quickly, almost instantly reverting back to floppy aeroplane ears and an unconcerned attitude, and that day was no different; but the easily accessed worry was just another thing that made me think this was not a day for epic adventures.
Xato had recently had his back done by Gavin Schofield (who was very pleased with his progress, and said that his back was much stronger – thanks to all the hacking we’ve been doing up hills, down hills, and over different terrain!), but Ben and I wondered if he’d pulled something in his shoulder or if his saddle was pinching. The next day I brought him out the paddock with the intention of leading him down the hillfield – on his own, with saddle, then with saddle and rider – but discovered some massive, hard bug bites (?) on his girth area. So he’s off ridden work until they go away, and I’ll get another chiro appointment booked in to make sure we can continue our explorations in comfort! I’ve already arranged for the saddle fitter to come out again, hopefully this Sunday, so that’s good.