Marty and the final chapter

I want to preface this by explaining that this is a decision I have spent the past year deliberating on. It occurred to me, after making the announcement earlier this week on my personal Facebook page, that only a handful of people knew I’d been thinking about this and only one of them – my fiance, Ben – knew exactly how long I’ve spent agonising over it. Therefore, it would be easy to assume that this was a snap decision. This is not the case.

I have often been thanked for my honesty in this blog, but the truth is that I have withheld a rather large issue from you: despite my attempts to rationalise the bad days and come up with feel-good summaries and inspirational mottos, I have not enjoyed owning my mule for quite some time.

As the article heading might suggest, I have decided to bring my partnership with Marty to an end.

This has been a long time coming. As I say, I’ve been thinking about it for some time, going through all possible options in my head, and if I’m honest I think I’d finally made my decision before I even sent him to Anna’s. By that point, it was mostly just an effort to install life skills in order to give him the best possible future.

And he has made changes – he’s made huge changes. I am so proud of him and so thankful to Anna for the incredible amount of work she’s put into this. Anna is completely, utterly, 100% in it for the horse (or mule!) and I can not recommend her enough. I chose to send Marty to her because I believe she is the best in the country and I still believe this. The week I spent down in Devon, watching Anna work Marty and even being allowed to sit in on some of her lessons (thank you so much to the clients who gave permission for this – I know how nerve-wracking it can be to have a stranger watching!), were a real privilege. My decision to rehome Marty is not a reflection on Anna.

That last point is very important: I know some well-meaning people may try and suggest that I send Marty to x, y or z instead, and although I appreciate the thought, I do not think anyone else would have been able to do more than Anna did.

During his first week of being with us.

I feel greatly overwhelmed by Marty. Of course we’ve had awesome days, and he has taught me so much, but it’s begun to feel like the bad days outnumber the good. For the past year or so, I would get a sick, knotty feeling in my stomach every day; anxiety because I knew I would have to handle my mule, or guilt because I knew I wasn’t going to. After I returned from Devon, I realised that I didn’t miss him. It felt weird not to see him twice or even thrice a day, or to hear him call to me on the rare occasion I passed the field without dropping in, but I didn’t miss him. I just felt relief.

I’m pretty sure that’s not how mule ownership is supposed to feel.

I was also resolutely, unequivocally sure that I could not face those emotions again. I simply do not have the energy left to do it.

I could continue with Marty’s education myself. I could just keep on keeping on, chipping away at his shell bit by bit, doggedly working away for another two, five, ten years. I could work myself into the ground in order to afford further training. Anna did not write him off as a riding mule; he carries a lot of worry, and has a great deal of flight, and anyone who rode him would need to support him every step of the way. But it could happen.

I could keep him, even though that would mean I would never be able to have another. We do not have the land and I do not have the money. I could say that, if he didn’t become the things I’d hoped he would be, then it wouldn’t matter and I would just keep him as a companion – never mind that we already have one pasture pet.

Day after arrival.

I had to ask myself – really ask myself – what it was I wanted. I wanted a happy hacker: a partner to enjoy this beautiful corner of the world with. I wanted a mule I could maybe take to local shows. I wanted to go to clinics. I wanted to be able to learn archery, and jousting, and other mounted combat techniques. I wanted to have fun. Marty would not be able to do any of that for many years. Some of those things he will never be able to do. Was I willing to give all that up?

The answer, rightly or wrongly, is no.

I realise this may cause friction with some of my readers. I thoroughly understand that. I have never sold or given up on an animal before. An earlier incarnation of me would have spouted furious words about how an animal is for life, and not just to be thrown away when they fail to make the grade. Wiser me realises that there are exceptions and that not everything is black and white. Older me knows that life is really, really short.

I have spent thousands of pounds – money that was my savings, by the way, I am not a high-earner – on ruling out physical problems and on giving him professional training. I have given thousands of hours of my time and energy into caring for him, handling him, and trying to help him. I do not think I could have done more. I know I do not have any more left in me.

I have learnt a lot in the two years and three months that I have owned Marty. For example: despite stepping in at the deep end (and getting water up my nose and chlorine in my eyes in the process), I have realised that I really, really, really like mules. I also really like mule folk, who are among the nicest, friendliest people in the world. I have not come away from this thinking that mules are a terrible idea.

Marty’s path is about to separate from mine, but I will still be here when the sun rises, following mule prints just as far as they’ll take me.

Mulographer Sari

Sari was raised by cats which accounts for her solitary nature, occasional mania, and attraction to shiny objects. After riding and being around horses for 22 years, she discovered that she was, in fact, a mule girl and fell hopelessly in love with these extraordinary creatures. She lives in England and is married to Ben, who is potentially the best Ben who ever Benned.

9 Responses

  1. Hi you, I don’t know you personally and only came to your blog recently, via my friend Sheril.
    Firstly, stop beating yourself up, woman. You have made an honest, intelligent, reasoned, and difficult decision. No-one will, or has a right to, challenge or judge that.
    To be honest, I had actually seen the writing on your particular wall, from some of your posts and the despair I felt behind them.
    Well done for all of the work you’ve put in, and for recording it so faithfully. May Marty go on to become someone else’s dream partner, he perhaps needs someone with slightly LESS sensitivity (for a mule?!) who will give him the strength he needs to cope with life in his head. Did that make sense?
    Good luck to you and Ben, and your next addition. You will be able to draw on the many things Marty has taught you in the coming years, and you will remember him with love, gratitude and peace in your heart x

    • Well said Row. I’ve loved reading Sari’s blog – it is honest and heartfelt and funny and sad too. This sort of decision is heart rending – reflecting as it does long months of effort, joy, hope and disappointment. But it is also a new beginning, for both of you. And for that I wish you both the very best of luck.

  2. Oh I’m so sorry it’s come to this. I do wish you could have made it work out. But I 100% do not blame you. I have bought and sold horses in the past and believe everyone should have a horse/mule they enjoy riding and working with. I wish you good luck in finding another mule to go into the future with.

  3. I have to admit to not reading any of this blog – I came across a Facebook post that lead to this particular blog post.

    I admire your honesty – it’s not easy giving up on anything and you can tell from your post that you did actually think long and hard first and not just suddenly decide to get rid of your mule. You weren’t happy and that, in the long run, would end up breeding resentment which would be even more detrimental in my opinion.

    Good luck with your future mule 🙂

  4. Sorry to hear this but I TOTALLY understand. Mules are a major commitment which you have taken on admirably but they are so darn complex and undoing their ‘issues’ is much more difficult (sometimes impossible!) than any other equine. Marty is never going to be the riding animal that you need and want so best that you both part before your bank balance, confidence and love of being with any equine is broken. You’ve given it all you can but should step back knowing that you’ve done the right thing. Hopefully Marty will find a happy existence in his next home. Sending you hugs, the decision is a good one for you all x

  5. I have SOOO been there. My first mule was 13 years old and mishandled. She was dangerous and finally hurt me . I find it a little weird now when I see mishandled mules
    For sale, “we just want them to find a good home,” they always say. They expect more from others than they would do themselves.
    Mishandled can simply be left in a field for years. You got in there and got your hands dirty. I did too. Then I came across an old pack mule that wanted to be my mule. I didn’t
    Want to waste any more time, hay or pasture on the mishandled one any more. It’s not wasting when you want to do it. I didn’t want to any more.
    5 hours with a good minded mule can change so very much. 5 hours with one of those other ones is like penny’s dropped down a well.
    I so wish I could post photos of my two lovely, loving,useful well trained mules, that I have now. I have a six year old that I started and sent to a trainer for a few months and have been riding ever since. I have a 4 month old gelding, John mule ( you read that right) that leads has been trailered all over has been ponied along roads and enjoys water. Time well spent. I have had him since birth. He has been in my yard and even in the house! This is the way mules are supposed to be.

  6. I have loved your facebook posts and links. Life is never simple, it wouldn’t be worth much if it was. Ditto relationships, often the most challenging are the most rewarding, but sometimes neither the challenge, nor the reward are within our capacity and sometimes, as you so honestly say, it becomes relationship which takes more than we can give or brings no reward. Your posts have reminded me that mules are the fascinating, challenging, sturdy, clever beasties, my grandmother told me about. thank you for sharing your adventures and your final decision. I’m sure you have both gained something and hope your next equine is more rewarding and less hard work (and of course that your hairy fairy has a full and rewarding life of his own). You deserve it 🙂

  7. I am so sorry that life with Marty has not worked out for you. I think that I must be one of the few who can totally empathise after having owned Izzy who Emma described as a Mule in a totally feral horse body. I have so enjoyed your blog and also have admired your complete and utter candid honesty and humility. I think so many horseman wannabees could hopefully learn that things, in spite of best efforts, are not always going to work out. Given the 60 million years that they have been on the planet why would they need us anyway? I believe that it is sheer luck that you are able to find a horse or mule that you can have that beautiful relationship with. But having been a dedicated Mulography reader, I can honestly say that you have clearly had such lovely times with Marty as I have had with Izzy. She is now turned out with other retired horses and although I only have limited contact with her, I will continue my love affair with her and appreciate all that we have been through together. I know it’s hard but you are doing the best for both of you, just that breaking up is hard to do. My thoughts are with you x

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