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 Based on this, I can only assume that the breeching set was originally made for an extremely long, rather narrow mule … the rare limousine mule, perhaps!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