Update 29/02/2020: It has recently been brought to my attention that Michele – or Michelle – has been involved with law enforcement over the ownership of donkey jack, Royal Major League. Please bear in mind that this interview and her Muleteer interview were performed in 2016, and for the time being I will be keeping them online until further development.
This has got to be one of the sweetest stories I’ve shared here. We don’t need more fluffy horse films – we need the Jillybean movie (I won’t lie: Michele’s description of how she ended up with Jillybean made me tear up a little)! In a world where we’re bombarded with the awful things that people do to each other and to animals, it warms the heart to read about a so-called “ugly” mule who beats the odds and finds a new life for herself in a happy, loving home.
All images are copyright © to Michele Du Moulin, of the Major League Mule Company.
1. Please introduce us to your mule!
This is Jill. Affectionately known as Jillybean. She is a Halflinger pony mule that stands 13.1h and is 15 years old. She has a younger full brother named Bill. He is 11 years old.
2. How did you meet her?
I was looking for a child friendly small sized mule for my all-mule lesson program and show team. A friend introduced me to Jack who lives in Michigan. He is 84 years old and has been raising mules for over 50 years. He had Bill up for sale and another Appaloosa mule for sale. I purchased both.
As the vet work and travel work was being arranged, Jack called me up and asked if I’d take Bill’s sister too as they have been together their whole lives.
I told him I didn’t need another pony mule. The phone was silent … then Jack said, “I’m not asking you to buy her. I’m just asking you to take her for free. You see … she’s a good girl, sweetest heart and loves kids. But she was in a bad accident years ago and now she’s not so pretty. She’s got big knees, big hocks, a bit of arthritis, but she’s still sound. But no one wants an ugly mule, except the kill buyers.”
He was silent again before continuing, “I don’t want her to end up with the kill buyers. I can keep her here … but I’d really like to see her be with her brother until it’s her time to go.”
What else could I do.
A week later, a tiny little sorrel Molly hopped off the trailer in the dark rainy night and walked into her nice warm stall as if she belonged there.
3. What do you do with her, and what are your plans for the future?
Right now, Jill is working with very young children ages 5-8 teaching them all about mule care, leadership skills, team work and most of all … love.
In the future, Jillybean will be our beginner lead line lesson and show mule. Teaching the children riding, good sportsmanship, and how to have fun.
4. Can you share a story that you feel sums up your mule and/or your relationship with her?
After being at my farm for a month, and settling in, Jilly decided that she would sneak out of the gate of her paddock. I didn’t have to chase her, or get a grain bucket. I just sat in the grass while she grazed. After a few minutes, she walked over and lay down beside me. I leaned against her, scratched her ears and enjoyed the sunset. After that, we both got up, I walked into the barn and she just followed with her head tucked under my arm.
Since that day, Jilly has proven that no matter how banged up someone is, you don’t give up … and I was rewarded with trust and love of a beautiful little mule.
5. What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt as a mule owner, and what piece of advice would you give to someone new to mules?
The most important thing I have learned as a mule owner is that you have to open your mind and your heart to these animals. Be patient. Be kind. Be firm. But give them love and a chance to prove themselves. And give them reasons to trust you.
Advice to new mule owners:
Take your time. Be patient and forgiving.
Realize they are nothing like horses at all so learn all you can about their ways of thinking.
And don’t fight with them. You will not win … you will only make a dangerous enemy at the most, or break a wonderful soul of an amazing creature at the least.
If you would like your mule to be featured here, 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 happy to take worldwide submissions!