My first weekend as a dual-mule-owning-fool has been pretty great. Saturday was a bit of a wash-out (welcome to England, Xato!), but luckily the rain paused long enough for Xato and I to have our first groundwork session before I had to go to work for the afternoon.
On Sunday we had actual sunshine, so everyone got to be naked (apart from me) and I spent a blissful five hours at the yard: doing chores, working mules, and generally just hanging out with our hooved family. I did a little bit of pole work with Marty in the morning, which he seemed to enjoy – until the cows came through into the hill field, and he decided he wanted to pull ugly faces at them instead. Still, it gave me an opportunity to work on his focus.
Ben came by after he’d done his morning teaching, and gave me and Xato another groundwork lesson. We also tried on the mule saddle that I bought a few months back – it needs a little alteration, but luckily it’s a Specialized so it’s designed for that.
I’ve been dying to have another ride on Xato ever since we flew out to Mallorca to meet him, but I’m being sensible about it. I want to get the saddle sorted first, and I would also like to teach Xato about bending and disengaging – he’s fairly certain that he can’t move out on a circle to the left, which is interesting, as when being led in a straight line his left seems to be his preferred side! Today he decided he’d rather leave than bend, so Ben took over and did a little bit as he has better timing than me (and leather gloves).
The thing I liked was that when Xato got away from me, all he did was trot back to his field gate and then start grazing. I was able to walk straight up and collect him, and we carried on our session; unlike a certain little brown mule, there was no panic, no half hour of catching, and he seemed to be of the opinion that Ben and I were still his friends. So that was a pleasant change!
After our session, we decided to start introducing Xato to the rest of the herd by putting Cash in the paddock with him. It was a complete non-event; Cash just started grazing, and Xato ignored him – so we figured we might as well put Marty in with them too.
Marty had been at the other end of the track, so I went to fetch him and asked him to follow me as I walked back. As Marty and I reached the corner above where Xato and Cash grazed, Marty – who had begun to trail behind – threw an enormous buck and raced over to me. He then proceeded to stroll nonchalantly down towards them, and I was fascinated to see Xato immediately respond and approach, ears pricked. They walked right up to each other, circled smoothly, and then Marty kicked out and both mules ran in opposite directions.
After that we had an hour or so of boys grazing, short bursts of boys running around, and Xato taking himself off to explore the other side of the track. I love that boundary mapping that mules seem to do!
We decided to separate them again before we went home for lunch, as I wasn’t ready to leave them unsupervised. A nice outcome from this initial introduction, however, was that at one point Xato – who had been hovering around at the top of the strip – came galloping down, risking a fly-by bombing from Marty and Cash, and rushed up to stand behind Ben and I! He seemed to know that we were a safe place, and he hung out with us until we moved the boys back onto their side.