Team Half-Ass and the Not-A-Lot

So what’s been going on with Team Half-Ass lately? Not a lot, to be honest. Well: when I say not a lot, I mean besides the poo-picking, the feeding, the haynet-filling, the fence-moving, the vet-checkings, the feet trimming, the job-working, the magazine-everything, the house-tidying … you get the picture.

I signed up to take part in a series of foundational horsemanship challenges with Kate Sandel this month. Among the many things they’ve taught me so far is how little time I have; these are easy, five minute challenges that should be easy to fit in, and yet I’ve hardly done them. I’ve just been getting by on autopilot; doing what has to be done, ignoring the rest. This is not ideal.

We are planning to move house this year – to somewhere where we can finally keep our herd in a way which we believe is best for them, without having to worry about other people – and in order to do that we’ve needed to tackle the abysmal state of our flat, which has fallen into chaos due to general apathy on my part. Ben has done an incredible job tidying; I’ve dusted a few things and complained a bit.

The magazine requires constant attention because if I am not editing articles, I am approaching folk for new articles; if I am not doing that, I am contacting advertisers; if I am not doing that, I am keeping the social media active to try and raise our profile and increase subscribers. If I’m not doing any of these things I’m either working at my actual, paid jobs, or sleeping.

I also need to crack on with the next issue of the Mule Journal, which means politely harassing people for content. Us Brits are oddly reticent about writing about our mules.

It is my sincere hope that this will all pay off in the end, but I also wouldn’t mind a lottery win about now!

One morning I arrived to find that Marty had already found his way from the night paddock into the day paddock. He seemed as surprised about this as I was; it would, perhaps, have been smarter for him to jump into the ungrazed section instead.


Shortly before Christmas I decided I was going to get on Marty, so I got on with it. I didn’t proceed to actually swinging a leg over but I jumped up and bellied over him several times and he was fine with it, particularly when he realised I could feed him treats while I was up there.

Then life got in the way and he didn’t do anything for a while; he’s currently gone feral, and spends most of his time staring at me boggle-eyed and going “SnnnooOOORRTTT!”, especially if I’m carrying a fence post. I’ve never beaten him with a stick of any kind, but there’s always a first time I guess; and he’s going to make sure it doesn’t happen by loudly announcing his peril and then running for the hills if I acknowledge him.

He’s a special boy.

Xato having a nice ear scratch. I don’t think this is lice/mite/weather related, as he’s always enjoyed a good ear rummage. It’s a mule thing. Unless you’re Marty.


It seems as though Xato has lice, or some kind of mite infestation, which is both gross and expensive. It started about a month ago and I genuinely have no idea where he could have caught something like that from, as he’s had no contact with other equines and lives out 24/7 in a herd with Marty and the horses – none of whom are showing any signs of being in the same predicament. But Xato is very very VERY itchy, particularly along his back, and is half-way through a course of Dectomax injections. We got the first vet bill the other day which charged us nearly £70 just for looking at him (on top of the £40 call-out), so that was nice!

It did occur to me that last winter he was rugged almost the whole time, as he’d just arrived from Spain and I thought it a little mean to expose him to our cold, rain and snow before he’d had time to adjust properly; whereas this year I’ve left him naked. Also, this year his winter coat has stayed dark instead of adopting his usual pale colour. If it’s not lice then I wonder if there’s some explanation there.

I haven’t ridden him since October, although Ben has done a little bit of schooling with him. He ran away with me on our last ride, and although I got back on I’m afraid I’ve lost my confidence again; I’m not sure if it’s going to come back this time, but I’m surprisingly at peace with that. I’ve got really into the concept of just hiking with my mules and am genuinely considering selling my riding saddle in order to buy a pack saddle; or, at the very least, find a way to convert my saddle to carry panniers.

Regardless of what I decide in the end, I won’t get back on him until this itching is sorted. I don’t think putting a saddle on him right now would be very kind! Besides, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to his understanding of the rein. Even with all the time I spent working with him before we began riding out, I still think I rushed it and survived most of the summer on luck and Xato’s good temperament alone! We’ll see what happens when I have time to offer him some consistency again.

Shameless plugging, sorry. The magazine has a January sale on at the moment – take out a print subscription before the end of the month and get two back issues free. A bargain!

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