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Tagged: Beginner's Mule Team?
- January 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm #82249
We are still searching for the right beginner’s team for us and our farm. Where we are in Pennsylvania there are just as many mule teams for sale as horses. My partner and I do not have any experience (save an afternoon at Donn’s once) working mules. I’m wondering what some of your opinions might be on the general suitability of mules vs. horses for the beginning teamster. I think that individual animals and the individual teamsters personalities and skill and commitment to working together trump generalities. Given that I’m still I’m curious what you all might think. This question also comes partly from the recent discussion on the ideal market garden draft breed, as that will be what we will be using them for, vegetable production and general farm work. We’ll be buying in all our hay, and pasturing as much as possible, for the foreseeable future, so the thriftier, smaller bodied, mule might make sense on that front, especially since the acreage of vegetable CSA certainly does not require 2 full size draft horses at this point. Could the smaller and perhaps more careful footed mule might be better suited for the cultivation work? Might a mule team might also be more inclined to stand still and wait for clearer instructions from a beginning teamster, rather than runaway from the perceived danger? On the other hand I wonder if it would be easier for the independent-natured mule team to get frustrated with, or lose confidence in, or never gain it from, beginning teamsters still learning the ropes. Any thoughts or experiences you all might have from when you first began, or from teaching beginners, would be much appreciated.January 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm #82250Donn HewesKeymaster
Hi Anton, I am not sure who else will answer, but I will give you my two cents. I personally don’t attribute a great difference between the horses and the mules. Certainly if they are a little lighter you might find you use a little less hay over the course of a year. As for more careful with their feet or less likely to bolt, or waiting for a beginning teamster, I would not start out attributing these things to any one breed. For the simple reason that they can be found in any breed and also lost just as easily. If you identify horses well trained for work as your top priority, I would stick with that, and look for animals that already demonstrate the ability to work calmly and patiently for a calm and patient teamster. This can be found in any breed of horse, but is no guarantee in any horse or mule. Good luck and let me know what you find. DonnJanuary 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm #82252
Donn, Thanks for your two cents, its worth much more than that. We’ll definitely let you know what we decide to get. AntonJanuary 28, 2014 at 7:45 pm #82262efdgoonParticipant
I live in the lehigh valley and have a team of Belgians that May fit your needs. I was a brand new teamster when I got them but I wouldn’t say they are bomb proof. I have a change of circumstances and need to let them go. Email me if you’d like to talk.
email@example.comJanuary 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm #82298RiverboundParticipant
I’m pretty green, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I’ve been using horses full time in our vegetable CSA operation for four years. We have three Belgian horses and someone has lent us a team of Belgian mules for the last year. When I was first starting out I was very focused/obsessed with breeds, especially mules, feed efficiency, thrift, etc. But, I think that in the big picture, that stuff is really kind of insignificant. Consider that your efficiency in utilizing the team is the biggest contributor to that equation. And, the animals that give you the most confidence are going to be the animals used most often, get the most work done, used in the the most diverse ways, etc. Because I would agree with you that the individual animals are what really counts, not breeds, and because clearly we don’t work with generalities, but with specific animals, specific tools, fields, etc., I would recommend finding the best trained team possible, regardless of breed. Among our equines, two of the horses are fairly easy keepers (staying fat here in the North Dakota winter), one tends to lose condition. One of the mules is the fattest of the bunch, one is the skinniest. Our “hottest” tempered horse is the most trusting (my favorite), and most attentive to driving instructions, which means if I’m paying attention he won’t step on the plants, but if I’m not, well… Our most steady reliable horse is a 20 year old mare. She’ll fall asleep at the wheel sometimes and drift where you don’t want her to go. The two skinniest (one mule, one horse) are the calmest tempered an least likely to panic. The mules do very well with routine, especially those routines that they came to us with. Anyway, the point is they’re individuals. Buying a team in the winter, especially a cold one like this, you should be able to get a good sense of who is and isn’t an easy keeper. Anyway, good luck!February 1, 2014 at 10:59 am #82321
Jeff, I sent you an e-mail. I hope we can be in touch.
Riverbound, Thanks for all the great advice. It’s hard sometimes in this stage of not having that first team to zoom out enough to see see the “big picture” you talked about. Part of the whole reason I want to work with animals is that they are living breathing changing unique. Not the kind of thing that you can figure out down to a science and be sure you have found the “perfect” team to buy. Thanks again for your inuput.
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