Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Mules › reading mules
- December 15, 2009 at 6:01 pm #41177matt wnyParticipant
I aquired a pair of young green mules early this spring. they just stood in the pasture most of the summer due to a hectic summer.just in the last month or so i have started messing with them and line driveing them and dragging the evener around.they were driving good with just the evener dragging the noise didnt seem to bother them so i hooked my little wood sled behind them and they freaked.didn’t have a runaway but VERY VERY CLOSE.I got them stoped and unhooked and drove them again with just the evener and they were ok.my problem is that i didnt think the seemed nervous or distraught rite up until the time the freaked out.I have alot of horse experience and have trained several problem horses and have always thought i could read them pretty well and know when trouble was about to happen.On the other hand i have absolutly no mule experience.My question is do mules tend to be harder to read than a horse and should i be doing something different in training than i would with a horse.December 16, 2009 at 12:52 am #56118AnonymousInactive
no advice but a good story to tell. myself and one of my freinds(an older gentle man) were working a mule that was broke but had not been used in about 10 years so we started him back like he knew nothing. we were ground driving him dragging a singe tree and after about 30min of that he seemed comfortable with that so we tied a piece of rope around an old tire and ran the rope thru the single tree and i walked with the rope so if he show he couldnt handle that i could let go of the rope and he would be free of the mule eating tire, plan sounded good but when he started to freak out and i let go of the rope it tangled that mule knew that the tire was going to eat him and he wanted no part of it and the old man gave a good effort and got drug for about 15feet on his belly but could not hold on to the lines so there goes the mule with tire in tow you have never seen a 1500# draft mule run so fast. he went up the road out of sight so i take off walking after him it was summer and the road was dry i followed the tracks after a mile i found the tire half mile later the single tree then the tracks went into the woods i said to hell with that hell be home sometime. i walked the mile and half back home left the tire to pick it up later when i get back the mule is in the yard eating like nothing happened harness still on and nothing broke, the old man on the porch nursing his wounds.December 16, 2009 at 1:50 pm #56117matt wnyParticipant
lucky nobody got hurt!December 17, 2009 at 1:11 am #56115Gabe AyersKeymaster
Hi Matt and Mark, Donn Hewes here, (not Jason). Only my two cents, but mules and horses are not that different and I don’t treat them differently. Individuals vary more than the breeds (or Species!) vary in my opinion. There are lots of different views on this site about how best to handle these green animals. If you review some old threads you will discover a lot of horse and mule training discussions.
Two basic thoughts come to mind. One is i like to get each individual working single for a while before I put them together. Second, regardless if they are single or a team the first few things you hook to must be chosen carefully. Here are just a few basic considerations. Too light or small is the worst, Too big or heavy is nearly as bad but too heavy is a much less frequent mistake and it is much easier to fix with little damage provide you are paying attention. Light and noisy is worst of all. We want to let them adjust and learn to except noises, we just don’t want to do it all at once! An old rake can be one of the hardest things to hook a green team to – light and noisy. The very best thing for the first pull for a green or untested animal is a short log. Lots of hooking and unhooking and standing.
I would also recommend the three step method of starting an animal or team you are uncertain of. Take three steps and stop. Plan to stop again even if you don’t need too. That preparation to stop will help you a great deal when an animal reacts worse than you expected to a new challenge. A good, safe, method.
Those small escapes are hard on the mule from a training stand point. Other small objects behind the animals have caused some bad accidents. I am glad no one got hurt. Keep us posted on how these mules get going. DonnDecember 17, 2009 at 1:12 am #56116J-LParticipant
Mules tell what they’re thinking just like a horse. Usually they’re going to have the head up, a** down posture, nervous stuff like pawing the ground or pacing. The ears will tell you a lot with a horse, same with a mule just amplified. I find a mule fairly easy to read. They show their tensions.
I have a mule story from last year. I was feeding cows out of a stack that was a half mile down the road from the feed grounds. The mules had been antsy all day with the high wind (like 50 mph wind) and were still so when I backed into the stack. I loaded a ton and a half of square bales and was at the back of the wagon throwing the last few on top when a bale fell off the stack and broke sending a flake right into the big spooky mules flanks. They jumped hard enough to dump me off the load and left me in a heap there in the stackyard.
I hollered ‘Whoa’ to no effect. They had to turn wide seft to miss a flat bed trailer, swing wide and right to make the gate and right on to the road. This was at a lope. Down the road they went.
In about 100 yards they slowed to a trot and by the time they hit the approach they were walking (all on the right side of the road) and turned wide enough to make the turn and were waiting at the gate for me.
My wifes uncle watched it from his house and couldn’t believe those mules settled down and even stayed on the right side of the road. Wagon in tact, load of hay still on, waiting at the gate.
He gave me a ride on down to the team and I went through the gate and to the feedground, which they walked like nothing had happened, while I finished feeding.
If this had been a team of horses I would have been picking up pieces of wagon and probably taking someone to the vet or worse.December 17, 2009 at 1:49 am #56119LostFarmerParticipant
By the time you get to be 70 years old and telling this story to the grand kids those mules will have opened the gate. They then would pitch off the hay unharness themselves and be waiting at the barn when you got home. :p
It is always interesting how quick you can go from no big deal to a hell of a fix and back. You must be living right. I would haven’t been that lucky. LF
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