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5 Truths About Riding Mules

Maria Wachter, Horse Nation’s resident mule whisperer, meets a lot of folks out on the trail who ask her: why mules? Here are her top five responses.

Maria Wachter on her two mules, Bartholomule and Smokey Joe. Photo by Hal Long

On the trail I meet a lot of riders that tell me they want to buy a mule for trail riding, hunting, packing, etc. Here are some of the things I find myself saying to them on a regular basis.

1. Mules will always keep you humble.

If you have a big ego and you end up buying a mule, your ego will be knocked down a few notches. Does your mule load into every trailer, no matter what, and do you like to boast about it? Do it in front of someone you just met and watch in disbelief as your mule suddenly forgets how to load. They will take every opportunity to make a fool out of you, so you better have a good sense of humor since you will be the brunt of all their jokes.

2. Mules will always keep you safe… if you can stay on their back, that is.

A lot of people have the misconception of a mule being their 1200-pound babysitter that will keep them from all harm. The thing is, mules are very smart and have a great self-preservation instinct. They DO NOT at any circumstance want to get themselves hurt or to put themselves in a situation where they could die. They will keep themselves safe, whether you’re on their back or not. That includes jumping 30 feet sideways at a potential mule-eating bush, or bolting away at a dead run from an angry water bottle/bicyclist/plastic bag/dog/whatever else could kill them. If you have a really good seat, you may not get hurt, but if you’re a rider getting back into the sport because you’ve been hurt/lost your confidence/lost your stirrups and confidence at the same time, you might be unpleasantly surprised.

A horse will jump off a cliff for you, but a mule will watch as you go plummeting off the edge while he’s sitting high and dry.

3. If you end up getting a mule so you have a pack animal that you can use for hunting, you might be disappointed when that said mule is petrified of the smell of blood.

Some mules will pack anything, some mules will lose their minds when they smell blood. Yes, most of them can be trained eventually to get over this but for the guy/girl that only rides twice a year: one to leg their horse up for hunting season and two for the actual hunt, you might be very frustrated and let down and you might even lose your cool so much that you will have the urge to hunt your mule instead of that deer.

4. Mules are not stubborn.

They are extremely smart and will a lot of times outsmart their owner. If you own a mule you will constantly have to be one step ahead of them and constantly be in a state of trying to outsmart them. It’s like conquering a video game, mastering an instrument or something of the sort to me. Once you figure one out, each one will be easier and easier.

They keep me thinking and always impress me when they outsmart me.

5. Once you figure out your mule and your mule figures out you, you will realize why so many people have mules.

They become extremely loyal and trustworthy and their personalities are so enjoyable. Their surefootedness and brains under saddle will ease you even in the trickiest of trails. They will keep you laughing and bring a smile to your face even if you’re having a terrible day. Plus, who can resist their ears?!

Go riding — on a mule.

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