Monday, April 14, 2014

All Ears

Yesterday I went riding with a very nice lady who owns racing mules.  I met some champions and met the first cloned equine, and I rode a retired race mule.  He isn't really all that speedy anymore, even though he's only 11 years old.  He's a show mule now, with a pretty spotted appaloosa butt.

 My ulterior motive was to pick her brain about mules, considering she owns so many and has had them in her life for so long.  But as you can see my mount wasn't really wanting to walk with them.  We'd catch up every now and then, but her friend was really a talker and I never got much of a word in.  Then we'd fall behind again.  It was fun though, and it was the longest ride I've been on yet this year.  My butt was feeling it today.

Today I finally had a decent ride on my own mule!  It lasted more than 5 minutes and we worked on basic communication. He is a very mobile boy, and he seems to be happier when he's moving, although he doesn't really have trouble standing still either.  I had no problem mounting up using the mounting block, and off we went!  He did well in the Myler bit. 

He looks kinda goofy in all my mismatched, cheap tack.  But if you ignore that, he's darn cute!
We had a little talk about his ear sensitivity after that, and I'm feeling a little torn about it.  I'd like him to get over that but it's really a deeply ingrained thing.  If you touch his ears right he loves it (gradually, sliding your hands into position), but if you accidentally bump them even the slightest bit or get anywhere near them with the reins or rope, he totally overreacts and jerks his head very abruptly with a bit of a grunt. It's usually unexpected and fairly startling.  And when I attempted to slip my rope reins over his head - boy howdy!  He didn't like that.  I was expecting a reaction so I wasn't caught off guard.  Luckily the bridle was already off his head and he didn't get his mouth jerked on.  So we worked on allowing me to touch, and I think we made some progress, but I'm not sure.  Afterward he buried his face against me and just wanted to be loved, so I don't think he's going to hold it against me, but again I'm not sure.  I think tomorrow I won't make such an issue of it.  We'll work on it again another day.  We don't have to get this all done immediately, after all.  It's more important that he feel safe with me.

Everyone got their nasty dewormer today too.  They didn't love me for it, but they didn't give me any real trouble.

I can't wait for tomorrow!  More nice weather and muleplay!  :)


Keechy said...

This might be of help?

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

Good article! Thanks! I honestly don't think any human is quick enough to slip their hand over his ears before he reacts, but I can work more with the head control and go from there. We've already been working on that, but just beginning phases. He has learned to drop his head but not keep it down, and give his nose to the side, but giving his nose toward his chest is foreign to him, he really gets confused when I'm not satisfied with his backing up with his nose in the same position. These are the little things I love to work on though, and he'll have a lightbulb moment soon, I'm sure.

Keechy said...

I must admit I would lean more towards slow and steady work like TTouch ear work and/or clicker training him to target his ear to your hand and to keep still while you touch his ears, but since they were mule people I thought something in it might help. :)

Snipe said...

He's adorable. Do you find mules to be much different than horses?

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

Keechy, it was very helpful, and I'm planning on working my way through all the articles on that site.

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

I don't find him to be much different from my mustangs, but I think with time the differences will be more apparent. From what I have read and been told, mules like to think things through, they need to feel they're being treated fairly, it's more important to stay consistent, and they want to feel like there's a good reason to do what you're asking (they don't see the sense in walking through a puddle when they could go around it - much like mustangs). I've also read that they're like dogs, not like horses, in terms of their relationships with humans, as long as the relationship is good. One of the articles I read today said that mules like to let the human think for them, rather than reacting to outside influence, so they look to us for direction. I assume that's only in a good relationship as well.

So far, Jasper is a little slower to figure out new things than I think a horse would be. He really goes through a process of thinking and trying different things, with long pauses in between, trying to find the right answer. You might think he'd quit on you but he's really trying to puzzle things through. And once he's got it, he's got it. He also has a tendency to be apprehensive, but he has a history of being with a bad trainer as a youngster, and I think he's not 100% sure of me yet. It is rewarding to see him go from worried to, "Oh, that's all you wanted? What a relief." He really appreciates praise.