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By Meredith Hodges
The old saying, “No foot, no mule” is literally true, as it is in any nomadic animal. If the hooves are not trimmed and balanced properly, it will offset the balance of the equine’s entire body and can compromise longevity in the animal because his entire internal structure will be compromised. Most equines will need to be trimmed or shod every 6-8 weeks whether horse, mule or donkey.
Horse’s hooves in general are proportionately larger, rounder and more angled than that of the donkey or mule. The sole of the foot is flat on the ground promoting good circulation in the foot through the frog.
Regardless of the size of the animal, the hooves of the mule will be smaller and more upright than that of a horse of equal size, and should be well sprung and supported, not contracted. They should have a smooth appearance and look sleek and oily. No ribbing should be apparent and the frog should be well extended, healthy and make adequate contact with the ground for good circulation to the hooves. The shape of the mule or donkey foot is more oval and the bottom of the foot is slightly “cupped” which accounts for the surefootedness in the mule and donkey. When being trimmed, the mule should be left with more heel than the horse to maintain the often more upright position that complements the shoulders and hips. If the mule or donkey has a better slope to the shoulders, he might have an angle that is similar to the horse, but he will still grow more heel than the horse. The shape and condition of the hooves of the jack and the mare are both equally important when considering foot development in the mule.
Because donkey and mule hooves are different from a horse’s hoof in that they are more oblong, cupped in the sole, they need more heel left during a trim than the round, flat sole and low heels on a horse. There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule as there are in most generalizations. Most donkeys are relatively inactive and live on moderate ground, so they do grow out in that time period. Some donkeys, like my own Little Jack Horner, are much more active and will wear their feet down naturally.
Of course, those that do not have the benefit of good training and conditioning would still wear unevenly and would still need to be trimmed, however, with the correct training and conditioning, they may wear evenly and may not need to be trimmed more than once a year! The same goes for those who would live in rough terrain. They may wear their feet down, but they would still need to be trimmed for balance. Those who are moving correctly may wear down evenly and would not require trims as often.
Failure to have your mule’s hooves regularly trimmed in order to maintain their balance and shape can result in an imbalance in your mule’s feet, which will then cause an imbalance throughout his entire body, inhibiting his performance. However, if trimming is done consistently, the risk of imbalance, accident or injury will be greatly reduced.
There are a lot of things to consider when trimming and shoeing all equines. If the animal is to have shoes, for instance, then they would need to maintain the flat surface of the sole for the shoes to fit properly. It is important that the equine have relief from shoes when they are not being ridden as much. We usually take any shoes off during the winter which keeps the heels from becoming contracted from wearing shoes and promotes good circulation to the foot as the frog can then make contact with the ground more consistently than it can with shoes. A good understanding of the anatomical differences among horses, mules and donkeys is essential for healthy hoof care.
When your farrier is trimming your equine, he should take into account the angles of the shoulder, the forearm, the knees, the cannon bone, fetlock, pastern and the general angle to the entire body when at rest, not just trimming off the excess. This is an anatomical call and only people who are schooled and skilled in this profession should even attempt it or you could run the risk of injuring your animal.
It is commonly known that, when it comes to horses and mules, light-colored hooves are softer and more likely to break down under stress than are the darker, black hooves. Even though the black hoof is naturally harder than the light-colored hoof, if it does not contain sufficient moisture, it can become brittle and can chip away as destructively as can the lighter hoof. Whichever breed of equine you own and whatever the color of their feet, remember that good hoof care is essential for all domesticated equines.
For better or worse, an equine inherits his hooves through his genes. If your equine has inherited good feet—black, oily-looking, and with good shape—then you are fortunate and hoof care and maintenance should be relatively simple. If he has inherited a softer or misshapen foot, you will need to discuss more specialized care with your farrier. Beware of generalizations as they can often be misleading! Each animal should ultimately be assessed individually.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Meredith Hodges
There was a time before the industrial age when one-third of all fifteen million mules on earth were being utilized by the United States. Mules worked in the fields, carried our packs, pulled heavy barges on the canals, plodded through darkness in the mines, guided supply wagons and streetcars about the cities, carried tourists to exotic places like the Grand Canyon and transported army supplies and light artillery for the government. And to help with all the back-breaking labor he faced, man’s invention of the hybrid mule was truly a stroke of creative genius. “No cultural invention has served so many people in so many parts of the world for so many centuries with energy, power and transport as the mule.”
During the surge westward, heavy Conestoga wagons laden with all the possessions one could carry were often pulled by teams of mules that were either leased or owned by the early settlers. When cattlemen developed breeds like Texas Longhorns that could endure the harsh climate of the Great Plains, their mules pulled the chuck wagons that followed the large herds as they were driven the long distances to market. Improved farm equipment beckoned farmers to tame the West and what else could manage the vast land and long work hours save the mule? During these times, little thought was given to the possibility that this coveted land was already occupied by numerous Indian tribes.
The soldiers were caught in an impossible situation. They were bound by duty to protect and serve the early ranchers, miners, farmers and their families, but were unable to derive any profit from their duty. Indian attacks raged at every turn and mules helped carry the artillery and supplies the army needed to protect its citizens. The armies had been used to fighting in an entirely different climate and, when faced with the gale winds, plunging temperatures and blizzards on the Great Plains like they had never seen, it was often the mule that provided the perseverance and determination to see it through. On rare occasions, the mule served as the only source of food, saving the lives of desperate families and often – hungry Indians.
People are generally surprised to learn of the loyal and affectionate nature of the mule. For some reason, they want to believe in a stubborn and vengeful character, but when one reads accounts from individuals, one finds mules to be quite the opposite. In the mid-1800s, the U.S. government, in its infinite wisdom, recognized the value of the mule, yet made foolish provisions for its soldiers in their regard. It was clear that they did not fully understand this animal that resembled the horse but acted nothing like it.
In training mules to harness, they often cut traces to the harness so short and hung so low that the mule’s heels would be clipped by the swingle trees when they walked forward. Not wanting to injure itself, the mule would stop when it became sore. This act was acknowledged as laziness. It was only through the good sense of the real mule teamsters that these kinds of errors were corrected. Swingle trees were hung higher between the hock and the heel to allow for a full stride, and traces were subsequently invented with larger chain links at the ends of the drawing-chains to allow for adjustments in length.
The American government purchased many mules that were two and three years old—entirely too young for use. If they had purchased mules all over the age of four, it would have saved a lot of heartache and expense. Contractors and inspectors seemed to be more concerned with the numbers they could sell to the government than the quality and usefulness of the animals. When purchased for use, this invariably resulted in the mules being put onto a train with teamsters who knew nothing of their character. Those who know mules know the deep affection they develop for human beings with whom they spend much time. Thousands of young mules were rendered useless by the government’s incompetence and ignorance as to their maintenance and training.
Harvey Riley, author of The Mule, published in 1867, recounts, “While on the plains, I have known Kiowa and Comanche Indians to break into our pickets during the night and steal mules that had been pronounced completely broken down by white men. And these mules they have ridden sixty and sixty-five miles of a single night. How these Indians could do this, I never could tell.” Maybe it’s as simple as, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar!”
Packing was of great importance to government mules, as they were required to carry a wide variety of heavy items over treacherous terrain. In the Northern and Western territories and in Old and New Mexico, nearly all business was done with pack mules and pack donkeys.
The Indians adopted the Spanish way of packing, as the Spaniards were noted experts. The Americans developed their own American pack saddle, but it was abandoned soon after its creation.
“While employed at the Quartermaster’s depot at Washington, D.C. as superintendent of the General Hospital Stables, we, at one time, received three hundred mules on which the experiment of packing with this saddle had been tried in the Army of the Potomac. It was said this was one of General Butterfield’s experiments. These animals presented no evidence of being packed more than once; but such was the terrible condition of their backs that the whole number required to be placed at once under medical treatment…yet, in spite of all his skill, and with the best of shelter, fifteen of these animals died from mortification of their wounds and injuries of the spine,” Harvey Riley remembers.
In 1942, while in the service of the U.S. Army, Art Beaman became familiar with mules in a most curious way. He was working as an Operations Sergeant for a Headquarters in Northern California that determined whether troops were ready for combat. The troops consisted of 204 enlisted men, two veterinarian officers, four horses and 200 mules. Being a non-rider, Art was on and off his horse three times in the first ten minutes of the trip into the mountains. The First Sergeant finally decided to put him on a mule and open his eyes to the redeeming qualities of his mount. The next day, Art was able to say, “That mule and I were really a team…by this time, I trusted my mule so completely that I could have stood up and sang the national anthem as we slipped and skidded along!”
The aftermath of this story is really funny. About a week before his pack troop was to be deployed to the South Pacific, some sideways thinker in the Quartermaster Corps sent 200 green-broke replacement mules for his troop. Not wishing to trade the now fully broke mules for the green-broke mules, Art left the 200 mules on the train overnight while he pondered this dilemma. When he returned the next day, he told the men in charge, “There are the old mules and we have the new ones! Evidently, they believed me, or they didn’t care one way or the other, and the green mules were on their way back to Washington!”
Those who have experienced the spiritual connection with mules all have their own individual stories to tell. From The Black Mule of Aveluy, by Charles G.D. Roberts, comes one of the most amazing World War I battlefield stories I’ve ever heard. It is the story of a man and a big black mule on a rain-scourged battlefield. “The mule lines of Aveluy were restless and unsteady under the tormented dark. All day long a six-inch high-velocity gun firing at irregular intervals from somewhere on the low ridge beyond the Ancre, had been feeling for them. Those terrible swift shells, which travel so fast on their flat trajectory that their bedlam shriek of warning and the rendering crash of their explosion seem to come in the same breathless instant, had tested the nerves of man and beast sufficiently during the daylight; but now, in the shifting obscurity of a young moon harrowed by driven cloudrack, their effect was yet more daunting.”
A second shell screamed down into the lines, scattering deadly splinters of shell ropes, tether-pegs and mules. When it was all said and done, one lone black mule stood back, still tied to the picket line, unable to free himself. With eyes wide in terror, he sought respite from the onslaught, but was unable to find any. Suddenly, a man with tousled, ginger-colored hair appeared at his nose and put his arms around the mule’s neck, as the mule coughed and sputtered, still stunned from the blast. The man quickly untied the black mule and another that was left from the blast and got them to safety.
After the attack at Aveluy, the black mule and his new driver were given the job of carrying up shells to the forward batteries. Early that next afternoon, they were plunging deep into rugged territory along a sunken road, muddy from perpetual rain showers, when suddenly the inexplicable happened and there was an array of star-showers that blinded the mule. “When he once more saw daylight, he was recovering his feet just below the rim of an old shell-hole. He gained the top, braced his legs, and shook himself vigorously.” His panniers were still heavily loaded and his driver was not in sight. He soon saw his driver clinging to the far edge of the shell-hole, sinking rapidly in the mud. “He reached down with his big yellow teeth, took hold of the shoulder of Jimmy Wright’s tunic, and held on. He braced himself and, with a loud, involuntary snort, began to pull.”
Jimmy Wright remembered the blast and saw where he was. He was afraid his shoulder had been blown off, yet he could move both arms and discovered something was pulling on him. “He reached up his right arm—it was the left shoulder that was being tugged at—and encountered the furry head and ears of his rescuer! Reassured at the sound of his master’s voice, the big mule took his teeth out of Wright’s shoulder and began nuzzling solicitously at his sandy head.”
For centuries the mule loyally traversed the course of history with man, though he was never given credit for his valuable contributions. In fact, men perpetrated stories to the opposite and the mule’s legacy became one of laziness, stubbornness and disobedience. Only those humans who were of a character to willingly explore the spirit of the mule were there for its redemption. We are thankful that their stories have withstood the test of time. Throughout history, man believed that he was making progress with each new age, but the blind farmer will tell you, “There’s no such thing as a seeing-eye tractor, and while I am farming with my mule, I can hear the birds sing. I never could with a tractor!” Perhaps we should take note and stop to smell the roses and give credit where credit is due.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Meredith Hodges
As we track mules through history, we find there is a reoccurring theme that paints the mule as both a companion and adversary of man. Those of a certain temperament seem to be able to befriend the mule and those who would be combative suffer at his mercy. Man would rather blame stubbornness on the mule than to claim this stubbornness as his own. Clearly, there is no doubt that the mule is and always has been a hard-working and valuable beast of burden throughout history. His ability, intelligence and judgment are unmatched.
George Washington was a fairly well educated man and, “the copybook which he transcribed at fourteen years of age a set of moral precepts or Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation was preserved.” Practical experience was the foundation for his best training in outdoor occupations and not books. He was a successful tobacco and livestock farmer early in his teens and mastered the art of surveying to plot the fields he inherited. It is no accident that George Washington became not only the father of our country, but also, the first organized mule breeder in America.
George Washington tried to buy some Spanish donkeys to use for mule breeding at Mount Vernon, but found that their exportation from Spain was against the law. Most who have studied mules and donkeys know that King Charles III of Spain then gave Washington the gift of an Andalusian jack and two jennets from Malta. The jack, named Royal Gift, became the foundation sire of Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon and he popularized mule breeding for farm work. Blending the Andalusian and Maltese donkeys produced finer donkeys than those that had been imported for still better quality mule production. Eventually, the law in Spain was changed. George Washington was not the only one who recognized the economical value of mule and donkey power for the growth and prosperity of a new empire. Henry Clay and others began importing numerous donkeys and breeding for mule stock.
George Washington was not devoid of the sense of humor needed to work with mules and donkeys. In a 1786 letter to a neighbor concerning Royal Gift’s failure to perform stud service (as can often happen with donkey jacks, as they are quite particular about their “ladies”), Washington wrote, “Particular attention shall be paid by the Mares which your Servant brought and when my Jack is in the humor they shall desire all the benefits of his labours—for labour it appears to be. At present, tho’ young, he follows what one may suppose to be the example of his late royal master, who cannot, tho’ past his grand climacterick, perform seldomer, or with more majestic solemnity, than he does. However, I am not without hope, that when he becomes a little better acquainted with republican enjoyments, he will amend his manners, and fall into a better & more expeditious mode of doing business. If the case should be otherwise, I should have no disinclination to present his Catholic majesty with as good a thing as he gave me.”
Respect for donkeys and mules is the only way to motivate them to action. Their rugged individualism will tolerate no less. The mule exemplifies the “All-American,” as set forth by the colonists. The colonists were thought to be stubborn in their quest for individual freedom by the British Crown that super-imposed itself upon their individual liberties. Like the colonists, mules will challenge anyone who challenges their individual liberties! It is only fitting that the mule would be fully revered and appreciated by a man of such distinction as George Washington.
In 1803 Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase. “Over the next 75 years, more than two million square miles revealed their secrets to an army of hunters, soldiers, naturalists and other adventurers.”
While perusing the pictorial archives of history, you will see that men and their partners, wives, children, dogs and horses were always front and center. But what about their mules? You read about their many perils and victories, but you rarely hear mention of the one humble animal that worked silently, relentlessly in the background—the mule.
In May of 1804, after the official transfer of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark began their expedition up the Missouri River. They soon learned to despise the muggy territory, with its humid climate populated by numerous mosquitoes, gnats and other creatures. Even their dogs would howl in pain from the intrusions of this unexpected onslaught. Conditions were tough and it was not unusual for mules and donkeys to be used as pack and draft animals in this rough country. Desert-born donkeys and the hybrid mule are born with the characteristics necessary to endure such strenuous conditions. They are stronger and sturdier than the horse. They require less to sustain good health, need less water and are more resistant to parasites and disease. Without mules and donkeys, the westward migration would have been much more difficult.
The Erie Canal was the longest canal built in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money. It had continued success for many years because of the use of donkeys and mules to pull the barges along the tow path. “In the annals of the Erie Canal, we find little credit given to the mules; yet, by virtue of their strength and endurance and sagacity, the western wheat reached New York City in due time and industrial products moved west.”
The mules plodded slowly along the canal, pulling the heavy barges of goods, as did the “mule drivers,” who were most often young boys. Occasionally a mule would fall into the canal, but it was quickly and safely guided back to shore by the lead around its neck. Where the walls of the canal were too steep to climb back out, the villagers installed ramps at intervals along the canal to serve as an easy escape from the water, should the mules fall in. These ramps were covered with a heavy planking containing thick slats, or “cheats,” where a mule could get traction coming up the ramp. In the off-season, the planking could be removed and held over for the next season.
George Washington wrote that he “crossed over to Wood Creek which empties into the Oneida Lake and affords water communications with Ontario. I shall not rest content until I have explored the western country and traversed those lines which have given bounds to a new empire.” The building of the Erie Canal, the development of New York as the “Empire State,” and the opening of the West owes its success almost single-handedly to the hybrid mule and horse as upon any other single contribution.
In 1849 the California Gold Rush saw men racing westward to make their fortunes. Many were not prepared for what they would find. The West was a tough and unforgiving country. Those who had mules and donkeys fared far better than those who did not. One of the most famous donkeys in history was “Brighty” of the Grand Canyon, who befriended a miner and made his way into folklore and modern-day children’s books. As mining was further developed, mini mules bred from small donkeys and pony mares were used in the mines to haul out coal and ore. They worked well under these adverse conditions and were small enough to easily manage the low-ceiling passageways.
After the Civil War, farmers were again at a loss for man-power and mule-power. Tennessee joined Kentucky as another leader in the breeding of mules and donkeys. During the war, much of the stock had been destroyed or starved to death, so, from 1883 to the end of the 18th century, there was a surge of asses imported from Spain to replenish the stock. This all but depleted the good stock for sale left in Spain.
Missourians, who still love their mules, became the hub of mule power. Mules would eat poor feed, work in blistering sun and live longer than horses. Mules came in a variety of sizes and colors with a multitude of uses. One Missouri Muleskinner from Springfield chuckled and said, “I’d never used more continuous bad mouth words in my life until I started to work with mules.” Muleskinners themselves are allowed by proxy to use some pretty rank terms, yet no outsider would ever be allowed to address their mules the same way.
From 1883 to 1889, the 20-mule teams moved 20 million pounds of borax from the Death Valley floor in California over the mountains to the Mojave Desert, 165 miles away. They traveled roughly 15 to 18 miles in a day, crossing the steep Panamint Mountains to the railroad. During this 20-day round trip, temperatures could be expected to rise as high as 130 degrees. Still, these remarkable animals plodded relentlessly along, doing their jobs with little or no complaint, except when an impatient muleskinner would inadvertently interfere.
Terrors of Death Valley seemed to arise from only three causes: extreme heat, excessive dryness of the atmosphere, and lack of water. The president of the Eagle Borax Company, Mr. I. Daunet, was forced to kill his animals so he could drink their blood to survive, as blood can replace water. After this devastating near-death experience, and finding the daunting heat unbearable, Mr. Daunet was happy to remain, thereafter, in his office.
Mules and donkeys have been a great friend of man. There is no more useful or willing animal on earth to aid man in his endeavors. “He has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant. Still, he has been a great friend of man, in war and in peace serving him well and faithfully.” Should we not give mules and donkeys the respect, admiration and credit they so richly deserve? In doing so, would we then enrich our own lives as our country has been enriched by them? Think about it.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Meredith Hodges
Many people ask me when the first mules appeared on this earth. Historically, mules have their roots in the Bible. Contrary to the popular belief that mules are so lowly and stubborn that they would have to be the mount of serfs, they were—in the beginning—the mount of kings!
“So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon.” (I Kings 1:38)
Another Bible passage recounts how Absolom, the son of King David, had a rather unfortunate encounter in which he was clunked on the head by a tree branch while his mule, using common sense, ducked underneath. Those of us who know and love mules can certainly relate to their ability to instill humility in their human counterparts, and everyone can appreciate that, even back then, mules were noted for their completely natural and indubitable humor.
“And Absolom met the servants of David. And Absolom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the Heavens and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away.” (II Samuel 18:9)
Mules are not only psycho-therapists, but they are the true geniuses of slap-stick humor! When you get into an altercation with a mule, you will seldom get hurt, but you will surely be set straight in a most humiliating way.
“And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, ‘What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?’ And Balaam said unto the ass, ‘Because thou hast mocked me, I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.’ And the ass said unto Balaam, ‘Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?’ And he said, ‘Nay.” (Numbers 22:23) Mules and donkeys will always be compelled to let us know when our actions are careless and thoughtless—it is in their nature. Whether or not we choose to listen and alter our approach is entirely up to us.
The highest intelligence residing in animals is that of the mule. He inherits athletic ability and “horse sense” from his mother, the horse, and incredible wisdom and strength from his father, the jack. Perhaps the kings of yore finally tired of being publicly humiliated by their superior mules, or perhaps they just couldn’t muster the patience or humor to deal with them anymore, but mules were eventually replaced by horses as the mount of choice, and were subsequently used primarily for packing and draft work.
Strong and durable animals, mules also played a significant part in Greek and Roman transportation. The mule can travel more than three mph and can easily cover 50 miles in a day. Their usefulness is unmatched, even by oxen, as they can cover more distance much more quickly.
The mule’s ability to survive is truly uncanny, given that he is the hybrid offspring of a jack and a mare and does not produce offspring. On rare occasions, mare mules (or mollies) have been known to reproduce by a jack or stallion, but for the most part, mules are sterile and cannot propagate themselves.
There is a volunteer organization in Israel called HAI-BAR, (an Israeli word meaning “wildlife”). This organization was established to protect animals that had thrived in the Holy Land during the Old Testament years, but that are now dangerously close to extinction, due to reckless use of land resources. HAI-BAR South, established in 1964, opened 3000 acres to the general public in 1977 for the express purpose of protecting herds of wild species from Biblical times. A second reserve, HAI-BAR Carmel, was established in the center of Israel near Haifa on Mount Carmel, where 2000 acres were fenced off to accommodate and protect even more Biblical animals. These reserves are still in operation today.
The closest ancestral link to the mule is the Somali Wild Ass, found in Northeast Africa. Only a few were still living in the Danakil Desert of Ethiopia when a number of them were captured and brought to HAI-BAR, where they began to once again propagate. The Somali Wild Ass has incredible strength for its size and subsists on desert shrubs as its only food. This explains why our modern-day mules and donkeys can stay healthy and strong on much less feed than today’s horse requires.
The unique personality traits of the mule come from the ass. Unlike horses, mules are naturally curious, but are also suspicious and require time to size up a situation before acting. For this reason, it usually takes time for people to warm up to mules and time for mules to warm up to people. Because their judgment of people is unmatched, it is wise when buying a mule to allow him to pick you! A lot of the mule’s so-called“stubbornness” is really a sense of self-preservation. If he has a negative experience, he is not likely to repeat it. His memory serves him well and he never makes the same mistake twice. For this reason, it is important that the personality of the mule and his handler are compatible and that they actually like each other.
The old myths, “stubborn as a mule,” and, “a mule will wait for the opportunity for revenge” are just those…myths. I would suppose these opinions arose from those who were probably impatient when dealing with mules. When left to their own devices, mules will learn from their experienced peers and from those who truly care about them. And people who are confrontational with mules will meet with undeniable stubbornness and resistance.
It makes sense that mules and donkeys have become so economically important to Third World countries. They are generally sedate, humble and hard working animals with an intelligence that enables them to learn their job quickly. They can go anywhere man can go, and do the work of many at far less expense—which is more than can be said of any motorized vehicle. Mules and donkeys are still an important part of third world economies. There are educators from The Donkey Sanctuary in Great Britain and other sanctuaries who visit these emerging countries, with the expressed purpose of teaching people how to work more efficiently with their longeared counterparts, since the very existence of many third world nations depends upon this partnership.
© 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2020 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Meredith Hodges
In Part 1 of Getting Down with Minis, you learned how to begin the relationship with your miniature equine in a positive and natural way that fosters good behavior and a solid relationship between you. You also learned the importance of getting down to your mini’s eye level so that he can make eye contact with you, which discourages striking, jumping on you and other bad behaviors that are common when working with miniature equines. In Part 2, I discussed how important it is to successfully complete the tasks in Part 1 before moving on to Part 2 and explained why it is advisable to work minis in groups, as they perform better when they are with their friends. You also learned how to train minis to go over and around various obstacles. Remember that all of this is to be done with no expectations that may overwhelm your mini—it is better if you maintain an attitude of fun and games. In Part 3, we got down to some serious groundwork training so your mini can be used for the purpose of driving and showing in hand. He learned to lunge and to be ground driven in the round pen and in the open arena through the hourglass pattern and if part of a team, how to do these things as a team. In Part 4, you worked on obstacle exercises on the drive lines to increase strength and coordination.
The fifth and final part of this series will illustrate how you can keep things controlled and will help you to consistently set up an environment for success. NOTE: If you are training two minis, it is really just a matter of teaching each of them the same thing, but at each stage of the ground-driving and hitched lessons, you need to teach each mini separately first and then as a team.
These exercises will require an assistant, so ask someone you trust to help you. Make sure, each step of the way, that you tell your assistant clearly and specifically exactly what you need him or her to do. To begin, take your mini back to the round pen and review your previous ground-driving lessons (“walk,” “trot,” “whoa” and “back”) with an “S” turn through the middle in order to change directions. NOTE: Do not use the “reverse” command during these lessons. Do use the “back” command, but only to loosen the traces when detaching your mini from the tire. Attach a tire to the harness traces as a drag so your mini can get used to pulling weight behind him. To do this, first thread some baling twine through the slits at the ends of your traces to create “loops.” The slits in the traces are usually too narrow to allow a line to slide freely back and forth through them, but the baling twine will work well to accommodate this.
Next, take a piece of flat nylon stripping such as a strip of lunge line and tie it to a tire with about six to eight feet of extra line. This extra line will be threaded through the baling twine loops and then be handed back into the hands of your assistant. Now ask your assistant to walk alongside and slightly behind you, holding on to the piece of nylon stripping as you ground drive your mini. Always make sure your assistant is walking on the side away from the fence so as not to trap him or her if things go wrong. If, for any reason, your mini bolts, tell your assistant to simply let go of the nylon stripping. Your mini will quickly be released from the tire. NOTE: If training a team, do the “drag” exercise with each single mini first before exercising them as a team. Working one mini at a time first will help to avoid any major wrecks that can cause your mini(s) any anxiety or distrust.
Spend as many tire drag lessons as it takes in the round pen to be sure your mini is driving easily and smoothly before graduating him to the open arena with the tire. Just as you did with simple ground driving, once he is ready, let your mini drag the tire while ground driving him through two rotations of the hourglass pattern, and then cross the long diagonal and do two more rotations in the opposite direction. Make halts often so rewards can be dispensed for a job well done. Do not make any abrupt turns or try to add speed before you are completely competent with the lines and your mini is responding obediently. Ground driving is as much for you to learn good Reinsmanship as it is for your mini to learn to drive correctly. If training more than one mini, just tie whichever mini you’re not working with at the moment off to the side and have him wait his turn before ground driving the two as a team. The frequent halts with rewards will teach him to stay clam and remain still when asked.
Before actually hitching your mini to the vehicle, be sure to check all harness straps and make sure they are correctly adjusted. While you do this, you will also be teaching your mini (or minis if a team) to stand still in the cross ties, which will make hitching much easier. Checking all harness straps can be done anywhere that your fences or hitch rails are close enough together to accommodate the cross ties and still allow enough room for a single mini (or team) and the vehicle. During this lesson, all you need to do is put on and adjust the harness, hitch to your vehicle, have your mini (or team) stand quietly while being rewarded and then take everything back off. Before leading your mini(s) away from the vehicle, spend some time rewarding again for standing still and staying in position.
To begin the next lesson, first review the steps in the previous lesson and make sure your mini (or minis in the case of a team) is standing quietly in the crossties before harnessing to the vehicle. When ground driving a single animal, ask your assistant to stand in front and to the side of your mini with a lead rope attached to a ring on the noseband (not the bit) of your mini’s harness bridle. When ground driving a team, you will need to use two assistants. Ask each assistant to stand on either side of the team. Once your mini is harnessed, and when you are seated in the vehicle and ready to go forward, ask your assistant to unsnap the cross ties and release your mini while your assistant stands at his head. Now ask your mini to “walk on.” Let him go just a few steps and then ask him to “Whoa.” If your mini does not stop promptly, your assistant can help by pulling back on the lead rope with a pull/release motion while, at the same time, you pull back on the drive lines with a pull/release motion. When he does stop, have your assistant give him his oats reward. Let your mini settle before asking him to back a couple of steps and halt again. Reward him for halting and end the lesson there. The object is to allow your mini enough time to understand what you are trying to teach him and respond accordingly so he can be rewarded without spending so much time that he gets bored and sucks you into a confrontation.
Now your mini is ready to go to the open arena to be driven for the very first time. For the sake of safety, use your assistant (or, in the case of a team, assistants) during lessons until your mini (or team) is driving easily and responding to all of your cues and verbal commands promptly and calmly. Using an assistant helps to guide your mini through his lessons when he can no longer see you out in front. Your assistant will also help your mini to drive forward with confidence, as well as being on-hand to aid you if your mini has problems with turns and backing. Using an assistant also allows you more time to perfect your Reinsmanship and your ability to plan your movements in an organized and logical way.
When your mini is hitched to a vehicle, make a very large hourglass pattern to accommodate your vehicle. His familiarity with this pattern will help him to feel calm and gain confidence while being driven. Every time you end a lesson, keep your assistant at your mini’s head until your mini is fully unhitched from the vehicle. NOTE: Always remove the harness bridle last. Once he is unhitched, make your mini stand where he is while you come to him, then reward him and lead him away. This is how he will learn to wait for you and will not become antsy and uncontrollable. Routinely practicing good manners, setting up an environment for success and approaching your mini with a calm and deliberate attitude will all help him to become a quiet, safe and reliable driving animal.
© 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Elke Stadler
The history of mankind is closely connected with the use of the working force of animals. Animal power was of special importance in transport and traffic – before motorization it was the only available movable driving force, almost at any time and versatile. What people themselves could not wear or pull; oxen, mules, horses and donkeys carried or pulled. In the past, despite their essential importance for working life and the economy, the working animals were hardly noticed in literature.
The work of the animals was so natural to the people of that time that it was not considered necessary to describe their characteristics or the circumstances of their use for people in more detail. Thus, in historical scriptures, animals appear even rarer than slaves and farmhands; they stand at the end of the hierarchy of values and remain mutely. But there is much to be learned from the late antique veterinary writings about their living conditions. The “Mulomedicina Chironis” – the most significant surviving ancient scripture about medical treatment of equids – was used until the Middle Ages and, as copies prove, further into the late Gothic period.
Cattle and Horse
At that time, cattle were the most important draft animals, less for meat production, and milk was also of little importance. Cattle were mainly used in agricultural traction work or heavy transports with wagons. Oxen were indispensable for long-distance transport. No person, no matter how much they preferred mules, camels or even elephants, could do without cattle. They were much less demanding of food and care than the sensitive horse, which was expensive to keep. The mule took a special position because of its outstanding qualities. Horses are hardly mentioned in the old writings as draft animals for heavier loads. Mostly, they were used for light wagons. Horses were the mount of the high-ranking men, both civilian and military, and also served as a pack animal.
The most important limitation of the horse’s work in the draft service was technical difficulties. The shoulders of the horse protrude only very little, thus, the use of a shoulder yoke becomes impossible; the animal must pull with a neck harness, or a yoke sitting very high at the neck. In this way, the draft-horses and mules are represented also on Roman reliefs. Larger loads were not possible since they strangled the breathing of the animal with this tension. So, the animal could only use a small part of its body weight for pulling. The collar was unknown in Antiquity and late Antiquity, it was used for the first time in the Middle Ages.
In ancient times the mule played a special role in transport and traffic. On the road, it is the most popular draft animal due to its optimal characteristics. Although it is weaker than an ox, it is much faster than the ox. At the same time, a mule requires less food and care than a horse. It is also easier to use because of its general calmness. Thus, mule breeding yielded more profit than the usual breeding of medium-value horses. Their value was even compared to that of noble racehorses.
High quality mares were used for breeding at the age of four to ten years, and donkey stallions between three and ten years. We can read that the Arcadian or Reatic donkey stallions should be preferably black or spotted, but not of grey color. Onagers, Asian wild donkeys, were also used for mating. Particularly appreciated were donkey stallions descended from a donkey that had been mated by an Onager. The wild nature was then broken and the begotten animal possessed the tameness of the mother as well as the dexterity of the Onager. The one-year old foal was separated from its mother and kept on rocky, mountainous terrain, so that it got hard hooves as a condition for profitable use in transport.
Use of Female and Male Mules
Female animals were used primarily for pulling wagons because of their agility, while male mules were used to carry loads. Various documents show this division for different purposes. Emperor Serverus Alexander gave his provincial leaders six female mules, two male mules and two horses. It is obvious that the female mules were intended for specific use as draft animals, the male mules as pack animals and the horses for mounts. The female mules were reserved for pulling which is evident from the fact that they were normally traded as a team. If one had a flaw, the seller had to take back both animals. It was especially popular when all the animals in front of a cart had the same color. The veterinarians gave recipes for dyeing the hair of the draft animals when it was not appropriate. To make white hair black, three ‘scripula’ (Roman unit of weight) cobbler’s blacks, four ‘scripula’ oleander’s juice and some goat fat are mixed, crushed and then applied. To make black hair white, a pound of wild cucumber root and twelve ‘scripula’ soda are crushed into powder, a cup of honey added, and then applied.
Most mules were not used as valuable draft animals in private passenger transport, but in public transport by rental car companies or by cargo. The provisions of Codex Theodosianus (late antiquity collection of laws) the ‘cursus publicus’, can give an approximate impression. Two car types are mentioned, the four-wheeled ‘raeda’ and the two-wheeled ‘birota’. The ‘raeda’ was fitted with eight mules in summer and ten in winter, 1000 pounds could be carried. When used by people, this corresponded to seven to eight passengers. For the ‘birota’ on the other hand, three mules and a maximum load of 200 pounds were prescribed, for a person’s use, this was two passengers.
Adventure by Road
The journey with such public transport was accompanied by wild screams, whip cracks from a drunken coachman and clouds of dust, reports a letter writer named Eustathios: A trip with mules that were boisterous by doing nothing and feeding too much he avoided – and prefered to walk.
Cross-country journeys were quite risky, as Roman poet Vergil describes, especially because of the daring overtaking maneuvers of competing truck owners. But sometimes a driver had to go under the yoke himself when a mule had got stuck in the mud of the soaked and crushed road. During overtaking maneuvers on the narrow country roads there was damage to the gravestones on the roadside, as an inscription proves. This also shows that mules were used in long-distance traffic to Gaul. Emperor Julian tells about the dangers on narrow Alpine roads, to which both passengers and draft animals were exposed, so does a rock inscription for remembering a road construction from the year 373 A.D.
In the Jungle of Cities
In the mostly narrow cities, the mule-drawn heavy wagon traffic caused great difficulties. Since the early imperial period, carriage traffic and riding in the city during the first ten hours after sunrise were therefore forbidden. Trips in connection with construction measures were permitted, and these were already enough to endanger the lives of pedestrians on the roads with their big wagons and high stacked loads.
A case story, described by a lawyer, shows what could have happened. Two mule-drawn ‘plaustra’ (load carts) drive up the Capitol slope in Rome. The mule leaders of the first one are pressing against the ‘plaustrum’ so that the mules could pull easier. However, the first carriage begins to roll back anyway, and the mule drivers jump out between the carriages. The first team then rolls onto the second, which now also rolls down backwards and crushes into a boy. The lawyer blames the leader of the first carriage for this accident, as he would be responsible for the overloading of the first carriage. Such incidents were as other sources show not uncommon.
This hard use of mules in driving is reflected in the treatment instructions of late antique veterinarians. The neck injuries caused by the yoke, which Pelagonius expressly refers only to mules, are of special importance. It was recommended that in order to prevent neck injuries of mules or to heal after damage has occurred, was to use an ointment made from fresh pig fat boiled with vinegar. For injuries of the neck and back of the mules, a remedy made of boiled wax, hot resin, verdigris and oil is used. Another remedy for neck treatment is described in this way; rotting chips from the middle of a fig tree are to be dried and burned to ashes in a clean place. This is sieved and then mixed in a mortar with wine, old oil and the protein of two eggs. To make the neck supple – this is the prerequisite for clamping it in the yoke – the neck is thoroughly washed with soap and then rubbed with a carefully beaten mixture of rainwater and protein. Mules were considered less valuable than horses or assessed to be more tolerant of injuries – such as an injury that is indicated by a crossed gait and an insecure step, where the animal trips over stones and a contracted hip.
A horse should be treated carefully and immediately to prevent major damage. However, if the suffering animal is a mule, it should first be stretched tighter in the yoke, so that sweat and pain will smash all pain. After work, it should be treated with the following remedy; twenty laurels are finely crushed with soda and heated with a handful of green rue, vinegar and laurel oil. Then they rubbed this on the center of the head between the ears, they also took a remedy-soaked piece of wool and laid it on this area. Another agent is made from barley flour and resin. These treatments are accompanied by the application of a general strengthening agent made from crushed crayfish, goat’s milk and oil.
Male mules were used to carry less extensive loads in cities and agriculture because of their greater strength. The typical work was the transport of pole wood for plantations. Traders kept their mules directly in their shops. There is a case described in the Digests (scripts of ancient legal scholars) where a horse was led into a shop and was sniffing at the mule there. It kicked and broke the back of the horse’s leader. In the troop, each centurion had one such pack mule, which had to carry the heavier parts of the equipment on the marches.
Drudgery in the mills
Mules were often used, as donkeys and horses were, to drive mills when they were no longer usable for other services. They were harnessed with a hard grass rope in front of the mill beam, the head was usually masked. They trotted in a furrow, always pushed by blows in the circle around. The bad condition of the animals corresponded to the gruelling work. In the “Methamorphoses”, Apuleius describes that the necks were swollen of wound rot, the nostrils were flaccid and dilated from coughing and dusty air. The body was disfigured by the constant blows and mange, the feet clumped by traveling permanently in a circle. These sufferings are also reflected in the veterinary writings, but the mill animals were certainly no longer treated.
The mule was used rarely for riding in Antiquity, it was the simpler mount. Horace (poet) illustrates a simple but also free life in this way: He could bridle a mule at any time and head all the way to Taranto, even if the loins of the animal were rubbed sore by the heavy coat bag and the sides by the weight of the rider. The veterinarians list these specific injuries caused by riding, as well as, by loads being too heavy. The wounds are treated with ointments mixed from salt, wine, oil, raisin wine, pork fat and onions. In more severe cases, blood is taken from the veins of the groin area and mixed with salt, pork fat and oil. This is applied, and if necessary, plastered with ointment. For wounded skin caused by pressures, a dough-like mixture made of fine wheat flour, incense dust, egg yolk and vinegar is applied to the sore spots.
A special feature in those times were dwarf mules, called ‘mulae pumilae’, a curious luxury object of which the roman poet Martialis ironically states, that one often sits higher on the floor.
In the Middle Ages
Although mules were regarded by the church leaders as originating from an unnatural connection, and thus had a bad reputation, the mule nevertheless experienced a great appreciation in the early Middle Ages. Since Spanish mules are a noble gift, Emperor Charlemagne sent them to Caliph Harun Rashid. Mules and their Saracen guardians were bestowed by Robert Guiscard (Norman leader) to the Abbot of Montecassino. The mule is often mentioned as a mount of clergy. Gallus, for example, uses a mule for his journey to the Swabian ducal court. Also, for the journey of Goar (Priest, later holy spoken) to the royal court, a mule or a donkey is intended. Bishop Gregory of Tours, mentions mules among the farm animals of the monastery St. Martin, which were obviously riding animals. Because of the clergy’s preference for mules, the devil – as Notker (poet and scholar) tells us he turns into a mule to tempt the bishop to buy him, seduces him and kills him on the way out. A degree accordingly acts against the excessive dealing of clergy with mules. Of course, mules were often used as pack animals in the early Middle Ages, just like horses. Already Isidor from Sevilla (Archbishop) speaks about the ‘mulus sagmaria’ (Latin: pack mule) beside the ‘caballus sagmarius’ (packhorse). Some of the mules and horses with which the Irish bishop Marcus returned from his trip to Rome must have been pack animals as books, gold objects and robes are mentioned as transported goods. In the Vita Hludovici (anonymous biography of Louis the Pious) mules are also mentioned beside horses, working a mission as they transported ship parts through the woods. Mules are also considered a pack animal in custom regulations.
The existence of humans and the development of all processes, political and social, were marked by the importance of the working animals, not only in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also far into modern times. In the beginning it was mainly cattle that carried the workload. Over time there were shifts, the cattle were substantially relieved first in later Antiquity by the mule. Finally, in the Middle Ages the horse, caused by changes in animal technology – horseshoe fittings and collar – became more universally applicable. However, the donkey’s services remained to limited use.
Excerpt from: “Animal laborans – Das Arbeitstier und sein Gebrauch im Transport und Verkehr in der späten Antike und im Mittelalter” (The work animals and its use in transport and traffic of late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages) in: L’uomo di fronte al mondo animale nell’ alto medioevo; Settimane di studio del centro italiano di studi sull’alto medievo XXXI, 1983, 2 vol., Spoleto 1985; vol.1, p.457-578 (essay monograph)
- Mule whith neck joke – http://wwwg.uni-klu.ac.at/archeo/alltag/10vieh.htm
- Carpentum, carriege for journey – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maria_Saal_Dom_Grabbaurelief_Reisewagen_in_die_Unterwelt
- Plaustrum, wagon for load – https://www.artisanat.ch/reportages/578-histoire-des-voies-de-communication-et-moyens-de-transport-1ere-partie.html
- Cisium, light carriage – http://www.ostia-antica.org/regio2/2/2-3.htm
- Roman soldier with mule – https://www.exfabrica-miniatura.de/Auxiliar-Infanterist-mit-Maultier
- Grain mill in Pompeji, ca. 200 v. Chr – http://www.voegeles-muehle.de/geschichte
- Mule, mounts in the Middle Ages – http://www.brandenburg1260.de/pferd-im-ma.htm
- Playing card 1440-1445 – https://www.pinterest.de/pin/94646029645701226/?lp=true
- Snippet: Absalon leaves David to plan a conspiracy, Maciejowski-Bible, 13. Century – http://www.stupor-mundi.info/2016/08/22/reisen-im-mittelalter/
Please enjoy this historical post about their Longears from our friends in Switzerland!
Opening of the Swiss National Museum in 1898
By Josefine Jacksch
This year (2018) the Landesmuseum (Museum of the Country) in Zurich will be 120 years old. It is the most visited historical museum in Switzerland. Since January 2011 it has been part of the Swiss National Museum. Due to an increasing lack of space, it was extended from 2013 to 2016 with a modern extension that offers space for exhibitions, a library and a lecture hall.
A “central collection of art objects” was thought of as early as 1799, but the idea failed because of resistance from the cantons, which wanted to maintain their own historical collections. In 1890, however, the Landesmuseum was founded by law and then built as a castle-like building by Gustav Gull next to Zurich’s main railway station.
On 25 June 1898, the opening ceremonies took place, including a large parade. In 20 pictures the Swiss cantons passed by with 70 richly decorated carriages, 200 riders, groups in traditional costumes and various animals. The procession was led by a “magnificent carriage with Helvetia*”, followed by a carriage with “Turica, the protector of art”. In the group of the Canton of Valais, besides horses and Saint Bernard dogs, mules also passed by.
“It’s as if the parade of the traditional costume doesn’t want to end and the impression of the pictures is still increasing. The Valais is a true gem of a group, it shows a military picture, the festive parade in the Lötschen Valley, in addition come the women from Savièse village with her strangely (gorgeous/special) beautiful type, the gentle women from the Evolène Valley with their white delicate lace bonnets under the flat hat, the women from the Illiez Valley, who wear a dark man’s costume on Sundays, the monks of St. Bernard with their dogs and wandering people, which are today in the Rhône Valley in the vineyards, tomorrow on the mountain pasture. How the lovely little one laughs, strapped to a mule in his cradle, on which the mother rides. And everything is so wonderfully real, the pictures are talking books, the enormous originality and diversity of Swiss folk life, and the people of Valais are in first place, the strange people, where cheerfulness and deep seriousness merge into the most surprising nüances.”
* Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, officially Confœderatio Helvetica, the Swiss Confederation.
Please enjoy this article from our friend, Josefine at the SWISS BULLETIN. Mules have made their mark helping people with their tasks all around the world and their stories are nothing short of amazing! Loving Longears is something special that we all have in common despite our different languages. Read it, below:
The last packer of Zermatt Belvedere
Mules in the service of transport and travel in ancient times
By Alban Lorenz
The Valais lies in the southwest of Switzerland and is our little California. This canton is known for much sun, little rain, high mountains, good wine, sweet fruits and many tourisms. The main valley with the river Rhône, which flows into the Mediterranean, has many side valleys. A great number of mountain villages there were still without roads until the middle of the 20th century. The inhabitants had to transport everything by their own or they used pack animals (oxen or mules). Therefore, the Valais was the region in Switzerland that had the most mules until the 1960s.
Me, Alban Lorenz (*1939) and my brother Elias (*1932) grew up in Törbel, a mountain village high above the Matter Valley. At this time there were still 40 mules living in Törbel, before motorization also arrived there in the middle of the 20th century. The last mule in Törbel, Apollo, died in spring 2010, shortly before his master Bruno Hosennen. Bruno’s girlfriend, the artist Helen Güdel, has illustrated and published a children’s book about Apollo and Bruno.
After my apprenticeship, I moved to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, where I worked for the police until my retirement. Elias remained in his homeland and worked as a packer for many years. My family had his own mule. Some poorer families had to share a mule.
During the summer season some mules from Törbel were employed for transports up to mountain huts and hotels. The Hotel Belvedere in Zermatt is located high above the village at the foot of the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most famous mountain. From the very beginning, all material, drinks and food for the hotel had to been transported up there by mules. The stable for the animals was near Lake Black (Schwarzsee), right next to the cable car station, that led up from the village Zermatt.So the mules could be packed right next to the station and led up to the hotel.
Goods had to be transported every day in all weathers, and the climb took three hours. The track was well worked out and led through steep rocky terrain to the hotel.Thewaste and empties of the hotel had to be transported on the same route back to the cable car station.
Mid 50s, early 60s, Elias worked some summers there as a packer with two mules on contract for the municipality of Zermatt. The mules he worked with were his own and a rented one. I had to replace him once for two days in the summer of 1963 and was able to make my own experiences.
There were times when Elias managed the transports only with his mule Belli. So it happened that one autumn day an early onset of winter arrived. The snowfall was so heavy that a walk back to Zermatt with the mule was impossible. However, the cable car could still run. This made it possible to load the mule into the cabin and drive Belli and Elias down to Zermatt, where the cable cabin and its contents arrived without any damage.
With Belli, Elias was also active as a packer for various other transports. When the Dom Hut of the Swiss Alpine Club was constructed high above the village Randa, mules were also used. During the construction of the earlier Monte Rosa Hut, the building material had to be transported by mules from the Gornergratrailway station over the glacier to the construction site. Belli had no trouble crossing the ice.
In Saas Grund was a transport company that often received larger transport orders. Therefore, the boss had to rent additional mules with their packers in addition to his own animals. Elias and his Belli were also mostly involved.
Unfortunately, Elias couldn’t avoid unpleasant transports. Among those were dead people who were fatally injured on the mountain. Once he had to bring down the body of his best friend on a mule, who had worked as a hut keeper in the Hörnli Hut.
One autumn day I was at home in Törbel, when my brother came home from Zermatt with the mules after a long time. By chance, I looked out the window of my parents’ house and saw Belli coming up the path. When the mule saw the house, she brayed loudly and ran the last part of the way to her place in front of the stable. This observation showed me that even a mule can be happy to finally come home after a long absence.
Photos of the Lorenz Family
In Saas Grund, in the background packer Edelbert Juon
Elias Lorenz with two mules on the way to the Hotel Belvedere
Elias Lorenz with 2 mules on the descent from Hotel Belvedere
Mule Belli with tourists in Zermatt
Parade in Törbel during a village festival in the 70s
Parade in Törbel during a village festival in the 70s
Additional photos from the internet
Riffelberg walk and view on the Matterhorn ca.1950
Photo: Fernand Perret, www.mediatheque.ch
Hotel Gornergrat with packmules
Going leisurely to Zermatt with a Mule for the luggage in the olden days.
Passage of the mules, Lomatten near Saas-Fee (1800m) 1972. The man in front, Christian Lorenz, is the father of Alban and Elias. He worked also as packer.
Swiss Mule Magazine 2018-1
This article is written by Elke Stadler and from my friend, Josefine, editor of the Swiss Mule Bulletin in Switzerland! Since we share a love for Longears, we like to share each other’s respective mule historical experiences with our friends and fans. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did! Thank you so much, Josefine! In the future, we look forward to more news from Switzerland in support of Longears:
The Theodul Pass
The name is derived from St. Theodul, the first known Valais bishop from the 4th century Walser German, it is called Theodul Yoke. From the 16th to the end of the 18th century it was called Augst Valley Pass (Augst = Aosta, Latin Augusta Praetoria), later, until the beginning of the 19th century, simply also called Valais Pass, then Matter Yoke. The special feature of the glaciated pass is its great height: 3,295 m above sea level (as of 2009). It is located in the Valais between the Matterhorn and the Breithorn. The pass, which crosses the border between Italy and Switzerland, connects Zermatt in the Matter Valley with Breuil-Cervinia in Valtournenche.
No other Alpine pass of comparable importance is higher than 2,900 m above sea level. The Theodul Pass has always been an important crossing point in the Valais Alps. A stone axe found in 1895 comes from Brittany and dates back to the Neolithic period (4000 to 3500 BC). It suggests that the pass was already in use at that time. Near the top of the pass, a Roman coin treasure dating from the 1st to 4th century AD was found. You can see it today at the Alpine Museum in Zermatt.
The Mule and the Theodul Pass
The Theodul Pass was probably commemorated with mules from the Roman period, possibly as early as the end of the late Iron Age. The oldest evidence for the use of mules in the Theodul Pass region can be found in late-medieval text sources that report on trade relations between the Matter Valley and the Aosta Valley. The “horses” repeatedly mentioned in this article can only be mules. From the early 20th century onwards, the use of the mule for the transport of goods over the Theodul Pass, represented only a rarity in view of increasingly difficult climatic conditions and the emergence of a modern transport network.
Dangerous conditions at the glacier pass
The historic pass consists of two sections: From Zermatt to the edge of the glacier a path on the grown soil; from there to the pass, as a rule, a track across the glacier. As a glacier pass, the transition to those altitudes in which passability is highly dependent on climatic conditions is sufficient. Daily fluctuations (hard snow, soft snow), seasonal influences (summer, winter, avalanches) as well as climatic changes over the centuries have an impact here.
The crossing of such a high pass was not safe for humans and animals. In the oral tradition of the Matter Valley there are numerous stories and legends that tell of mishaps of traders or farmers accompanied by their mule. In Zeneggen, for example, it is said that a farmer who went out with two mules to get wine in Italy got caught in a storm. The mules, who are known for keeping calm in all situations, came back to the village on their own and vice versa, while the owner, who was believed dead, followed a few days later.
Mule bone finds and a whole skeleton
The mules whose bones have been found in the pass region since 1985 did not have that luck. However, its skeletal parts are direct witnesses to the important role played by the animal, which is important for Alpine culture, in the regional economy. Even though the mules are known to us as indispensable human helpers until the transport connections of the mountains, little is known about the beginning of mule maintenance in Valais.
Until the discovery of a complete skeleton on the ice surface in the eastern area of the Upper Theodul glacier in autumn 2013, bone remains, i. e. individual fragments, were salvaged exclusively from the areas cleared of the ice. Most of the pieces come from the eastern edge of the Upper Theodul Glacier. From 1985 to 2013, 247 equine bones were collected, including 122 pieces belonging to the same individual.
At archaeological sites, remains of the bones of equidae are a rarity, and their identification also fails due to the extreme difficulty of distinguishing donkeys, horses and their hybrids (mules) from skeletal parts, which are usually isolated and fragmented. With the exception of the fully preserved mule skeleton discovered in 2013, every single piece of bone remains discovered in Valais was definitely assigned to a hybrid. The discovery of the complete skeleton can therefore be regarded as the first reliable evidence of mules in Valais. The Upper Theodul Glacier, was systematically prospected for the first time in 2010. This is part of a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation for the archaeological study of glaciated pass crossings between Valais and Italy.
In autumn 2015, the youngest find, belonging to a mule, was found in the interesting search area like a brown jellyfish on the ice: woven cords of a mule saddle sewn into a fine piece of leather. What will the melting glacier release in the coming years?
The archaeological discovery of the Theodul Pass is inseparable from the retreat of the Upper Theodul Glacier and the alpine, and tourist development of the Zermatt Alps from the second half of the 19th century onwards. Many objects were accidental findings of tourists. The oldest finds date back to Roman times. The numerous mule bone finds bear witness to the movement of goods and persons, which is regularly mentioned in textual sources. Up to 10,000 year old finds, in the immediate vicinity of the Theodul Pass and the Upper Theodul Glacier, indicate a prehistoric ascent of the pass. In the future, a more targeted archaeological investigation of the Theodulpass area will be possible thanks to the research project of the University of Freiburg i. Ue., which was completed in 2014 and calculates archaeological suspected find areas.
An ice free mule saddle made of cords and leather.
Sources: Mules and rock horses: animal bone remains, In: Providoli S., Curdy P. and Elsig P. (2015) 400 years in glacial ice. The Theodul Pass at Zermatt and his “mercenary”; NZZ: Glacier archaeology, stories from the freezer, Caroline Fink; www.ivs.admin.ch ; https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodulpass
“… the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive …”
Yes, the famed Paul Revere set out on horseback on this day in 1775 to raise the alarm that British troops were on their way from Boston to Lexington.
Revere rode about 20 miles through what is now Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Massachusetts, knocking on doors to raise people to defend Lexington. Another rider, William Dawes, was sent by another route to do the same thing. A third, Samuel Prescott, was also pressed into service. Only Prescott completed the night’s work and reached Concord; Revere was captured and Dawes was thrown from his horse while evading British soldiers, forcing him to walk back to Lexington.
It was a good ride for Revere, and it was good for the revolution. But a little over two years later, a 16-year-old girl did the midnight riders one better. Sybil Ludington rode twice as far as Revere did, by herself, over bad roads, and in an area roamed by outlaws, to raise Patriot troops to fight in the Battle of Danbury and the Battle of Ridgefield in Connecticut. And did we mention it was raining?
Sybil was the eldest of 12 children of Col. Henry Ludington, the commander of the militia in Dutchess County, New York. Ludington’s farm was a receiving center for information collected by spies for the American cause.
In April 1777, Colonel Ludington and the members of his militia were at their homes because it was planting season. But about 9 p.m. on the evening of April 26, he received word that the British were burning Danbury. The man who brought the news had worn out his horse and he didn’t know the area. Ludington needed to stay where he was to help arrange the troops as they arrived.
Who could he send? He turned to his daughter, who knew the area and knew where members of the militia lived. Sybil rode her horse from her father’s farm in Kent, which was then called Frederick. She first headed south to the village of Carmel and then down to Mahopac. She turned west to Mahopac Falls and then north to Kent Cliffs and Farmers Mills. From there, she rode further north to Stormville, where she turned south to head back to her family’s farm. All told, she rode nearly 40 miles through what was then southern Dutchess County (which is now mostly Putnam County).
Sybil spent the night traveling down narrow dirt roads in the rain with nothing but a stick as protection. To add another element of danger, there were many British loyalists in the area and more than a few “Skinners,” a word generally used then to describe an outlaw or ruffian who had no real loyalties to either side in the war. One account of her ride says that Sybil used her stick to pound on a Skinner who accosted her.
By dawn, Sybil had made it back to her family farm where the militia men were gathering with her father. By this time, the British had gone south from Danbury to Ridgefield. The militia of Dutchess County, led by Colonel Ludington, marched 17 miles to Ridgefield and took part in the battle there, which some considered a strategic victory for the American forces.
Sybil’s hard riding earned her the congratulations of General George Washington, but it seems she got little recognition for her feat after that. She married another revolutionary, Edmond Ogden, in 1784 and had a child. At one point she and her husband ran a tavern in Catskill, New York, but she spent the last 40 years of her life as a widow until her death in 1839. She is buried near the route of her ride in Patterson, New York, with a headstone that spells her first name as Sibbell.
So why do we all learn about Paul Revere in our American history courses and not Sybil Ludington? In more recent times, Sybil has received a bit more acclaim for the ride that she made—there have been books written about her, a postage stamp near the bicentennial honoring her, and even a board game where players follow her overnight path. And in 1961, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a larger-than-life statue of her on her horse in Carmel, New York.
Revere, of course, is justly honored as a man who served the Revolution in many capacities, including as a messenger and engraver (by trade, he was a fine silversmith). Perhaps his place in history was secured because he had Henry Wadsworth Longfellow serving as his publicist, with Longfellow’s famous (and famously inaccurate) poem—it leaves out both Dawes and Prescott—turning Revere into a legend. Sybil has no such fabled poem, no “one if by land, two if by sea” catchphrase. But perhaps as children we all should hear of the midnight ride of a teen with no fear.
All images courtesy Valerie DeBenedette.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017! Let’s go forward loving and learning together with our equine companions! When kindness is used in training, greatness can happen. That is the story of Beautiful Jim Key. The sickly colt was adopted by “Dr” William Key, a freed slave and self-taught veterinarian. Using his veterinary skills and training with no force, the colt grew into a healthy adult with some special abilities – he could read, write, spell, do math, tell time, sort mail, cite Bible passages, use a telephone and cash register. Together, they were seen by an estimated 10 million Americans and hailed as the “Marvel of the Twentieth Century”. Dr Key died at the age of 76, being universally praised for his service to humanity and Beautiful Jim followed three years later at the age of 23. As TIME magazine declared, “This wonderful horse has upset all theories that animals have only instinct, and do not think and reason.”
When I posted this on Facebook about mules in the Bible…
Origins: The mule is mentioned in mankind’s earliest records. Consider this passage from the Bible: “And Absolom met the servants of David. And Absolom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the Heavens and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away.” (II Samuel 18:9). If you choose to ride a mule, you will need a good sense of humor!!!
…we were asked about mules really being in the Bible. We sent an email to a Rabbi inquiring about the translation of the ancient Hebrew word for “mule” or “pered.” Here is the reply:
“Solomon rode on a mule (1Ki 1:38) because his father David told Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to “cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule” (v 33). This is the word for a “she-mule” (BDB, TWOT). Its three Old Testament uses are all in this passage (see v 44), referring to one mule, David’s. Solomon’s riding on David’s mule in company with David’s advisors gave a clear message: he was the successor David had chosen. Years later in secular history, female mules became preferable for riding and males for bearing burdens. That may have been a factor in David’s having this special mule. Second, an observation. David’s sons all rode on (male) mules (2Sa 13:29) and Absalom rode a mule at the end of his life (2Sa 18:9). Since a mule is crossbred between a mare and a male donkey, and since crossbreeding was prohibited in Israel (Lev 19:19), mules were likely imported (TWOT), and were thus more valued. They (along with horses, silver, and gold, etc.) symbolized the wealth that other kings brought to Solomon annually (1Ki 10:25). Third, a suggestion. The greatest reason for David’s choice of a mule rather than a horse may have been God’s prohibition for kings (Deu 17:16): they were not to multiply horses to themselves. David was careful in this. Solomon, to his own destruction, was not (1Ki 10:26, 28).”
This is a repost from Brooke USA.
Lexington, Ky. – November 15, 2016 – Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Vicky Busch and her mule “Slate” continue to spread awareness of the plight of working equines in the developing world and the work of Brooke USA. Most recently Slate and his young rider, Busch’s student Isabella Rodwig won their Training Level Test 3 class at the dressage schooling show at Amen Corner Farm in Folsom, LA.
The pair did so in style and with a nod to Brooke USA, with a large Brooke USA heart painted on the mule’s rump. Busch uses Slate’s engaging personality and the novelty of seeing him at a dressage show to educate the crowds he draws about the mission of Brooke USA. She hopes that Slate and his young rider will continue to compete in more dressage shows this year with the goal of qualifying for the USDF Region 9 Championships sponsored by the Houston Dressage Society.
Since learning about Brooke USA, Busch and her husband Eric have been generous supporters. For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of equines who work in some of the poorest communities on Earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous equine welfare challenges actively improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them. Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world.
Owning Slate has made the work that Brooke USA does – helping working equines including mules around the world – a cause close to Busch’s heart. She hopes that she can use the attention that Slate attracts to bring more awareness to Brooke USA, and put a personal touch on it. Busch is eager to tell Slate’s admirers at shows about the important work of Brooke USA and how they can help improve the lives of working equines around the world who are not as lucky as Slate to have such a wonderful home.
About Brooke USA
Brooke USA is a 501(c)(3) charity located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which exists solely to support the overseas work of Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare charity. For more than 80 years, Brooke has been alleviating the suffering of horses, donkeys and mules who work in some of the poorest communities on earth. Brooke’s scientifically proven, practical and sustainable solutions to enormous welfare challenges improve the lives of equine animals and the people who depend on them across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America. Last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million equines, benefiting 10 million people in the developing world. To learn more, visit BrookeUSA.org.
While dressage has long-been regarded as a horse and Pony Club sport, Meredith Hodges opened the doors to mules in dressage in the United States Dressage Federation Schooling Shows in 1986. With the help of Carole Sweet and Leah Patton of the American Donkey and Mule Society in Lewisville, Texas, they were formally accepted by the United States Equestrian Federation at their convention in Los Angeles in 2004. Laura Hermanson has since taken full advantage of this amazing opportunity. In 2015, she qualified for the United States Dressage Federation Finals with her own mule, “Heart B Dyna”, that is to be the subject of an upcoming documentary. The film is titled ”Dyna Does Dressage,” and is produced by Sarah Crowe and Amy Enser, who describe it as an “Underdog story [that] follows Dyna and her owner/rider, Laura, as they defy the odds to find their place among this elite world of horse riding.” Laura Hermanson is breaking through the stigma that dressage is only for horses and ponies as was previously defined by the USEF Rulebook. Much like Meredith Hodges herself, what began as a love of horses evolved into the championing of the noble MULE, an equine ambassador that truly deserves our respect. This year, Laura is competing “Behold the Desert” (aka Beasley) owned by Troy and Carol Delfino of Bakersfield, California and bred by Candace Shauger of Genesis Farms in Bremen, Ohio, in the upcoming U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, November 10-13. Let’s all give our support to this amazing team!
A letter from George Washington, written in 1786, was recently put up for auction by bookseller William Reese. The letter is in regards to a donkey sent to Washington’s Mount Vernon ranch for the purpose of breeding. Washington is well-known for his agricultural brilliance and for breeding the first American mule. The correspondence was written a during a breif period of retirement and a few years before Washington became president.
Washington writes: “Dear Sir, When your favor of the first inst., accompanying the she ass, came to this place, I was from home – both however arrived safe; but Doct. Bowie informs me that the bitch puppy was not brought to his house. Nor have I heard any thing more of the asses at Marlbro’, nor of the grass seeds committed to the care of Mr. Digges. I feel myself obliged by your polite offer of the first fruit of your jenny. Though in appearance quite unequal to the match, yet, like a true female, she was not to be terrified at the disproportional size of her paramour; and having renewed the conflict twice or thrice it is to be hoped the issue will be favourable. My best respects attend [Mrs. Sprigg] & the rest of your family. With great esteem & regard, I am Dr. Sir Yr. most ob. serv. Go. Washington.”
The Missouri mule is a well-known symbol of American strength and perseverance, thanks to its significant contributions both within the state and throughout the country. Today, the mule still serves as Missouri’s official state animal, so the connection remains strong. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has put together a great photo slideshow about the history of these iconic equines and their role in the Show-Me State—click here to see the full slideshow!
Are equines prey or predators? Although some trainers base their methods on the idea that equines should be approached as “prey,” this blog post by Sara Annon explains that the answer may not be that simple.
The real lesson in this is that the predator/prey model of horsemanship is inaccurate. Rodents are prey animals. Horses are herd animals. Their enemy is the weather (click here and here). Horses die from hypothermia in winter, drought in summer, and starvation when grazing is scarce. Weakened animals are picked off by the occasional courageous wolf pack or lion. I say courageous because it only takes one quick smack with a hoof to break bones, and for a predator that is a death sentence.