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Ask Meredith – Showing

There are more mule and donkey shows now than ever before, so it should not be too difficult to find shows to attend in your area. Also, many horse events are accepting mules and donkeys, but call ahead as a courtesy to those putting on the show.

Make sure that you have properly conditioned your equine for the classes you enter to make his showing experience positive and happy. Then he will be willing to give his all. Check rulebooks to be prepared, and check all tack, equipment, facilities and vehicles to avoid unwanted interruptions to your showing routine, so your equine can remain calm and obedient while showing. Be sure all veterinary paperwork is in order to prevent the spreading of disease. To avoid surprises and unwarranted stress, call ahead to the show committees if you have any questions about anything.

Click on the title below to see the complete question and answer.

  1. Abuse At Mule Days?
  2. Application: Mule Division of AHSA
  3. AQHA All-Breed Open To Mules
  4. Bolting from Strangers
  5. Can Mules Compete?
  6. Donkey Wins Over NATRC
  7. Halter Class Questions
  8. How Well Can Mules Perform in Dressage?
  9. Lily at the Ft. Worth Stock Show and Rodeo
  10. Little Dressage Schooling Show
  11. Marathon Showing
  12. Mule Acceptance with USEF
  13. Mule Promotion & USEF Acceptance
  14. Mules and AHSA
  15. Mules At Horse Shows?
  16. Mules In The Olympics?
  17. Statement from AHSA Officers
  18. Testimonial of a “First” Dressage
  19. Thanks & Mule Prejudice
  20. USA Equestrian Invite
  21. When Not Green?
  22. Why Shave Mule Tails?


Abuse At Mule Days?

Question: I am so glad you answer letters. We have seven horses and two mules. The mules hang out all year and work a very little while during tobacco season. Their names are Pete. I love them and learned a lot from a book you wrote and also from a magazine put out by the American Donkey And Mule Society.

I hope you can help me stop abuse of the pulling mules at the Colombia, TN Mule Days Celebration. It is held every April. My husband and I went last year for the first time last year and all was well until we watched the pulling contest. At least six of the mules had cut and bleeding mouths because their bits were rusty. One of the poor guys had a rusty bicycle chain type bit and it was covered in rust. One of the worst was a mule with a dirty rag tied around the corner of his bit. It was covered in blood.

I could kick myself for not going back to the car for my camera, but I was exhausted and it was a long walk. People come from all over the U.S. to Mule Days. It is unimaginable to me that no one seems to care. In the other classes (western, mule driving, etc) the mules and their tack are clean, unlike a number of the mules in the pulling division.

Do you know what anyone can do to outlaw rusty bits and bleeding mouths at this so called “celebration” of the mule? I’m willing to do whatever it takes, Everything I’ve tried and the people I have talked to around here ( S.W. VA) will not get involved and they don’t see anything wrong with rusty bits. They have grown up here and rusty bits are an accepted way of controlling mules around here.

Answer:Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, the folks who use these bits that are really too harsh (and they aren’t always rusty), do so because they know no other way to control their animals. They are bound in ignorance and have no real way out.

We are making strides in this direction, but it seems to need to be handled on a case by case basis. Last year there was a TV show aired on RFD-TV about training mules that had the same kind of abuse going on. I believe it was made by some of those who attend Columbia Mule Days. There were enough people who wrote in to the station to get it bumped off the air, but that was the best they could do.

There was another case a couple of years ago where two men were halter breaking a mule in a city park by dragging him with their pickup truck. The mule was severely injured and his hooves were grossly damaged. The two men were arrested and convicted of animal abuse. One of the men committed suicide after the incident. I don’t believe he really knew it was abuse and probably felt terrible about it after the fact.

The only way I can see any of this changing is to educate people on the proper approach. Those who can understand, will. And those who cannot, no amount of pleading, or force, will make a difference. The worst part is that animals usually end up getting abused by a lack of consideration. People who are trying to show off, or those who try to make money off of animals, will abbreviate training methods and thus, become unfair and abusive in their attempt.

Those who take time with training and just revel in the joy of being with their animals do not have this problem. If they are abusive, it is usually an honest mistake and they learn better each time. I use my website at as a forum for these sorts of issues. I will add this letter to the letters in “Ask Meredith.” There may be individuals out there who can help take positive action. At the very least, some of these people may rethink their approach to avoid the negative publicity. Eventually, more people will be prosecuted for animal abuse. Penalties are being reviewed and stiffened for animal abuse across the country. It’s only a matter of time.

It would definitely behoove Columbia Mule Days to make some rule changes concerning bits in their pulls. I know that the rules in most pulling contests do not even allow the handlers to touch the animals to avoid abuse. The bit is just another issue to the same end. I have heard the same complaints from a lot of folks about mule pulls. Those who sponsor the pulls might take heed that a lot of potential spectators are being turned away in disgust! It’s a whole lot more exciting when it’s done right! Once again, thank you for your concern. I will always be an advocate of humane treatment of any living being!

Application: Mule Division of AHSA

Question: Dear Friends and Committee Members,

I understand that “the Mule question” is again on the table and will be discussed at an upcoming AHSA Rules Meeting. I am the current president of the American Mule Association. I am an AHSA member and also a member of the American Driving Society (ADS), and past president of our local driving association.

My wife and I are active competitors with our mules on the West Coast in ADS, open shows and at mule shows. Our mules constantly place at or near the top of the class. Yes, we do know that a mule is not a horse, but here is the rub. Show management generally welcome mules to open shows (they like the extra entry fees), until a mule wins a class at a large or prestigious open show.

Since most open shows operate under AHSA rules regardless whether or not they are an approved show, and under current AHSA interpretation, mules, though not specifically excluded by the rules, cannot compete because they are not a horse ( under the AHSA definition). But this does not answer or end the question entirely.

ARTICLE II of the AHSA Constitution reads: “Mission Statement. Our mission, as the National Governing Body of equestrian sport in the United States, is to inspire, encourage interest in, and regulate equestrian competition. To accomplish this mission, our members and staff, working together, will

* provide services for member’s common benefit
* Expand and enhance the image of equestrian sport competition.
* Work with affiliate associations and other breed organizations to encourage participation.
* Aid in selecting the most competent representatives for the United States in International equestrian competition, in cooperation with the United States Equestrian Team (“USET”) and other organizations.
* Act as the National Equestrian Federation for the United States in affiliation with the Federation Equestre Internationale (“FEI”) and the United States Olympic Committee(“USOC”)

Yes, I still know that a mule is not a horse. But both mules and horses are Equine. Both mules and horses compete in equestrian sports and activities. From the constitution and mission statement of the AHSA (to encourage and regulate equestrian sports and competition) it appears that the AHSA has taken on a bigger job to regulate more than the organization is currently willing to regulate.

Mules are equine, and take part in equestrian sports, yet the AHSA is currently unwilling to allow them to compete under the AHSA rule book, because they are not a horse. Meredith Hodges, a nationally recognized horse and mule and donkey trainer discussed this issue in her monthly newsletter on the internet several months ago. She likened the situation to how American black athletes were excluded from participating in professional sports in the United States, until as recently as the middle 1950s. She pointed out, that although there were fears and concerns at the time, the inclusion of Black athletes (and other races) have done much to enhance and improve the quality and image of professional sports in the US.

Nobody would argue that professional sports would be where they are today without ‘minority’ participation. My wife and I are active in driving competitions with our mules. In Combined Driving Events (CDEs) normally you move up to the next level after you take two or three first place finishes. But at the Intermediate level you must compete under both the ADS and the AHSA rule books and the AHSA, according to current interpretation does not allow mules to compete under their rule book.

So my mule Mariah Carry and I cannot compete past the Preliminary level. I understand the situation is the same in English and Ridden Dressage disciplines as well. There is, therefore little incentive to train a good mule to the limit of its true potential, since there are no competitions to test its level of accomplishment. Mules of today bear little resemblance to mules of even twenty years ago.

Sometimes there are mules that come along that are good enough to compete at higher levels of competition than are currently allowed. I feel strongly that the inclusion of mules in modern open shows, would enhance the level of equine sports in the United States.

If you have ever attended a driving, jumping, or Western competition where a quality mule was competing head to head with the best horses, you will witness a level of excitement in the entire crowd of spectators that is missing when the mule is not there. The crowd will cheer for the mule every time.

There is no doubt that mules could help bring the whole level of equestrian sports up to a new level, similar to what the inclusion of black athletes did for professional sports. (Note: Mules do not “threaten” the horse industry. It will always take a quality horse to make a quality mule.)

The bottom line is: Mules are Equine and should be allowed to compete in equestrian sports and competition at open shows under the AHSA rule book. No need to change the definition of horses to include mules. l would like the American Mule Association to be able to apply as an affiliate breed organization of the AHSA. It would he important for both the AMA and AHSA to start a dialog and discuss areas of mutual concerns.

Thank you all very much for your careful consideration of the “Mule issue”. I ask each of you to honestly and deliberately consider the merits of this request.

D K, President of the American Mule Association

Answer: I have received e-mails from a couple of folks on these issues in the last few months. Kathleen Conklin and JOHN HENRY are having problems in the jumping and dressage areas and John P. Roche wrote to Wendy Wares (AHSA) and they were prohibited from driving competitions. What I feel we need to do is apply for a mule division in the AHSA. This is where I left off ten years ago. There just wasn’t enough mule competitors in these areas to warrant going any further at that time, but it may be that we can meet the AHSA criteria today with the new interest generated. You may need to obtain a new copy of the criteria that would need to be met through the AHSA to be accepted as a division.

AQHA All-Breed Open To Mules

Question: It has been awhile since I have talk to you. Good news… I talked to AQHA yesterday about there trail ride coming up at Palo Duro Canyon June 12th. Look up there web site, anyway the horseback riding program, all-breed is OPEN to mules to join. If you don’t believe me just call them in the trail ride department. I will be there to ride and my show mule!

Also if you are a member of the united states team penning association, you may enter your mule to be a competitor as well with additional entry fees just as horses do. I feel this is going our direction very well. We will have dressage classes in Amarillo show on July 31 and Aug.1st.. Hope everything is going well for you. Take care.

Answer: It really is exciting about how far the mule has come in the equestrian society! Thanks to those like yourself who are willing to endure the negativity and go forth to show people what a good mule can do, the ignorant stigmas that have been attached to mules and donkeys for centuries are slowly being dispelled. It the wake of this is rising a new appreciation from equestrians everywhere!

Have a wonderful time on the trail ride and keep us updated on things you think would be of interest. I will post them on our website so others will know they can participate with their mules as well! After all, we DO want to keep our equines around in the future!

Bolting from Strangers

I know you have covered “flighty mules.” I have worked enough with my mule that I am able to do practically anything with him. He is still somewhat green under saddle but is doing very well. My problem is, whenever my fiance or a stranger walks up to him, he backs up and bolts away, which, of course, I let go. Now, is the only way to fix this to have the person or numerous strangers work with him? What specifically should I have them do? I am the only one training him, but he can’t be bolting away every time someone else walks up to him, especially when I want to show him and go on trail with him. Please help!

It sounds to me as if you have gone through the leading training too fast. In the leading training, you build their confidence and they learn to have trust in you. If you have employed the reward system (crimped oats rewards) and are feeding as we recommend, they don’t usually bolt and run from strangers. Rather, they learn to wait and look to you for guidance. In order for this to occur and for them to build good core muscle strength, you need to practice these exercises diligently for six to nine months on the flatwork, and another six to nine months on the obstacles. You do this in good posture, matching your steps with theirs, while in good posture yourself. Take things in small steps, and wait for them to master a couple of steps before adding any new ones. When you take the time to do this at this stage, and then move through lunging and ground driving with the same things in mind, they do form a more solid bond with you and will learn to stop and think, rather than bolt and run.

Can Mules Compete?

Question: I do eventing and was wondering if a mule could compete in my sport well. I was also wondering how well accepted mules are in dressage, jumping and eventing as competitors.

Answer: I have been interested and competing in Dressage and Combined Training with mules since 1986. I have 2 mules at low 4th Level Dressage and in 1993, I competed one of my mules to 1st place out of 56 horses in the Novice division at the Abbe Ranch Horse Trials. I have 16 other mules from 3rd Level down to Training level. I even ride one and drive another out front…and, I am lunging 10 mules together in a dressage “Liberty” team.

They are excellent jumpers and a lot more strong and steady than a horse. So, the answer is “Yes,” they compete in your sport quite well!

For more information about successful mules, visit our Awards and Recognitions section on the website—I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Donkey Wins Over NATRC

Question: I wanted to tell you about my friend, Margaret Russell of Pensacola, Fl. In March of this year she competed in the Spanish Trail Competitive Trail Ride (NATRC) on her donkey BJ (Bundle of Joy). He is a spotted standard gelding. He was the first donkey EVER to compete in NATRAC in its long history. And he kicked the proverbial ASS.

In novice lightweight (our largest division) he placed in both horsemanship (donkeymanship?) and conditioning. He beat out over thirty seasoned horses and riders on his very first competitive ride. And it was a joy to watch. I know because I rode with her.

On Friday at the vet in, there were many snobs and sneers and stares. And a few hoots and chuckles. But by Sunday afternoon at the final vet out, she had won over the entire population, including both judges and every last one of the veteran riders. And that ain ‘t easy to do!!

When the awards were given, she received more applause and cheers than any one else. What a weekend for donkey history. And what a promotion for their versatility.

Answer: Nothing thrills me more than to hear stories like this one! I know these animals to be superior equines when they are handled correctly. Please tell Margaret how very proud we are to hear of her success and tell her to keep up the great work! Thank you again for sharing this wonderful news with us!

Halter Class Questions

Question: I just had a few questions about showing in a “thoroughbred type” and “mature model saddle mule” halter class. I’ve never shown halter so my questions are, 1. Can English attire be worn for both classes? 2. Do you show in a halter or full English bridle? 3. Should my mule be braided like an English class? Thank you so much for this site and all the info you provide.

Answer: Yes, you can wear English attire in both halter classes (and they sometimes allow them to show in Western attire as well…check the show rulebook). In English attire you can use either a leather halter or English bridle unless they have changed since I showed…again, check the show rule book as they can vary from area to area. Braiding looks sharp when it is done properly and you will get extra points for a appointments if it is nicely braided.

How Well Can Mules Perform in Dressage?

Question: I saw that mules are now accepted by USEF in Dressage. Which is wonderful, I might add. I’m curious about owning a mule for dressage.

Realistically how far can they excel in the levels? Have you ever seen one get to 3rd, 4th or grand prix? I know they are intelligent. Would their body structure forbid them to excel in higher levels?

Answer: The beauty of mules is that they can come out of just about any breed of horse and they will inherit a good bit of the conformation, disposition and athletic ability of the horse out of which they came. Coupled with the intelligence and strength of the donkey, this makes for a superior athlete in a lot of cases.

I personally have schooled to Training Level in Combined Training and 4th Level in Dressage with my mules. Because they were not allowed in AHSA (USEF) approved divisions for so long I was not able to actually compete at those levels, but we did show at schooling shows and actually won first place against 56 horses in the Novice Division at the Abbe Ranch Horse Trials in 1993. At that time I was working at Training Level, but was not able to enter that division.

My 4th Level Dressage mule showed at 3rd Level Dressage at Bishop Mule days and took first at that level two years in a row, as that was the highest level they offered at the time. It has been very rewarding and I now have another mule working at 3rd level.

The equestrian world seems to be cooperating with the mule people now since there are a lot of new people challenging themselves and their mules to better their own skills. This is the result of a very young segment (mules and donkeys) of the equine industry beginning to see more maturity and growth. I can see even more coming to the forefront in the future.

I think you would really enjoy the challenge of training a mule in Dressage and/or Combined Training. When you approach them the right way, they are actually easier to train than horses. They are easier to condition and never forget what they learn! They will be as different as horses in their conformation, so some will be better than others for Dressage and Combined Training, but they are certainly capable!

Lily at the Ft. Worth Stock Show and Rodeo

Question: This isn’t a question, its an update. I live in Texas and ride a lovely mule named Lily. I first contacted Meredith about cruppers, bits and cantering challenges, for I was going to show Lily at the Ft. Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in January of 2006. We worked for 3 months and went to the stock show.

The crowd was overwhelming but that little mule was ‘with me’. She did her best and though it was the most tiring thing I’ve ever done it was most gratifying.

I took her to a dressage schooling show just today. It was intro because we are just now readying ourselves for the long and lengthy process (time in round pen not to exceed 20-30 minutes a session) of developing the right muscles to sustain a nice canter. But first I have to say at the schooling show there were Warmbloods, Arabs, TB’s, Drafts. Lily was the high score of the day. A 73 and a 69.5. The judge was a USDF 2005-6 Rider of the Year with a Horse of the Year Werner and Gail Abele from Fort Worth Texas. I thought she must have been generous but the show manager said “oh no puppy breath, just look at these scores; 50’s and 55s”. The closes thing to Lily’s score was almost 20 points behind hers.

I am so proud of that little mule what a lovely animal and friend!!!!!

I can’t say enough of how bad I have the MULE FEVER! Thank God!!!

Answer: Congratulations! That is so cool! I am so proud of you and Lily! You made my day and I really appreciate your progress report. With your permission, I would like to post your updates on our website. I am certain it would be an inspiration to a lot of others. Let me know if this is OK with you. Keep up the great work!

Little Dressage Schooling Show

Question: Just wanted to send you a picture of Lily and I at our first ever little dressage schooling show. Yes, she was the ONLY mule and did respectful on her first outing; 3rd place intro level with a score of 61% (I include the score if you recognize USDF scores). I was told the judge was a tuffy and the scores were just 2 points apart across the board.

She was the calmest animal on the property. The ENTIRE time she was in the arena a horse was just outside in a paddock screaming. You can hear it on the video. She kept it together right up to the final salute to the judge and after the test ended we walked towards the judge and she let out the biggest bray which erupted the spectators into laughs and giggles. She was the talk of the show.

Answer: Congratulations! You and Lily look positively lovely! I am so happy for both of you! Very respectable score! I do have one suggestion for you that will help increase your scores without even doing much at all. Move your saddle back about 3-4 inches and add a crupper to it to keep the saddle over your center of balance (, 1-800-989-1500, has the kind that will attach to an English saddle with a metal “T” attachment). The girth should rest 3-4 inches behind the forearm. Mules are very narrow through this area and the girth wants to slide into the narrow area. That’s the reason for the crupper. Right now, you are riding a little too far over the shoulders (in front of your center of balance) and this will inhibit Lily’s ability to go forward as easily as she would otherwise.

Lily was no doubt very proud of her performance and decided to tell everyone all about it! How comical! That’s a mule for you! In spite of what most people say, horses are not really afraid of mules as much as they are curious about them. The horse that was screaming in the background, no doubt, thought Lily was really special! And, I might add, he was right!

It doesn’t surprise me that you both were the talk of the show! You will soon be the talk of the county and eventually the state! You both looked wonderful and made a lovely presentation. Again, congratulations! I am very proud of you!

Marathon Showing

Question: Jeremiah, Pardner and I just got home after an epic 5800 mile journey. First we traveled to Parker, Colorado to compete in the High Prairie Farms CDE. It was an excellent venue, with a tough marathon course and 8 challenging hazards. Deborah Terry and her excellent crew did a fine job of organizing the CDE and other activities and the community really came out to support it.

There were over 1000 paid spectators both for the marathon and the cones competition. Since it is near the geographical center of the country, it will be a great location for the U.S. Singles Championship next year. The altitude (6000+ ft.) was the big question mark in competitor’s minds before the marathon, and the section E did take its toll on some equine. Jeremiah finished in fine shape; placing third overall behind two finely-conditioned Single Horses. Jeremiah did win the Advanced Single Pony Division and the Western U.S. Pony Championship. Afterwards, he jumped right in the trailer and thought he was heading home, but the truck and trailer headed East.

Though the Laurels was our ultimate destination, I decided to stop by and do the Indiana CDE along the way. After all it was only a half-hour off of I-70. It was held at Hoosier Horse park, a county park for all reasons and seasons and a former military base and WW2 POW camp. In fact, Hoosier Horse park hosted the Equestrian Pan-Am games several decades ago, they had to clear part of the course for land mines.

I was hoping that some of those devices didn’t surface in the years since that event. It was, in fact, an ideal venue for a CDE. The Horse park featured very adequate stabling, some indoor arenas (one looked remarkably like an old airplane hanger), many acres of level lawns, and literally miles of riding, hiking, driving and nature trails. Seven very solid and challenging hazards have been permanently constructed.

With the change in humidity, climate and feed, Jeremiah was a little “flat” in the competition, and placed third in the Intermediate class being two very good Mid-Western competitors. I stayed over an extra day to attend the CDE Course Designer’s Clinic. Then off to Eastern Pennsylvania.

It would be very interesting and enlightening to know what goes on in your equine’s head each time you load them in the trailer and they get out at a new place. And for what? To play, eat and rest, to go on a trail ride, or to compete? We came to the Laurels to compete and also I wanted the Eastern folks and judges to see a good mule competing at the upper levels of competition.

I was warned that Eastern folks were not as friendly as the rest of the country, but in my case, I found that we were accepted warmly and treated with much respect and friendliness. For a Western farm boy to go to a venue such as the Laurels for his first Big Eastern competition is both an enlightening and unbelievable experience.

My hat goes off to the O’Rourkes, and the other landowners that opened up their properties for the course, the organizers, builders, sponsors and patrons, and of course, the hundreds of volunteers. The Patron’s tent was set on high ground overlooking the bridge and water hazard and five other permanent world-class hazards.

There was an announcer’s and spotter’s booth three stories high over the secretaries’ office that overlooked the two dressage rings and six of the seven hazards and most of the section E course. Perhaps most remarkable of all, the sound system actually worked and could be heard both at the nearby Patron’s tent area and also down on the field of competition. Understand, this was all in a postcard picture-perfect setting of gently rolling hills and farmland. To a westerner, That many things all being green was amazing in itself. It was simply beautiful.

Our dressage go was at 8:10 AM. We got up and practiced early on the day before to get a feel for the footing on the slippery, dewy grass. It wasn’t too bad. Friday, Dressage day came around and our warm-up started out great. Jeremiah was soft, forward and responsive.

Then, just a few minutes before we went into the ring he began to be hard and resistive. We went in an did a very poorly driven test that I was very disappointed it. In retrospect, I think that Jeremiah got his tongue over the bit and this was the reason for his change in attitude and poor performance. After dressage we were in twelfth place with a 63 score.

Jeremiah seemed “Pumped” for the marathon. Section A and B wound up and around fields and beautiful estates. He attacked the hazards like a trooper. We did get hung-up for a short while in Hazard 5 (the big logs wouldn’t give any when you hit them), but he made within a second or two of the fastest times in each of the other hazards.

Perhaps our best effort was the bridge and water hazard (hazard 2) located just below the Patron’s viewing area. We could hear the announcer and crowd of spectators wildly cheering us on. After the marathon we moved up to eighth place, just two spots behind the ribbons.

The Advanced and Preliminary Cones courses were set up side by side, with the Advance one using all of Hazard 2 (the bridge and water hazard) and a little real estate on each side. We were on course just after crossing the bridge and heading for the nest to the last cones when we heard the announcer holler:

“Everyone, watch out for the runaway horses!” We held up at cone 18 and watched a pair of preliminary horses dragging an overturned carriage through the cones course right in front of us. The pair then turned and came back through the Advance cones course beside us and were subsequently caught by the assistant TD, Jim Erbacher. Cowboy Jim, you are a hero. Jeremiah stoically stood there quietly during all this commotion, then I urged him on and we proceeded through the last two sets of cones and the finish line.

We finished with a clean run but had 8-seconds penalty (we held up at least 10 to 20 seconds during the commotion). The TD decided that we would not be given back the 10+ seconds we were held up so we had to do the cones course a second time. This time we unfortunately knocked down one ball. He moved up to seventh place, missing the ribbons by only a few hundredths of a point.

After the competition my very capable groom and navigator, Kathleen Conklin reflected on how far mules have come in the past few years, from not being able to compete at all in advanced competition, to being a solid contender for the awards at one of the most prestigious of driving competitions in a short year.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to each individual that supported us and encouraged us during this uphill struggle. And a special , unspeakable thanks to Jeremiah, John Henry and Mariah Carry for competing their hearts out along the way. And thanks again to the O’Rourkes and the other organizers and persons that made the New Laurels happen and welcomed us.

So many things had to come together to make this year’s Laurels event happened, it is proof positive that the event was just meant to be. As a competitor, I felt that for the most part I was adequately prepared for the big time competition. There are a few things that I have to study and figure out how we can do better.

The longer we were on the road, Jeremiah’s performance dulled. His appetite was good up to the end of the Laurels, when he nearly quit eating hay and would eat only a portion of his gain. He did loose quite a bit of weight on the trip, but kept hydrated and urinating ok. It is also intimidating to go into a big competition for the first time and go up against well-known pillars in the sport, some with International competition experience.

Then it is important to have your own game plan for the competition and concentrate on executing it. I think we did well at that. If (see there’s that word again) we had done a dressage test that we were capable of doing (in the mid 40s) we would have been right in the middle of the awards mix. I am not complaining-we were judged fairly and deserved a score in the low 60s. I was only disappointed that we didn’t do better.

I have to also mention the special fraternity of pony drivers. They are a diverse, yet very supportive close-knit group. Perhaps after taking second seat to the horse-sized competitors for so long has joined them with a special bond. A special pony competitor’s meeting was held at the Laurels and the underlying theme was that we don’t want the selection of the US pony team to be done in secret. We want the selection criteria to be put on the table for all to see and understand and the pony driver all agree to support whoever is chosen to be our representatives at World’s Championship next year. It was a refreshing revelation.

We had a great adventure. It is good to be home. Thanks to all who helped make it possible and We’ll be back.

Answer: Congratulations! Jeremiah was probably just tired at the Laurels after such a long trek. But even so, he made a respectable showing and I am sure there were a lot of folks who were quite impressed. I know how much effort goes into preparation and competing in these sorts of events. Hats off to you and Jeremiah for all you have done in support of mules this summer and then some! Your efforts are greatly appreciated, even if I couldn’t be there to see you! Best to you always! Keep me posted.

I love hearing about your accomplishments!

Mule Acceptance with USEF

Question: Congratulations on your groundbreaking changes with the USDF. I know you have worked many years to achieve this. I am from Oregon and have been following your efforts.

In Oregon we’ve also been making advancement in the acceptance of mules and donkeys. In our state organization, Oregon Horsemen’s Association (OHA), we have achieved this acceptance. OHA is an arm of USA-E. For the 2004 show season, any show seeking OHA approval must be open to all equines for the points to count toward year-end OHA awards.

This awards program is very extensive and many people in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest enroll and participate. Specific breed classes may still be offered at the shows but any open class must be truly open.

The movement toward this acceptance started in earnest in 2002. In that year, mules and donkeys could compete in designated breed classes for mules/donkeys. Prior to that mules and donkeys were not even allowed on the show grounds on the same day of an OHA show. To show the OHA world that we would not scare their horses, we did take mules to a few of the shows that offered these classes. This was almost an exhibition situation but it paid off.

In 2003, we were accepted into open classes but a show could still designate certain classes or the entire show “horse only”. Some shows elected to do that but with some careful lobbying by mule supporters in the state more shows were open than closed. I campaigned for my mule in the state and achieved a year-end championship in Amateur Western Pleasure as well as several top-5 awards in other categories. Throughout this time I served on the OHA board and became the show approval chairman.

This put me on the horse show governing committee where I had a voice in the development of show rules. While my mule was proving that we were good to have at the shows, I was behind the scenes making friends and building support.

Finally the big moment came in mid-2003 when shows for 2004 were under discussion. I said that it did not seem fair that I could not compete on an equal basis with horses for year-end awards because some shows and classes were still closed to my mule and me.

The rest of the committee said “you’re right” and the rest is history. I am writing to let you know about this event in Oregon because you may be able to use the information for other state groups or with USA-E to get mules and donkeys universally accepted.

In closing, I want to tell you about one of the most wonderful moments we experienced in the open horse show world last year. We took a mammoth jack, Siemens Maximilian, owned by Doug and Sue Wallace of Enumclaw, WA to drive at a large OHA show last year. He was great. People including the judges could not believe it was a donkey. Some even tried to tell us he was a mule. Getting these animals out there is so fun. People cannot believe how much fun they are and how beautiful.

Please call or write if you want more information about this. Also, please feel free to pass on my name to others that are trying to enter the USA-E world.

Answer: There have been a lot of other people like you who have made a positive impact on this movement and helped to initiate the change of heart of the United States Equestrian Federation. I was certainly not able to do this by myself and I am eternally grateful for the effort and hard work that so many have put into their mules so they can be perceived differently by horse people.

I found your letter inspiring and have opted to post it on my website for others to read. Perhaps, It will be an inspiration for even more people to challenge themselves and their mules in the realm of upper level horsemanship and will perpetuate more of our mule people to become actively involved in the clubs and committees that keeps our equine Industry thriving.

It is important that those of us who love equines band together in their support and become the educators for those who may need guidance and support. My thanks again to you and the work you have done in support of longears! It has, no doubt, made an impact as well!

Mule Promotion & USEF Acceptance

Question: I spoke with Carole Sweet last week–congratulations to all of you for your success in getting mules accepted in Dressage by USEF! I wonder if it will follow that they’ll be accepted more readily now at non-recognized events? If at all possible this year, I am going to try and get my young mule Emma to a couple of schooling shows, just to get mules “out there” in the public eye. She is very young, so much will depend on the training progress we make this Spring, but it would be nice to start taking advantage of the groundwork you have laid!

One thing I chatted with Carole about was the idea to collaborate on a booklet devoted to educating mule owners on how best to promote mules to horse people and the general public. There is an awful lot of wisdom in the “upper echelons” of our mule world…I am sure that you, Kathleen Conklin, Carole Sweet, and many others could offer excellent ideas and advice for every mule owner—from backyard rider to serious competitor—on how to present mules in the best possible light and identify opportunities for doing so. She thought it was a great idea…and I have a feeling that, as a tech writer/editor, I am taking on another project somehow, HaHa!

There aren’t a whole lot of mules in Virginia where I live. But the local Fox Hunts seem very welcoming of mules, although some people express concern about whether horses will be scared of the mules. I myself have never observed this to happen when I’ve had my mule at events with horses—is it a very common reaction? Anyway, my local Hunt has welcomed me and my mules with open arms. Everyone is very supportive of me bringing them to their trail rides and hilltopping Emma in the Fall. It seems like another excellent venue for promoting mules, for sure.

And promoting mules is the main reason I’m writing–I moderate a discussion forum on Yahoo (ACML–Atlantic Coast Mule Lovers). We are planning to meet at Fair Hill, MD in mid-May for five days of informal riding, driving, and visiting.

We’ll be riding, driving, sharing expertise in the form of little mini-seminars (trimming/shoeing, round pen work, organizing your trailer, clicker training, and packing for shows are all topics we’ll be covering), and just generally enjoying each others’ company.

I estimate there will be at least 100 horses/riders there in addition to our group of 20-25 mules. We don’t want to miss this opportunity to educate the horse folk and the public about our delightful beasts! My plan is to do a “science fair” like info display, provide photo albums of many mules doing all the wonderful things they do, and provide take-away materials also. If you could help with suggestions, ideas, photos, flyers for your products, info sheets, or any other thing that you feel might help us educate folks about mules, it would be most welcome!

Thanks in advance for taking time to consider my request!

Answer: We cannot expect them to do all the work while we just come to their shows! This is not a right; it is a privilege with responsibilities attached to it. If we do not regard it as such, they will no longer be so willing to accommodate our needs and make these opportunities available to us. They will rescind their decision.

There is a lot of restructuring we need to do in our own breed group that needs to take place. Leah Patton is already beginning work on a national rulebook for mules (just like the other breeds have). Though this is what NASMA tried to do, they have not really been as successful as we hoped. Too many internal problems.

Anyway, I hope this gives you some ideas of the kinds of things that need to take place from here to keep things moving forward. This is the kind of information people need. If people are having trouble getting into schooling shows and clinics, then they need to ask themselves about their approach. I have had no trouble in Colorado, but then I always approached them with a polite, considerate and helpful attitude…never with the idea that “my mule can do as much if not more than your horse!” This attitude needs to STOP!

If you need any help, please feel free to contact me at any time. I will be posting our correspondence on my website in the “Ask Meredith” section. No doubt, there will be a lot of communication on this issue and I welcome the opportunity to create a forum for ideas that will help us to go forward in a positive way for future equestrians.

Mules and AHSA

Question: Thank you for your letter. I feel very strongly about: mules competing with horses outside of schooling shows, in AHSA events. This last weekend I placed 1st out of 7 horses in an open pleasure class on my 4 1/2 year old molly mule She was very accurate on her transitions and her leads and the judge rewarded us with 1st. This was also this mule’s 1st show.

The response from people was wonderful however I would love to eventually compete at the higher levels. I have bred my French Thoroughbred mare (who started out competing at preliminary level e-venting when she started her show career) and have 2 nice molly mules.

My goals are to compete accurately in dressage and show jumping, and I also have some reining prospect mules. Our mules are out of very nice Thoroughbred and Quarter horse mares. My husband and I are currently raising quality riding mules which we hope will go on to show careers. We are new to the mule shows locally because most of our animals are young although we have used our pack mules as rider /packers in the Sierras close to where we live here in CA.

We have shown horses but love the mule shows and would like to pursue the club shows. I have raised horses for years but have fallen in love with the mule, it just took one ride in the Sierras on a john that my husband had trained and I was hooked. We own a boarding stable and taking care of and training the mules is the easy and fun part of my day. I have to also say that out breeding program started out: of my frustration to find a good show quality mule with few bad habits. The good ones were rarely for sale.

I would love to see the clubs unite and will draft my letter to the ADMS. If there is anything else I can do let me know. We would love to help out any way we can. Being new to the clubs can be difficult, and we can feel the newcomers insecurities on speaking up but time is helping that. Thanks again.

Mules At Horse Shows?

Question: I was just at your website looking at the great mule info. I’m 37 and am finally getting my dream house on 10 acres Friday. I’ve spent my whole life dreamin’ of horses, and have been researching horses like crazy for over 2 years so that I can get ONE lifelong companion capable of doing a wide variety of sports.

I wanted to write and ask if you think a mule is an appropriate “first equine” instead of the horse I’d always envisioned. Although I’ve been riding friends’ horses for 20 years, have just finished a year of weekly private dressage lessons in England and once rode 370 miles from Panama to Nicaragua on a gaited rescue horse, I am very much a novice rider still. On the good side, I’m a very experienced dog clicker trainer with an M.S. in Zoology/Animal Behavior. My 100% clicker-trained Jack Russell is the most versatility-titled JRT in the world (9 sports, from sheep herding to British working trials).

He has been #1 conformation dog and #2 obedience dog of his breed in the USA and has been featured in several Purina ads. I’ve also successfully clicker trained friends’ horses to fetch, back and do Spanish Walk. I was originally looking at a gaited horse for my lifelong equine companion but they’re pretty much barred from competing in anything but endurance, CTR, or specific breed shows.

So after years of wasting time on gaited horse research, I’ve finally decided against them just days before I finally get my horse property! I was going to switch to something like a Morgan, but everybody on the Internet has been recommending mules to me for years and I decided to start reading up on them.

I hadn’t taken their suggestions seriously, believing that mules were only for burly mountain men with rifles. Also, I wanted to show a lot (2 full-time horse show grounds here in Columbia, MO), and I thought mules could only compete in special mule shows like the Bishop Mule Days Celebration.

Just in case I was wrong, I typed “mule + dressage” into my search engine tonight and up popped your site. Not only did you have show jumping longears, you were a fellow operant conditioning fan!

While looking at your site, I saw that mules were capable of doing anything I could want. Then I happened to look at the “for sale” section, and saw an ad for my perfect “horse,” (16.1hh eventer) who just happens to be a mule! I wrote to the owner, then spent the next six hours reading everything I could find about mules on the Internet. They sound GREAT! The only thing that worries me is that they everyone mentions the mule reputation for being “stubborn,” having to be “taught a lesson” early on through the use of brute force, etc. etc.

Although I’m a marvel with dogs, school horses (non-clicker trained) see me as a pushover–I have body language that seems to invite them trampling me, pushing me around, chasing me away from their grain buckets, etc. As an equine-body-language wimp and a clicker trainer, will I create a mule monster?

I tend to take the stubbornness comments seriously because I’m used to bad genes being so UNDERstated in the dog world: “Great Danes are loyal protectors” = they are difficult to socialize to the point of maiming visitors on sight; “Australian Cattle Dogs need firm leadership” = they’ll persistently nip you or bark nonstop to get their way, even if you NEVER give in (I have one, nearly 14 and still at it!). When people call mules “intelligently stubborn”

I imagine an equine that won’t even let me put a saddle on without a fistful of carrots and heaps of clicks/treats. Or that will lag behind my horse buddies on the trail because I won’t use a whip. So after this long letter, I have two questions.

1) Can mules be shown in performance sports at normal horse shows, the type I’m likely to find at county fairs, etc.? Or would I only be able to show my potential eventing mule at mule shows?

2) Is a mule appropriate for an experienced DOG clicker trainer with limited horse experience or would a horse be better for a wimp like me?

Answer: First, mules can be shown in a lot of different kinds of shows, but you need to call ahead and ask the show committees since it may vary from area to area. In the case of any AHSA (now USA Equestrian), they do not let mules compete in recognized shows at the higher levels because it would offset their points system that determines our Olympic hopefuls, but they will usually allow mules quite freely at the lower levels. Breed shows are usually good about allowing mules in the open classes and of course, there are numerable mule shows all over the country and the world. For more information about the shows in your area, contact the American Donkey & Mule Society, PO Box 1210, Lewisville, Texas, 75067, (972) 219-0781.

I am prejudice in favor of mules for a lot of reasons and I have had both mules and horses. Mules are loving and affectionate characters when they are treated right. They are stronger, more intelligent and remember everything they are taught. They are quite versatile in their athletic abilities. They are more resistant to parasites and disease and stay out of trouble that can result in costly vet bills. They require less feed to maintain good health which lessens the overall upkeep of the animal. They are by far the smoothest and safest ride I will ever have! I think you would love having a mule given your background.

For the same reason, I doubt that you would have any problems dealing with them since you are already familiar with clicker training which is very much the same as what I do; I just use my voice instead of a clicker, but I have heard that the clicker also works well with mules. I use my voice because you could land in a situation where the clicker could be lost or not present.

Mules In The Olympics?

Question: This may sound bizarre, but if a mule was good enough, would he be allowed to compete in the Olympics? If you’re not sure, who else could I ask? Thanks for your time!

Answer: Not such a bizarre question. I asked the same question years ago. The Olympics is a horse event and mules are not allowed, however, you can school your mule in the same events and he will probably be better than most horses. There would be a chance that you could get an exhibition at the Olympics on your mule once he has become proficient.

Mules are allowed at a lot of Dressage and Combined Training schooling shows. They just require a call ahead of time to make sure the show committees are willing to accept mules. Most of them do. The American Donkey & Mule Society is in contact with various equine events that call for mule and donkey exhibitions as well as a multitude of other events and contacts.

You can contact them at
ADMS, PO Box 1210,
Lewisville, Texas, 75067,
(972)219-0781, Fax (972) 420-9980

Statement from AHSA Officers

American Horse Shows Association (AHSA) Officers issued the following statement.

February 1, 2001
To the Equestrian Community:
The stakes are high regarding the governance issues now pending before the United States Olympic Committee (USOO). Its decision regarding our NGB (National Governing Body) status will likely affect every participant in the sport, from the children in pony rings to the elite athletes.

The AHSA has a duty to bring all relevant information to light, in its role as the long-standing NGB for the sport, so that everyone in the sport will have the opportunity to be well-informed. In no way do we intend any informational effort to be divisive. The debate now underway will bring forward differing perspectives so that each individual in the sport may discuss the issues at hand, on the merits.

The facilitated Strategic Planning Process (SPI), underway since November 2000, has been a worthy effort with moments of real progress as both AHSA and United States Equestrian Team (USET) representatives struggled to set aside differences and grapple with what is in the best interest of our sport. However, with the most recent vote of the USET Board indicating its unwillingness to further consider any merger of the two organizations’ capabilities, we at the AHSA have reached the conclusion that this collaborative effort has come to a close.

The AHSA is not closing the door on the best thinking and the spirit of a unified equestrian community that existed at the last meeting of the SPI. Our next step is to prepare a proposal to be considered by the USOC Membership and Credentials Committee. The proposal will be inclusive of many of the best ideas emerging from the SPI while examining and taking steps to address any governance issues for the AHSA that have been questioned by the USOC.

We believe, and the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act along with the FEI and AHSA rules require, that the NGB of equestrian sport must fulfill an active leadership role, assuring –

* The health and well-being of horses
* National and international competitive excellence
* Fair and consistent application of the rules and regulations of our sport
* Fair, transparent and conflict-free selection procedures and selection processes for all international and national teams and tours
* A clear connection and opportunity for grassroots riders to both support and aspire to the ranks of Olympic competitive excellence.
* Efficiency and elimination of duplication among organizations to enhance direct and indirect financial support of our athletes, with ‘One stop shopping’ for fulfilling their needs

AHSA supports unifying the equestrian sport, providing focus for athletes and participants at every level and attention across disciplines and breeds, and expanding the support base to enable more athletes to compete.

Unfortunately, we believe our equestrian sport has for too long been perceived as an elite sport with competitions often out of the reach of many who might otherwise be qualified to excel.

At the same time, we also know the financial capability to nurture and field world class teams is critical to success. We believe a broad-based financial program managed by a unified organization with financial stability, solid infrastructure and sound stewardship can best do this for today’s athletes and tomorrows.

Our sense of today and our wish for the future both prompt us to think about how our sport is funded and how it is perceived and marketed. We believe there is an exciting opportunity to raise awareness and enthusiasm, funds from many sources, and the support necessary to enhance our new profile and our competitive excellence.

We continue to encourage the USET to consider joining the best of its capabilities with the best of ours. As the next few weeks unfold, we will flesh out the most basic concepts for the USOC to consider. One is a potential consolidation of organizational capabilities with a minimum of disruption – a transformed NGB with full responsibility for today’s stewardship of the sport and a vision for tomorrows potential.

We must fulfill the USOC’s mandate for governance of the sport. Even if the USOC did not require it, the AHSA believes that having a single, consolidated organization as the NGB is in the best interest of the sport long-term. The time has long since come for unified, aggressive management of the total sport – harnessing all of the financial, operational, marketing, and human resource strengths that implies – to generate the public interest and revenue needed to support every participant.

Our proposal will include a structure that guarantees focus for athletes and participants at every level – from beginner to Olympian – and attention across both national and international disciplines and breeds.

The “pyramid” of the sport – athletes and other participants that we serve – needs to be inclusive, not exclusive. The governance of the sport needs to be democratic, not elitist. If the top of the sport pyramid is cut off to stand by itself, it is still a pyramid, but is a small one among the giants of other sports in the Olympic movement. Equestrian sport is small enough as it is now in comparison with other sports. Why divide it further?

We believe that finger-pointing is not constructive. We will engage our membership through increased communication, as time permits, in a positive and informative way.

We hope the principles outlined here can clear the air and allow the focus to be on what is best for the sport. Your thoughts are welcome as we work to enhance the AHSA proposal in preparation for our February 24, 2001 meeting with the USOC.

The Officers of the AHSA, with address and discipline affiliations, are:
Alan F. Balch, New York and Kentucky, Hunter/Jumper, President
Judith Werner, Illinois, Saddlebred, Vice President
Linda Allen, California, Hunter/Jumper, Secretary
Kathy Knill Meyer, Colorado, Arabian, Treasurer
David O’Connor, Virginia, Eventing, Assistant Secretary
Stephen O. Hawkins, New Jersey, Hunter/Jumper, Assistant Treasurer

Testimonial of a “First” Dressage

Question: Just thought I’d let you know Tuffy and I competed in our first dressage schooling show (found one that would let us participate) and we kicked ass!!. We took the intro A & B test and maiden training level1 test, our scores were 68.6, 69.4, 65.4. We took first place in the level 1 class out of four!!

I don’t know who was shocked more the crowd there or me. The facility owner read my tests for me and she actually was so into watching Tuffy she forgot to read. I think she was floored. I had it videoed and he looked good. We kept really forward in the trot and he strided right into the fronts. Biggest issues she wrote on comments was a little behind the vertical and quick in the canter of course! Our straight line HaHa! entering and ending is our weakest point. Diagonally every time.

But it was gratifying to see it on tape. We left everyone with a good impression and got a come back with Tuffy’s very good behavior and not braying once!! We are doing the same tests at the Roseburg Mule Show and we are going to go for our first real dressage show Oct 22, 23.

So we’ll keep you informed. I contact ADMS about getting into the USDF breed registry I think Leah is working on it. Hope I did not take up too much of your time but we’re enthused and thought to share it with you, as you’ve given me lots of advice and encouragement. See ya at Bishop next year.

Answer: Thank you so much for letting me know how your show went! You should be very proud! You did terrific! I am certainly proud of you and Tuffy! I will be anxious to hear about your progress, so please keep us posted! I am going to post this email on our website if that is agreeable to you. I think you are a great inspiration for others to follow suit!

Thanks & Mule Prejudice

Question: This time just a great big thank you! I’m the one who got kicked in the face by my Baby Morgan Mule about a month ago. We spoke on the phone. I followed your advice and I ordered 3 videos. He does everything in tape one pretty good. He is smart and affectionate and playful “Just as you described” he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. (the kick was entirely my fault if you remember) He has since had his feet trimmed and has been wormed and a nasal Vac. and has been good as gold for all.

I have even tried to get him to kick again as you showed in tape 2 but he just wouldn’t. Your Videos have also helped with my horses. I pulled their manes and braided tails and groomed them up nice for a local show based on the information in tape 8. My farrier commented they looked professionally done but I had just watched the video.

My 14 year old babysitter watched the bit on showman ship practiced and placed first in her class with NO OTHER TRAINING! I am excited about getting the next videos but I want to wait so I won’t be tempted to rush “Dooby” in his training.

Actually Maybe I do have 2 small questions. For the 20 min. walk with the saddle on would it be ok to pony him with my well trained quite mare for a short trail ride? I did this with my kids Ponies (No riders) and it seemed to work out good? And how do you deal with people who don’t take mules seriously?

At a recent county fair I mentioned I would like to enter my mule in the halter classes next year and they said yes it would be good for a Laugh! I was insulted. I want to do well with him and win. If the general public thinks this way do you find Judges are prejudice when it comes to our choice of mount too. Should I just laugh along and go in and kick ass (pardon the pun) or take a more serious approach?

Answer: I am so glad to hear things are working better for you now! It warms my heart to hear stories like yours! Congratulations on the showing! That’s wonderful! Yes, you can pony him sometimes, as long as he is behaving. He will need to learn to keep his nose at your knee and never pass, just as he is supposed to follow your shoulder when walking.

Repetition is the key to building in good habits. He still needs plenty of practice walking with you, too, so don’t substitute one for the other, just do both. It will make his sessions more interesting and more enjoyable for you both! People who are ignorant of mules will always make snide comments.

If they will allow you to show, then by all means, do it! They may have to eat their hats if your animal does so well the judge can’t ignore it! But remember, there are also judges out there who aren’t that educated either, so if things don’t go well at one show, there is always the next! You have it right…just laugh along, go in and kick ass! But most of all…have fun!

USA Equestrian Invite

Question: In the July/August issue of the Brayer, on page 23, there is a letter inviting people to join the USA Equestrian, formerly the American Horse Show Association.

Thinking the organization must be accepting mules in the competitions now, since they placed this letter in a mule/donkey magazine, I called to find out if Ivory and I could now compete in sanctioned 3-Day Events.

I was told that mules were only allowed in Driving and Endurance, but that if I were a member of USA Equestrian, I could send in a rule change proposal. I am not a member, but would be if I could show. Do you belong to this organization? If so, would you be interested in proposing a rule change? The web site has forms for rule change proposals.

I spent $75.00 to join the US Eventing Association this year, but cannot show in any sanctioned events. I am very frustrated by the inconsistency of USA Equestrian rules that allow mules in some shows but not others. Do you have any ideas on how some changes can be made? Also, I will have some new cross-country jumping photos to send you from our June event.

Answer: Getting the (AHSA) to accept mules has been a long and tedious process. We are lucky to have gotten as far as we have. In 1986, I went to a USDF convention and introduced mules to the dressage people. They were very accommodating and have since allowed mules in the schooling shows, just not at the upper level shows that are sanctioned by AHSA.

They determined that the rule book was written for horses and ponies only. Since the US Olympic team is composed of horses, and since the rest of the world competes with horses, this is a designated world-wide event that is specific to horses and has been for a very long time. Having mules in the qualifying competitions would offset points and compromise the decision-making process for our Olympic hopefuls.

AHSA (now the United States Equestrian Federation) is trying to accommodate mules fairly by accepting them as a division of USEF with the ability to enter open divisions like endurance and driving. Dave Ketscher worked very hard to get mules into the driving division and was successful, but he has been at this for more than 10 years!

It is frustrating, but you should be able to participate in eventing shows at the lower levels. It is important to be courteous and call ahead to see if they are OK with your competing. They will usually agree to let you complete, though there may be certain individual show committees that may be in opposition. There are lots of events here in Colorado that do allow mules to complete and a lot of people are doing it. More than ever before!

Since I am no longer competing, and because I am short on time these days, I am unable to pursue this cause however, if you join USEF, you could spearhead the effort yourself and propose rule changes. I would be happy to lend support; I just don’t have the time to spearhead the effort.

I would contact USEF and ask them what the best course of action would be. I have always found them agreeable when approached reasonably. You might also approach Dave Ketscher and get feedback from him since he has been involved with them directly more recently than I have.

When Not Green?

Question: I have a couple of questions. I’m not very familiar with showing mules but I have one that I will start showing. For the bits, is there a certain age to when they are not considered “green.” The mule is eight but only showed once before. Also, when is the best time to body shave. I’m hearing all types of things and I’m just confused on what to do.

Answer: Generally accepted rules for showing mules can be found in the rulebook published by the North American Saddle Mule Association According to the NASMA rulebook, Green mules are described, “A mule of any age that is in the first two years of showing under saddle. Any mule, donkey, or horse show in which the mule has shown under saddle shall count toward show experience. Competing in one show or more between January and December 31 of a calendar year counts toward a full year of showing. The two years are consecutive and in the event the mule does not show the second year it is still counted toward GREEN MULE eligibility. A green mule must be shown with a legal snaffle or bosal/hackamore using two hands.”

The American Mule Association still goes by the NASMA rules, but they have gone into greater detail in their rulebook as far as clarification of equipment, entries, etc., but no where could I find a rule that said the mule would have to be considered a Senior mule if over eight years old. I believe there was a rule like that several years ago, but there have been revisions since.

To be sure to understand all of the requirements for showing, you should get a rulebook from both NASMA and AMA. And, though your mule may not be green anymore if he did not show the 2 “consecutive” years, you should still school him in the snaffle bit before moving on to the curb bit. They cannot really learn the basics in a curb bit! In the English division, you wouldn’t have this conflict.

Why Shave Mule Tails?

Question: I would like to know how the start of shaving the top portion of the mule tails got started……and why…….

Answer: The practice of shaving the top of a mule’s tail, as far as I know, emerged in the mid-seventies when mule shows began with Bishop Mule Days. If it was done before this, I have not heard.

The army used to bell tails to make it easier to identify mules in certain divisions, but I don’t believe they shaved the tops of the tails.

The tail hair at the top of a mule tail is a lot shorter than that of a horse and to maintain a neat and tidy appearance, they began the practice of shaving off those short hairs.

We now know ways to flatten those hairs and to encourage growth, so people have a choice of whether to shave or not. Since English classes were introduced to mule showing, a lot of people now braid the top tail hairs.