MULE CROSSING: What’s So Special About Longears Shows?

By Meredith Hodges

Many years ago, mules and donkeys were numerous in this country. Their strength and endurance made them ideal pack and work animals. Their contributions to the building of this great nation are unmatched, yet in 1966 their numbers had decreased to the point of near extinction. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, their services were no longer in demand. Today the American Donkey and Mule Society celebrated its 20th anniversary. The society was formed by Paul and Betsy Hutchins of Denton, Texas, in 1967, in response to a need to appreciate the work of these fine, longeared animals and to find new uses for them. Over the past 20 years, appreciation of these animals has gained momentum, and we find with each new experiment that these animals are capable of a wide variety of uses in today’s world. They are limited only by the imaginations of their owners. They can be pets, performers, pleasure animals or just plain hard workers.

The gift we have found with Longears is one that needs to be shared with others that they might also experience the joy and pleasure of these animals. In this hustle-and-bustle world, it is easy to miss out on the things that are really important like love, sharing and simple pleasures derived from personal growth. Mule and donkey shows are the vehicle we can use to bring these things to light and revitalize the appreciation of Longears. The show ring is a place where mules and donkeys can exhibit the results of experiments in a new realm of performance. Challenges are made and met with both humor and enthusiasm.

Many people, however, are intimidated by the show ring for many reasons: lack of show quality animals and training time, lack of information about shows and showing, fear of making mistakes, lack of time and money, lack of transportation, inopportune geographical locations and the fear of politics. We must remember, however, that this intimidation was born of the horse show formats. There are literally millions of horses being shown all over the world and out of necessity the shows were divided and specialized according to ability and breeding. This is the only fair way to progress and still accommodate the growing numbers of equines and their owners. In the midst of this overwhelming competitive spirit, we sometimes lose sight of the true benefits of showing. Showing should be an opportunity to test your equestrian skills and to share new ideas and concepts with others. It should be fun and enlightening.

Because mule and donkey showing is relatively new, there is much to be gained by participation. Those who feel that their animal is not of show quality can still attend shows and learn a lot about Showmanship, grooming and training skills. This development of new skills can make all the difference between show quality or not, particularly in performance events. Newcomers to showing also give the audience something extra-special. Their enthusiasm is often contagious and the audience is subtly invited to virtually join in the show. This is something that they too could manage and enjoy. Those who feel they just cannot get in enough training time can still participate in today’s donkey and mule shows as the class roster will usually include a lot of fun classes. If they do not, it is a relatively simple matter to contact show representatives and request these classes for your area. There are enough mule and donkey clubs today to sponsor all kinds of shows and one need only contact any one of then to acquire any information needed.

Probably the most intimidating fear of all is the fear of making some awful mistake in front of God and “everyone.” I doubt that there is anyone showing who hasn’t experienced that awful mistake at least once. “To err is human…” and err we do! I remember riding my mule in a green pleasure class several years ago. When they asked us to trot in and line up, my mule tripped and fell flat on his face! Was my face red! Another time in a trail class at the World Show, I picked up a bag of cans that scared the tar out of my mule, causing him to tare off, lickety-split, out of the trail class and down the racetrack in front of more than 20,000 spectators! If I could have died at that moment, I would have, but I survived the embarrassment and the disaster of yesterday has been the source of a lot of good humor today. So, don’t let too much seriousness spoil an otherwise wonderful time. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t let them cripple you.

Time and money are a great hindrance to showing today. Economic problems are quite prevalent these days, but as they say…”where there’s a will, there’s a way!” With careful planning and setting of priorities, one can determine the number of shows to attend in a season. Those of us who sponsor and work on shows are sensitive to the needs of our exhibitors and are willing to help in every way we possibly can. Most donkey and mule shows are not all that expensive and can be managed fairly easily. At most of the larger shows, those who wish can tie up to their trailers and save the stall fees. This is true in a lot of regions. Entering fewer classes will also save money and still provide you with the important learning and social benefits of showing. There are so many different sizes, colors, and abilities in mules and donkeys that we really need as many to participate as possibly can to properly represent our longears breeds.

Geographical locations and transportation can also pose showing problems. A little help and a lot of ingenuity, these problems too can be overcome. One needs to decide which shows would be the most beneficial and then plan accordingly. If the show is some distance away, families or groups can pool their efforts and cut costs dramatically. The growth of the mule and donkey industry has increased the number of shows throughout the country such that they are more easily reached from remote areas. If you are in a remote area, you might want to either start a Longears group to sponsor some smaller shows, or you could ride in the Open Horse Shows. Either way, you’re doing an important part in the promotion of Longears.

Last, but certainly not least, a word about politics. In the mule and donkey industry, we are promoting donkeys and mules. As individual animals meet new challenges and succeed, we should all feel a little warmth and joy for that individual who has obviously worked long and hard, and who stands as a representative of his breed. We can all be proud of his contribution to a greater cause. When in competition, compete against yourself and learn to derive joy and pleasure from your own improvements. There is a lot that showing has to offer besides ribbons and trophies. Showing gives you the opportunity to test your skills and to measure successes. It affords one the opportunity to assess different skills, make personal choices and to expand social interaction and education among those of similar interests. But most of all, showing gives each of us the opportunity to do our part in support of our beloved donkeys and mules!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit, MEREDITH HODGES PUBLIC FIGURE Facebook page, or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at Also, find Meredith on Pinterest, Instagram, MeWe, YouTube and Twitter.


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