MULE CROSSING: Assets of the Mule in Equestrian Sport 2010

By Meredith Hodges

The following is a list of points that I used in my pursuit for “Mule” acceptance into the national equestrian organizations such as the American Horse Show Association, The United States Dressage Federation, the United States Eventing Association and ultimately the United States Equestrian Federation (A.H.S.A. replacement). 

  1. The mission of the U.S.E.A. as in Article 2 of the constitution in “Vision” and “Mission” vows to promote the pursuit of excellence in equestrian sport from grass roots to the Olympics. I am a life member.
  2. The mule is half horse and therefore his rider is an equestrian.
  3. Because of his “peculiar” disposition, he demands the respect and cooperation from his handler that is also in pursuit of excellence. He is not likely to put up with a disrespectful rider and therefore demands excellence.
  4. Dressage has 100’s of years of successful training and is taken well by mules because of its positive attention to all aspects of the equine’s well being and development. It makes sense to the mule that is an animal that is sensitive with a strong sense of self preservation. It is the right way to develop an athlete. When conditioning for other types of equine sport, Dressage is still the base from which one should work. Any other way would be considered a short cut and could result in a shortened life span, injury or death!
  5. I began lessons with Melinda Weatherford in Colorado in Dressage with my mules and began to see phenomenal results.
  6. Once we had achieved some level of competence (Training Level), I was able to ride with some of the best riders and most influential people in the equestrian world:
  7. Major Anders Lindgren helped my now 4th level mule, Lucky Three Sundowner begin true forward motion in his lateral exercises.
  8. Denny Emerson, Jim Graham and Bruce Davidson helped refine our techniques for the 3-day horse trials.
  9. In 1986, we approached the U.S.D.F. and were accepted in non-AHSA sanctioned shows.
  10. We continued to improve and score high in Dressage tests to 3rd Level and were schooling at 4thLevel, at which time we approached our own World competition at Bishop Mule Days and in 1992, Dressage classes were included in our world show. There is continued interest and growth in these classes.
  11. It was because of the help of individuals like Major Anders Lindgren, Denny Emerson, Jim Graham, Bruce Davidson and others like them who have helped us achieve levels of Horsemanship never before achieved by anyone with mules and we have subsequently inspired those who follow to pursue these venues of Horsemanship.
  12. Those that helped have truly done what your constitution (U.S.E.A.) implies and now there are more than 6 million mules in United States. Many of their owners are in pursuit of these same levels of Horsemanship. I was fortunate that those in my area were more than happy to open their shows to my mules and me. There are other areas that haven’t been as cooperative.
  13. The struggles that have arisen from this issue are largely coming from those who are yet naïve on the finer points of Horsemanship. Those who don’t want to compete with mules because they scare the horses, simply have not the trust from their animals to learn to investigate first. This is not anything that cannot be improved by improving their own skills in dealing with their horses.
  14. Mule people’s naivety shows when they approach this issue with the idea that a mule is better than a horse. Dressage teaches you to learn to do your best with your animal and the ones you should be competing against is simply yourself! When your scores improve, you are doing well. When you have a low score on any given day, you learn one day does not a whole life make and we hope for a better score next time. Everyone can’t always have good days.
  15. The equine industry only represents about 1% of the population. We should not be arguing amongst ourselves. Rather, we should try to recruit more interest in our industry for the success of the industry itself. Mules can bring in more numbers of participants in these kinds of activities.
  16. Mules can actually promote more interest from the public because they are not expected to be there. Thus, they can help to sell more tickets top events.
  17. Some of our future Olympic riders could be mule riders with exceptional ability. The mules would insist on the best from their riders to get to this level much beyond what a horse demands from his rider.
  18. There is increased interest in 4-H club children who wish to use mules as their projects. They add humor to the equation and make them more fun to be around in a lot of instances thus promoting staying power. Children are less likely to lose interest like they often do with horses. People are drawn to the unusual.
  19. We have been working on this quest since 1986, 17 years! If this were not something that people believe to be an important issue, it would not have been pursued so adamantly for so long!
  20. This is not a case of mules vs. horses. It is a case of giving riders the best possible education in the pursuit of their dreams…no matter what type of equine they decide to ride. The U.S.A.E. should not think that this will naturally follow with a pursuit for donkeys, zebras, etc. As an educated trainer, I know that these animals are not structurally nor mentally fit for participation in dressage at these levels. Why? Because they are not half-horse!

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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