I took on my first ranching job with Dana Cattle Company at age twelve. During my first year of marriage, I realized that earning $25 a day punching cows was not going to put my kids through college, so I got into the automotive collision business. In 1991, I went back to cowboying, this time with my focus on training for the public.
Susan is also very involved in our ranch business, Queen Valley Mule Ranch, Inc. For one, she is the bookkeeper. Additionally, she prepares for and helps with the pack trips and various outings. She also runs all of the behind-the-scenes work at our 20-acre ranch.
We offer clinics on understanding and training mules, donkeys and their owners. With the focus on partnership with the mule, we teach people how to drive wagons, pack mules, and trail ride.
My earliest memory of mules comes from my cattle ranch experience. We packed block salt on mules to deliver it to the cattle in the fields. I thought that mules were dumb and were only to be used at a time such as this, when a decent horse should not be used. However, over the next few years, a lot of old cowboys told me that the best thing to ride, especially in rough country, is a mule. I took the old timers’ advice and I bought my first mule fifteen years ago.
I spent time studying my mule and found that there are significant differences between horses and mules. Our Arizona ranch borders the Superstition Wilderness. It is extremely rough country with lots of canyons and rocks, with only a few maintained trails. It is a great place to watch a mule work. A mule is very sure-footed. When he puts his foot down, it is right where he wants it. As water is scarce in this area, a mule is preferable to a horse because a mule can go all day without water.
Maintaining a mule is less expensive. You can feed two mules for what it takes to feed one horse. Mules are more tolerant of the heat and they rarely develop colic.
Mules are very intelligent. Once a particular training technique has been used on a mule three times, the mule understands what it is he is supposed to do. Mules get their natural abilities from the donkey.