Talking Mules with a Lifelong Rancher

Steve Edwards: Ok folks, I want to introduce you to a very good friend of mine in New Mexico, a rancher, Rodney Henshaw. He and I have been out most of the day along with my nephew. It looks like you got a couple of grumpy old men but it’s almost our bedtime. We are grumpy probably because we’ve been up all day. We harvested two elks and it does take quite a bit of time. We set up in a place where we could not use our mules. You are going to hear the conversation. Rodney is a working cowboy, a working rancher. He is riding mules and he does have some horses. He has been using my tacks and equipment. You can just hear us talking. You will see, we are tired and we look like a couple of grumpy old men, but I think you will enjoy what Rodney has to say.

Steve Edwards: My name’s Steve Edwards, and here I am in New Mexico. We’ve been elk hunting. Harvested a couple of elk this morning. We’re here on the Henshaw Ranch. This ranch has been around a lot of years. Mr. Henshaw has ranched all his life, it’s all he knows is ranching and cows. He uses both mules and horses, and he contacted me one time and wanted to get to know a little bit more about some mules and then bought a couple of saddles. So I thought it’d be a good thing, maybe ask Rodney what he thought about my saddles and what he does with them. So I’ll introduce you to Rodney Henshaw. So, Rodney, how long have you been in this part of the country?

Rodney Henshaw: All my life.

Steve Edwards: All your life. You got other ranching families before this, was there a ranch family?

Rodney Henshaw: No.

Steve Edwards: No.

Rodney Henshaw: This ranch here has been on my boys’ mothers side, or on their mothers’ side of the family. They would be the fifth generation.

Steve Edwards: Fifth generation.

Rodney Henshaw: That’s been here.

Steve Edwards: Fifth generation ranching. Wow. That’s incredible. So you use mules in this outfit, is that right?

Rodney Henshaw: Yeah I love mules. They’re easy keepers. They’re sure-footed and smart. A lot smarter than a horse.

Steve Edwards: So you started riding my saddles a couple of years ago, was it? How long’s it been now?

Rodney Henshaw: I think it’s been about three years.

Steve Edwards: Three years.

Rodney Henshaw: Three years, and I’ve tried other brands and I have to say that Steve’s saddles will fit any mule. They’re well-made, and another thing I like about them is that they’re light. Some of these mule saddles you buy are just, they weigh 50 or 60 pounds and that’ll wear your animal out in a hurry. I really like his saddles.

Steve Edwards: So get this folks. I have people call me all the time, wanting to know, is this saddle heavy enough to rope with? We just heard a man that’s been ranching all his life, and using these saddles, and this sort of thing and he says he likes the saddles because they’re light. Now I know that we’ve all been at the point where we thought we had to have a big old heavy saddle to do the job, but here’s a man that does this all his life and he prefers the light saddles because they still get the job done. Not so tough on the animals, and he likes the lightness, so that’s really unique. I tell people all the time who I meet and they say, “Can you rope off of it?” And I said, “If you could rope, you could rope off anything.”

Rodney Henshaw: Sure.

Steve Edwards: But most folks think you have to have big and stout, but I appreciate you sharing with us with that. And your wife rides mules too, I understand.

Rodney Henshaw: Yes.

Steve Edwards: Yeah.

Rodney Henshaw: She also uses your saddles and she especially likes them because they’re easy for her to throw up on the mule.

Steve Edwards: And you ride a Cowboy saddle.

Rodney Henshaw: Right.

Steve Edwards: That’s what you ride and she rides the Trail Light I think it is?

Rodney Henshaw: She rides the Trail Light and the Cowboy.

Steve Edwards: And a Cowboy, yeah. Okay. Well good deal. Well, that’s good. Well, folks, there you go, right from a rancher who does this all the days of his life. Rides mules, enjoys them, you can hear how much he says, how much they’re smarter. So we definitely got a rancher here who enjoys mules. But he also enjoys how the mules work with my saddles. Got any questions folks, as always, give me a holler. Thanks for tuning in.

Mules and More Magazine Ad - Featured Image

Featured Products on Mules & More Magazine

Hey folks, I recently had an advertisement featured in Mules and More Magazine and used that space to highlight my most popular mule and donkey saddles and tack. If you read Mules and More Magazine, have seen my ads, and are visiting my website for the first time, welcome! You can find direct links to the products featured in that ad below.

Again, these are some of the most popular items I’ve sold in the last several years – if you have any questions about whether or not a certain saddle or product is right for you, be sure to send me a message and I’ll get right back with you! That’s right… send a message directly to Steve Edwards… no operators, no agents… just a cowboy who wants to help ya out.

Click here to contact me

The Trailrider Saddle

The Trailrider Saddle is built on a durable molded polyethylene tree with an iron horn encapsulated into the tree to make it sturdy enough to use for packing or working cattle; even trail riding on the roughest terrain. Most importantly, I personally guarantee that this saddle will fit your mule.

I architected, developed and have used this design since 1986 – because it works. The seat, cantle and pommel are shaped to provide a secure seat and comfort for the rider who spends long hours in the saddle. And check out that buckaroo seat! Very comfortable (but don’t take anyone’s word for it – try it for yourself).


The Cowboy Saddle

The Cowboy Saddle was made with showing, working and trail riding comfort in mind. Built on durable, molded polyethylene tree with an iron horn encapsulated into the tree makes this saddle sturdy enough to use for packing, working cattle as well as trail riding through terrain – and guaranteed to fit your mule no matter what the task.


Neoprene Trail Cinch

I found that a perforated, neoprene cinch helps lubricate very critical areas that should not be dry. It also breathes to allow fresh air in. The other benefit of this cinch is that cleaning is a breeze. Simply hose off and in minutes you can place the cinch back on the saddle. The cinch is anti-bacterial, breathable and allows moisture to pass thru while helping to keep the saddle in place.

Available in sizes 24″ to 42″


Heavy Duty Mule and Donkey Saddle Pads

Mule Trainer, Steve Edwards' mule saddle pads

These high tech mule saddle pads are designed and field tested by Steve Edwards and his packers, specifically to fit mules and donkeys. Features soft, colorfast Herculon tops, genuine buffalo leather, and non-slip, antibacterial bottom. Provides comfort for the mule and rider!

What to Know About Saddle Cinches for Mules and Donkeys

Steve Edwards: Hi, my name is Steve Edwards and I want to talk to you about your gear. Remember, the keyword is mule, keyword is donkey, not horse. The majority of your tack that’s hanging in your tack stores and this sort of thing is for the horse. We have a completely different palette. We have a completely different bone structure. Everything is different. Now, I understand all the time people call me and they want to buy the saddle, the saddle only. And that’s fine. The downside is that the way I designed my saddle is that the breaching, the breast collar and the cinches make the saddle work correctly. And it’s inevitable, everybody wants to use their cinches, thinking a cinch is a cinch.

Your cinches don’t just hold the saddle into place, you have to understand that your cinch is at an area on the belly that must be lubricated. Two things you want: You want the sweat so that it cools, that’s number one thing. You want the sweat so that it lubricates. That’s number two. When those areas are lubricated, you’re going to have less cinch sores. Riding like I do, in a dry desert and even during our rainy periods, it’s really easy to get a cinch sore, really easy. I kept messing with different materials and this sort of thing, trying to figure out what was best. And I found that the perforated neoprene created the sweat. The perforated neoprene allowed the airflow, so it’s like a big cooler setting on their belly.

And what I did on top of that, I put elastic in here, so that it expands and contracts and gives with the animal. And the cinch is very durable. And in this country here, we’ve got stickers, we’ve got sand and this sort of thing. If you don’t keep your cinches good and clean, you’re going to get a lot of cinch sores. And this stuff naturally almost cleans itself. It’s amazing how I don’t have the stickers hanging onto it, the sand and this sort of thing. Cleans it right out.

I have 24″ all the way up to 42″. Excellent cinches. Easy to take care of. And will next to eliminate your cinch sores when it’s properly set up on your mule. Give me a call. I’d be happy to answer your tack questions. My name is Steve Edwards, Queen Valley Mule Ranch.

How To Install a Come Along Hitch on an Ear Shy Mule

Steve Edwards: One of the first things that we want to do is make sure the mule tips his nose to the left, which then has the left brain thinking. It also loosens the throat latch. Second part is the mule drops his head and loosens all five major neck muscles. Now, I want you to notice how she’s not just putting the come along hitch up on the mule’s head, she is rubbing to make it feel good as well. That is super, super important. Needs to be rubbing so that it feels good and as it goes, you can start seeing it’s the mule’s head drop and as it drops, then she can just slide it right over nice and quiet. The mule must be physically and mentally ready. The mule is not physically and mentally ready when the head is up and the nose sticking out.

A trainable mule is head down, nose tip to the left, and relaxed. The mule is naturally relaxed, has natural relaxation. What we tend to do by rushing, what we tend to do by using the wrong communication skills is we tend to make them worry and then they want to stiffen all five major neck muscles to protect themselves. You can see the mule is kind of pulling away from Elanna now. Then, she can just go back and build that relaxation again. There is the relaxation. Now, we’ll start putting on the rope and of course he’s bracing again. Remember, this mule has severe ear problems, severe, and so we must stay consistent with our training. That is every time mule’s head must be tipped to the left, every time mule’s nose must be dropped, every time.

Every single time we need consistency. When the mule pulls away, we go to the next stage after he relaxes. We want relaxation. There it is. See, rubbing and petting on their nose, mules care more about their nose than their head and so we need to keep that relaxation going. She makes every move is slow, even movement, slow, even movement. Now even there the mule kind of stuck his nose out like he was wanting to try to help her get that rope on, which is good. Now, as she starts pulling the slack up to go over the ears, we want to remember we want a lot of slack. Notice how she’s using her hands in such a way so that she can keep the slack and add slack and then she’s going to go back to rubbing on the mule’s head again.

This mule likes to be petted and scratched, which is good. You got to remember this mule has also been imprinted in the very beginning. Everything was just fine and then all of a sudden one day the mule decided to be a problem so the owner said and I know the owner, they’re usually pretty good about handling these things, so who knows what happened. Something happened where this mule went and went backwards a little bit and that does definitely happen.

The mule is trying to figure a way to get comfortable here. That’s all it’s doing. Notice it’s not dragging it around like we’ve had in the past. That’s at least he’s moving his head. With Elanna being consistent and quiet and going slow, she’s keeping the quietness in the mule.

I can’t impress upon you enough, that has to be keeping the quietness in the mule. Head down, nice and quiet, those are nice, quiet thinking ears. That’s all good stuff. There she goes up to start rubbing on his nose. Notice her left hand has a little bit a hold of the halter and rope. She’ll go to rub and see him getting nice and quiet. He’s dropping his head. He’s liking that. She just kind of sneaks the rope right on up over the top his ears, then we pull the slack across the nose. We want it two fingers above the nostril for our next six months. That’s imperative because you’ll have far better communication with it two fingers over the nose and you want to make sure that the bottom jaw is rounded as well.

You can see right now, we want it to be nice and rounded so that it gets nerves on the bottom and the nose as well. The idea here is with the come along hitch, if the mule makes the slightest mistake, we can fix it. There we are. Now, we’re using a combination of the come along hitch and the rope halter. We do not tie with a come along hitch. We only tie with a rope halter. She’s got the mule going. Nice job, Elanna. That was terrific. Now, this was pretty severe. I wish we had some videos of this before. The mule could have a relapse and we could go at that. Anyway, good job.

That’s how you work with an ear shy mule putting the come along hitch on. Then, we’re going to be going to the bridle next.

Most Popular YouTube Videos of 2017

Another year is in the books. 2017 has been great and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store. One thing that I’ve done more this year and plan on doing more in 2018 is videos. These short videos are great resources for your mule or donkey training. YouTube is a great tool and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you on that platform.

Make sure you subscribed to my YouTube channel to get the latest videos.

This week I’ve been sharing my most popular articles and products on my site and I want to now share my most popular YouTube videos listed below.

Most Popular Products of 2017

As 2017 is coming to an end, this is a great time to reflect on the year. Yesterday, I shared my most popular articles on my website (you can read that here). These are all great resources that you all used to help with your mule and donkey training. In addition to these articles, I also offer mule and donkey products on my website. Many of you have made purchases over the years and have been a big part of supporting Queen Valley Mule Ranch and for that, I want to say thank you.

My team recently took a look at our analytics to see what was our most popular products of 2017 and there was a little bit of everything. Everybody is in different stages in their mule or donkey training and you all have different needs. Folks, I’m just glad to be able to offer these amazing products to you all. So without further ado, here are 2017 most popular products.

Steve Edwards Most Popular Articles of 2017

Can you believe it folks, 2017 is coming to an end? And what a year it has been! This year has had its shares of ups and downs but has been full of blessings. After more than 35 years of being in the mule training business, I can’t help but be thankful for what I get to do day in and day out and that’s sharing with you all my knowledge to help with your mule or donkey.

This website is a great resource for you all and ya’ll are definitely taking advantage. From articles on The Difference Between a Mule Saddle and Horse Saddle to Establishing Leadership with Your Mule, you are bound to find the answers to your mule or donkey training questions. To reflect on 2017, my team went through and put together a list of the 10 most popular articles from our website during 2017. These are the articles that you found the most helpful in your journey. I’m just glad I got to be part of it.

Here are my most popular articles of 2017.


History: It Takes Time to Erase Things From the Past

I love to help mule people with problems. It’s why I do what I do. So when Barbara contacted me about saddle fit issues and tack questions, I was happy to help!

Buying The Right Saddle And Tack Set Up

The background is that her mule had been subjected to long rides using horse gear and the result was pretty clear. Not only was the mule unhappy, but white spots (scalds) had developed near the withers. Honestly, they were pretty darn big. Barbara had done some research and decided it might be best to buy my mule saddle as others had indicated to her that it solved a lot of problems. She was lucky enough to find a good deal on a used one!

Unfortunately, Barbara did not research quite enough so she only bought my saddle. The seller did not offer all the “attachments” so she did not initially purchase “the entire package” that I recommend. As is commonly done, she elected to tighten the front cinch on the saddle to keep it from moving and placed the saddle high on the whither. So without intending to, she actually made the problem worse.

Long story short, Barbara contacted me to talk about these white spots and the saddle, and we discussed the need to use the proper saddle pad, britchen, breast collar and double cinch system to stabilize the saddle. I can’t overemphasize the need to use this entire tack set up for the best possible results. My saddles are not meant to be “stand alone.” Without the saddle pad, britchen and breast collar and the double cinches (connected to prevent slipping) with the back the tighter of the two – the entire point is missed. If everything is properly applied, there is no need to crank down on the cinches or to overtighten any part of the tack. If everything is in place, the saddle is comfortably secure for the mule and the rider; over 40 years of the school of hard knocks has gotten me to this point.

What You Can Do About White Hairs

Now Barbara is a smart person and she loves her mule. So she did exactly as we discussed. She started using all of the parts of the tack package, and she asked questions galore so that she could get everything properly adjusted. Though delighted with the results, she did contact me one more time to say that there was “good sweat” everywhere but where the white spots were. Those areas were dry.

So here is the story. When a scald is severe, not only is there a lot of rubbing and friction, but there is long lasting (sometimes permanent) damage to the sweat glands in the skin. In Barbara’s case, some of the damage was inherited while part of it was her responsibility as she over tightened the front cinch in an attempt to keep the saddle still. Those white hairs and the damaged sweat glands will not go away overnight. And depending on how long the poor practices were in place, the mule may actually never be completely rid of the damage or scars from it. The mule’s tolerance of this kind of discomfort is a true testament to his character, by the way!

So what is Barbara to do? Well, she needs to stick to basics. Her mule should have a good diet, lots of turnout and properly adjusted and applied tack. While she can massage the skin areas, there is no magic “treatment” to grow sweat glands back. Lots of folks do see white hairs dissipate over time, but others may not. It all depends on the duration of the causative factors and the mule itself.

I can tell you that my personal observations have been that paint or spotted mules tend to scald more than the solid blacks or browns. I’m sure I don’t have enough data to conclusively say that, but I mention it just as a caution to paint mule owners.

Do Your Research When Selecting Mule Tack

The bottom line is this: Mules get their skeletal structure from the donkey daddy. We know this. We know that their walk results in a more vertical rather than lateral movement of the scapula. We know that they are “v” shaped in the shoulders rather than “A” shaped like a horse. So it should follow that horse tack is not going to be a good option for what is, in essence, a different creature. Finding a mule saddle, unfortunately, is not as easy as it might initially sound. I have run into a lot of saddle makers who advertise a “mule tree” and when you actually look at the tree, it is still a basic horse tree.

When selecting mule tack, please take the time to check it out completely. Ask questions. Ask for references. Find out if mule owners are actually happy with the saddle. It is so easy to research these days with the internet options available. But also, find out how to use the saddle to get the most bang for your buck. I could have saved Barbara a lot of trouble and additional frustration if we had talked about the entire “tack package” which is also stressed in the saddle videos.

Nobody wants to be told that they have to spend more money! And nobody wants to be scammed. But if you do your research and then follow the directions for use of my tack package, I think you will be happy with the result. I know your mule will be happy.

The Right Tack Makes All The Difference

I had a little mule at Equine Affaire one year. He was a little paint mule who was giving his rider some particular behaviors. The seminar presentation was on problem behaviors. He seemed like such a good “demo” mule as he was pushy, dancing and pulling from his person. She had him looking good – all cleaned up and in his show saddle when we started. As is usual, we start such presentations by asking the owner about their animal and then what they would like to fix. Not wanting to do any damage to her fancy saddle, I asked if she would mind if we took it off and put my trail lite and tack package on him for the demo. She agreed.

While I was talking to the audience about mule behaviors as I changed his tack, we started to witness a remarkable transformation. Once his saddle was off, he stood still. She had indicated that he was a little pain in the butt during tacking. I was up for the challenge. But from the time we took his saddle off, he was a perfect gentleman. I tossed my saddle pad and trail lite saddle on him – NOT ONE FLINCH. In fact, he even let out a sigh and a big yawn (much to the delight of the audience). I put on the two cinches, the britchen and the breast collar. He was like a statue. She asked me “what spell I cast on him?” Truth be told, he was standing still because the tack did not hurt him. He was standing still because as a mule, he knew what he needed and wanted, and this was it!

Now I will say that the little dickens ruined my presentation. I then had no problem behaviors to address. He was no longer dancing around the ring and he was not head butting or cinchy. He stood quietly and then just mosied around the ring on a loose line as if he owned it. His behavior problems were the result of annoying and painful tack. It is not always this simple, for certain, but in this case, a dramatic behavior makeover was done in the blink of an eye!

I am always happy to talk to you to help with any problem you are having. But let’s never forget basic things before we move on to the more difficult fixes. Each spring, check teeth, give necessary shots and worming, feed well, provide lots of fresh, clean water, gradually increase exercise and take care of feet. Use tack that fits the mule and you. I’m always here if you want to give me a holler!

How to Select the Right Size Mule Saddle

Steve Edwards: Folks, I want to talk to you a little bit about having to set in a saddle. It’s really important that when you’re in a saddle your legs are slightly bent just a little bit. If you got your legs over bent like this you’re gonna have knee problems, you’re gonna have back problems.

Us guys we tend to slouch in the saddle. We tend to slouch in the couch. We tend to do that, but when we do, we’re gonna develop problems, so you want your heels down, your toes up. Notice that when my heels are down and my toes are up, I want to go back.

If my toes are down, and my heels are up, what happens I want to go forward. So, do you want to be forward on a mule when you’re going down a hill? No, no, no. You want to be able to be back, getting back here like this. So always think, heels down toes up. I just saw a picture of a guy that was supposed to be a mule trainer, and he was going into a river, and his toes were down like this, and he leaning forward. I thought, “What in the world are you trying to do?” Not only are you putting the mule off balance, but you’re off of balance.

Okay, so that’s what you want to ride, slightly knees bent, you’re riding western style, this is not English. You throw your shoulders back, your chest out, and you ride 60% on your legs, 40% on your seat. If you set all in your seat, you’re going to have a seat problem, your bottom is gonna bother you.

The other thing folks, is you need to condition yourself. If you’re not in condition, you go out there on the side of a mountain and ride, you deserve to be sore. It’s part of life. You know? So when it comes down to this riding, you want to be able to condition yourself, and you want to be able to set correctly.\

Nice thing I like about my stirrups, you look on my fenders here. Notice how my fenders will move. Back and forth. So if I need to put my legs way forward going down a steep mountain, I can do it. If I’m going to be posting, I can do that. If I want to be cantering, I can do that. I can move my legs any way I want, and it’s how I designed this fender in this saddle. I ride mountains. I ride trails. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to spend a lot of time having to be adjusting my saddle and stuff all the time. Now I do have to do that, but I want to be comfortable. I can be able to swing my legs with ease. Again, that’s very, very important.

Now this is a pommel. When you take and setting in the saddle, as you’re setting in the saddle, do not put your feet in the stirrups when you’re first testing out a saddle to see if it fits you. I can’t tell you how many people set … I’ll have 15 saddles out. They’ll set in every single saddle, or I’ll pick out four or five of them that fit them. They’ll say, “I like this one the best.” You know what? There’s no difference in any of them saddles. All the exact same tree. All the exact same padding. It’s just that they finally found their seat.

Setting in a bunch of saddles is not going to do it. It’s how you set yourself in the saddle. Notice my feet are not in the stirrups. If I put my feet in the stirrups, it’s going to kick my leg back almost three inches. You can see I’ve got three fingers in here. That’s too much. When my legs are hanging natural like I should be setting, and I’m setting correctly, notice two fingers. You would like to see one to two fingers between your thigh and the pommel.

Now I can’t get away with this, ladies, no matter how I do this to you, because it’s not your rump size, it is your thigh size. Like I said, I can’t get away with it but this is what you like to see. I like to see this, on an average, two fingers between my thigh and the pommel. At the closest, one finger. Then when I set my feet in the stirrups, I kick myself back, I’m going to have up to three, maybe even four fingers back. I’m not even getting my feet in the stirrups, I just kick myself back. Look how I changed it.

But when you’re setting natural and you’re setting comfortable. I’m setting comfortable right now. Notice that when I do that, two fingers. Setting comfortable. So that’s what I like to see in a saddle. It’s not your rump size, it’s your thigh, from your thigh and the pommel. This happens to be a 16 inch saddle. I weigh about 200 pounds and I’m 5’6″. So I been riding a 16 inch saddle pretty much most of my life. Hope that helps you on fitting the saddle to you, the rider.

Mule Bits and Mule Saddles – Correcting Mistakes

Steve Edwards: Hey mule folks, donkey folks. I hear this all the time, “I don’t want to make a mistake. I want to get it right the first time.” Ain’t going to happen. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years, four decades I’ve been doing this. Have I made mistakes? Yes, 32 broken bones, two hip replacements later, I’ve made mistakes. Don’t give up. It’s okay. You make a mistake, the mule ain’t going to hold it against you. That’s one of the downsides of a lot of these backyard people and a lot of thoughts of being back in the south and this sort of thing, “Hey, you better watch. That mule, you hit him, he’ll wait his lifetime to kick you.” That’s wrong.

I’ll tell you what, I have seen a young mare literally kick a mule so hard that it knocks him off his feet. She spun and kicked him really hard. That mule followed her everywhere. That mule wanted to spend time with her. Why? That mule saw leadership. Look folks, this isn’t, “Okay fluffy. I’ll be all better now.” Don’t do that. They don’t understand fluffy. This is not your year-and-a-half year old child. This is not your poodle folks. This animal can take you out in a matter of seconds. It can break bones quicker than you can ever imagine with a 1,000 pounds rolling on you.

Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. My videos, they’re right on the money. You’ll see me, I don’t take and pre-do anything, preset anything. You see actually time. You’ll see mistakes in there and I’ll talk about it. I’m going to tell you. Did you make a mistake putting a wrong saddle on? Yes. Did you make a mistake putting in the wrong bit? Yes. How can we fix it? We take that bit, and we take it out of its mouth, and we go to the dentist, we get his mouth all fixed right, we get him balanced and corrected. For the saddle, we go to a chiropractor. Don’t you go to the doctor and a dentist? Yes, you do. You know?

We make mistakes, but don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it. Call me. Let me help you. I’ve got the videos. I’ve got the YouTube’s. I’m here for you. Let me know what Steve Edwards from Queen Valley Mule Ranch can do to help you.