Insurance for the Livestock and Equine Owner

I recently received a letter from the State of Arizona. It seems that working with equine livestock and with people in a clinic setting represents the same degree of professional risk as being a police officer of a fire fighter. In light of this, insurance through the State Insurance Fund is no longer available to me for my professional work. I am sure this is related to claims analysis and the like, but it sure puts a different spin on how I will proceed with my work!

Over the years I have been in a expert witness for cases involving equine accidents. I will give you overview of one of the cases to which I contributed.

A Court Case I Was an Expert Witness For

The case involved two women who had been very good friends for over 30 years . One lived in California the other in Arizona . The woman from California drove to Arizona to a nice horse facility with corrals, RV parking lots of trails to ride t meet up with her friend. One lady rode a mule the other rode a horse, The mule was a fine trail mule but had one problem: the mule was very difficult to put in the trailer. After a wonderful week of riding and after enjoying each other’s company riding together as they had for over 30 years, the incident occurred.

On the morning the ladies decided to head home, the lady with the mule started to load the mule into the trailer. Her friend chose to hide behind the truck and trailer peeking around the corner. Yes, the mule was once again giving the owner a hard time not wanting to load in the trailer.

A person watching the lady load the mule came over to help. She started waving her arms to get the mule to go in the trailer. So at this point, there is the person who owns the mule trying to load it, and a “helper” waving her arms to try to encourage the mule to go forward onto the trailer. It is likely that many of us have seen this very same scenario and we may have even participated in this task. But long story short, the mule started pulling the lady away from the trailer pulling her backwards and despite her efforts, the mule backed over the friend who was hiding between the truck and the trailer.

Does Your State Protect You? Mine Does

In most states, there are State laws that are there to protect the equine owner in such cases. Arizona has such a law. Being in the business, I post signs reflecting this all over my ranch. From the gate to the corrals I have these notices and I think everyone should do the same, even if you just keep your animals for your own use.

You may be interested in rest of the story. The lady that the mule backed over went through several months in the hospital and several years of physical therapy, She did not sued for damages but the insurance company did, and in the lawsuit the person helping load the mule who was waving her arms, the owner of the stable, and the lady who owned the mule all had to pay portions of the award either by their insurance or by their pocketbook.

It is pretty clear that no matter what the State laws say or what insurance you might have (home owners or otherwise), suits are likely to result in damages that any participant may have to pay. Even if you only had to pay 1% of a one million dollar claim, that still amounts to $10,000.

Why This Is My Last Clinic

Finding insurance for the equine trainer or owner is very difficult especially when you are training equines and people. I am sad to say that my insurance just tripled in price due to the “risky occupation”. Even though I have never been hurt, nor has anyone in any of my clinics or training sessions that have spanned 25 years or more, the rate is truly unreasonable. So to make a long story short, there is a very good possibility that this will be my last year for training mules, donkeys or people because of the expense of trying to cover my butt.

I love training. I love seeing people try my training techniques and I especially like witnessing the mule and donkey owners use these techniques that make dramatic changes in their animals. But as the world changes we must change. Now I’m sure that there’s always going to be people that will train without insurance. Some have nothing to lose and some just flat don’t care. When you are looking for a trainer, there is so much more to it than just climbing on the mule and riding. There is more to it than just putting the donkey to the cart. Finding a true professional trainer is very difficult. I hear from many people who have had mules trained and have had nothing but problems. I can tell you this is not always the mule and donkey at fault. When I used to take a mule with me on the circuit, I would have someone climb on the mule and ride it. Just before this I would do the demonstrating of turn on the forehand, turn on the hindquarters side passing. Then I would ask the audience who has been riding for 25 years. Hands would go up and I would choose someone to ride the mule that I just rode. In a matter of minutes, it would look like the mule was not even broke!

I was talking with Dr. Robert Miller one day and we were saying how much of a joy it was to contribute to the equine community, not just the United States but all over the world. Dr. Miller has traveled to more countries than I have, but we both enjoy seeing the equine community changed for the good. But we both noted with sorrow that the cost of being a professional trainer and teacher is a rapidly growing concern. It will change the future of the industry for sure and not necessarily in a good way.

Are You The Person I’m Looking For?

I would be interested in feedback from attorneys and insurance adjusters. Please give me a call (602-999-6853) or e-mail me, here. I want to stay in business but as it goes right now my last clinic will be in Fredericksburg, Missouri and I will head back to the ranch because that is all I can afford for insurance for the year.

This has become a very litigious society for sure. I am not sure who can do anything about the fact that some people refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. It is not always someone else’s fault that an animal exercises its own will or that the student does not do as he or she is directed. There is inherent risk in riding an animal. We can do a lot to try to limit our risk. We can train well. We can follow instructions. And when we feel that something might not work out for us, we can just say “no”! But ultimately, it is one’s own decision to come work with an animal. If you are working with a professional trainer or teacher, you may be somewhat safer. But when we hear a little inner voice saying “don’t do it”, we should probably listen.

Something You May Not Want to Hear

One other point I would make is that there are times when a professional trainer may suggest to a student that the animal that he or she has may not be the best choice for that person. When I say this, I may see tears from some. I may hear others say, “well that is why we are here – so you can make this work”. Still others will take the information and agree. But know that such advice is not given lightly and is only given after I have had time to observe the animal, observe you, and observe the two of you together. Some things can be fixed. Others are more difficult. A few are impossible. The comment is never meant to be mean or ill spirited. It is for everyone’s safety. Any trainer worth his salt will tell a student if there is clearly a mismatch of animal and owner. But this is just one little piece of this new and bigger puzzle.

I encourage equestrians to accept the inherent risk of their activities and to let their local and state governments know that they do acknowledge that risk. If we cannot find a way to make professional trainers able to do their jobs while being covered reasonably with insurance for the job, we will see fewer quality trainers and have less help available to riders. Your professional trainer is a huge resource to you and your equine.

Buying a mule with Steve Edwards

So You Want to Buy A Mule?

One day you’re reading through the ads and you see her.  She’s just what you’re looking for.  Beautiful.  Look at all that color!

You decide to make a phone call.  The feller on the other end says that she does everything and to come on down and take a look. “I’ll take $1500 for her”, he tells you. You jump in the truck thinking, “Boy!  I’m gonna own a mule!”  When you get there the mule is all saddled up, ready to go.  The trader starts telling you all about the mule.  He gets on and rides and then offers for you to ride.  You’re excited.  You ride around a little.  Maybe you notice that the mule won’t go just where you want or you have to pull him around.  That’s OK; she’s cheap, and a pretty mule, so you decide to take her home.

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When you get home you put her in the corral because it’s late.  It’s late because it took three hours to load this great mule!  Now you feed your mule and say good night.

The next morning, you go out and walk in the corral and that great-deal-mule won’t come near you.  Two hours  later, and with the help of the neighbors, you catch the “great deal.”  Now you are leading the mule to the hitch rail and you are wishing that you had a tractor to lead with.  While she’s tied at the hitch rail, you go to brush the great deal and she tries to kick your head off. The problems with this “great deal” go on and on.

Now this is just one little story out of hundreds that we have heard over the years.  Lots of folks have thoughts on what a broke saddle mule is suppose to look like.  I like what Ben Tennison said in one of his articles, “My favorite color is broke.”  “Broke” is the old cowboy term for “trained”, or as I have seen it on most outfits, half trained.  I want to share with you some of the things you can look for in a mule that rides, drives and packs.

First, let’s look at a saddle mule.  “Disposition” is everything for any mule.  If your potential mule won’t work with you and doesn’t like people, don’t go any farther.  As you are looking at the mule, allow  the owner to go into the corral to get the mule.  If the mule is already saddled, this always throws up a red flag to me.  The mule could be lots of things: drugged, hard to catch, bad to saddle and full of lots of other spoiled habits.  What I would like to see is for the mule to be in the corral and meet you and the owner at the gate.  Watch to see if the mule turns and faces the owner or turns to go the other way.

Now, as he halters the mule, you want to see the mule put her nose in the halter.   As the owner leads the mule, it’s good to see the mule lead easily with slack in the lead rope, following rather then dragging.

While brushing, I like to see the mule stand quietly, enjoying the brushing and the conversation.  Yes, conversation!  Mules like it when you talk in a nice quiet voice.  Yes, their vocabulary is limited to a few words they were taught in their foundation training; “get over”, “give me the foot”, “gee”, “ha”, “whoa”, etc.  The most important word they need to know is WHOA!  Whoa means a complete stop; no other movement, just stand still and quiet and wait.

As the owner picks up all the feet, at no time should the mule lean on him or pull away.  Have the owner take a hammer and tap on each hoof.  Miss Mule should stand still and quiet the whole time.  All the while, watch the ears and the tail.  The ears should be still and not stiff, the tail should  hang quietly — not switching or sucked up.

She  Rides…

At this point, it’s time for saddling.  You are watching to see that as the owner is saddling, the mule stands quietly.  Now it’s time for the bridle.  As the bridle is put on, the ears can be easily moved into place.  If they have to unbuckle the bridle, the mule may have ear-shying problems.  This can be a big problem.  I have found that this is a hole in training that is time consuming to fix.  It is also the start of other problems that are going to surface later on  when you are not expecting it.  Note the bit: how does the mule respond to it?  Does she neck rein or do you need to plow rein to turn?

Now you are ready to watch the owner  ride. I’m never impressed when someone jumps them out into a run or a lope (canter).  I want to see the mule stand still to get on, waiting to see what the rider is going to ask of her. That could be step to the right two steps, or to the left five steps, or a quiet back up or back five steps, then walk off quietly.

If the mule is saddled ask the owner to remove the saddle.  Look at the mule’s back.  If you see white spots, she has had an improper saddle on.  Folks try and fit a horse saddle on a mule and they hurt the mule’s back.  The bigger the white spots, the more the problems.  Look for any old scars on the mule and ask questions about the scars.

Here is the problem with a poorly fitted saddle: a mule doesn’t like pain and the wrong saddle is like boots that don’t fit; soon your feet will get sore.  There are a lot of mules bobbing their heads going down a little hill, and by doing this, they are telling you that the saddle is hurting their back and one day they will get tired of telling you and they  will buck you off!  Now they’ll have your attention!  Other saddle fit problems are evident when the mule is walking short and choppy,  jumping around, or even kicking the saddle out of your hands.

Have the owner lead the mule back to her corral and turn her loose.  Visit with the owner and listen to the stories about the mule.  Ask where he got the mule, how long he’s had the mule and why is he selling the mule.  Note the mule’s attitude while she is standing in the corral.  Now take the mule back to the hitching post and have him saddle the mule.  The whole time a mule is being saddled, observe the mule’s disposition.  The ears need to be loose and moving around quietly.  The tail must be hanging loose and not tight.

If the owner has a britchen, note how goosey she is and the crupper the same.  If the owner doesn’t us a crupper or britchen ask why.  I have seen lots of mules that, when you slide the crupper under the tail or the britchen down, they go to kicking at you or they are very goosey.  If he doesn’t have a britchen or crupper ask  him to tie a rope to the horn, go the long way around, then slide the rope under the tail and around the hips.  This will show you how goosey  the mule is.  Now for the bit, watch  for its ability to work with the mule.  When they get on the mule does he stand still and patiently?  Ask him to back first.  Note the ease of the backup: did he work off the bit, or the rider’s legs or both?  Next ask him to ride him in a figure 8. Is the rider having to pull on the rein to get the mule to turn, or is the mule light on the bit?  Watch to see if the mule responds to leg cues.  Spend as much time as it takes to do all of the above on the first visit.

Now at this time I suggest you  tell the owner you’re going to think about it.  Go home and do a lot of thinking.  If you’re interested in the mule, set up an appointment.  This time, set up a pre-purchase exam by your veterinarian, then revisit and go through the steps again.  You are buying this mule to relax on your time off, so take your time.  When you take your mule home, spend a lot of time on the ground.  This will help the mule get used to you. Take her out as much as possible,  lead her around, tie her to the mule trailer or anywhere else.  This teaches the mule that their job is not to just stand around in their corral and eat and drink all day.

She  Drives…

In our last article, we wrote about looking for a riding mule.  We told you what you need to look for: disposition, conformation, training.  We need to look for these same traits in the driving mule.  I start by asking how the mule was started.  What type of training has he had?  I want to know about the foundation work.

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As an example, we start all our driving mules without blinders.  The reason is that Mr. Mule wants to know everything going on around him.  He is much happier when he can see everything that is happening around him.  Did he start learning to drive by first pulling poles, tires, etc.?  How long was his training before the first drive?  Thirty days will give a good foundation.  (I would never consider him trained in only thirty days.)  Did he start single or as a team?  Can he drive single and/or double?

Now let’s look at Mr. Mule’s disposition.  When buying a mule, start at the corral.  How easy is he to catch? The very best mule will walk up to you.  I like to see the mule drop his head and tip the nose toward me to put the nose into halter.  While leading him to be groomed, how attentive is the mule to the owner?  He should follow willingly, not be pulled.  The mule should stand quietly as he is being groomed.  He should be able to have his feet and legs worked with ease.  Before you hook him to a wagon, I would like to see the mule dry drive, (without a wagon) pulling a tire or pole or just walking quietly behind him.  While putting the harness on, Mr. Mule needs to be quiet, but a little shifting of weight is OK.  He should not be bothered by the different parts of the harness touching him.

Be specific when you ask about driving.  Ask if the mule drives single, double or both.  How do you want to drive Mr. Mule?  Just because someone says ‘he drives’ doesn’t mean single and double!

Let’s take a minute and look at single driving harness.  Here at the ranch, we like single harness with a collar rather than breast harness.  We believe that the mule can pull with more ease and will be more apt to enjoy the drive.

When being hooked to the wagon Mr. Mule needs to wait for every move the teamster will ask for.  A well-trained team will walk quietly and step over the pole and stand quietly while the teamster hooks them up.

When climbing in the wagon and holding onto the lines, Mr. Mule needs to stand still and quietly while waiting for the teamster to pick up on the lines.  At this point the mule should not start to move — not until the driver asks for either a backup, come gee (right) or come haw (left), etc.  As Mr. Mule starts out, his head position should go straight, not to the right or the left.  When you come to the gate going out to the street, does the mule wait on the driver, or he is impatiently ready to go as soon as the gate opens?  This is a taught trait and not the fault of the mule.  This is the driver’s fault.  This teaches the mule impatience.  Does the driver have to slap the mule with the lines?  This is “only in the movies”, as Bud Brown would say.  Instead when you ‘pick up on’ the lines and youspeak to the mule. The mule, if he has a good foundation, will go the way he is asked.

Now the real test!  The road is a very dangerous place.  Just being on the road with all kinds of vehicles and folks who are all in a hurry is bad enough.  With a vehicle, you have bumpers.  But with a wagon, the mule has the driver and he needs to be very experienced!  This can be a fun time but it is very difficult; it is a hard test with the traffic flying by and lots of noise.  Watch the ears and tail; Mr. Mule will tell you what he is thinking. The tail should hang quiet and not be switching.  If it is switching, he is upset.  Hanging quiet, he is at ease. The ears will be flopping if he is at total ease and straight up if he is questioning something.  The ears will be straight up and stiff when he is mad.

Folks, before you get in to the expense of driving, do your homework.  Read, go to clinics, buy videos, take classes and most importantly, drive a lot with an experienced driver.

As you observe the way different mules respond to the above test, you will begin to have a genuine insight as to what it takes to make a good mule.  Driving is great family fun if it is done safely.

She Packs…

In the past two articles, I have shared with you a few things to look for in a riding and driving mule.  I cannot emphasize disposition enough. This means that the mule must be a willing friend; willing to go where you go and willing to do what you ask.  A big quiet brown eye, not snorting when you come around, anxious to see you when you come to the gate. In short a willing nature.

I prefer a medium bone conformation. The head coming straight up out of the shoulder, the longer the ear, the better. Nice round hips and a good wither would be a bonus.  I’m 5’ 6″, so packing a 16 hand mule is sure tough.  I prefer 14.2 hands to pack.

Lots of folks think that a pack mule doesn’t need to know much.  I look at packing as a level of knowledge and foundation the mule needs to know before he becomes a good saddle mule.  We believe in lots of training aids.  We tie to our trailers, we front leg hobble, and we use hitching posts and hot walkers.  These all teach the mule patience.  These days, mules think their job is to stand in a corral. When you take them out of the corral they paw, jump in the air, or move around a lot.  Tying them out helps them under stand the need to be happy anywhere you ask them to go or stay.

In lots of packing books, the author suggests to “make everything tight so nothing rattles and scares the mule”.  As part of our training program, we put tin cans and any thing else that would rattle in the boxes so we can sack him out.  How about the day you open a stick of gum and this little noise scares Mr. Mule?

I use packing as final sacking and preparation for riding.  I figure that pack boxes won’t jump like I will when the new mule hits a tree or a saguaro cactus.  An experienced pack mule will know to step to the side and go around those things; that pack box could have been my leg hitting the tree or cactus!

A good pack mule should stand still while you are packing him.  The pack bags and boxes are bright orange but this should not be a problem as mules are color-blind.  This packing is good foundation training that will help Mr. Mule get adjusted to weight and noise.

Opening a tarp and pulling it over the pack outfit will sure blow a mule’s mind if he has not been sacked out.  Notice we use a plastic tarp to pull over the mule.  We take a foot away at the same time with a scotch hobble.  This teaches the mule to give to the new pressure of giving to his leg.  A few times of this and he will learn that he can’t take his leg away.  You will be training him to accept the tarp and give his leg at the same time.  This is essential training to prepare for easy shoeing and foot care.

The lash rope flying over the back of Mr. Pack Mule can be tough, especially when the lash slaps him on the belly.  By the time you get the 40-ft. rope tied, you have trusted Mr. Pack Mule with your life.  You have been under his belly, around his back legs and moving around the off side (right side).  Yes it is a very good mule to just handle the loading part!

While the leg is tied up, you can practice with the lash rope.  We place the mule in training in a string with a good mule for the lead.  I tie the mule I’m training to the good mule and we head down the trail for an hour or two.  We string five mules together to pack our freight to camps.  Mr. Mule gets a lot of trail miles this way.

The first time out with a new pack mule can be quite exciting.  The mule may have done great up to this point, then the sorry beggar thinks that he is a boat anchor.  This is where good halter training comes into play.  I start all my mules with come-along hitch, or as some call it, a nerve line.  This goes around the nose and up over the pole.  When Mr. Mule sets back in the string, he’ll only do it once or twice before his foundation will come back to him.  He remembers to lead with out any problem.  I have a low opinion of mule halters with chains that go on the noise or under the chin.  I think that if he has a good foundation, Mr. Mule will lead with just a rope halter.  Mr. Mule likes his nose and you will get a softer mule if you don’t hurt it.

It is very important for the pack mule be in good physical condition.  Packing dead weight is tough on the animal.  Don’t just take him out one day and put a pack outfit on his back.  He needs to be conditioned.  Use a hot walker if you have one available.  Lead him behind your riding animal for a few days.

Let’s take a quick review of the things you want to look for when buying a mule to ride, drive, or pack:

  1. Good disposition
  2. Conformation
  3. Easy to catch
  4. Stands quietly for grooming and mounting
  5. communicates with voice ,hands ,legs ,seat
  6. Leads well
  7. Gets along with equine in the back of him and in the front
  8. Medium to heavy bone structure
  9. trailers well
  10. good to shoe
  11. Good physical condition

We know that buying and maintaining a mule is expensive.  By following the guidelines we have laid out in the last three articles, we trust you will truly be purchasing “a friend for life”.

What should I feed my mule

Mules Can’t Stand Prosperity

Late last October I received a phone call from one of my clients, Ann Mulcay. She has a little mule named Norman that I started 2 years ago. Norman is a great little mule out of a foxtrotter mare. Ann rides a lot of trails and covers lots of miles with Norman. Last May she entered him in several events at Bishop’s Mule Days. She really had a lot of fun preparing Norman for Mule Days. Ann spent most days in the saddle. As with any colt she was feeding him good alfalfa hay and some grain to keep his energy level up. She also added some grass hay. This was a good combination of feed for the type of exercise Norman was doing.

After Mule Days it was summer in AZ. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories. It’s so hot we fry our eggs on the sidewalk! That’s almost true. What is true is that only the true diehard trail riders ride in the valley during the summer. Ann may have rode a dozen times over the next few months. When October came and it cooled off Ann decided to go out on a nice trail ride. A short time into the ride she renamed the trail: “Monster Trail.” Behind every bush and every rock was a mule eater.

Once Norman found the first mule eater (a black rock behind the bush), he decided to take control of the situation. Snorting and going side ways down the trail just sure he was going to be missing a leg before the ride was over. Needless to say Ann was on pins and needles the whole trail ride. She would just get relaxed and Norman would find another mule eater. Jumping sideways running backwards and sometimes spinning around. Nice sweet Norman could have been sold that day for twenty-five dollars, or better yet Ann would have paid you five hundred to take him off her hands. Ann took Norman home and thinking he just needed to get out more so she tried a couple shorter rides the next week. Ann was pretty frustrated when she emailed me saying, “ What do I do now? “Monsters have attacked my mule!” I called her on the phone and she told me about the past trail rides and how Norman wasn’t getting any better.

I chewed her out real good for not calling me after that first ride. Now the monsters were 10 foot tall and wall-to-wall. Once Ann calmed down, I asked her what she was feeding Norman. She told me alfalfa hay. She was awful quiet over the phone for a minute when she answered me. She said, “Now, I know what you are going to say. I am feeding too much good feed. “You’ve told me, and told me and I’ve been in your clinics and I guess I can’t get it through my head not to do that and I guess you are going to tell me to change feed.” She was right. I told her to start changing feed slowly because even mules can get a touch of Monday morning sickness. Monday morning sickness is another name for azoturia. The farmers use to refer to it that way because their draft animals would sometimes have a bit of colic on a Monday morning after standing around without working on Sunday. I suggested Ann try Lakin Lite pellets. Years ago I would of never considered feeding pellets. I did not think mules could possibly be full and contented from eating such a small amount of food in such a short time. I did not realize that the pellets expand after the animal drinks and it gives them a full feeling.

Pellets are high in fiber and useable nutrients. Some pellets include grains, corn, wheat bran, cottonseed meal etc. These types of pellets are necessary for hard working animals. If the animal is not fed enough grain he will first burn body fat for energy and then burn muscular tissue and this will result in a thin and less effective riding mule. Mules are very easy keepers. I have told people for years that you can feed two mules for the same amount of money it takes to feed one horse. I have proven my theory with my own tests I have done over the years. I have found that mules will thrive on good quality grass hay along with a salt block. In 1998 I started experimenting with Lakin Lite pellets. Lakin feed company is located here in Arizona and distributes to parts of New Mexico and Colorado. When I’m in California I use products from Star Milling. Star sponsors my mule training program at Pierce College at Woodland Hills, California and the Equine Affaire Expo. Here is a list of ingredients from the Lakin Lite package.

Crude Protein min. 11%
Crude Fat min 2%
Crude Fiber max 30%
Calcium min 0.7%
Calcium max 1.2%
Phosphorous min 0.2%
Copper min 15ppm
Selenium min 0.2ppm
Zinc min 50ppm
Vitamin A min 300IU/LB
Ash max 12%
Added Minerals max 1%

Alfalfa hay, Bermuda hay, Cane Molasses, Phosphoric Acid (feed grade) Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Cobalt Carbonate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Vitamin e supplement, vitamin B 12 supplement, Riboflavin supplement, Thiamin Mononitrate, Niacin supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid and D-biotin.

Any feed must contain enough fiber “roughage” to keep the animal’s digestive track moving properly. Foals and weanlings need around 16% protein while mature mules can get by on 8% protein. It is very difficult to know just what vitamins you are getting from a bale of hay. With pellets you just read the label. For instance selenium in the soil varies greatly from place to place. Consequently you are seeing this mineral being added in the pellets and concentrated feeds.

Most mules and horses stand around five days a week. They just eat, drink and sleep and get ready for the next meal. ( Just like most of us Americans these days.) The good feed we are on, if not combined with exercise, results in overeating and over weight. Then we follow up with a weight loss diet. Mr. Mule is made to last 20 to 30 years and his big ‘ole horse-type body must stand on those little hooves that he got from his daddy Mr. Donkey. As I travel around doing Mule Training Clinics I see lots of mules fat as an old steer ready for the butcher. It is not good to be stuffing that ole mule full of that hi protein feed when he is just standing in a corral.

When you are using Mr. Mule two to four hours a day five days a week, you might consider putting a nosebag on him and adding a little grain before you get in the saddle. Feed a lot of grain to Mr. Mule when he just sits around on a daily basis and you are going to have a rocket ship on your hands. Besides that, it’s expensive. The colts that I ride get fed real good to build bone and muscle. They get ridden in the mountains and I need them to have a lot of energy. A 1000-pound mule is offered three pounds of grain. Usually he won’t finish it all and then I get right to work with him, either riding driving or packing. Any time that I have mules with a sorry attitude i.e. snorty, bad ground manners, unwilling nature, hard to catch, in general not wanting to do anything but stand in the corral and be left alone, those mules get nothing but the Lakin Lite pellets. I have seen the absolute sorriest mule change his attitude. I think these rich alfalfa hays and feeds we are feeding are kind of like drugs, for mules. It has amazed me to see the awesome change in attitudes in a mule. One mule in particular made an amazing turn around once I changed feed; Moses who belongs to Rich Fillman here in AZ. When he first brought the mule to me you could hardly get near him. He was hard to catch, snorty on the ground, and did not want you on either side of him. He just wanted to be left alone. So I started my foundation work and on a daily basis. I fed this 1000 pound mule (he was extremely fat and the top of his back was as flat as my kitchen table) Lakin Lite pellets twice a day measured out in a three pound coffee can. I also required him to do some aerobic exercise in the form of hiking trails, pulling wagons, packing freight all on a daily basis. The first 5 days I saw a tremendous difference in Moses. He started to be more willing to be trainable. He had learned lots of bad habits over his eight years and had learned to bluff all his owners during that time. So not only did I have to work through his attitude, I had to give him patient and consistent training to build a good foundation and to help him on his way to being a good mule. I found that if I added alfalfa hay or other hot feed to his feeding program, he had an immediate negative attitude change. I have been training ‘ole Moses two months now. I have had him on the Lakin Lite pellets the entire time. He has lots of energy. I use him on the wagon starting other colts, he’s a great lead mule for a pack team, and I have been riding him. He eats up a mountain trail like it was flat ground.

Please don’t change your mules diet because I have written this article. Get with your veterinarian or a good nutritionist to see what would work well in your program.

One thing I want to caution you on; DO NOT FEED GRASS CLIPPINGS in any form. Grass clipping should not be fed for a multitude of reasons but mostly because they have weed killers and fungicides that can be toxic to horses or mules. Grass clippings are prone to cause choking because the animals do not have to chew in order to swallow.

Some folks back East have lots of great grass hay, which is great feed for Mr. mule. While I was out there I saw the prettiest hay I’ve ever seen. Lots of folks thought my mules where skinny, but when they climbed on their mules the saddle slipped sideways because their mules were so fat that the mules body could hardly hold a saddle. Ha! Ha.!

The reason I started experimenting with different feeds was from reading a book called, “How To Be Your Own Veterinarian – Sometimes” By Ruth B. James, DVM. I got this book from her about five years ago and it sure has been handy.

Oh, you are probably wondering what happened to Norman. I have been getting emails from Ann Mulcay every other day telling me that Mr. Norman is absolutely doing fantastic. He is listening to her, he is finding fewer monsters on the trail and Ann is real happy because she can relax in the saddle again. She is planning to go to the Mule Rendezvous here in Arizona and to Bishop California for the World Championships.