Feed and Nutrition Program for Mule Foals

Steve Edwards: I always try to stay away from any high-carbohydrate feed. Stay away from the alfalfas. They don’t need the grains right now. It flat makes them silly. Any time you feed a mule grain and not give it something to do, you have got a jet airplane on your hands that is out of control.

Dave Shrein: Could you answer some questions on foal nutrition for me? I’ve adopted a rescue mule colt and can’t find any good information on diet. She’s just looking for where to get started on diet for this foal nutrition. You wanna go ahead and just run with it and give her some basics?

Steve Edwards: Well, basically just feed it. What you always wanna stay away from is carbohydrates. Feed it good grass hay and keep it in front of them all the time. Try to have … this is a big deal for me, because when you watch mules out there feeding, and donkeys and horses, you don’t see them feeding with their head in the air. You see them feeding with their head down. And it’s amazing how many feeders I see that are chest high to the mules. If you really want to have them digest their food good, chew it up, go down, put it down low where they can get to it. All of my feeders are on the ground. I take plastic barrels and I cut a circle out of them and I put my feed in there.

The best thing she can do is make sure that that colt has all the grass hay it wants in front of it all the time. The downside, of course, you heard me talk about hay, is it doesn’t always have the nutrition in there that it needs to have, and there are so many things out there in way of new feed that Nutrina has and some of these others, that are good for foals. I’m not completely up on it. I haven’t been with foals in quite a while, but I always try to stay away from any high-carbohydrate feed. Stay away from the alfalfas. They don’t need the grains right now. It flat makes them silly. Any time you feed a mule grain and not give it something to do, you have got a jet airplane on your hands that is out of control. They’ll look for monsters anywhere. By the way, a good article on my website is called Mules Can’t Stand Prosperity, and I talk about feeding a mule. This is a young mule, about a three-year-old, and that three-year-old all of a sudden started changing attitudes, and it came down to feed. She started feeding high-carbohydrate feed, a lot of grain and alfalfa, and the mule became a nut case, and that can happen.

But just a lot of grass hay in front of it, and these colts, the most important thing you can do with a colt is keep their feet balanced, because the downside of this problem that we have today with our mules is they can be pigeon-footed, they can be toed-in, they can have contracted heels and this sort of thing. Keep your mule’s feet balanced during the wintertime, I know you don’t wanna put shoes on them because it balls up the snow, balls up underneath their feet, but trim them short. But other than that, just feed them a lot of good hay, stay away from the carbohydrates.

Dave Shrein: So real quick question. This is new for me to listen to; this is new for me to hear. I’ve heard you talk about pellets and Lakin Light. What’s the difference between what you’re talking about for this foal versus what I’ve heard you talk about with Lakin Light and that type of a diet?

Steve Edwards: I feed all of my mules Lakin Light. I don’t feed any hay at all. The great thing about the Lakin Light is it’s a clean feed. It’s a cleaner feed than you can buy. Any of your pellet feed is. The downside is in the hay, what we don’t see is all the rat poop and this sort of thing. But that foal, it’s good to have them chew, and the good thing about pellets, as they chew, that’ll make their teeth erupt. And the good thing about them chewing is it makes the digestive system good. And the next thing about pellets, when you feed a pellet, it’s only about as big around as my finger to start with, but as you feed the pellets and they put water in it, it becomes three times its size, so it ends up expanding in their bellies. It gives a lot of results through the intestines and this sort of thing. It’s great.

All of my foals, I pretty much fed them, in the very beginning, just a good, clean grass hay, Bermuda hay, and I fed the Lakin Light pellet. And as I got to looking at it and going on, I found the pellet was the best way to go. It was the cleanest feed I could get.

Buying A Mule: Should You Buy A Young Mule or An Experienced Mule

All the time, I get phone calls, and it says, “I want to buy a 12-year-old mule.” I say to them, “Why 12 years old?” “Well, he’s got lots of experience.” Well, so what does that mean? Does that mean that you can just ride the mule, that he’ll know what to do? Eh, wrong answer. Does it mean that it’s got lots of experience, so if he sees an elk on the side a mountain, he ain’t going to get scared? Wrong answer, eh. Oh, if he sees a bear on the trail, he’s not going to be afraid. Eh, wrong answer.

Folks, I don’t care if he has hauled out 100 elk out of the mountains if he’s chased around pigs and jumped fences. I don’t care how many times he’s been up and down the trails, hauled fat people, skinny people, whatever. It don’t make a bit of difference. You cannot put in the size of a nut, walnut. They have brains on each side. They have the cranial lobe, which tells the right side what the left side’s doing, left side what the right side’s doing, but the part that really handles the information is the size of a walnut. They cannot, it is impossible for them to remember everything.

What’s possible? Natural flight because of fright, flight because of fright. They are going to use that natural instinct of running off because it is the best way to keep them from being in a problem. Horses, mules and donkeys. Mule will run off just like the horse will, y’all. They’ll buck. They bite. They kick. They’re an equine. It is part of their life to help them protect themselves from what they perceive is a problem. Now, you’re at the Grand Canyon, you get one in behind the other, the mule doesn’t have to think. He’s done that, probably, several hundred times. That’s different. One in behind the other, you’re okay, pretty much. Do you still got to think once in a while? Yes, and that’s something to be considered, but think about this.

I have been at Yosemite packing freight, five mules behind me, and then, all of a sudden, my gelding I was riding, it’s all government mules, government horse, he looks up and sees a bear. This horse has been there for almost four years, seen lots of bears, lots of bears, lots of people. We’re going down the trail, five mules behind me, and next thing you know, this bear, young bear, comes down off of the hill and onto the same trail we’re on. Of course, all the mules’ ears are up. My riding horse is up. Everybody’s thinking, “Oh, man. Look, a bear.” What is the leader going to do? That leader is the horse. What’s he going to do? Whatever he does is what the mules are going to do because equines have a leader, herd leader.

Now, what was my horse doing? My horse was sucking back a little bit, thinking about turning, going the other way. Wait a minute. We’re on a narrow trail, probably as wide as my arms are long. It is straight off on the left-hand side, probably 1,000 feet, and it’s a big old gradual hill on the right-hand side. I don’t have a lot of places to go and, especially, turn around five mules and go the other way. Now, wait a minute. I got an experienced horse here that’s seen bears, mules that seen bears. Well, why isn’t he going on? Because it’s a different situation. It makes no difference. Every time you see something different, it’s going to be in a different place, different smell, different side of the mountain. Do you see what I’m saying? They’ve seen the bears. I’ve seen these bears looking over a fence and almost touch them going by, but it makes no difference. They’re an equine, flight and fright.

What do I do? I use my legs with my spurs, and I tap him right side, left side. I saying, “The right brain, go forward, left brain, go forward,” with my spurs. That makes where I’m at uncomfortable. That means, going forward, i.e., toward the bear, comfortable. Well, wait a minute. He’s uncomfortable. That’s right, but if you go ahead and don’t use your spurs, if you go ahead and try to do it with your hands and your seat, you are not going to have anything but a wreck. Well, wait a minute. I got an experienced horse. This horse was 12 years old, been at Yosemite a lot of years, been up and down this same trail.

Understand, if it wasn’t for me, the herd leader, communicating with my hands, my legs, and my seat, I would not be able to get that horse to go forward. I’d be running back through a bunch of mules, maybe a bunch of hikers and stuff. It’d be a mess, so I use my spurs, right brain, left brain with my spurs. Then, at the same time, I’m slapping my leg, and I got my dally rope around the horn and left hand on the reins, and I’m saying, “Hey, hey, bear. Get of out here. Hey, hey.” Man, that bear turns and takes off. This horse thinks, “Hey.” His head goes straight up, his ears go straight out, and he starts trotting toward this bear like, “Okay.” There we are. What would have happened if this 12-year-old horse would have turned and taken off? You’d have had a heck of a wreck, so age don’t mean nothing.

Let me tell you something else. On my ranch, when I was training mules and selling mules to sell … training them to sell, I would have three- to five-year-old mules. They had a foundation. They knew what turn on the forehand, turn on the hind quarters, side pass, stop, everything within a 10-foot circle. They knew how to have a foundation, controls. When I pick up on the rein, I got a whoa. I go to the right or left, I get turns. Okay? A three- to five-year-old, I am punching cows on the side of a mountain. A three- to five-year-old, I am chasing mountain lions with the dogs. A three- to five-year-old, I’m packing elk out of the mountains or deer.

Now, let me ask you something. Would you rather have one that is young, that has a good foundation, with no bad habits to speak of, or would you rather have a 12-year-old that’s probably got several bad habits? Why is it that, when they have a mule for sale, that this mule, they don’t tell you about the bad things? They tell you only about the good things. How many wrecks has he been in, for heaven’s sake? You see what I’m saying, folks? It makes no difference of age.

Now, it does make a difference in this, in that a mule matures at seven years old, roughly, in a general thought. The other thing is their knees need to be closed. You could either have a veterinarian do some X-rays on it, or I like to look and see if the knees are closed by if the hairs are still curly around the knees or if the hair is long. The best way, best way, is X-rays. Okay? Now, do I want to take a three- to a five-year-old and hammer him all the time up the side of a mountain moving cows and stuff? No. I’m going to give him a break. I’m going to ride him a day. He’s going to get three days off. I’m going to watch his temperature. I’m going to watch his breathing.

But guess what? I’m going to do the same thing with a 12-year-old. Yeah, their bones are more solid and this sort of thing, but few of them can handle a whole day of punching cows without rest. Usually, like at Yosemite, we had a couple riding horses, and we had our pack mules, and that’s what they give us. On ranches, when I go to work there, they’d have horses. They’d give me five horses. We rode them one day, give them three off, and we fed them accordingly.

Don’t go be looking for a 12-year-old with lots of experiences. Look for a mule that has a foundation. Pick up all the feet with ease. You can ride him within a 10-foot circle and see the mule stands still and quiet. You can see that when you get on. You can see the mule stands still and quiet when you saddle him and brushed him. You could see the mule back up on a light rein. You can see the mule go right and left. Let’s go at this. By the time he’s three years old, he should not be in a snaffle bit unless you are training. He should be in a finished bit. I got the videos out there for finished bit, and I can talk to you more about that, but look, folks, if you’re buying a finished mule, there’s not going to be two hands making them go. It’s going to be one hand, smooth and easy.

My video So You Want to Buy a Mule? that’ll help you out a lot. If you want to call me and ask me a question, be happy to. Remember, folks, make sure you get a vet check. Make sure that you have your dental vet look at him for dental work, and you make sure your farrier looks at him. Most of all, don’t let anybody tell you that this mule doesn’t need shoes. If any farrier is worth his weight at all, he’s going to see that contracted heels are going to be a big problem. That’s one of the biggest problems with mules. They have the donkey foot, and because they have that donkey foot, it gets contracted. It expands, it contracts. When the back of the hoof comes in small, that frog comes in narrow like this. The smaller the frog, the less the blood pumping up and down the leg. You got a small foot in the back, be careful, you got trouble. Besides that, it could take your farrier two to three years to get a contracted heel fixed. That’s why you see their legs so crooked.

Okay, folks. There you go. 12-year-old is fine if it’s got training, has a foundation. 20-year-old, fine if it’s got a foundation. All right? Hey, happy trails. Give me a call. Let me know what I can do to help. Come on, get on my website. Be happy to visit with you. My website is www.muleranch.com, or my email, steve@muleranch.com. You’ll also see me Instagram, Twitter, all that trick stuff. Give me a holler. Let me help you. Have a good one.

Halter Training Your Mule or Donkey: Listening to the Lead Rope

Steve Edwards: Use that three foot of rope, you all. Use that three foot of rope. That’s your leverage. Don’t try to use your body. Use your leverage.

That was your body. That wasn’t the rope. Yes. Oh, better that time. Lookie there. Look there. See how your rope did it, John?

John: Yeah.

Steve Edwards: Your rope did it. Not your weight. Your rope did it. Use the rope. Oh, yes. Yes. Use the rope. Make the come-along work. Don’t make your body work. Not your sounds. It’s your rope. That was beautiful, and that was back feet. That was the toughest one to do.

Use the rope. Not your body. Use the rope. What happened to your rope?

John: I lost track.

Steve Edwards: That’s right. All right. That’s okay. We can still do the back feet. Just watch your timing. That was your timing. Give it one more try. This is for your timing. Use that lead rope. Your timing. Yes, yes. Use your lead rope, not your body. You’re using your body. Use your lead rope.

Okay. Now back her off. Go ahead and get up there and use the rope and wiggle her and back her off. Go ahead and back her off. Use your lead rope. Yes. Not your body. Use your lead rope. Better.

Woman: You’re just shaking it to make him stop or back up?

Steve Edwards: Yes, ma’am. You’re just shaking it, and backing up is going to be shaking as well. There you go. Okay, now, just ask her to come forward. Roll your wrist. Roll your wrist, and then shake it.

Woman: Oh, nice.

Steve Edwards: Very good. See, what we tend to do is we tend to use our bodies and do this. Use the lead rope. Use the lead rope. It looks like this. See how I used that? Wiggle the rope. Asking, asking, asking. Wiggle that rope. Use your rope for your leverage. This is your leverage right here. Use that rope for your leverage. When you ask them to come across, use the rope for your leverage. Use the rope for your leverage. Use the rope for your leverage. Use the rope for your leverage. See how I used my rope for my leverage? Use your rope for your leverage. Boom. Use your rope for your leverage. Back her up. Asking, one, two. Telling, one, two. One, two, three, four. Boom. Okay.

Now ask her to come forward. This is your trailer. Ask her to come forward. Ask her to come forward. You see it? Now, all this is is my timing. You can do the same thing. All right? But I want you to use the leverage here. It’s safer. Plus that, you can get more done. So as you’re doing this, you just got to get used to your timing. Okay.

Now, I pick up the other foot. Watch my hand. See how I’m just kind of bumping it? You’re wanting to please, ain’t you, baby? Come on. That a girl. Put your gloves on, Steve.

John: I noticed I do it with my back to her. You’re doing it facing her.

Steve Edwards: Yes. Remember I told you in the very beginning. You’re halter training.

John: Okay.

Steve Edwards: You’re halter training.

John: I need to …

Woman: I have a tendency to do the same thing.

Steve Edwards: Yes. You’re halter training. We’ll do the other part later. Right now, halter training.

John: There you go.

Speaker 3: There you go. Nice. Very nice.

Steve Edwards: Use your lead rope. Use your lead rope. Don’t let her push you around. You see how I’m not going in a circle?

John: Yeah.

Steve Edwards: Okay? I’m not. My feet aren’t going to move. Her feet are going to move. But see, intent … Instead, what happens is we tend to have them move. Timing and use your length of your rope.

Speaker 3: Nice. Nice.

Steve Edwards: See what I’m doing here? Feathering her a little bit. Loose. Feather. See my hand? Now we’re going to back up. This is for your timing. If you want to spend some time working with a mule, do a halter training. This is halter training. You want to see the feet moving. You can’t do it with your back to them.

Speaker 3: Oh, good girl.

Steve Edwards: I’m sorry about them flies, darling. I’ll get them old flies off of you there. I broke my little rule there, patting on the face, but them flies were just driving me nuts.

Speaker 3: I think they’re driving her nuts, too.

Steve Edwards: She starts to come around, bump on her nose. She ain’t going to move my feet. She’s going to move her feet. Timing, timing, timing. That’s all it is. All right? It’s not a problem. It’s going to be the same thing when you get in the saddle, okay? You see, this was an awesome afternoon. Simple little things like this with this come along hitch gives you all kinds of abilities. That’s why right now, we’re being pretty heavy. Tomorrow it’ll be a piece of cake.

See the nose starting to miss a little hair? Okay? Now, come up on the camera a little bit. Okay? It’s okay for them to have a little bit of a rope burn. She caused the rope burn. It happens. It’ll grow back. Even that little bit of blood will go away, okay? You won’t even know it’s there, but they have to respect this halter. It’s not a matter of them crossing over this piece of plywood. It’s a matter of doing it when I pick up on that lead rope. I want them to respect the halter. Yes, we did a lot of this when we were pulling on them, but this is also before John as well. You got to remember. You inherited some baggage here, okay? So it wasn’t a matter that you did it all. Uh huh. This was already back there. Not a problem at all.

Owning a Mule: We Are Not Desensitizing, We Are Halter Training

Steve Edwards: Use about three to four foot of rope. Try not to get in their space that way. Again, we’re not desensitizing. We’re halter training, where they stand still with the halter. Not to be worried about a barrel or something black, has nothing to do with it. There, much better. Two of you did awesome. You see how they pay more attention to their lead rope than they do your words? That’s good. Awesome. Very good. Okay, now just kind of walk them in and out of these buckets here.

Yeah. Like about three foot of rope. Maybe four foot of rope. They need to follow the looseness of the rope. Nice and quiet. No pressure on the rope at all.

Anytime they get too close, wiggle the rope. You’re going to lead them in through here. You’re going to stop them right there. Then you’re going to come over and ask them to come ahead, come ahead. Kind of turn around in here. Just kind of a tight, little turn. Give you about this much to start with. Make your turn and have him come on out. But you’re going to have them go slow. You can go right on out, but the idea is to have them do it as you cue them to pick up the next foot to make the turn. Okay? There you go. That a girl. Good for you.

You don’t have to be strong enough, but you need to be bumping, not pulling. Okay? Now, as you’re doing it, then start. Throw the rope out this way. Okay? Now come this way as you’re doing it. That’s okay. You just keep at it. Now just wait a second now. Wait right there. She’s licking her lips. Now, let’s lower the lead rope down. Lower the halter rope down so it goes a little bit lower on the nose. Okay? So what you’re going to do is you’re going to do this here. You’re going to pull up on it and push down. Bring the whole thing down so it’s completely around the nose, or otherwise, it was pulling way back up in here.

Now it’s rounded around the nose. Okay? Now turn your hand around. There you go. See how that made a difference?

When you change the come-along hitch, that then will give you a little bit more communication. There you go. There you go. There you go. Now, if I wouldn’t allowed you to make a mistake with the come-along hitch, you wouldn’t have learned that little spot right there. Right?

Now let’s look at how important this is. It’s natural to want to say, “Hold.” Try to do it with your hands as much as possible with your lead rope. Now, what we did is we readjusted the come-along hitch to where it’s more rounded around the nose, and it was touching the whole nose. Roll your wrist and walk as you’re going. There you go. Keep on coming. Keep on coming. That a girl. Walk as you go, as she’s … There you go. Very good. Very nice.

Sue: Okay, but when she turned to come out, she came out quick.

Steve Edwards: Now it’s going to be up to you to wiggle the rope to have her come down slow. Good, good. Oh, she’s listening to you nice now. Yes. Yes. Yes. Look at you. There. Now, you see here, what we had, John, what we had, Sue, we had the come-along on, but we didn’t have it adjusted where it had refined touch. Sue was beating herself to death. She says, “I don’t feel like I’m strong enough.” Exactly. With the come-along hitch, you don’t have to be strong, but you want to make sure it’s adjusted correctly. What was happening was, it was like this. It was way up here, high up on the jaw right here. It wasn’t doing much good.

As she was pulling, it was pulling on the jaw and not on the nerves underneath the chin. Okay? This is what you do. You pull up on it, push down, and bring it down around here like this. Pull up on it, push down, bring it down around so it stays rounded above the nose and two fingers above the nostril. Just like that. What happens is, especially when we start doing a lot of pulling, pretty soon, the thing starts climbing up the face. Now don’t use your strength. Just use your, roll your wrist. Now when you go out, go out and come back to the right.
Sue: Instead of going to the left?

Steve Edwards: Yes ma’am.

Sue: Go through it the same, but come left?

Steve Edwards: Yes ma’am. Let’s adjust the nose piece. It kind of comes lose a little bit. There you go. Pick up on it, and then tighten it up. There you go. Two fingers above the nostril. There you go. Get your hand correct. Good. Always remember, our hand, we need to roll the wrist. Good. Nice. Nice. Nice. Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. Get after him.

Sue: I was actually letting her … I mean.

Steve Edwards: Exactly right. Okay, go back around. Do it again.

Sue: You want me to stop there?

Steve Edwards: Yes ma’am. Well, don’t let her rush out and push on you, because see? She was on top of you.

Sue: Okay.

Steve Edwards: It wasn’t so much she was moving fast, but she was on top of you. She was more interested in getting out of there. You just kind of slow her up and get after her. There you go. There you go. There you go. There you go. Just roll your wrist and move at the same time. That a girl. Yes. And move at the same time. Yes. Look at you. Yes. Good for you. Yes. Oh, much better. Now that mule’s listening to you. Yes. Yes. Very good. Look at that. Good. Good. Now, here’s what you were doing before. Hold on to the rope with your hand. Okay? You were doing this, using your weight

Sue: Right.

Steve Edwards: Hold on to it. You were using your weight. Use your hand. Feel the difference?

Sue: Yep.

Steve Edwards: Feel this compared to this?

Sue: Yep.

Steve Edwards: What are you doing here? You’re pulling. What are you doing here?

Sue: Tugging.

Steve Edwards: Bumping. You don’t have to use strength. You don’t need muscles. Okay? You just need to roll your wrist. Bump, bump, bump. When you’re here like this, you’re trying to brace him. They’ll brace right against you.

Halter Training: Why Mule and Donkey Owners Should Not Use Nylon Halters

Steve Edwards: I really thought this was something. When I brought my first nylon halter to the ranch, old Bill Doherty looked at me and said, “What the heck you doing with that thing?” I said, “Man I don’t have to tie no more halters. I got it. This is the new thing.” He says, “Nope. All it’s going to do is create problems.” Boy was he right.

We started having halter pullers being brought to us. Peoples with fingers missing. See? See him refusing? That’s bracing. That’s bracing. So I’ve got my hand here and I’m remind him. He goes, “Oh okay.” I wouldn’t want it on my nose either. It’s horrible. He’s bracing me right there. So I’m going to wait right here.

I have to give a little bit with the feet to be able to get what I want with the head. There. All right. Nylon halters. What about this going up into here? You think that would feel good? Everybody says, “Oh look. It’s got a little notch on it.” No, that notch goes right around there and hits that bone just right. So as this mule is bouncing around in the trailer, you don’t think he ain’t getting his head beat to death? I’ve seen some of these just bleeding from these sorry halters. Sure I can lower it down to the last notch there but if he pulls back on it, what do you think?

I just love these halters. Makes me all kinds of money training mules that are head shy. Brace, brace, brace. There’s nothing here. This big webbing here, shoot, if you want to know why he’s tight? Give me one step. I can’t get him to go forward right now.

I finally had to bump it a little bit to get it to go. Tightening them neck muscles. He says, “Shoot. I know that halter don’t mean diddley to me.” So I tell folks these are pretty and everything. They’ll be prettier on Ebay or prettier hanging on your wall.

So we go back with the come along hitch and I’m going to ask you. That a boy. Look at you. You’re so awesome. How about this? They don’t want you messing with their nose. So right to left, second one goes above the first one, pull up on the first one, feed with the second one, right ear first, left ear second. Yes sir.

Training Your Mule to Lower His Head

Steve Edwards: When I take and I put my hand here, this mule’s head should automatically start going down. But he’s bracing up against it, so if I move it here and put pressure here, oh yeah, because I’m right there in the pole. I’m going to make him do it. But I’ll go over here and slide my hand here. I feel him pushing against my hand. When I put my hand here, it’s only just touching. I’m not pushing. Just my hand here should say to him, “Drop your head.” But instead, he’s putting pressure against me.

Now I’m going to put my left hand up on the nose. As I do that, I’m going to take it this finger and I’m going to push right in this area here. There’s some nerves and blood vessels and this sort of thing. As I do that, I’m just going to touch here. But if he pushes against me like there, I’m going to shove my finger in. See him pulling backwards trying to find another way? Good, good.

See him bring his head back up? That’s bracing. That’s taking all five major neck muscles and pulling. Any time they push against your hand, you feel any pressure at all, that’s bracing. As soon as I put my hand here, he should be thinking about coming down. As soon as I put my hand here, he should be coming.

I’m going to go ahead and turn it, put a little pressure there. Every time he drops his head, I take my hand off. Every time I feel him relax, I take my hand off, put my hand back on. Now he’s going to brace against me so I’m going to keep my hand here. He’s trying to find another way to answer my question. Okay, there he dropped his head, I took my hand off. I took my hand off so he says, “Okay.”

Woman: He should be standing still, though.

Steve Edwards: Should be. That’s exactly right. He’s bracing me. He’s finding another way rather than dropping my head.

Man: You’ve got your right hand back away from the poles.

Steve Edwards: Too much pressure up on the pole, if I come up here. So, to answer your question, why do I have my hand here? Because up here, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on him, he’ll tend to brace and get backed away from me, and he’ll tighten the neck muscle, so I put my hand here for now. If I have to, I will go up there, but I don’t want to have to, on him. He’s already brace-y enough as it is. Good, good, good, good, good.

Again, all I’m doing is putting my hand here and he’s learning. There, there. When he goes the opposite way, what he does is, he stiffens all fine neck muscles. This one across the top, on the crest, down through the middle, along the esophagus and the two along the shoulder, and then across the throat latch. As soon as he pulls away, he tightens up everything. My hand is here, and if he’ll just relax. That’s relaxation there. That’s loosening those neck muscles.

Now, I’ll ask him for some more. He’s pushing against me, pushing. There.

Man: So, he’s the one applying the pressure.

Steve Edwards: He’s the one applying the pressure. He’s the one pushing against me. Right there. That’s softness. Right there, all the neck muscles are loose. This is something we should all practice, right there. Right there.

I’m going to ask for just a little bit more. It’s Number Two. He heard something, there, so he tightened up everything. Right now, he’s tight. Right now, he’s putting pressure against my upper hand, but no pressure on the nose.

He’s saying, “Okay, if I move back away, will you take your hand away?” No. I increase the intensity. There. There. As soon as he relaxes, I take my hand off. Right there, he relaxed a little bit. Take my hand, and put it back on.

Every time you see me take my hand off, he’s relaxing. He’s not pushing against me. Right there.

Halter Training Your Mule or Donkey: Installing the Come-A-Long Rope

Steve Edwards: Okay the first thing we wanna do is my ropes are wax coated, okay. They’re two strand so we’re gonna go and they’re 24 feet. We’re gonna go right to left. Notice how I’m standing. We’re gonna go right to left. We’ll bring his nose over here a little bit. Then I’m gonna come around again, right to left. The second one’s gonna go above the first one. Now I’m gonna pull on the first one, feed with the second one. We go right to left. Come around again, right to left; second one goes above the first one. I pull up on the first one, I feed with the second one.

Remember what we’re doing here is halter training. Remember how last time I put his head in here and he was all worried? He got a different attitude now so I pull over the right ear, left ear second. Reason I pull the right ear first, it keeps their head over here this way, and then I take and I pull it down and I pull up on the slack here. Then I pull down on the slack here. So you always can raise and lower it here.

We start out two fingers above the nostril. Will you miss some hair on him? Yes. Will sometimes will it swell up? Oh yes. But that’s all part of it. If once he gets a sore nose we’re gonna have respect. This one won’t be so bad ’cause he was no problem at all. He was a piece of cake.

Woman: So is the neck one tighter now? It looks …

Steve Edwards: No, it’s loose.

Woman: Oh, okay.

Steve Edwards: It’s always gonna be loose. This neck rope is always gonna be loose. Even if this gets tight, this is gonna still stay loose.

Mule and Donkey Training – Maximum Communication

So, what I’m asking is, “Will you follow me around on a leash, loose lead? Or were you gonna try to do your own thing? And if you do, that’s the wrong answer to my question. I’m gonna bump you.” OK? So, if you follow me around, on a loose, that’s right. That’s right. Good. Can I come over here? Come over here. This is all halter work. Slight bump. Keep following. That rope and if you pull it tight, it’s gonna make you uncomfortable.

Click here to learn more about the Come-A-Long Rope

One of the reasons I’m using the come along rope rather than rope halter is the come along rope communicates to the pole, top of the nose, bottom of the nose with more nerve pressure. I can get more done because what happens is this whole thing, between the pole, top and bottom, all creates kind of a vice situation. And it hits all the natural points that says, “Go right. Go left. Go straight. Pull back.” Where the halter only does just key points up on the nose, key points on the chin. Well, this does everything at one time and it tells him right now there’s not gonna be no other decisions. You better respond. OK?

So, it’s more of a full communication to everything, but the neat thing about it, when I do pull and I let go, it becomes loose right off the bat. Loose right off the bat. So, if I pull and let go, it becomes loose. This really, you got far more control. You got far more control with this then you’ve got with a rope halter or with a chain at all. Good.

Like when I was at Yosemite, we had a lot of mules with dead, underneath the nerves here from the chains so much. And so first thing I did, was I put the come along hitch on all of them so that I could get them to follow through because it communicates to the pole, top of the nose, bottom of the nose, full communication. And they have a choice. Look, when I first picked up on this, you see how it does the nose first. Then underneath the chin and then the pole. So, it kinda works in three stages. Ask, tell, demand, but if they really pull back, everything gets him at one time. So they can’t make a decision to go right, left or back. If they do, everything’s in trouble ’cause it gets to be more pressure.

The rope around the neck, round here, absolutely does nothing. It’s never gonna get tight. It’s just there. It’s just there to kind of hold everything into place, but this never will choke him, never gets tight. You know?

Ground Foundation Starting Kit

Everything you see in this video is part of proper Ground Foundation. Many folks have a mule that’s been “trained” – problem is that the new owner doesn’t know to what extent the mule was trained and if the training is something that can be depended on when the animal sees a bear or when you’re riding on the side of the mountain.

In my instructional DVD, Problem Mule, Building a New Foundation, you will discover the simple basics of teaching your mule to stop, back up, rein, balance, and discover maximum control. As you apply the principles found in the instructional video you will graduate from using the Come-A-Long Rope to using a properly adjusted rope halter. I’ve packaged all three items into the Ground Foundation Starting Kit.

A Pack Saddle for Mules and Donkeys

Steve Edwards: Hi folks, welcome to Queen Valley Mule Ranch. My name is Steve Edwards.

I have ranched, I have packed, I have hunted, trained all horses, mules, and donkeys all over the world. One of the things that makes my training so unique, my tact’s so unique everything is I’m actually using it all the time. I didn’t just have some saddle company says, “I’ll put your name on here and you get $60,000 a year and away you go.” That’s not it. I designed this stuff because of what I learned from the mule, what I learned from the donkey, and yes even the horse.

In packing, we would take a wood packed saddle and we would file it down and we’d make it fit the animal’s back. Oh man, what would happen though? If old Jake, my mule, if I fitted that thing in January and then come July he’s lost some weight I just got done filing everything to make it fit and now it don’t fit I add another blanket. What happens with that? Now the saddle will start rolling, so we can’t do that.

The other thing is if I take those wooden saddles and I carve it down just to fit one mule only, I customize it for that one mule only, that mule dies or that mule cripples up and I don’t have him anymore, that saddle has to go with that mule. You only fit the one mule, I can’t afford that. Ride hundreds of mules, packing hundreds of mules, I’ve got to have something that’s gonna work all the time instead of having hundreds of saddles.

This is what we did, we developed a pack saddle where the arches float so that I can fit a narrow back, I can fit a wider back. I can make this wider or I can have it wider or narrower. I’ve developed a pack saddle with myself, Abe Hewart, who is now passed away, from Canada. He packed for the Canadian government.

He said, “Steve, I want to develop a saddle that’ll fit every mule.” Ain’t gonna happen. He said, “I want to fit a saddle that’s gonna fit every horse.” I said, “Ain’t gonna happen.” Well, he showed me it can happen. This saddle right here is what changed, revolutionized, my thinking on just because they have saddle sores, we used to say, “Well, that cause we used them.” No, no, no, it’s from the stupidity of me not listening to my mule and seeing that I sored him. I did it.

I learned how to help my mule and donkey, this is one of the ways I did it, packing freight in the mountains, heavy stuff up to 200 pounds maybe more, and having to go in the mountains and come back out with an animal that couldn’t help you.

Thanks for watching Queen Valley Mule Ranch. We want to help you, give us a call, we’ve got the website you’re gonna see on the screen, you’re gonna see my email, and my phone number. Yes, you will talk to Steve Edwards when you call, not some secretary. Thanks very much for paying attention to my video.

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.