So You Want Steve to Help You Buy a Mule

Steve Edwards: You hear how good they are, and how safe they are, and how easy they are to take care of, and that’s not all the truth.

Dave: We have a lot of folks who are out there looking to buy their first or their next mule or donkey. We got a lot of folks asking, Steve, can you help me buy that? Can you be the one that kind of connects me with the right mule or the right donkey to buy? My question is, can people contact you and have you help them buy a mule or donkey? What steps would you give them? Where would you point them along that process?

Steve Edwards: Here’s the problem with this, Dave, is people want to get a mule because they hear how good they are, and how safe they are, and how easy they are to take care of, and that’s not all the truth. The problem is, I don’t see, I don’t know them, I don’t know how they ride. They may tell me they ride 30 years, I don’t know the mule. The mule has probably been all over the mountains, and done hundreds of miles, yaddi-yaddi.

Steve Edwards: It’s important that number one, you get educated. You’re the rider, you’re the buyer of the mule, the donkey, you get educated before you buy and make the purchase. That way, that education will help you to be able to make the right purchase. I have from time to time had people say, “Hey Steve, I, I’m getting ready to buy this mule. Would you take a look at the pictures and stuff?” And I’ll look at the pictures. I’ll tell them what I feel can be some future problems.

Mule Breast Collars Explained with Demonstration

Folks, your mule breast collar is very, very important. You have to remember that as you’re going down your trail, your mule starts shrinking, your donkey starts shrinking, so your cinches start coming loose. The breast collar and the breaching, the combination of the two, help keep your saddle into place. The proper breast collar really means a lot. It’s very important. I’ve designed a breast collar that’s V-shaped that follows the slope of the shoulders, and it’s not real wide like this that inhibits the shoulders. So, it actually fits the slope of the shoulders.

Why I Don’t Put Rings On My Saddles for Mule Breast Collars

One thing I want you to notice on my saddles, there are no rings on the saddle to attach a breast collar. One of the reasons I do that is as your mule is walking back and forth, the shoulder comes forward and hits the breast collar. The shoulder comes forward and hits the breast collar. Now, you don’t want that saddle to be brought forward when you’re on flat ground. Then, it gets on top of the scapula. So, you want the breast collar to kick into place when you’re going up a hill or dragging something. Otherwise, the breast collar can be an inch and a half away, and that’s the thing about your saddle. You want your saddle to be an inch and a half. It can move no more than that. Right and left. Forward and back. More than that, you end up having a saddle roll, or you end up having the saddle going into the scapula. So, your breast collar keeps the saddle from going back. Again, every time the shoulder hits it, it says to the saddle, “Stay here. Stay here. Stay here.”

Click here for product information on Steve’s Beta Breast Collar

Now, let’s just say we take this saddle, and we rig it in in skirt rigging. I want you to watch that as I pull on the saddle, as I pull on it back and forth, and every time the shoulder hits the saddle, what’s it doing? It’s bringing the saddle forward. You see it, how it’s coming forward? Coming forward. Coming forward. Every time it hits it. So, the saddle’s coming forward every time the breast collar hits it.

With a mule walking very lateral, with your donkey walking very lateral, you need a breast collar that doesn’t make the saddle go forward. You don’t want to use what’s called a pulling collar, with the two straps here and here and comes down. Again, it’s solid. It’s solid rigged. Anytime you get solid rigged, and it hits the saddle, it’s going to bring the saddle forward. Do you see that?

How My Mule Breast Collar Works with A Pommel Strap

So, my breast collar, I take and take a 28″ strap, and I put it through the pommel. This particular breast collar is made out of Beta. We have them out of Beta and we have them out of leather. I prefer the Beta because it’s strong, there’s no maintenance to it. The leather’s nice if you’ve got time to maintain it and keep it oiled and this sort of thing.

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There’s my strap, and then I take the long strap from my breast collar, pull it through, and I go through this strap. Then I buckle it into place. Notice as my mule walks, I’m not bringing the saddle forward. The saddle stays in place, and the breast collar works like it should. The breast collar is only to keep the saddle from going backwards. So, going up a hill, where does the saddle want to go? Back. So the breast collar, then, needs to hook into place. Once this breast collar is now pulling, it’ll hold the saddle into place, but as your mule’s just walking down a trail, you don’t want it to be pulling the saddle all the time. So, I developed my breast collar, leather and Beta, so that it does not pull the saddle forward except for when it has to going up a hill or dragging something. Very, very important on your breast collars.

When to Use the Rope Halter or the Come-A-Long Rope

Steve Edwards: The day that I can just pick it up. And I’m only using the weight of the rope. The day that I can get him to back up. And the day that I can ask him to go forward and stop on two fingers, then I can start going more and more with my rope halter.

Dave Shrein: So, you’ve got the come along hitch, come-a-long rope and then you’ve got rope halter. At what point do you move from using the come-a-long rope to using the rope halter.

Steve Edwards: Okay, excellent question. Again, the softness. My hand is always holding the rope like this. And then my fingers play the tune. The day that I can just barely, with two fingers, ask that mule to stop. The day I can take and move to the right and to the left with two fingers, the day that I can just pick it up … And I’m only using the weight of the rope. The day that I can get him to back up and the day that I can ask him to go forward and stop on two fingers, then I can start going more and more with my rope halter. But understand, I use a combination of the come along hitch and rope halter in the very beginning. So when the mule makes a mistake, I can bump the come along hitch. But if he keeps responding to the rope halter, I don’t touch the come-a-long rope. You know. So it’s really, really important, folks that you remember too, you build a foundation over a six month time frame. Especially when you have a problem mule, a spoiled mule and this sort of thing.

They’ve already been doing it for several years. You ain’t gonna fix it in a few hours. Your trainer is only gonna … He’ll make it look good, by golly, make it look good. But you got six months of keeping that foundational training going, you know. So, does that help you out Dave?

Dave: Yeah, that makes sense. I was thinking about it, ’cause, you know we were talking about putting one of those kits together. Make it a little bit easier for folks to get the tools that they need in the beginning. And I was thinking, well, if we’re gonna put a rope halter in there and we’re gonna put a come-a-long rope in there, when would they switch from one to the other?

Trailer Loading – How to Successfully Load Your Mule or Donkey

These days we’re taking our animals all over the United States, and we do it by trailer. And I find that the safest trailer that we have today is your slack load trailer. It’s open. Each one of the doors get out of the way. The mule sees lots of room to be able to go in and out. The downside is one day some little problem happens and the mule now is afraid to go in there. That’s when you find out if your mule is truly halter trained, because all of a sudden you start to walk, and all of a sudden the mule says, “I don’t want to go.” So that means your halter must be properly adjusted.

We want to make sure we don’t go past three, so we’re gonna ask, tell, demand. So I’m gonna ask my mule to go forward. That’s my number one step. He starts to go forward but hesitates. Then I’m gonna tell him to go forward, and if he doesn’t want to do it, then I’m doing something incorrectly. Also, it could be that the halter is not adjusted correctly. So I’m going toward the halter. I’m going toward the door, I go off here to the left a little bit, then I go off to the right, then I bump him forward again. Don’t keep on doing it. Don’t come up to the gate, turn around, go back, come up to the gate, turn around. Don’t do that, because you’re giving him what he wants, and that is to leave this spot. He figures this place here is a really uncomfortable place. He’s been hurt in there, something’s gone wrong, who knows whatever it is.

So if you go up to the door, turn around and go back out, you’re giving him what he wants as soon as he turns around. Even if you just tie him to that spot and just leave him there, that’s okay. Guess what? He has to listen to that halter. When he pulls back on the halter, the halter bumps him on the poll. When he goes over to the left, it bumps him on his nose. Bumps over to the right, it bumps him on the nose. If the halter is adjusted correctly, two fingers above the nostril and each knot in the nostril as you’ll see in one of my other videos, he’ll respect the halter.

And remember, no pulling. Always bump, bump, bump. In my video, you’ve seen where I’ve worked with a mule that didn’t want to go in the trailer, and that mule dragged me all over the place. But the end result, the mule went in. You never did see me keep on training and doing the same thing over and over again because if you do it a third time, it now becomes a habit. Now becomes a foundation. So you only do it twice. The demanding only comes in when you’ve done it and the mule knows. Then he says, “I ain’t gonna go,” then you’re gonna go into the demanding stage. But when you’re training, never do it over two times. If you do it over two times, they’re gonna know that that’s a fact for them, and you don’t wanna do that.

So I load him three times, I go put him away. I load him three more times, that’s six. Load him three more times, nine. Three more times, 12. Now I’ve got a foundation. Now if you go up to the gate and he says no, I’m gonna ask him, bump; I’m gonna tell him, bump, bump; and I’m gonna demand upon him, bump, bump, bump, and really make him sore.

So the big thing with trailers is today, trailer is far superior. We have a better axle assembly, we have better roads, we have better pulling things like this. Can some of them get in there and be all sweaty and nervous? Yeah, just like you and I. We’ll get in there and … but I’ve loaded this mule 50 times. No, no, no. You gotta remember that they have hair. They have skin. They have brains. And when something bothers them, that’s the way they’re gonna tell you we got a problem here. So sometimes it just takes to tie them in there and leave them in there.

Okay, Steve, he’s pawing. Take 18 inches of heavy chain, put it on a strap, put it above the knee. When he goes to paw, the chain’s gonna hit him on the cannon bone, gonna make him uncomfortable. When he quits pawing, pull the chain off. Hang it up where he can look at it. And he’s gonna think, “Okay.” When he paws, the chain comes off of here and goes down onto his leg. He’s gonna think, “Aw man, if I paw in this spot …” Are you gonna get him to quit pawing? No. Pawing is part of their life. It’s part of the makeup. If they paw, it’s they want something. This particular case, “I want out of here.” But if you make him uncomfortable, saying, “Okay, you paw, I’m gonna put the chains on.” He’s gonna say, “Oh, okay. In this spot, I don’t paw.” It’s very very important.

Always tie with a quick release. Don’t use those snaps, the quick release snaps. Those things there will make a disaster area. Always use a rope halter. Don’t use nylon halters. Nylon halters brace, make an animal brace. They get where they disrespect the halter. If a properly adjusted rope halter is on that animal like you’re gonna see on my videos here on YouTube, you’re gonna find that when that mule pulls back, that rope halter’s gonna mean more to him than that big web. You’re thinking, “I’ll put the web halter and be nice to him.” No, you’re gonna teach him bad habits is what you’re gonna do. Take that web halter, hang it up on a nail, and just think the past is the past, I’m relieved at last. Be done with it.

Thank you very much. We’ll see you in the future.

How to Select the Right Size Mule Saddle and Properly Ride Western Style

Folks I want to talk to you a little bit about having to sit 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’ve got your legs over bent like this, you’re going to have knee problems, you’re going to have back problems. Us guys we tend to slouch in the saddle. We tend to slouch on the couch. We tend to do that. When we do, we’re going to develop problems. 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. 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. 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 was 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”. That’s what you want to ride, slightly knees bent, you’re riding Western style, this is not English. Throw your shoulders back, your chest out and you ride 60% on your legs, 40% on your seat. If you sit all in your seat, you’re going to have a seat problem, your bottom is going to bog you. The other thing folks is you need to condition yourself. If you’re not in condition, you go out in the side of a mountain and ride, you deserve to be sore. It’s part of life.

When it comes down to this riding, you want to be able to condition yourself and you want to be able to sit correctly. The nice thing I like about my stirrups you look on my fenders here notice how my fenders will move back and forth. 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 countering I can do that. I can move my legs any way I want and it’s how I design this fender in this saddle. I ride mountains I ride trails and I don’t when it comes down to it, I don’t want to spend a lot of time having to be adjusting my saddle and self all the time. I do have to do that but I want to be comfortable. I can deal with swinging my legs with ease. Again that’s very, very important.

Now, this is a pommel. When you take in sitting in the saddle as you’re sitting 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 sit … I’ll have 15 saddles out and they’ll sit in every single saddle or pick out four or five of them that fit them and 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, just that they finally found their seat. Sitting 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 see I’ve got three fingers in here, that’s too much.

When my legs are hanging natural like I should be sitting and I’m sitting 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’d 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. When you’re sitting naturally, you’re sitting comfortable, I’m sitting comfortable right now. Notice that when I do that, two fingers, sitting comfortable.

That’s what I like to see in a saddle, it’s not your rump size, it’s your thigh from your thigh in a pommel. This happens to be a 16-inch saddle. I weigh about 200 pounds and I’m 5′ 6″. I’ve been riding a 16-inch saddle pretty much most of my life. Hope that helps you on fitting saddle to you the rider.

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, or my email, 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.