What’s Wrong With My Saddle?

Steve Edwards: People that say, “My saddle is fine up here on top of the scapula,” do this for a test. Slide your hand up underneath here where the scapula is and then turn the head toward that. As you do that, you’re going to find that that thing’s mashing your fingers. Come over here. Slide your hand up underneath here, turn the head towards you. Feel it?

Man: Oh yeah.

Steve Edwards: Oh, yeah. Now take that and put your wife’s 75 pounds up here on the top. You see how I made points there?

Man: Yeah.

Steve Edwards: Okay, and put-

Speaker 2: She weighs more.

Steve Edwards: Watch this, okay?

Speaker 2: Oh yeah.

Steve Edwards: And that’s just my little 35 pounds right here, okay? That’s what’s on there. So can you imagine what’s happening? Every time that scapula comes up, boom boom boom. The folks when you see a saddle that the cinch is way up underneath the front legs, and you see a saddle up on that scapula and people say they got that mule for sale, those people don’t know anything about mules. Get away from them because they are ruining this mule. They’re doing it like a horse, just setting the saddle up on the wither like a horse. We don’t want to do that.

Other mistake folks make, yes this is my saddle. Queen Valley Mule Ranch, got the old conchos, you know, the saddle is probably what, five years old?

Man: Something like that.

Steve Edwards: Something like that, okay. My saddle, all my equipment, but installed incorrectly, so it’s going to work like everybody else’s saddle, okay? Number one, the back cinch. The back cinch allows that saddle to stick up in the back. Okay? The back cinch needs to be the tightest; the front cinch needs to be the loosest. The back cinch needs to be here, and then what a lot of people do to keep this cinch back away from the front leg is they put this strap here. That don’t do a bit of good, as you can see, you know, it’s already up there. It don’t do a bit of good. Plus at your britchen now you can slide your hand up under here so you actually only have about one inch of britchen compared with three inches you should have.

Man: This is the worst case scenario.

Steve Edwards: This is the worst case scenario, but it’ll be okay, all right? She’s not going to hit me too hard, shoot.

Woman: The back cinch, when do you really, really need the back cinch?

Steve Edwards: When do you really need a back cinch? You need a back cinch all the time.

Woman: Why?

Steve Edwards: The reason that is is because their belly is hourglass shaped and they carry their weight down low, so the saddle with the front cinch makes the saddle go forward and gets up on top of their shoulder, okay? I have people all the time say, “Well I do just fine.” Okay, well ask your mule how well he’s doing, you know? Try to put your hand up underneath there, or put your hand down here and let me sit my foot on it and see how long you like it. It’s the same feeling, you know? Because these poor animals are putting up with a lot. An awful lot. You have to have a rear cinch on the mule all the time. All the time. The front cinch needs to be loosest, the back cinch needs to be the tightest.

These straps need to be back here on the bars. Here’s the back of the bar, here’s the back of the bar. Hand me one of those bars down there on the ground back there.

Woman: Which one of them, the mule one?

Steve Edwards: Yeah, the mule one. There you go, you know it’s a mule, look at that.

When we have it here, we’re only pulling on one side. We need to pull directly onto the bar from right here. When we got it down here we tend to pull the bar down, and it doesn’t work the same. We want this strap to go here. We want the hip plate to be back here, okay? With the hip plate being here look here how it’s pulling the saddle up, and see how it’s rubbing the hindquarters? You want to know how the mule lost his hair right there? Not the britchen’s fault. It’s my fault. I have to understand that when I adjust the britchen incorrectly I’m going to have that problem. Okay?

Here’s the little salt and pepper white hairs when the britchen’s rubbing, you know? Okay, so

Man: So you’re going to fix all this for us?

Steve Edwards: Sure I am! Absolutely.

Man: Just want to make sure.

Steve Edwards: I don’t leave you alone like this. Okay, see, notice how I told you about conways, how you don’t pull the strap through like this? It makes it extremely difficult to get loose.

I’m going to fix you up old mule. You’re going to be so happy with me. You’re going to say, “Oh I love Steve.”

Notice how my D ring goes back?

Man: Yeah.

Steve Edwards: It’s adjusted. It’s way different than everyone else. I do this for a reason. If I’ve got a full rigging plate, the ring is going to be here. Three quarters is going to be here and then seven eighths is going to be here. I’ve got it right in between seven eighths and three quarters so that I’ve got it in the right place for my mule’s shoulders, okay? That’s the purpose of that.

Loosen this up a little bit, two notches, but you see this all the time and people say, “It’s the only way I can make my saddle work.” Well then why in the world are you riding that kind of a saddle, you know? That you’ve got to make work and it’s still sore on the animal? You hear it all the time. They don’t want to spend the money to make it right, the poor guy’s always suffering.

Ready to Buy a Mule? What You Should Look For

Steve Edwards: When I look at animals for people I look at conformation. All the time, people ask me what to look for. Well, what to look for is this. You look for disposition first. Disposition, a willing disposition. One that says, “Ah, that’s okay, ah, that’s all right,” and pretty much goes along with everything. The majority of the time, yeah, they’ll get grumpy, like Daisy where she’s kind of wanting to be the top of the pecking order and she’ll be grumpy for a little bit, but disposition.

Second thing I look for is conformation. Now, conformation. If we look and see a little stubby neck, that is hard for an animal to turn with a little stubby neck like that. Can you get it? Yes, you can. Notice how when this mule stands, his neck comes up out of his shoulders. You see that? Notice when this mule stands, his neck comes down out of her shoulders. Do you see the difference? When I’m looking for a trail animal, I’m looking for conformation next, I’m looking for when they walk they walk just like this. Framed up, all ready. Naturally framed up without bridling. Okay? So that’s the next thing I look for.

Next thing I look for then is I look for conformation-wise, look at how straight the legs are. You see how the slope of the shoulder fits the slope of the foot. Real nice. Clean, front end. Nice and straight. Okay? Things I look for is white hairs like this and bumps like this. Some way or another this mule has hit himself on the cannon bone area.

Women: No, no, no, those are just flies.

Steve Edwards: Oh, you got the fly problem? Okay. For flies, take WD-40 in the spring, before the flies start getting them, and spray WD-40 on their legs. It’s not an oil-based, it’s not a petroleum, it’s a fish-base. That oil on there will keep the flies off of it and keep the itching off of it.

Women: How long will it last? Do you have to do it every day?

Steve Edwards: It just depends on the animal. Depends on the dust and that sort of thing. I also put it on their hair on their tails, so when they flip around their tails, it flips the oil onto them, the WD-40.

Okay. The next thing we look at. We look back here in the back legs. This little mule here, whoa, this little mule here has got a really nice heavy gaskin muscle. See this muscle right here?

Man: Yeah.

Steve Edwards: That’s a nice, big, heavy gaskin muscle. But this is Quarter Horse bred. Her type of hip is Quarter, it slopes down. So some type of Quarter Horse is in this little mule.

Now, when you look at this little mule from behind, you see it has a nice rounded hip. Let me move the legs a little bit here. Okay. Now, with them standing, you see how this little mule stands fairly straight. Step. Step. Step. Okay. You see in the back here, notice how the feet flair out toward the front. Right and left. That’s from not being trimmed as a baby. So it’s actually walking like a duck, kind of like this. That, unfortunately, what that does to him, that brings the hock area, which is this area right in here, it brings the hocks close together. All right? Now, watch when I walk this mule how far apart the hocks are. That’s really important, because if he’s got a lot of donkey in him, you’ll see the hocks will come close together and will be brushing each other, which can create problems later on in life.

Using A Bitt For Your Mule

Steve Edwards: We must have a bitt in order to communicate. I use a double twisted wire snaffle bit simply because I capture the tongue on both sides of the tongue, rather than a single snaffle which captures the tongue in one place. Put your fingers out here. Now, this is the tongue of the mouth. When this is inside of the mule’s mouth, it looks like this. It’s just laying here. When I want to say, “Whoa,” I pick up on both sides of the ring. You can see then the snaffle goes on both sides of the tongue, and then they put the pressure. You can feel the pressure. Then of course, the animal says, “Well, what can I do to be comfortable?” As soon as he stops, I let go and the bitt comes back into place.

Unlike a snaffle bit which is just one single, when it’s a pressure, you feel the difference in the pressure? That’s a lot more pressure there with just one single than it is with a double that goes on both sides. A whole lot more comfortable, even though the bitt looks a lot nastier. It looks a lot more uncomfortable. It’s phenomenally comfortable which you just saw. Now, put your fingers out here, the two fingers. Now, let’s just say I want to go off to the right. This is going to be like the violin bow on the violin. When I want to go to the right, the mule or a horse feels, just keep your tongue in one place, feels that. You feel that?

Man: Okay.

Steve Edwards: It feels and it says, “What can I do to be comfortable?” As soon as his head goes, my hands get quiet. Get the idea? “What can I do to get comfortable?” As soon as his head goes, my hands get quiet. Feel the difference? I want to go a direction. I’m uncomfortable. As soon as you go that direction, my hands get quiet. Feel the difference? It’s very, very important we understand that we must have the proper bitt to do the proper job.

Halter Training – Keeping the Feet Still

Steve Edwards: It’s very important that the animal’s feet be quiet and still. We’re going to … (Whistles) Yah, yah, yah. Now, your feet moved a lot. (Whistles) Yah, yah. Feet don’t move. (Whistles) Feet don’t move. (Whistles) Feet don’t move. (Whistles) Feet don’t move. (Whistles) Yah, yah, yah.

Women: When we did that this morning, we wanted them.

Steve Edwards: That’s right. We wanted them to move, okay? Now, we’re going to come to a point to where he’s going to learn when to stand still, ie. with a lead rope and when to stand still with no lead rope.

Women: Okay.

Steve Edwards: You see? I know it gets mind boggling to you.

Man: You didn’t have a lead rope on him when we were doing it.

Steve Edwards: Exactly, you know? There’s different ways of moving around. I let you all do that because these guys are pretty gentle. You did good, okay? Here’s the thing, anybody can make their feet move because it’s natural for them to do it, but to get them to make their feet stand still, that’s hard to do. If you notice, I tried to do it with just a bump and let go to be loose. (Whistles) Yah, yah, yah. Don’t move that foot. Yah, yah, yah. (Whistles) On a loose lead rope, okay? Now, when I pick it up, I want to go somewhere, I pick it up and I bump him, now they can move their feet. Starts to go away, sharp bump, “No, you follow me.” What I’m asking is, “Will you follow me around on a loose lead or will you try to go do your own thing?” If you do, that’s the wrong answer to my question and I’m going to bump you. Okay? If you follow me around, I’m a loose … That’s right. That’s right, good. Okay, now come over here. Come over here. This is all halter work.

Halter Training a Mule – Moving the Feet

Steve Edwards: We’ll go back. I’ll ask. What I’m doing is I’m halter training. This is all halter training. I’m just kind of bumping. It’s a little too low now, so I’ll raise it up. I’m just kind of bumping. Now I’ll come up and I’ll just kind of ask like this. Good. Good. Good. Good. Let’s back that foot up. Now the right rear foot. Nope. Now the right rear foot. Nope. Now the right rear foot. Nope.

What I’m doing is I’m rolling my wrist and I’m pointing down toward that foot. If I wanted this foot up I would raise up my hand and move that foot. Now I’m pointing toward the back foot. What I’m doing here is I’m pointing toward, let me get her balanced here. There. I’m pointing toward the foot. Let’s move that foot. Good.

Now let’s right rear foot. Left one went pretty easy. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Put it back. Don’t lean against me. Nope. Put it back. Nope. Okay. Now move it back. That a girl. There. She just kept thinking “Wait a minute. What foot am I supposed to move?” She starting figuring out it was the foot. Then finally I was able to get her to keep this one in place while I was doing the other one. Now, I want to move the left front foot, so I’m going to do this.

This is all part of halter training. You see this as halter classes. She wasn’t bracing so much she’d be a lot easier. What this is actually doing is getting her to back off of the bracing and listen to moving the feet. It’s taking quite a bit of work on my half to get her to loosen up those neck muscles. Now let’s go back. There we go. Good for you. Now bring it back. Bring it back again. Nope nope nope. Come on. Nope. You had it. Let’s put that one down. Okay good. Okay. Nope. Nope. Boy, she’s just really bracing against me. There. Okay, now I’ll leave her alone for a little bit.

Halter Training a Mule

Steve Edwards: So, I’m gonna come up, and I’m gonna kind of pet on him. Now, this rope that I have, it’s got a smell to it. It’s got wax, it’s a wax-coated. So, I’m going to, I’m gonna put it over his head, but I’m gonna come up here like this and kind of pet on him. Scratch on him a little bit and kinda let him see. He’s kind of bracing a little bit, he’s worried about it. So, I’m gonna come on up and pet on him, kinda go nice and slow. There, like that. And pet on him as I’m going at it, so he doesn’t get worried about it, but I can feel in my hands he’s bracing me, kind of pushing at me a little bit. So I’ll go ahead and pull that on up.

Now, this is a wax-coated rope, it’s two-strand, so it’s fairly soft, but yet, I can still … The idea of the wax is so when I put this on him, it doesn’t move up and down the face a lot. It used to be I told everybody, “Take you an old lariat rope, take one strand out of it, and you got yourself a rope.” But the waxing was what’s important.

So, we’re gonna go right to left, and you see he’s a little worried about his nose, not too bad. Come around again, right to left. Notice, I put the coils down on the ground here, because you can get yourself hung up with those coils. And then, I pull up on the first one, and I push on the second one. And see, he’s a little worried about that, so I’ll come back, I’ll put my left hand on his nose, and I’ll rub on him a little bit, and if he goes and pulls his head up, I’m gonna squeeze his nose. So, I’m gonna get his head to come down, come around the right ear first, left ear second. Why do I do the right ear first? If I do the right ear first, I tend to bring him to me. If I do the left ear first, I tend to push him away from me.

Now, I can feel this mule’s got a lot of stiffness. Like right here, lot of stiffness. So, I’m gonna work on this mule a little bit. So that, I’m gonna work on softness. I’m gonna put my right hand up on the poll, my left hand here, and I’m taking my middle finger, and when he pushes against me, I’m gonna push right in here. So, I’m using this finger, pushing right in here, making it uncomfortable for him. There. So, I want the softness.

So now, I pick up on the lead rope. Myself, I like to see my clients just use loops, because they’re not used to using coils and getting themselves hung up. So, I’m gonna pick the mule up and come over here in the shade a little bit.

Now, the come-a-long hitch comes over the poll, and there’s a notch right here you can kind of feel, there’s a natural notch right in this area. You can feel the back of the skull coming up right here. So this rope, you want to always keep it right in this area, and then you want it two fingers above the nostril.

Now, this is going to communicate to the nose, underneath the chin, and on the poll. So, I communicate to all three places that need to be communicated with. Not like a chain where it’s only at the nose, the top, or bottom, okay? So, one of the things I’m going to do is kind of pick up on it, and kind of pick, and just kind of touch the mule a little bit like this. Good. Get a foot movement, and then come over here. Pick it up. Get a foot movement. Front foot, very good. Now, I’m going to kind of back up a little bit. Bracing me right there. Watch my hand. See how it rolls? Asking, telling, demanding. All right, now let’s go back to the ask. See him brace? See him brace? Ask, tell… I didn’t have to go to a demand.

So, I’ll come back forward. See him bracing me right there? Ask. Tell. Demand. Demand. Okay. Yeah, you betcha.

Now, will they lose hair on their nose? Oh, yeah. Will you be able to see where the rope was. Oh, yeah. But see, right now, she’s using all five major neck muscles; the one run along the crest, the one down through the center, the one along the esophagus, and these two here, plus the throat latch against us. See that muscle right there? That’s a pretty tight throat latch for being able to be pulled on, okay? So, I’m gonna ask her to back up again. Ask. Tell. Good. Ask. Aw, better. Ask. Oh, yes. Man, I don’t like that tell and demand stuff, so ask here to come forward. Asking, here. Telling, here. Demanding. See her brace against me. Now-

Women: But you’re facing her. That’s the thing that’s confusing to me, is you’re facing her when you’re doing that.

Steve Edwards: Only because I’m building a foundation with her head first. Later on, I’ll change that. Right now, she needs to understand to respect the halter. “Don’t pay attention to me, listen to the halter.” I’m halter training, okay?

So, now, I’m gonna ask. Good for you. Now, I’m gonna ask. Good for you. So, I’m halter training. I’m not the monster yet, but I’m getting ready to be. Okay, so now pick it up again, asking. Good. Asking. Good. Now, backing up. Good. Good. Good for you. See the difference? Asking, telling, demanding makes sense to them because it is the way they talk, the way they understand, okay? So now, we’ll go back, and I’ll ask.

So, what I’m doing is halter training. All right? This is all halter training.

When Your Mule Backs Up Every Time You Introduce Something New

So I got a question on Facebook, and the folks want to know … their mule keeps backing up when they introduce something new. We have to remember that a mule is an equine, and flight and fright is part of their life. Rather than fight, or spin and take off, this mule has decided to back up real quick.

It’s his way to take care of what he perceives to be a problem. It’s easy to fix. The downside if we don’t fix it, when you’re in the saddle, you’re going to really have a problem because all of a sudden now he’s running backwards. And that’s not a fun thing to be doing. So let’s fix it.

How do we do it? We have to remember that mules and donkeys care more about their nose than they do their mouth. What you do is you put the come-along hitch on. I know that some of you are not familiar with the come-along hitch, and I’d love to be able to show you here now, but I can’t do that. But basically, what it amounts to is a rope that I have designed that is wax coated, 24 foot long. You put the loop over top of his neck, and then you go around his nose once, twice, and then the first one you pull up over behind his ears. Then your come-along is set. You always want it two fingers above the nostril.

Now let me just say something here. With that come-along hitch, we never want to tie this mule or any mule to this come-along hitch. It could tear them up pretty bad. You do not want to use a nylon halter. That just will teach him to brace. And a rope halter, most the time they’re not adjusted correctly, so we’re going to put those two out of the way and go to the come-along hitch.

The come-along hitch communicates behind the poll, behind the ears, and it communicates to the nose, upper and lower. Since they care more about their nose than they do their mouth, it gives you a quick way to communicate. You want your communication to be crisp and clean. Always remember, your hands are what’s going to do the communicating. You’re never going to pull; you’re always going to bump your hands.

In small, small motions. You always want to do everything thinking about building a foundation. At three, six, nine, and twelve. You show something to the mule, like say you wiggle a bag. First thing, watch. His head will go up before his feet will move. So catch it while it’s head is up. So you wiggle the bag, he gets worried, give him a sharp little bump. Wiggle the bag again. He doesn’t get quite so worried, give him a sharp little bump. The third time, wiggle the bag, you’ll see he’ll barely move, go ahead and give him a little bump. That’s three today. Three today. All right?

So do those three today, and then the next time you train … and this is important, any of your training, this is very, very important … you want to make sure that you don’t train every day. I’ll do three today. I may wait a week, and I’ll do those three, and he does it correctly, I’ll add three more.

The worst thing you can do to a mule, or any equine, is to try to bury him with knowledge right off the bat. You’ve got to remember, they don’t have the cranial lobe that tells the right side what the left side’s doing, or the left side what the right side’s doing. That’s really important. You want to teach one brain at a time. Always remember, steps three, six, nine, twelve. The world got changed because of 12.

Let me go into one more thing. The video that I would suggest that you get would be the “Problem Mule, Building a New Foundation.” You’ll see a mule that this buckaroo in Montana had a lot of problem with. You’ll see the come-along being used. It’s a pretty inexpensive DVD. It’s only $39 and shipping of $9.

If I can help you anymore, text me or get back on Facebook here and I’ll do it. Otherwise I strongly suggest that DVD, “Problem Mule, Building a New Foundation.”

How To Approach Your Mule

Steve Edwards: What we’re doing, right now the mule is doing this on her terms. She’s just standing there. She’s a little bit swishy tailed. He needs to get this right hand side, to where she responds to him. See that, how the mule just turned his head looking, respecting her, that’s really respecting him. This mule likes him. That’s very nice, the head was dropped down, nice and quiet.

Man: If she likes me, why does she keep throwing me off?

Steve Edwards: Because you’re not communicating, is the reason she’s throwing you off. Okay so, this right ear, right now, is saying, “Come on, come slow”, and she doesn’t have to turn towards you she just does that kind of out of respect for and she’s also trying to sniff you, and that’s nice. I like to see that sniffing, kinda checking you out. “Yeah, oh I like you”. Okay. All right now, right here we completely did this on this mule’s terms. All right?

Man: Yup.

Steve Edwards: Now, we’re gonna move her off.

Man: Come on.

Steve Edwards: There you go. Head’s nice and relaxed and now, step back. The mule will turn around. Good.

Man: You know what’s really nice about that? That was her right side. She does not like her right side messed with.

Steve Edwards: Yes.

Man: She is dominant left.

Steve Edwards: Remember I was telling you, “We need to work with that.”

Steve Edwards: Yes, okay? Now again, you can approach her. Go ahead and approach her, and stuff, she doing it on her terms, you know, which is nice. Notice the difference in the attitude here. Not turning and looking at ya, just kinda head was up. That was really nice and that right hand side cuz there’s no garbage over there. Nothing to have to deal with. Thank you. You really don’t want to do anything to tell her to go, other than, use your body. No noises. Use your body. So, if you want her to tip towards you, step to the right. All right, now let’s move her around before you can … you can stop her feet when you want her to stop.

Man: Go. Go.

Steve Edwards: Don’t slap her or anything, just get after her. Don’t touch her. Don’t get so close to her hind end. Okay good, that was good. You could have stopped and kept her that way that’s okay. Stomp your feet when you want her feet to stop. In other words, you’re gonna step toward her nose. Move her off.

Man: Go.

Steve Edwards: Okay. Now step … Pick a spot, step toward her nose.

Steve Edwards: Step toward her nose and then stop. Okay. So, move her off. Don’t get too close to behind her.

Man: Go. Go.

Steve Edwards: Throw your hands up. There you go. All right, now step back. There you go. Good.

Man: Go. Yip. Go mule.

Steve Edwards: Find a spot. Be careful not to get too close behind her now. Look at her hind end. Okay. Now stop there and back up. Okay, that tells her to stay right there in place. Notice the tail switching? She’s upset. See, as soon as you step back, that took the pressure off of her, you stopped her feet. She was getting ready to turn and go to the left. This way here, you stopped her feet on the correct side. Now, just wait on her. Wait til her tail gets quiet. Again, we want to get the softness back in. So, when the tail gets quiet, and the head kind of drops, then kind of work your way toward her, according to what her ears say.

Right now her right ear’s on ya, so her right brain’s thinking about ya. When her tail kinda gets kinda quiet, just, as soon as it gets quiet even for a second, just make a little step. The tail is saying, “I’m a little uncomfortable with you. I don’t really like this, you being on my right hand side.” But, the right ear is saying, “What are you thinking about doing?” She’s kinda paying attention to you with that right brain. So, when her tail gets quiet, you make a step or two, but when her tail gets moving, you get quiet. Show her that she doesn’t have to have nothing to be worried about. Look at the tail. Look at the tail. Isn’t that nice? The tail stayed longer that time. Tail stayed longer. Tail stayed longer. Good.

Now, a little [inaudible 00:04:24]. Don’t pat, rub.

Man: Okay.

Steve Edwards: Patting kinda gives them a little bit … Her head elevated as soon as you patted on her. And her tails gone to switching again. So, just kinda always rub in the very beginning, patting later. Okay. When her tail gets quiet, move away. Go ahead, step way back, and just kinda relax. Let her head drop a little bit. Watch her head. Her head’s elevated, she’s a little concerned. Her tail’s switching, she’s a little concerned. So, kinda watch her head drop a little bit, and it’s gonna be ever so slight. There’s some. Look at the top of the rail, that’ll kinda give you an idea.

Man: There’s some.

Steve Edwards: There’s some. Yes. Tail’s quiet. Nice and quiet, walk on over. Watch the tail. Again, we’re trying to build softness. It’s not important to put the halter on, it’s more important to keep the mule soft. Look how much more softer the animal’s staying now. Staying softer, softer, staying softer. Nice and quiet. There you go. Now he’s concerned so, let’s go ahead and pay him, give a little quietness. There you go. Softer, softer. So, far better this time. Now, some good rub, just rub. No petting. I understand, it’s easy to do. Just give him a little rub. Scratch him. Again, you’re building softness. You’re showing this mule, there’s nothing to be worried about. This right hand side needs to be worked with. I would saddle from the right hand side, I would brush from the right hand side. Your disposition as you’re walking up, should be squared shouldered, looking straight ahead.

Man: Calm.

Steve Edwards: Yeah, and nice and quiet. Step only according to the head. The head right now, is got the right ear on ya, so the head is saying, “come on, but come slow.” But, the tail is saying, “I’m still kinda worried” so, you don’t have the whole mule thinking about you, you only got the part of the mule. So, as soon as the mules tail get quiet-

Man: The lower the head will go.

Steve Edwards: Yeah, the heads dropping nice. Very nice. But, we want the whole mule, not half of the mule. So, when that tail’s hanging quiet, we’re doing good. We want the whole mule. Beautiful. Awesome, awesome. See, the neat thing about this is, you’re watching the whole animal now. You’re not just watching the head. You’re getting a feel for the whole animal, you know? Beautiful. Now to me, this is more important than riding. This is building a relationship, you know? We’ll get to the riding. That’s a whole different relationship on there.

Man: Go. Let’s go.

Steve Edwards: There you go. Now, stop her feet when you want. Step back. There you go. Now, step a little bit to your right. A little bit more. The hip should move around. Slap your leg. Slap your leg. There you go, now stop. There you go. Now, nice and quiet. Just watch the tail. Left ear’s not really concerned about ya at all but it’s still watching ya. We’re watching the tail, we want that tail to hang quiet. So, now we want the whole animal, you see? If the tail’s switching, we only got the front part of the animal thinking it’s okay. There, getting some relaxation in the eye now. That’s nice. See that eye getting kinda fluffy.

Quiet. That’s nice. Tail’s still switching. It’s gonna hang loose right there a little minute. That eye’s really paying attention to you with that left ear. See, the head elevated when you kinda stepped forward a little bit. But, we’ll work in there, we’ll get that better. Petting and scratching. There you are. Nice. This is very nice, because you’re learning to communicate with the mule, and the mule liking it. Boy, just dropped his head a bunch more, right there, got nice and quiet. You’ve about got the whole animal thinking it’s okay. Oh nice.

The Trail Lite Mule Saddle

Installing your mule saddle and tack correctly ensures that you enjoy your ride and that your mule equally enjoys the ride. In this video I share a little bit about the Trail Lite Saddle and also go through instruction for using your saddle cinches and your mule Britchen.

Meet the Trail Lite Mule Saddle

On the ranch here, we got a lot of work we do. I thought when I was younger, of course I was stronger then than I am now, but I had to have big and heavy saddle. This is my train line saddle it’s Cordura on the skirting. On the seat and pummel, it’s all leather. You can see by looking at this saddle, I put a lot of miles in it. You can see I wrap my horn with inner tube so that when I rope something, I’m able to hold it in place.

Click here to learn more about the Trail Lite Mule Saddle 

I’ve found I don’t need big and heavy. I need something that’s going to be stout, more modern. I tell folks all the time, “LEt’s look at our different cars.” The Model A had wood framing and tin nailed onto it. Our new cars have uni bodies in them. They’re meant to in an accident fold up. They’re more flexible. That’s what I’ve done with this saddle. I have a polipropene tree in is. I have skirting that’s easy to take care of, easy to maintain. I have a saddle that I can work in or I can play in that’s going to be tough.

You can see I keep my hobbles on here as well. I keep raw hide hobbles. We don’t tie our mules to trees out here because we don’t have them. Plus that, it is against the law in any national forest to tie to a tree.

Mule Britchen Placement and Instruction

Britchen, it’s extremely important on a mule. A Britchen has muscle mass. You can put this Britchen on from the bottom to the top. You have ten to twelve inches depending upon the hip that you have on your mule. You do not want to keep your Britchen in the same place. When you have a lot of hills that you’ll be going up and down, if you lower your Britchen, you’ll be able to have your mule sit down on your Britchen and hold the saddle back. When you raise the Britchen, that means you’re going to be mostly riding on a lot of flat ground. When you’ve got a lot of little tiny hills, pretty easy to ride, you can ride with your Britchen up.

Notice what I have here. I have buckles on the adjustments of my Britchen. I also have on my quarter strap a buckle adjustment here as well. My back straps, these two straps here, I wanted to keep what’s called my hip plate, that’s this pad right here, I want to keep it in the center of the hip, somewhere between the dock of the tail and the point of the croup right here. I want to keep it on the down side. When I do my measurements, with my leg being fairly straight to my hip, I want to be able to slide my hand in. That is a half an inch. Then when I pull my hand away, as soon as I feel some pressure here, I should see an inch.

Your saddle will move an inch to an inch and a half forward and back, left and right. That is optimum for the comfort of your mule. More than an inch and a half, your saddle will go forward and get on top of the scapula. That scapula moves up and down like pistons. When that saddle goes forward, the mule’s going to shake his head and tell you he’s uncomfortable.

When I rig up my saddles with my Britchens, I put my quarter strap underneath my leg and it attaches to this D ring. Notice I am using the buckle on my cinch. I’m not creating a knot up here. I’m putting the pressure up on my leg. When I take and cinch my mule up, I then go into the tongue of my cinch and then I go up into my keeper right here. By doing that, I don’t have a big loop underneath my leg.

Now for Britchen, you can see I have the quarter strap comes from this D ring down to here. This right here is an area that is most comfortable for the mule to put the D ring here because in this area is where you usually see the driest area. In this area on the mule’s back, you’ll see the driest area and you usually see the most white hairs. White hairs are caused by a scald. It’s from too tight of a front cinch, not a tight enough back cinch.

When I take and put my Britchen on, I do not want to keep it in the same place. I want to move it up and down, especially when I have a colt that don’t know a lot about going up and down. They’re going to be using their hips different so you continually want to be changing your Britchen.

Why Use a Mule Britchen Over a Crupper?

Why a Britchen over a Crupper? A Crupper was never designed for more than six to eight pounds. A Crupper will allow a saddle to move two to two and a half inches forward and back, left and right. A Crupper only goes under the dock of the tail. When you take and pull up on the tail and sit down here, you’re going to take those vertebrae that are supposed to look like this and you’re going to start breaking them down.

a lot of people are going to think, “My mule is fine with it riding it for two, three, five years with a Crupper.” If you took your mule which you should do to a chiropractor, you will find that you’re starting to take vertebrae and put them out of place. The downside of vertebrae going out of place is that pretty soon the mule braces into pain, but pretty soon these bones start rubbing together instead of being nice and flush. They start tipping like this, start rubbing together, you start getting arthritis starting to set in. You’ve just lost your good buddy who you’ve taken up and down the trail.

Britchen is super important to have adjusted correctly.

Click here to learn more about the Trail Lite Mule Saddle

How to Approach A Mule from the Left Side

Steve Edwards: When you go in with a halter, take and put your lead rope across your elbow right here, and then take and put your second part right here like this so that you can catch this knot really quick if you have to. This is going to be like this. Then your halter is going to be just like you’re going to put it onto the animal. You’re going to undo it now. This is the nose right here. The nose is going to go through your hand right here. Then this is going to go right like this. Just like that. Okay? Now when you go to to up, this is going to slide over. You’re going to take this part and go around the neck. This is going to slide right on the nose, and you’re nice and ready rather than fidgeting around. Okay? There you go.

Woman: I want to be on her right side instead of her left side?

Steve Edwards: You’re doing just fine. Go ahead and go on up there for now. There you go. Good for you. Good for you. What you’re doing then, the mule is saying now maybe I better stay out of your space. What you did was correct. The first mule says “Come on and visit.” Now the mule has got his left ear pointed to you, saying “Come on and visit but come slow.” Don’t look down. Every time you look down you’re saying “May I come into your herd?” Good. That’s good response. Going up and pet on the shoulder. Pet and scratch. Good. Now step away. Good.

Okay, now what’s happening is the mule at first was saying “Oh boy.” Okay, now step to your right little bit. There, got his attention. The mule says “Okay, come on.” Then all of a sudden you got aggressive. You kind of got your shoulders thrown back. The mule went “Whoop. This person’s a leader.” Then come back to center again. The mule come back to center, but his left ear is still on you. He says “Come on. I’m checking you out. Come slow.” Good. Pet and scratch there.

Remember, I never go to the nose. The nose says three things. Whoa, come to me, go away from me. Right now I’m interested in being leadership, so I’m going to come to the shoulder and show him a neutral zone. Then I’m going to back off a little bit. Good. Notice the head is down, relaxed. Nice and easy. Okay. Now come on over there. There you go. Slow down. The mule just said “Whoop. I’m still not sure about you. Come on slow.” Notice we got a little bit more of a tilt of the head this time.

Now he’s thinking about turning to you. Good, but he’s not giving you space. Go on right over the shoulder. Don’t touch the head. Whoop. Slap your leg. Get after him. Okay now stop. Okay. Now step back a little bit. Good. Notice how the mule turned his head towards you. Okay. Good. Now, kind of you’ve got to kind of move the hip around. Unfortunately you got to come around this post. Come around the post a little bit. Don’t look down. Now come back this way some.

Now slap your leg some. Harder. Stomp your feet. Good. Wait. Step back. Good. See how you stopped the feet? Okay. Soon as you step back, you took the pressure off of the mule. What you’re doing here again, you’re establishing leadership. You’re establishing leadership. Notice how that mule stopped as soon as you backed off. You just told this mule “Don’t go no farther.”

Now he’s inviting you to come on over. Nice and quiet. It’s okay to keep quiet. It’s okay to talk even though the mule knows nothing you’re saying. Sometimes it makes us feel good. Go right on up. Pet and scratch on the shoulder. All the talking makes us feel good only. They don’t understand a darn word your saying.

Speaker 2: They don’t understand the tone?

Steve Edwards: No. They don’t understand the tone. Well they understand “Ah.” They understand a little bit of the quietness, but they more understand your body.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Steve Edwards: You know. The growling, if you do the growling along with slapping your leg, and pretty soon all you got to do is growl. You don’t have to slap your leg.

Woman: This is three. Do I put the halter on?

Steve Edwards: That’s number three. Okay. Now I want you to … This is number three on the near side which is the left hand side. We need to do the same thing on the off side, which is the right hand side. It’s not so much putting the halter on. It is establishing move your feet when I say move your feet. Turn your body when I say you do your body. You’ve done it great on the left hand side. I let you do the easy one to start with. Okay?