Mule Training (AKA "MULE SCHOOL")

Queen Valley Mule Ranch offers mule training including colt starting and problem solving.  We'll work with you to customize a training program for you and your mule's needs. 

 At Queen Valley Mule Ranch, we believe that the foundation of a mule will put him on the trail to being a great friend for life.  We start by halter training in the round pen.  In the round pen, our goal is to develop a foundation of trust.  I have learned from the mule that round pen thinking is very different for a mule than for a horse.

 I  believe that it's more important to develop a relationship with the mule on the ground than in the saddle.  When we start training a mule, we teach him to respect the person on the ground.  This way the mule will understand how to come, go out, stop and move on voice cues.  The mule will learn to follow at the right shoulder in the proper place.  This is our way of starting halter training without the halter.  An average training time is 15 to 30 minutes per day for three days.

 In the round pen the mules learn four basic words: "whoa", "get up", "gee", and "haw".  They also learn the "kissing" sound for forward motion.  The next step is teaching the mule to stand quietly, drop the head, tip the nose to the left and accept the halter. This will also be the foundation to accept the bridle.

 When we start our halter training with a lead rope, we lead the mule around the round pen in figure eights, circles and squares. I learned this from Nick West, a master at horse training and braiding rawhide from Alberta, Canada.  You will hear a lot about Nick during a mule and people clinic. Nick was a master with a bosal (hackamore) and taught me how to use a "come-along" hitch to train the colt or spoiled mule how and where to follow.

 You see, the hackamore and the come-along have a lot in common in training a mule the way to follow his nose.  Being able to follow the nose sets the foundation for the rein, stop and backup.  During the first week we will evaluate the mule on disposition, trainability and willingness.  When we see the mule wanting to be with me and enjoying the training, a training program is established to fit that particular mule.

 In the first week, I will  start the mule's  foundation work in hobble training, sacking out, desensitizing, surcingle and snaffle bit work.  The mule is also introduced to a packsaddle and harness.  For the average mule, the first five days of training establishes the foundation for all the future training in Mr. Mule's life.

 During the second week, we build on this foundation and we teach the mules to pull wagons.  This training will help both the body and mind of the mule.  We hook the new mule to an experienced mule.  The experienced mule will encourage the new mule and do most of the work the first week.  The new mule will learn to give to the bit, get the feel of weight, accept new noises and advance in voice stops and starts.  

 The mules train with the wagon for three days each week and train with a pack for two days. Without a person on his back, a mule can add to his foundation and understanding using just a pack on the trail.  I start all of my colts on a hackamore, training the mule as Nick West taught me.  In the round pen I will give the mule his first glimpse of being guided using voice, hands, legs, and seat. As the mule progresses, I want to get him out on the trails as soon as possible. If you are going to have a trail mule, he needs to be trained primarily on the trail rather than in an arena or round pen. Every mule has a different personality and I want the mule to feel comfortable as I communicate with him or her.  A 90 day training period will build a good foundation of training on a mule, but the mule is by no means well broke or well trained in that short period of time.  He just has a good foundation to get started.  

 I  believe that  you also need training as Mr. Mule's owner. It is very important that you understand how to communicate with your new friend, the mule.  That's why he'll spend time with each owner as part of the training program.  I also offers Mule & People Clinics to further develop good communication between you and your mule.

With all of this in mind, remember that training is lifelong - both for you and for your mule.  We never reach a point where we can say, "Yep, I reckon I know everything".  Every time you are together with your animal, there is an opportunity for both of you to learn and for both of you to communicate better.  I like to talk about the basic strategies for communicating with a mule and build, block by block, striving for a good working relationship.   Most mules have a great work ethic.  They do not like being idle.  They would rather have a job and do it.  And keeping their minds occupied is a great way to enjoy your mule.

It is important to realize that many undesirable behaviors that a mule exhibits come from a lack of understanding of the differences between a horse and a mule.  For example, a horse will benefit from repetition after repetition after repetition of a new skill.  Most mules can be guided through a task 3 times (with some time in between to allow him to digest the project) and then he will have it for good.  Mules tire of repetition if it seems pointless to them and in many cases, they are inclined to "tell" you so. 

Another example of problems that stem back to differences between mules and horses is that mules react to ill-fitting tack.  If your mule shakes his head going down hills, for example, it is not because he is being naughty.  It is most likely due to a bad saddle fit.  Horse saddles are not good on mules.  Their shoulder structure is very different and the bars on the horse saddle are spearing your mule in the shoulder blade area as the saddle slips forward while you are going down that hill. This is a topic that is near and dear to me and I am happy to explore this in detail when I tell you about the Steve Edwards mule saddle.  But for now, just know that it is only the mule's good nature between you and the ground when you  put tack on him that causes pain.  So please have a look at my saddles and tack.  You will see what a simple fix there is for some of these behaviors.  There have been plenty of times when I have been able to "fix" bad behaviors by making the mule more comfortable as I re-tack with appropriate gear.

I like to work with all levels of students.  I take great pleasure in helping the person who is new to mules as well as in training professionals who wish to be mule trainers.  So don't be shy!  This is a big part of what I can do for you.  From colt starting to finish training, MULE SCHOOL is aimed at making you an expert.  The only way I look good is to make you look good!  So whether you chose training at the ranch, training at a clinic, training at your facility, DVD's or articles, Steve Edwards MULE SCHOOL is the ticket.



Please come and visit us in Arizona.  You will love our "winter" weather! 

Always call for an appointment, as I spend a lot

of my time in the saddle and  I don't  want to miss you.