One of the great things about owning a mule, besides the companionship, is that you can go trail riding with it. There is nothing like hitting the trails with your equine. In fact, as you are reading this you may already be thinking about the next trail you want to explore with your mule. It’s exciting!
But before you even start the ride, you need to be able to mount your mule. It may be easier said than done, but with the right training, you can teach your mule to stand still while you mount. In this article, I will break down the steps you need to take to accomplish this.
Getting Ready to Ride Your Mule
When you are getting ready to ride your mule, the first thing you do is put the saddle on, you’ve got the halter on and the mule tied someplace. Once the saddle is on and you’ve moved him around and he’s quiet, then put the bridle on and then look at getting on yourself.
Once the cinches are all in place and everything is snug, you can start. And that’s done in three steps.
- Tighten the cinch a little bit. Move the mule off.
- Tighten up the cinch a little bit more. Move the mule off again.
- Then, tighten the cinch a third time. Move the mule off.
Reason I say that is the majority of mules are moving off because we tend to overtighten the cinches all at one time. We try to get the cinches as tight as we can. But now the mule is just wanting to get some pressure off of them. So they go to moving.
If we tighten the cinches up in three stages and not just with the mule or donkey standing still, then you can go to the next stage.
Get Your Mule to Stand Quietly
I take my reins in my left hand with the left rein a little snugger then the right rein, that will tip the mule’s nose toward me. Notice I said tip the nose only. What that’s doing, that’s getting the mule to see me with its left brain. Just tipping the nose a little bit will help him to be in his right thinking, correctly using his left brain. Now, my right hand takes a hold of the saddle horn and I give it a shake. The mule will then know I’m putting my foot in the stirrup and climbing in the saddle.
Now, how do we get there? Each one of those is a trick: tipping the nose, left brain – look at me, taking the saddle horn and shaking it – feet stand still.
Three steps to train your mule to stand still before you climb on
So, this is what I do to get them to stand still while I’m climbing on.
Number 1: I take both reins in my left hand snug, with my left hand on the horn, my right hand on the cantle and I violently shake the saddle and the mule. I mean I try to knock him off his feet. Mules want to control their feet. He then will stop and brace himself. When he braces himself, now he’s learned to not move a foot when you shake the saddle. Once that’s done, I give him a pet, let him relax a minute.
And when I say relax, I mean when the mule’s head comes down. They are not relaxed when the head is elevated. When I see the head come down just a little bit, it doesn’t have to be much, I give him another pet and then take the reins and walk off about 20 feet.
Number 2: I take hold of the reins with my left hand again, snug not tight, just snug where you can barely feel the nose. I take hold of the horn and the reins with my left hand and the cantle in my right hand. Once again, I try and shake the mule violently. This time he’s not going to move as much, he will try to catch his balance as soon as possible.
Once he has done that, I’m going to loosen the reins, I’m going to give him a pet, I’m going to watch for the head to come down and I’m going to watch for relaxation. Once that’s done, I take the reins and walk the mule off again.
Number 3: This time is the easy step of only shaking the horn and only taking the left rein snug in my hand with the right rein being a little loose. I shake the horn. The mule should stand still immediately.
Properly Mount Your Mule
Now, this is important. Use a mounting block or put the mule or donkey down in a low place where you can mount fairly easy.
Proper mounting is the mule’s mane in my left hand with the reins, my right hand on the horn, then I put my left leg into the stirrup and I stand up in the stirrup, stand straight up. I do not swing my leg over the mule. I’ll stand there to the count of five. I will then swing my leg over and sit there to the count of five with my right leg hanging, then I will put my foot in the stirrup.
The problem as to why mules move off is because as soon as we get in the saddle, we immediately start riding. We do not want to do that. When you get in the saddle, set there. Loose reins tell the mule to stand still and quiet.
When you pick up the reins, the mule is to give you a simple elevation of the head, which says, “all right, I’m listening.” And then you go off to the right or to the left, you back up or you go forward. Try to change that up by using each one of those directions at different times.
So that is basically the foundation of how to get him to stand still and why a mule moves off.
You are building a foundation
Now when we do this, remember we’ve got to do steps to build a foundation of three, six, nine, 12. So, that day we use the three steps and the mule did fairly good. A couple of days or even a week later, we do those three and then we add three more. Now we have six. A couple of days later, we do those six plus three more. Now we’ve done nine. A few days later, we do those nine and add three more. Now we’ve done 12.
The big thing is four to six hours a week is a lot of training and it needs to be spread out over a month’s time frame.
What’s very important to understand is you build a foundation in six months. Six months, not thirty days. Nobody should ever take their mule or donkey to a trainer and expect them to have a good foundation in only 30 days. Six months builds a foundation. So, when you’re getting your mule to stand still, remember they have probably been doing that for several years. So that’s what you need to do for a foundation.
Six Reasons Mules Move When You Want to Get On
Why does the mule move when you try to get on? I’ll give you six reasons.
- We didn’t cue them to stand still.
- When we got on, we moved the mule off right away. We did that, not the mules.
- The third reason is mechanical. Are the teeth floated? This is extremely important.
- Is the saddle setting in the correct place? Because if the saddle is setting on top of the scapula, the mule is going to want to move in order to get comfortable and try to get that saddle off of his scapula.
- You must ride with a breaching. Flat ground, hilly ground, whatever, because in a matter of minutes the saddle is going to want to move forward.
- This is imperative, make sure that back cinch is tight, the front cinch is loose. That’s usually the final thing that creates a problem for the mule to move off.
Notice everything here is our conditioning of the mule, things that we did to get the mule to do what he’s doing, mostly to try to protect himself.
Is It How You Get On Every Time?
You may be asking, is this what I need to do every time I want to ride my mule? Yes, every time you get on, you’re going to do these things.
Number 1: Have the left rein snug where you can just touch the mule’s nose when it looks at you.
Number 2: You’re going to take your right hand and you’re going to shake the saddle horn. Those are your cues. Okay, mule, stand still I’m climbing on.
I cannot overemphasize this enough: do not grab the back of the cantle and the horn to get on. That’s a good way to make that saddle roll. And second part, absolutely put the mule in a low spot where you can climb on or use a stepping ladder to climb up. Don’t just try to throw your foot in the stirrup and climb on. The majority of us are too fat and we can’t get on correctly.
Number 3: Your left hand is holding the reins and the mane, your right hand is on the horn, then I put my left foot into the stirrup and I stand up in the stirrup, straight up, for the count of five.
Number 4: I will then swing my leg over, sit there to the count of five, then put my right foot in the stirrup.
I use every one of these steps. They must be followed explicitly if you want to get on your mule and communicate clearly and crisply with him.
You are ready to ride.