Training a Mule

By Katie Dodd

New journeys in life happen all the time whether it’s starting the next part of your life or trying something new; for me, it’s both. Next year I’ll be starting college but next week I’ll be starting something I haven’t really gotten to ever do: Training a Mule. I’ve dealt with horses and a range of animals but never a mule. Especially never an abused, sickly mule.

Anyway, on to how my family and I met him. It was a typical hot day, everyone staying where air conditioning could protect us from mother nature, when suddenly my little sister saw from the corner of her eye saw a blur which turned out to be a horse and a mule that had broken out of their pen. After getting our shoes on and running out, we saw two guys catching them and we obviously wanted to get closer, while my mom being her normal self started making friends and chatting. When the guy offered us the horse my mom replied “No thank you.” Then he offered the mule. “No, well how much?” and when he said “free” that was when it was basically a sealed deal. After asking one day to talk about it, we reached the conclusion that we’d take him.

Now it’s been two days since visiting him, while we set up the place at my house for him to stay. I’ve noticed a lot of problems and what the man told me of his background, it’s going to be a very hard and very long process (while taking pre-calculus!). It seems he’s been worked with pulling logs and such; problem is he’s been beat or so the man has said. He’s very skittish and won’t let anyone touch him, his legs have open wounds which are bleeding due to boards with nails being in his habit, his dental is bad, and his hooves are not too bad but not good as they should be.

On my second visit it took over an hour of just talking to get him to eat an apple and carrot out of my hand, but he still wouldn’t allow me to touch him. I don’t want to just push him into things because mules take from their donkey fathers cautiousness and don’t take well to forcefulness.

8/24/2014 – While visiting him today in the middle of a field where he could have bolted at any given time, Jake (the mule) let me give him a full body rub from tail, feet, and head. He didn’t try to walk away once; I was the one to turn and leave.

The owner was surprised because he can’t even touch Jake, so you can imagine the bubbly excitement I’m feeling. I take this as a good sign that not all hope is lost on this mule even if it seems slim.

Some of the things I’ll be trying with Jake:

Essential Oils – I’ll mainly be using lavender for its calming and easing tension effects, hopefully so he’s not too stressed when getting used to things.

Homemade Products – As my mom (just not as much as her), I enjoy making things homemade for use by myself and animals. I’m going to be making a Coat Conditioner, Fly Spray, and a few other things that I can easily make that work efficiently. Also, I will only be using products others have tried and only if they have good ratings, since I’m not like my mom – too scared to try and make my own stuff with the risk of killing us all.

Catch Training – I’m going to be doing a halter method for catching him, instead of chasing him around till I get him. I’m going to use the halter as a signal to come, I read a few methods and I’ll try different ways unless I start out with one that works for him.

Won’t be using crops or any such things – When it comes to animals I’m too soft-hearted sometimes. I won’t let them walk all over me of course, but I can’t hit him on the butt with a crop or spurs on my boots. I use different methods when expressing my dislike, though I haven’t gotten that all really figured out yet.

Noise Desensitization – Of course I’m going to do a main basic training which is to get him used to being near and around loud objects that easily spook him – walking up a trailer, across a tarp, hearing doors slam, truck horn, vehicle driving by, loud humans, etc.

I’ll be keeping a journal with pictures of my progress and writing a time line of stuff that’s healed and he’s improved or unimproved on, as it could come in handy one day.

This is all I have thought of so far and I will not be starting any of this until he’s settled in, more comfortable, and we trust each other completely. I’m very excited for this opportunity though, and thankful it came up and we were able to take on the challenge.

My mom, dad, and nana are the main ones to thank for this. They’ll be supplying the food and anything that it may need, which keeps it living so that’s the very important part. Very excited for the months to come! Hopefully a lot of progress.

About the Author:My name is Katie Dodd I’m 16 years old, and live in Clifton, Tennessee. My hobbies are reading, writing, walking, occasionally riding horses, and a lot of other activities. My passions are animals first and then comes writing. I love making random stories up or writing poetry to express feelings. I have a lot of goals in life like finishing college, and opening my own vet clinic and animal shelter. I also want to get one of my stories published. I can get very passionate about things like the government and my beliefs. I like debating, and just sharing what I know. Out of all the subjects in school I’d say History is my favorite, it may be the past but it’s what shaped the world and changed a lot of things.”

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