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Old 07-05-2010, 06:26 PM  
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How do YOU train your mule?

Hey all! So my new mule, 4 yrs old, i am working him slowly back to being ridden, apparently broke to ride, i dont know how well but want to do it right. I purchased some of Meredith hodges tapes, and also have done parelli up to 3 star myself with my horse, and I have broke a ton of horses myself, but this is my first mule... so, what is your take?? meredith does treats, what about clicker training, what about simple pressue methods? Just looking to see what people have done. I had my dressage/natural horsemanship trainer out today, and it took her a full hour just to gain his trust, which i already have been far past, so this is going to be an issue , that i had with my donkey. He is going to listen to me but not others, ANy one else have these type of bonding training issues? Just looking for others input, thanks in advance!
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My family consists of...25 Yr old Arabxqh Mare aka; love of my life, 8 yr old Spotted Miniature Donkey Jennet, 4 Yr old White Mule, 4 Yr old AQHA,
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Old 07-07-2010, 08:53 AM  
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??any one out there ??
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My family consists of...25 Yr old Arabxqh Mare aka; love of my life, 8 yr old Spotted Miniature Donkey Jennet, 4 Yr old White Mule, 4 Yr old AQHA,
6 dogs, 3 cats, and a pot bellied pig.. Yea we are nuts!!
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Old 07-07-2010, 03:01 PM  
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I am also very interested in how people train. I have a ~6 year old miniature mule who has never really been handled. He is WAY too smart for me. I've made some progress, but I still can't catch him. I haven't done a ton with him yet. So far, the best success I have had was with trying to make coming up to me his idea. I started mimicking his movements and he started coming up to me on his own. Treats/Clicker were going great, until the wind caught my coat and blew it over my head...then I was back to the scary monster.
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Old 07-07-2010, 03:15 PM  
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foxtrotter- oh boy, back to the scary monster, not a good place to be! I have trained many horses, and my mini donkey but never a mule. Parelli worked wonders on my mini donkey, but I am not going to say that is the best ways to train. I have him listening quite nicely, walking, lunging, grooming, bathing, although he can get pushy, if he wants to go one way, he knows he is stronger and will just pull, so we are working on that, but as far as bringing him back to the saddle work the right way-- interested to see what has worked...
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My family consists of...25 Yr old Arabxqh Mare aka; love of my life, 8 yr old Spotted Miniature Donkey Jennet, 4 Yr old White Mule, 4 Yr old AQHA,
6 dogs, 3 cats, and a pot bellied pig.. Yea we are nuts!!
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:49 AM  
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Training my mamoth

I started about a year ago working with my mammoth jack (gelded). He's a good size 15 hands and very willing.
When we first got him, you could not touch his feet. They had to cross tie him and sedate him about two years ago to work on his feet. We had to nurse him through some really bad hoof problems and that really bonded us.

He got to like all the attention, so from there I just continued to constantly work with him on picking up the feet, and grooming.

So one day I started to use a box to groom him, and slowly started to lean my body weight on him. First started by using a bareback pad and got him used to that. Then got him used to a loose saddle, and finally cinched saddle. This took all of a few weeks time. Then slowly kept leaning my weight over the saddle, and then progressed to stepping up into the stirrups, and standing on one stirrup, and then finally a slow swing over into sitting in the saddle.

Right now we don't have an arena to work so the progress has slowed slightly. He now leads good. Will start to introduce him to a hackamore or bit and start to work with head pressure in the next few weeks. Once we get a safe place, I can just ride him loose and let him get used to my being on his back. He's not spooked any more about being saddled or my hopping onto it.

The main trick I have found with my donkeys is to stay really calm with them.

I have one jenny who is very spooky. The way that I learned to approach her was to not directly walk up. I will sort of get her in a corner or against a fence. If she turns and runs, I head her off, but very gently. When she stops, I stop. Then I just let her stand there. I turn my back, and pretend that I am not focusing on her, then gently take a step back, wait, and keep approaching that way. When I can finally touch her, she shivers, but stands there while I gently brush her back. Then she finally lets me control her head enough to slip on the halter. Once she is in the halter, she is very submissive. This gentle approach has taught her to trust me, and yet she knows that I will never give in. Leading is another story!LOL But when I try to lead her and she balks, the Mammoth jack will come over, get behind her and start to help drive her as I lead. We are a team!
Just started her with the bareback pad and leaning on her from on top a box.

I'm not an expert, but I have manage to come pretty far with my donkeys on my own.
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Old 08-06-2010, 08:42 PM  
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Funny this topic should come up.

I've trained quite a few mules but my main line of training is horses. Someone popped by the farm today and asked me if I would train a mule for them. Of course I said yes.

The customer said that they were amazed that someone who trained horses would train a mule and that lacking any mule trainers in the area they were surprised that a horse trainer would take on a mule. I was rather puzzled by this. When they asked me how I trained a mule, I told them I trained them just like a horse.

I then elaborated that there were a couple of minor psychological differences between mules and horses - mules tend to be better learners and while horses forgive but never forget, most mules never forget and often never forgive (that is until they get you back for whatever offense they think you committed).

I also commented that a mule has a tendency to ask you 'why?' you want them to do something done while horses mostly don't 'ask' that question.

Personally, I like mules. In fact, I've never met a mule that I didn't like or got along with. If I had to go over rough country on a long trek, a mule would be my choice over a horse any day. They make great foxhunters because they can, well, jump like a mule!
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:51 PM  
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I'm not a trainer by any means but my experience with horses and mules has led me to believe that with horses the person has to take charge and be a dominant leader. with a mule (to me anyway) it is more of a trust issue. a mule cant be forced like a horse can. Like has been said you might work with a horse all day to get him to do a certain thing and then the next time you ride they act like the have never done it before but with mules once they have got it they usually will always do it. just my 2 cents.
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Old 08-10-2010, 01:36 PM  
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I have trained and shown miniature donkeys on a national level, along with mules and donkeys. First of all, I don’t advise a first time mule owner a green mule. It’s a bad combination and 90% of the time it goes bad. Either someone gets hurt or a mule is ruined. A lot of people believe that a mule can be handled the same as a horse or donkey and that is incorrect. Different methods must be used when working with a mule. Donkeys are stubborn, but willing with the right hand. Horses are submissive with the right hand. Mules… mules are not submissive and most of the time they are not willing if they have not been handled since birth. Mules require understanding and trickery, they also require trust.

This is when people make mistakes. Many believe that getting a mule to trust you means hand feeding, allowing it to come up when it wants to see you… These sorts of things lead to major issues and habits that a lot of trainers can’t un-train. Meredith has my respect, but she makes it looks much easier than it really is.

I suggest ground driving to start your under saddle training. It’s something everyone should do, and it will help your bonding. Reward, but do not reward bad behavior… but do not punish either. Just make it very clear with your body language that bad behavior is unacceptable. I also highly recommend doing in hand trail courses, it will help build a very strong bond and will help with showmanship. I do suggest you stop using Parelli methods on your mule, and stick with Meredith’s training videos. I also suggest you find a knowledgeable mule facility (Training, showing, or breeding) in your area and get their advice. The mule community is very friendly and sometimes they will offer to help in any way possible, so why not take advantage of that?

I adore mules and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business, but they can be so fickle. I also very much hate the “One person” bond most of them have. It can make them hard to sell, and be put in a bad situation if something where to happen to you.

I find it’s so much easier to raise a mule from birth than to buy one from someone else. You can then mold them into whatever you want and generally they are gentler, more outgoing, and anyone can handle and show them. Most of the “big boys” in the industry feel the same. Of course, you can’t generalize mules. Every mule is different and some are easy going, and some are meaner than hell, but you won’t know until you start working with them.

I really like your mule, from your avatar, looks elegant and not downhill, which is a huge surprise. He could excel in the H/J mule classes if He has the form and movement. I wish you the best of luck, and be careful!!
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Old 08-15-2010, 05:47 PM  
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Old 08-15-2010, 05:56 PM  
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I think when you work with mules, it is very important to have a plan. Know exactly what you want and be consistant in your cues. Reward the good with immediate release and work the wrong answers. ("Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard." Ray Hunt.) You need to give the mule a choice and if you are consistant, he'll make the right choice and think it was his idea. THEN you've got a winner and not a battle. You will NEVER win a physical battle with a mule. Trying to do so may get you hurt or killed. It's more of a mental choice thing with them. I like the Parelli 7 games, and my mules love doing them. They are short lessons, easily taught, and give a foundation for other training. I also like John Lyons a lot, and use a lot of his principles. His emphasis is on making a plan with specific steps. That works real well for mules. But you can't do zillions of repetitions with mules. Once they learn something, they resent endless drills. So I mix it up a lot. We WILL get the repetitions in, but not all at once. They seem to like more variety in their training sessions. I always start with something they know well, and end with something they know well. Interspercing new concepts with stuff they already know seems to give them a mental break to process the new concept. Then when you come back to it, they often "get it" and then relax with it. My mules seem a bit anxious when they are learning something new - they really want to learn it and then are very happy and relaxed when they know what the job is and that they can do it.

Mules learn patterns really quickly. Once they do something 3 times in a row, it's a set deal. That's why you have to have a plan and train carefully - not haphazardly. Mules are harder to UN-train than horses, so it's much better to do it right the first time. For example, we taught our mules to exit the trailer by turning and standing at the open door until we cue them to step down. It has never been a problem with them, but it became a big issue with the horse who started rushing the turn and bolting. Very dangerous. We had to retrain her to back out and step down safely. We thought, "what the heck, we'll teach the mules to back out, too." No way. They hop into the trailer like rabbits and when it is time to come out, they turn and wait. There is no way we could find to change the pattern. And it doesn't matter - they are safe and controlled. It wasn't worth the time to try fixing something that wasn't broke.

Mules also have a lot more "try" than horses. Once they learn something, they may try to work all the angles just to see how far they can go and how serious you are about reinforcing the rules. This depends on the personality of the mule, I think. My two mollies want to know the rules and then they love the security of staying right in the middle of the boundares. Our john, on the other hand, tests every single rule with variables even we couldn't think of! He wants to know every single angle and is very creative in his interpretation of the rules. Once he jumped over a chain barrier I set up to keep him out of my way while I cleaned the breezeway. He was thoroughly scolded for jumping over, and he never tried it again. BUT.... he did his best to unfasten the clips on the ends. When he failed in that attempt, he dropped to his knees and crawled under! In his mind, the rule was "Don't jump the chain." So he tried to work out "legal" ways to still get past the chain without breaking the rule. Ha!
While working with a mule's mind and will, you may think you have come to the end of your rope and be tempted to give up. That is precisely the time you CAN'T quit. When you reach that point, you are only a few minutes away from a break through. Don't give up. If the mule wins the mental battle at this point, you will have a much harder and longer training session next time.

The real joy is that mules are so smart that once they learn something well, they will anticipate and figure stuff out on their own. My big appy molly is a bit spooky by nature. I use the "head-down" cue to calm her if something unexpected happens that puts her into the alert mode. She will now calm herself by lowering her own head when she gets anxious! I worked hard with lots of desensitizing exercises with her. She learned that if she shows anxiety about something, she is going to work it until she is totally bored and can stand on top the monster and take a nap there. (She knows that I will not stop until she reaches this point. Originally that could take over an hour.) Now if she shes a monster (like a paper bag on the ground or plastic wrapped phone book) she will actually go up to it and put a foot on top of it to show that she has made the decision to be calm and not have to work it! I think that's pretty neat.

Mules definitely bond closely with their owners. Once their trust is won, they are completely loyal and protective. My molly actually saved me from injury one day with I foolishly got trapped in the breezeway in the midst of an equine squabble. In short, my mule put herself between me and the alpha mare who was beating up on her. She gave me space to get through a fence and didn't move an inch until I was safe, even though the alpha was biting her from behind.

I have also found mules to be very communicative. I have learned to listen. My mule has saved me on the trail multiple times by making the right decisions in spite of my ignorance. The ONLY time my mule has been "stubborn" is when I was trying to make her do something that she knew was not safe. (Like going down a very steep bank with a girth that was way too loose.) (Or squeezing through some very tight boulders where we probably would have gotten stuck. She chose a steeper path than I thought impossible, but I just leaned back and hung on and she went down in perfect balance on her haunches.) (Or refusing to press through some brush when there was a rattle snake she could smell, even though it didn't rattle.) (Or refusing to keep going forward through thick cactus when we lost the ability to turn around and ended up backing out. How did she know there was no way out? I don't know, but she did.) (Or refusing to take a particular trail back to the camp site because she knew we were on the wrong trail - she was right!) (And digging in and refusing to go back into her pen after a long hot ride. When I finally dropped the lead rope in exasperation, she calmly turned and walked onto the wash rack. She wanted a bath to cool down, and I was too stupid to recognise her need.) I am finally learning to listen to her wisdom and to understand her needs as well. She is also very intuitive to my moods and emotions and has given me an equine partnership that I have never had until I got a mule. They are quite amazing animals and worth every bit of time and training.

PS: When I try out a mule for sale, I always test willingness to learn by teaching him something he does't know. That may be a lateral or vertical flexion, a head down,, or whatever. I like to see a willingness to learn. If I see that, I know I will be able to work with him to teach any thing. If there is a lot of refusal, I know it will be a frustrating experience for both of us. Maybe he will be fine for someone else, but I need a willing animal and not one that is very strong willed and testing.
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