Wow. When a seller says "skittish" what is he really saying???? And what is "around" 10 years???? I personally have a few requirements for new mules:
#1: they have to be good with their feet (or else my farrier won't work with them.) They may not be perfect foot lifters if they haven't been worked with much - that can be trained. BUT.... they can't be kickers. A kicking mule can kill you much faster than a horse.
#2: they have to have a kind eye. This is a mule who wants to trust and have a relationship with a human - not one who has an evil look and will hurt you given the chance.
#3: decent withers are a big plus.
#4: I always have a vet check with foot xrays done. If there is a problem I want to know right up front. (The vet can confirm the age as well!) I have a friend who bought a 15 year old mule that turned out to be 30+ at least! One of mine came out of an auction as a "5 year old" who was really around 12 or so. You also want to know what the teeth are like, what shots have been given, last worming, etc. A bargain could cost you a lot right off the bat if nothing has been done with the animal, and....... until the shots are given and a quarantine period is over, you still don't know if the mule could be incubating West Nile or some other disease. Vaccination history is important to me.
#5: Willingness. I don't care if the animal doesn't know anything, but I want to know if they are willing to learn. So I will teach them something that they don't know. It may just be a lateral flexion. Or backing, or moving a hip. Or dropping the head. Just some little thing like that. If there is a lot of mental resistance, training is going to be a pain! However, a mentally soft animal that is willing to learn will try, and you will see this. If you can teach the mule to do a simple thing fairly quickly and with a willing spirit, that is a huge bonus. It also shows how willing the mule is to submit to your leadership.
#6: If all goes well up to this point, I will do a little ground work with a mule, also, just to see what they know and how willing they are. I start with some ground driving (the circle game, if you are Parelli minded), and then ask for the hips to move over with back leg cross over. Also some backing and leading. (I would never attempt to ride a new animal unless I had done some of this first to get some mental softness.) If you end up getting the mule, this is the only time you have to make the all important first impression and it needs to be one of leadership and security. With the very first touch, you are setting boundaries and establishing the rules for the relationship.
Temperament is everything. Why is she skittish? What is she afraid of? Mules HAVE to be safe and they don't necessarily take your word for it. She wants the security of the other horses to feel safe and obviously she doesn't have a high opinion of her current owner. Her stubborness is simply a reflection of her insecurity. She is not going to do something that she feels unsure about. So how does he have her feet done? Is there a farrier who works on her that you can talk to?
Please know that some mules can have a spooky temperament just like some horses can. There are definitely ways to help an animal overcome spookiness, but it is a whole lot easier if they are just calm and level headed to start with. I guess I would want to try to figure out if this mule is actually a good quiet mule or is she just so afraid of this man that she can't calm down around him. Mules are very athletic and a spooky one can jump out from under you real fast. Unless you have a very good seat and are willing to work with a spooky or skittish personality, I would be very cautious with this one.
Is there a confident, expereinced person who can go with you and see if there is a foot issue or a spookiness issue?
As far as color, I would personally never have a white mule or even another Appy mule where I live. The sun is just too intense. My appy could get burned so easily. If this white mule has black skin, maybe it wouldn't be so bad with sunburn, but then you might have a melanoma issue. Pink skin, especially around the eyes, muzzle, and ears is not something I would ever get - but that is due to geography.
Try not to be tempted by a great deal. I would personally rather spend more money up front, along with a couple hundred on Xrays, and know I am getting a good healthy animal, rather than end up paying a ton more on the back side from health issues I was not aware of (speaking from experience, here.) A good mule is the greatest partner you can image, but a bad mule can be a nightmare. Please take someone with you when you go to look!
That being said, I got a "great deal" for my last rescue, but...... I made it contingent on the vet exam. I knew from the beginning that she had the temperament I wanted, was willing to learn, and had great conformation, even though she had been starved. I ended up with a wonderfully minded Missouri Foxtrotter, but any time you get a "great deal" there is going to be a price to pay. I dumped $800 into my deal right off the bat with vet, Xrays, shots, worming, farrier, and dental.
Sweet Dixie, always a part of my heart
Last edited by DixieMom; 08-08-2012 at 01:30 AM.