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Old 10-16-2014, 10:41 AM   #1
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Mules a Mistake? A Few Questions!

Was thinking it would be nice to have a smallish molly mule to take when we pack our llamas, as then if someone got hurt (all in group getting older), then would have something stronger to pack a person out on.

Found a lovely molly, 16 years old, calm, packed lots, will allow a rider on her back, just under 14 hands, allows feet to be handled nicely, ears to be touched.

Impulsively, we ended up bringing back also a 10-year-old john, as seller needed to have both go and said they were very bonded. My husband thought he might like to switch over to mules, as they carry so much more.

However, realized once home we probably didn't need mules right before winter or maybe even at all. We are going to continue walking for our own fitness and I like the llamas because they seem so much smaller and safer to be around. Besides, we have all the llama packing equipment; got a riding saddle with the mules, but would have to buy a pack saddle.

Mules are for sale now, but it seems unlikely to happen with winter coming and being in a smaller rural area. So I need to figure out how to manage.

They are getting very fat, so I decided to cut off pasture during the day,which allows llamas to come up for water. However, they seem still to be getting fatter. Would it be better if I cut off their pasture for longer? Maybe allow them out only 4 or 5 hours a day?

Soon they will lose pasture completely, but I can't really find an answer as to how much good grass hay they will need each day. Will a flake in the morning and in the evening be about right for each mule? (small flake or big flake?) They need to be thinner, but will they get angry or hard to handle if slightly hungry?

I'm handling them every few days so that if a buyer comes they will be cooperative. Picking up feet, flapping tarps around, saddling, cross-tying molly while I take the john out of her site to ride him. I haven't ridden seriously for 40 years, so am being fairly careful and staying on plowed fields at a walk only until my legs and balance get stronger.

As we were told, they both seem well-trained, very friendly and calm when together. However, some of the things I've been reading about mules scare me, such as they can kill you with a kick. How likely is that to happen with a mule that is not being abused in some way? Would I get advance warning?

I'm trying to sell them together, but the few calls I've gotten want the "riding" mule only. If I sell him, is it likely she can eventually settle down and be the mule I wanted? She's been with him for the last 4 years, not her whole life.

Any help will be appreciated.
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Old 10-16-2014, 02:11 PM   #2
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What type of hay are they on?

If they are on grain, cut back on that first. Continue to reduce their pasture time.

I'm not sure how prone mules are to ulcers compared to horses, but I would bet it is similar. So feeding frequently is better than 2 meals a day.

If they have no pasture at all, I would feed 1 flake 3 times a day. If you find they need 4 flakes a day, I would give 2 at night, 1 morning, and 1 in the early afternoon.

I would not expect a temperament change if they are hungry. Stomach ulcers and colic are more of a concern during weight loss. That is why I recommend buying small mesh hay nets. Get the 1.5 inch size, as that will slow them down, and they are less likely to be grumpy from hunger.

Most mules will warn you before kicking so watch their ears. If they are handled with kindness, but not allowed to be pushy or disrespectful, it is unlikely they will kick. Most people get kicked when they get caught between horses during feeding time, or if they are carrying treats out in the field.

What do you mean by the molly mare "settling down"?

If you want to continue riding, I would keep the John, as it sounds like a well trained animal is a better fit for you.
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:44 PM   #3
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Thank you for your help. They are only on pasture right now and we have good quality grass hay to feed when the pasture is gone.

I don't intend to ride, am only riding the john so that I am sure he can be ridden, as we were told, and behaves well in case someone comes along who will buy him.

The molly gets very agitated if he is taken away - brays/neighs, paces, sweats. That is the reason I x-tie her in the shelter while I take him out, as I am afraid she will break through the fence.

She seems to work okay if I take her out and leave him behind, such as put the saddle on her and walk her out to the fields, which makes me think that she can be a good mule to keep for our packing needs.

However, I am wondering if I am wrong and if he is sold, which is likely someday, will she continue to be agitated about it forever after and never again settle down to work?

Or after a few days or a few weeks will she be able to accept that he is gone and become bonded to something else. Maybe I could get a mini-pony to put in with her.

I will start taking him out for longer periods so she can start getting used to him being away. Do you think that would help her separation anxiety?
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Old 10-17-2014, 06:07 AM   #4
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Could you possibly put them out with the llamas? That way she can get used to them and then use them as a "crutch" if you will when you sell the john. Just a thought. Unfortunately the only way to know for sure is to sell the john and see what ultimately happens. Some/most horses will eventually settle down into being in an only horse situation but I know nothing about mules so I'm not sure if they would or not. Good luck!
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Old 10-17-2014, 08:43 AM   #5
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Thanks for your thoughts! They are in with the llamas, but as long as he is here, he is going to bully the llamas, i.e. make sure they are not in the part of the pasture he wants to be eating in and she goes along with that. I am hoping that she would accept them as pasture mates and her new herd if he were gone, even if not really joining up with them.

Sounds like you think it would be possible, so now I will work on selling him and if it happens, then can come back and ask for some more help if she seems to be chronically agitated.

They are enjoyable animals with nice personalities and I feel a bit more comfortable having them with the input you both have given me. Thanks!
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Old 10-17-2014, 09:44 AM   #6
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Just found a link to FAQ for Health and Nutrition which gave a good guide to feeding, so between that and the first response, think things should be okay.

However, also found there a serious article and a very humorous article about cleaning a gelding's sheath and its inner parts. Tell you right now, I'm not going to do that, so need to find a new home for the john mule soon!
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:58 PM   #7
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You can have your vet do the cleaning for you if you want. Mister usually stays pretty "clean" but I have the vet do a good cleaning once or twice a year (depending on need) when he comes for shots and teeth.
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Old 10-19-2014, 11:38 AM   #8
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I personally think you should keep them together and use them as you intended. they work great and pack a larger load and they are easy keepers.
i had a miniature burro for 24 years and i cleaned him two times. he was always free and was the family pet. he loved all the horses that we had and he was protective when strange dogs or coyotes came on the property, he would bray and look and let me know all was not normal on the farm.
as for food. he was an easy keeper. i gave him a small coffee can of grain once a day and that was in the winter. in summer he got no grain .

burrows and donkeys are very emotional little creatures. when he lost his arabian stallion and his pony mare friend. within 8 months he was gone. he was never the same. he was droopy and depressed and nothing i did could cheer him up. not even the other horses could make him happy. when he died the herd changed also. they knew that he was the old man on the block and all whinnied the moment he was gone.
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Old 10-20-2014, 09:33 AM   #9
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Appreciate your thoughts. Will work on selling them as a team. Have contacted all the outfitters in the state to see if anyone can use them. I think it would be good for them to have regular work to do. That is one reason I realized it was a mistake to get them, as we're only going to use them 3 or 4 times a year. After being with them six weeks now, I can see that the john needs regular workouts with someone more familiar with mules than I am. He has a lot of energy and can be pushy. I don't have the time or energy to deal with this new project, so hopefully can find someone who does.
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Old 12-22-2014, 12:44 PM   #10
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If you sell them separately, the one remaining will accept that the lamas are the new herd mates
Of course the mule is bound to be the 'herd' alpha, but that is perfectly fine.
Around here, donkeys are bought to be put in with a herd of sheep, as they will protect those sheep from coyotes
Any large animal can kick you, but by developing their respect and knowing some basic safe handling, in is not as issue
We use horses to pack, and did once run into some hikers , using lamas, although that is very, very unusual here!
For fitness, you can walk beside a horse or mule as well as lama, plus you can pack in a heck of a lot more
Riding and using a pack animal, allows you to cover way, way more ground
We have often just used two horses, packing one, including a riding saddle, with my husband walking to base camp, then riding from there.Being atrophy hunter, if he shot something, again, his saddle horse packed the game while he walked
Of course, you have to do what you feel comfortable doing, and enjoy.
Here, packing in with lamas would be like ringing a dinner bell for bears and cougars!
Far as the feed, it is not the amount so much that is important, esp on an a horse or mule getting too fat, but how long that animal is with an empty stomach
Thus, slow down the hay consumption with a slow feeder hay net, or feed small meals more often
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Old 06-27-2015, 08:46 AM   #11
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Mules and weight control

When my 27 year old Canadian died we needed a pal for our Welara pony, they were so bonded. I didn't want another horse and we saw an ad for a mule, yikes!, I knew nothing about them.
We ended up seeing him and buying him. He packs, rides and drives. He is a little "cotton" mule, 13hh and adorable!
The mule and our pony are now bonded far more than my horse and the pony ever were. I mean inseparable to the extreme.

They are both easy, easy keepers, the pony had a laminitic attack 5 years ago but we learned to manage it with muzzling and careful grazing......
Poor mule he has to be muzzled too. Our grass is just so rich I guess!
They go out in the am (530am) for two hours no muzzle, then either in the stable or muzzles on. After 7pm they have another 2 hours no muzzles. They get a little hay during the day as the pasture is pretty much gone now (June 28)
In the spring and fall (prime founder time) they wear the muzzles always. Still we measure their girths and note their measurements on a chart just to stay on top of things. We don't use them as much as we should and so no real exercise. I also check the mules fat deposit areas.
Twice a day they get 2 cups of a feed supplement called Equalizer, low in calories and not hot. They both weight around 750 lbs.
Good Luck, I just love my mule!
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Old 03-20-2016, 03:30 PM   #12
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Second Chapter to this Story

Found a lovely home late last August (about 100 miles away) for the two mules to go together; with a young hunting/fishing family who has both another mule and horses and wanted a riding mule and appreciated the older gentle molly that their 5-year-old can be led on. She and the child seemed to love each other. Haven't heard anything since from them, so want to believe that means things are going well for all.

Now am looking at a small (12ish hands), older (19) molly who was said to be used previously as part of a pack string. She's the perfect size, easy to catch, might be a good fit for my farm.

However, I realize now how lucky I was to have stumbled upon such well-trained mules the first go-round. I'll go back tomorrow and look at this mule again, hoping that now she knows me a bit, she may be willing to allow me to handle her back feet. Will take a pack saddle and bags and see how she accepts them.

In the meantime, I've been told several things by other people that I want to ask this group about. The first is that a molly does have "in-heat" cycles and can be less rational, i.e. not so steady, as a gelded john. Would I be better off to look for a small john?

The second is that because of their donkey part, they are not as safe around children as a horse (a donkey owner told me this.) That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me, since I see donkeys being handled by small children in scenes all over the world; however, I do read about mules killing small calves, baby goats, little dogs. Does that translate to small children?

The woman selling this molly says her grandkids and neighbor kids have climbed all over this mule; says she seems to like kids better than adults. Since I have a young grand-dtr (6) and young kids in the neighborhood that may come over without my knowledge, is there any chance that a molly mule would be riskier for me to have around than a Welsh pony?

Would like to have thoughts from others who have more experience with mules. Thanks!
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Old 03-21-2016, 02:16 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LlamaPacker View Post
In the meantime, I've been told several things by other people that I want to ask this group about. The first is that a molly does have "in-heat" cycles.
Yes, most mules "cycle," even though they are sterile.

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Originally Posted by LlamaPacker View Post
and can be less rational, i.e. not so steady, as a gelded john. Would I be better off to look for a small john?
That would depend on the individual. That said, in my experience, Molly mules are fairly quiet about "cycling." A co-worker of mine has ridden mules for several years and, so he says, never knows when they are cycling. I would not be surprised if there is the occasional Molly mule that gets irritable, but I have not heard of her.

HTH!

ETA - that said, there was this thread (https://forum.horsetopia.com/long-ea...olly-heat.html)
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Old 03-22-2016, 11:35 AM   #14
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Thanks for Thoughts! A Few More Questions Come to Mind

Thanks for your thoughts. Probably seems a little paranoid to you real horse people, but being that I'm the step-grandma, feel I need to do everything possible to make this as safe as it can be for my 6-year-old grand-daughter.

Took her to look at the little mule yesterday, as lady has told me mule is great with kids, for them being on her to lead around and play with, but this lady has only had her for 3 weeks, which makes me a little suspicious of why she seems not to like her; is this really a "rescue" mule, she's trying to pass on to me?

Kind of a hang-doggy, burro-ish looking, shaggy little brown molly, 12 hands, supposed to be 19 years, seems a little world-weary, so may have been used too hard in her previous life, which was said to be as an outfitters packer.

Anyway, first thing my g-dtr says is, I think we should call her Starlite. I hear my husband off to side chuckling. Led her around on the little mule (nice calm little mule) and she was so excited. Said "Grandpa, do you think I could get a horse for my birthday?" Meaning, of course, would you buy this for me, as her birthday is next month.

Since I'm getting the little mule for a packer along with my llamas, I wasn't so concerned that she is not broke to ride. Now that it might be something g-dtr and I can play with together, and she'll want to "ride" soon rather than be lead, would it be a better idea for me to look for one that is already trained to ride or will this one be easy enough for us to gradually work into the bridle?

Also, worried a bit about the back feet. She'll let me run my hand down her leg, but pulls it away, moves away, obviously doesn't want me to lift it. If I have her awhile and keep working towards doing that each time I curry her, is it likely she'll be able to lift it eventually and stand for the farrier?

I was lucky with the last short-lived accidental mules that I owned to find they had been trained very well with their feet, exactly as the Steve Edwards video shows they should do, so I know how she should have been trained and wonder if it's likely she can learn. I saw on the last mules that they needed to have hooves trimmed about twice a year. Could tell the farrier was amazed and happy to find them so good, not sure what he'll think if I ask him to do this one who may put up a fight.

Give this little molly a nice new home or keep looking 'til find one with better-training and a known history? Any thoughts are sure welcome!
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Old 03-22-2016, 01:01 PM   #15
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A few things to keep in mind

Quote:
Originally Posted by LlamaPacker View Post
Since I'm getting the little mule for a packer along with my llamas, I wasn't so concerned that she is not broke to ride. Now that it might be something g-dtr and I can play with together, and she'll want to "ride" soon rather than be lead, would it be a better idea for me to look for one that is already trained to ride or will this one be easy enough for us to gradually work into the bridle?
That would entirely depend on the horse/mule and the situation. It sounds like the mule in question is quiet - a good sign.

That said, I wouldn't do it. In some instances with the right green rider, the right green or unbroken horse/mule, and (most importantly) the right trainer, it works. But that's only like 10% of the time.

As a general rule, the younger and the less-experienced the rider, the more-experienced the horse/mule should be.

Quote:
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Also, worried a bit about the back feet. She'll let me run my hand down her leg, but pulls it away, moves away, obviously doesn't want me to lift it. If I have her awhile and keep working towards doing that each time I curry her, is it likely she'll be able to lift it eventually and stand for the farrier?
Any lameness? How does she do being backed up?

If she is touchy with her back legs, it could be pain. It sounds similar to the way horses act when they have shivers. I could be completely wrong, it's hard to say without having seen it, but definitely worth asking the vet about. (Other conditions that come to mind are EPM and bilateral hock pain.)

Another thing to consider is that we are not all equal in how we hold a leg. Does the seller have trouble lifting her hind feet?

Just some things to keep in mind. I hope this helps.

Feel free to PM me with any questions.
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Old 08-19-2016, 06:27 PM   #16
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Mules/Ponies Take a Lot of Time!

Hi Oakstable,

Looking through here, can see I'd forgotten ever to say thanks for your thoughts about getting a mule that doesn't ride. You were totally right.

Now that I've gotten the pony for kids to ride, I even more wish my little mule would be a riding mule, so I could go along with them eventually. Should have taken your advice and kept looking until found one this size that we could both ride and pack. Seems that the mule trainers are telling me that at her age of 20 and having bucked us off now, that she probably does not want to be a riding mule, so will proceed very slowly.

We did get the lifting the feet problem resolved, which made my new farrier very happy. Think she was just testing new people in her life. The previous seller had only had her 3 weeks, so I talked to the owner before that and he gave me his tips for lifting with a rope. I kept at it, got side-kicked once (just a warning tap, but pretty big bruise), then once started using the rope and giving her a treat for letting me handle the back feet, she settled right down. Previous owner said she'd always had shoes on when working for the pack string, so I knew she was used to holding them up for a long while.

Good thing is she's a sweetheart and I love her friendly like a big dog, curious and observant, seems trustworthy with chaotic kids running around, especially when she's working, and is a fantastic little packer. No hesitation at crossing deadfall, creeks, bridges. No complaint about flopping loads. No spook at anything. We've been on 2 trips now, have a 3rd planned next month.

Am thinking that I can work with her patiently on the pre-riding activities, such as getting her to do lateral flexions, which she is totally unfamiliar with; can keep leaning my weight on her back; try to watch the mule videos and figure out the crossing hind-quarters over type moves, and so forth. Maybe take her to a trainer if she seems willing to learn these new things.

But as said in the title, these things take a lot of time! I'm answering this here in same thread, as think you are one of the few that looks at new dates and posts every once in awhile. Not sure how you all do so much with horses and still find time to keep up with each other on the forum, but its kind of fun to be able to be involved here every once in awhile and I've sure appreciated everyone's kind thoughts.

Hope things going well for you and farm,

LP
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