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Old 12-28-2005, 09:07 PM   #1
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Anyone ever broke a mule? Getting two mules tomorrow.

Hello, I am a newbie to riding horses, well I guess horses in general since it's only been about 4yrs with minis. Anyway, I am getting two full brother haflinger mules, one almost 2 and the other almost 6mos. My plan is to ride the one-he will be my riding mule and only riding horse. The other will eventually be a good riding mule for kids and guests when he is old enough. Both need work, they are not fooled with on a regular basis so they need some gentling. My neighbor got some from the same guy and they are 6mos old, he only had them a month and they are trained to tie and come up for petting so I don't think they will be hard to gentle they are half brother haflinger mules about 6mos old. I saw and petted their mom--she is awesome, I didn't get near the jack but he is friendly too. They will be our spokesteam for our farm at the local show and my husband is going to build a buckboard wagon for him. I am also in the process of looking for a mini donk since we have three mini mares that we will breed to get mini mules and will get a smaller buckboard wagon for them.
My question is--do you train them the same as horses? and if so how old to train them being they are a draft cross should I wait until they are 3+?
Any help is appreciated. We don't have a roundpen yet but will be getting one soon. We cannot wait to pick up our boys tomorrow! I will post pics when we get them.
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Old 12-28-2005, 10:10 PM   #2
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Training mules is different than horses. You have to be more patient but stern with mules. oes amazing things with mules & donkeys. If you're mean to a mule he will get you back.There is a lady on RFD-TV that does amazing things with mules & donkeys. Her website is She gives them treats but doesn't let them get away with things they shouldn't.

There is nothing better than riding on the trails with your family & friends.
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Old 12-28-2005, 11:23 PM   #3
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A donkey or mule can be very different to train than a horse. A donkey/mule has stronger self preservarion instincts. If a donkey/mule is going to do something he has to see a purpose and be sure it is in his best interest. Trailride Jo is right about Meredith Hodges. She is the top trainer in Mules and Donkeys. If you can;t catch her show on RFDTV her website has videos and books you can buy to help train. Hope that helps! Good luck with your mules!
9 Year Member "Betwixt the stirrup and the ground. Mercy I asked, Mercy I found."
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Old 12-29-2005, 07:00 AM   #4
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I totally agree with the above posts....

There is an old saying about Mules:

"You train a Horse, you come to an agreement with a Mule"...
It's the truth, Mules are not as easy to train, they never forget anything and have a completly different outlook than a horses.
On the GOOD side, if you train with respect, kindness and consistancy, you WILL have a partner for life

I have never owned a MUle, but have spent a quite some time around them. I have a friend that breeds Gaited Mules and just love them...

Good luck

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Old 12-29-2005, 09:20 AM   #5
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training mules

I'm in the process of training our donkey and it is WAY different than training a horse. In my research, I've discovered that donkeys and mules are slower growing, I'm not truly starting anything difficult with the donkey until he's 4. Check the ADMS website for information, too. With horses, you wouldn't give treats, with mules and donkeys, it's the best way to show them what's in it for them. I would definitely start with making friends. They are a lot more forgiving if you are part of their "herd". I love my donkey and he is very accepting of ONLY me, runs from everyone else...however, we usually have to come to an agreement about what we will do together. With horses, you always want to quit on a good note. With donkeys and mules, you can go ahead and quit if you know you aren't going to make ANY progress that day! Trust me, it does happen.

Good luck. I've found Meredith Hodges helpful as well as the ADMS website.

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Old 01-08-2012, 06:12 PM   #6
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Mule Training

Have you seen the website He is doing a daily update as he breaks 4 mules for driving in the round pen. Good records and he brings out the differences in the mules. Worth looking at.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:58 PM   #7
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I've trained a number of mules over the years and the difference is largely in the psychology you use. There's an old saying that "A horse never forgets but always forgives and a mule never forgets and never forgives".

One of the major behavioral differences between horses and mules is indeed how their instinct for self preservation expresses itself. If a mule gets on trappy ground with a lot of clutter, its flight instinct generally shuts off while horses will generally clunk around (and often panic) looking for a way to free themselves. Mules also seem to be more predisposed to attack an interloper or predator than a horse (the exception being mustangs to some degree). Horses will go till they drop, mules will generally stop when they've had enough (at which point not even the wrath of God will move them).

Mules tend to be smarter than most horses (and most humans for that matter ) but they are generally quick learners. You can tell a horse to do something and the horse will do it. You have to ask a mule to do something and even then the mule will often ask you "why?"

I had a couple of saddle mules that I broke for fox hunting and they were outstanding. They trained just like horses but were quicker learners and oddly enough, more compliant and more tolerant.

Oh, and they can jump the moon, even from the halt (which we used to call 'coon jumping') which comes in handy especially if you have to get the mule over something without actually being in the saddle) which is something very few horse's can do.
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Old 01-08-2012, 07:45 PM   #8
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GILMOREHORSEMANSHIP.... Great post regarding Mule info. There is a man around here who has owned mules for a long time. His retired riding mule has taken him all over WA. on hunting trips, and just trail riding adventures. He now has a new mule, fairly young and just a real sweety. The man made a terrible mistake on a trip last fall and didn't trust what his mule was trying to tell him. She stopped dead in her tracks and he forced her to go ahead.... right into a ground nest of bees. She went right into it, getting stung, and started to buck. Of course, the man was launched and broke his shoulder. He is still healing from that very painful lesson in mule intelligence and self-preservation. I have had donkey's in the past. Once was a BLM donkey, who was the sweetest girl, but she was highly intelligent and knew when things were just not quite right. She was also death on dogs. She knew "her dogs" but if the neighbor's dog got into our property she was on that dog like "white on rice." Great old girl who was with us until she was into her 30's. RIP - "Pretty Girl".
Don't mess with the old dogs... age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery! Brilliance only comes with age & experience.
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Old 01-08-2012, 07:51 PM   #9
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There is a mule trainer named Cindy Roberts that has several books on mule training--easy to read and understand and VERY HELPFUL. She is located at She also will answer any questions that you amy have. Best of luck to you--keep us updated!!! I'd love to hear how it is going- I will be working with mine in June.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:44 PM   #10
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You will never force a mule to do anything - you have to let them think it was their idea and then they are very willing. You do this by giving very clear choices - like rest and work. A mule will avoid work if he/she can and will quickly choose to do the right thing if it involves a break.
You have to train with a plan and a purpose. Mules learn patterns very quickly and are a lot harder to UN-train than a horse. Once a mule does something 3 times in a row, the pattern is basically set, so don't train haphazardly. You have to train very deliberately and set them up for success so they learn the correct patterns right off the bat.
Mules also have a lot of "try" - especially the geldings! If you make the rule very clear, they may work every angle possible - even coming up with stuff YOU never thought about - just to see EXACTLY where the lines are drawn. Mollies have a much better work ethic, and young johns just want to play and cause trouble. (The US Army wouldn't even use johns until they were at least 7 yrs old because they were so much trouble.) Example: our 4 year old john jumped over a 4 ft chain to get into where I was cleaning. I yelled at him and sent him out. He never tried to jump the chain again, but when he couldn't unfasten the clips with his teeth, he dropped to his knees and crawled UNDER the chain. That's a john mule for you.
You need to keep everything very black and white. Make things very clear and do not give an inch. If you let your saddle mule grab a bite on the trail, and if it happens a couple more times, you are going to fight that battle for a long time. Be very fair and consistent and never get into a physical confrontation with a mule - you will lose every single time, guaranteed.
Be humble. The minute you get a little high headed, one of you is going to look like an @$$ and it won't be the mule.

PS: TRUST YOUR MULE! They know what they can and can't do. They will keep you out of trouble if you listen to them. Self preservation (usually for a very good reason) is sometimes misinterpreted for stubborness. My mules have never shown stubborness - just a little uncertainty at what they are unsure of. Once they learn a situation is safe, they are willing partners. My mules have kept me out of so much trouble, I can't begin to tell you all the stories. If they plant their feet and won't go, there is a very good reason - like a snake or their girth is so loose the saddle is about to slide off, or the footing is not safe. On the other hand, if they say they can get down that cliff, then by gum they can, and all you have to do is hang on to the back of your saddle and let them do their thing.

Sweet Dixie, always a part of my heart

Last edited by DixieMom; 01-09-2012 at 01:50 PM.
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