Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mules are Like Marmite!

Greetings Muleteers!!  Ro-Land here, for once I have stolen the keyboard from my long eared pals and they are ‘allowing’ me to blog, aren’t I lucky J

Female Human (FH) and I went out for a little walk yesterday just the two of us and we were talking about Marmite (which I am partial to on toast).  FH was telling me about a phrase that some mule people use ‘Mules Are Like Marmite’ – you love ‘em or hate ‘em!  Now I have to say I think the ‘hate’ statement is a little too much but it did make me grin and then I had to think about this…, Strangely FH is always getting asked why she has mules but no one ever asks why she has me (it must be because I’m perfect?).  FH generally smiles and says it’s because we know a very well kept secret!!  

So it brings me back to Marmite.....  Why do we love ‘em or hate ‘em and why do I think they’re the best pals FH and I could wish for?  Well here’s my run down of the good, the bad and in some cases the downright ugly!!  FH helped me a little bit with the big words…..

The ‘Bad’ Bits (always start on the ‘bad’ news)

1/.  Fight first then Flight

Mules have a highly developed fight instinct (from their donkey father) as well as a flight instinct (I’m a racehorse in training you know!).  This means that you can get one or the other or both in a split second.  In general mules will put up much more of a ‘fight’ about something that they don’t perceive in their best interests; worming , injections and foot trimming are tasks that some mules find challenging, it takes lots of training and patience to get them over their fight instinct as FH has discovered.  The phrase ‘kicks like a mule’ is no accident; mules have fantastic aim and timing and if they feel they need to let you know they’re not happy then best watch out! 

2/. Self Preservation

Mules will not do what they don’t want to, you have to work with a mule to let them decide it’s what THEY want to do otherwise you’re in for a long wait or a big fight.  Self preservation is often misinterpreted as stubbornness...  I always follow the example of the long ears as they generally know best, if The Mini says run I follow!

3/. Difficult to Train

This is definitely true!!  Mules are more challenging to train as they question you and always ask the question ‘are you sure?’ and ‘what’s in it for me?’  They will definitely know if you’re scared of them, scared about something or you’re not in the right frame of mind (don’t go there...).  If you don’t understand their nature they’ll run rings around you and will make you look silly, generally while you’re red faced and swearing at the top of your voice that you ‘knew mules were stubborn’!!  Sometimes a short ear is just a little more angelic J

4/. Mules can’t do what horses do

WRONG!  They can do everything that us short ears can do and if you listen to the smarty pants here they reckon they’re better.  However, they will never have the speed of the Thoroughbred (or a Shetland pony in training) but sure do get the endurance of the donkey, combine the two and you have speed and endurance and boy can they jump. 

5/. Practicalities 

Mules are difficult to fit tack to, tacking up Dragon is a lengthy affair…. Her flat back and slightly different gait means she needs special gear which is neither cheap nor easy but FH doesn’t seem to mind.
Finding mule friendly vets, farriers and help can also be difficult.  It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right folks to help, The Mini has been ‘through’ a number of vets and farriers until he found two he likes, I followed his lead and behaved accordingly by standing on my back legs for two of them!

6/. Unpredictability

I think the better saying about mules would be ‘Mules are like a box of chocolates.... you never know what you’re gonna get’!  There are some days when my pals will be monsters for no apparent reason, call it an identity crisis, who knows?  Mules can be prone to having days when nothing is going right or when it’s not worth having the discussion, FH calls these ‘Mule Moments’ and shrugs and walks away.  If you want to have mule pals this is just something you have to accept and get on with, long and short ears are allowed duvet days too you know.

The Good Points

1/.  Loyalty

Mules are incredibly loyal and tend to become very bonded to their humans and pals.  The Mini took ages to overcome his fear of humans but is now the most loyal equine I have ever seen; if FH says ‘jump’ he’ll say ‘how high?’  The Mini follows FH around like a lost puppy and sulks when she leaves him, I am starting to see Dragon doing the same thing to, they both want to be the centre of attention and bicker over who’s No 1! Although I love the humans I’m not quite as loyal, if you’ve got a carrot I’m happy to say hi J

2/. Sensible

Mules are just soooo sensible(some may say boring!) compared to us short ears. FH says their self preservation is remarkable, The Mini got tangled up recently and instead of panicking like I would have done he checked that he couldn’t free himself, stood resolutely, didn’t panic, carried on eating and then bray-neighed to let the humans know what had happened!  Apparently mules were never used as cavalry mounts in the wars as they would never have been ‘persuaded’ to charge full speed in to battle, they were much better suited to carrying ammunition which would be safe as they would not plunge over the side of a cliff with their precious cargo or run off in to the sunset after panicking at a scary rock.  I still think being a shiny charger in full armour with a knight on my back would be fun!!

3/. Intelligent

The longer I spend with mules the more I realise they are the high achievers of the equine world.  This makes them very eager to do new things and ever so quick to pick up good (and bad) habits., it’s like being in the top set at school and having teacher’s pets all around you – ‘me Miss I know the answer!!’  Their ability to open gates, jump fences, undo doors or ‘entertain’ themselves is phenomenal, it would seem a bored mule is a destructive mule.  I’m happy because all of the stuff FH does with the long ears she also does with me, some days I can’t keep up, what’s wrong with a snooze in the sun??

4/. Hardy

Now I’m a hardy little Shetland pony, probably the hardiest of all the short ears but it would seem that I have nothing on mules.  They just don’t seem to injure themselves or get sick like short ears.  Their feet are like iron (I know I’ve felt them a number of times – ouch L).  It appears that they also live on fresh air (aka straw), FH feeds us all lots of straw to keep out tummies full but has to make sure that I get a little extra feed in the winter as I don’t quite have the super duper donkey metabolism that the long ears have inherited.  I also do not like eating wood like the long ears – there are limits!

5/. Empathy

Mules have definitely inherited empathy from their donkey Dads.  Somehow they seem to ‘know’ when it’s a quiet or sad day and are good pals when you need them.  I’ve noticed that loud or nervous people don’t get on with my long eared pals, these folks are much better off coming to talk to me as I’m the calming influence. They can be incredibly gentle with children and adults who need a little extra care and I am always amazed at how they seem to know that someone just needs to stroke them or that their hands are too small to hold the carrot safely, and yet put a stranger in that they don’t like and they are fire breathing monsters again.

6/. Fun

FH says that the mule is the original all terrain vehicle, point it up a hill that looks impossible and it’ll find a way (if it’s safe).  They are so much fun to be around,  no day is ever the same and I can’t imagine what life would be like living with short ears…. Peaceful, Quiet?  More like boring and lonely! 

I’m firmly on the I LOVE MULES side!  This short ear is very happy with his muley pals!  I wonder what the next chocolate out of the box will be?


  1. Lovely writing, Ro-Land. You are a beautiful family!.

  2. Love reading this