Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mastering the Mule Spook

Mule Radar at the ready!
Today, I am happy with FH!  Finally she has understood the subtleties of mule spooking!  Today we went on one of our favourite rides, I was a little turbo charged after 5 days with no work....

Sunday mornings are always perfect for testing out FHs stickability, on a Sunday everyone comes out to play so rather than our normal companions of neighbours and farmers we are greeted with the Sunday drivers, walkers, cyclists, riders, skateboarders, scooter riders, dog walkers, motorcyclists and of course the dreaded townie that can't drive, panics at sight of a living creature that is not a pug or poodle and proceeds to try and mow us down in their BMW four wheel drive that has never left London before (and certainly will not again after they have backed it in to the large granite boulder hidden in the hedgerow, hehehe....)

This morning we met lots of interesting things which elicited some reaction but not a lot and it got FH and I chatting about the subtleties of mule spooks.... it would seem that they are sometimes a little different to short eared spooks?  FH has ridden far too many spooky (I think you should read in to this dangerous, batty, highly strung, mildly psychotic and lacking in manners) short ears but it is only now she has my mulificent self that she truly understands that not all spooks are the same!  So here's the long eared guide to 'Spooking the Mule Way' (Jo some of these may ring a bell!!).

Ears on Full Alert Shuffle Past

The mule shuffle, guaranteed to make you look like a banana
Tactic: This is my normal mule spook muleteers, when faced with something minorly scary I use my ear antennae to focus on the spooky object, keeping it always in my sight, FH says I look a little like a banana when I do this as I curve my entire body around said spooky object....  Generally once I have the spooky object behind me and know that my dog defenders are ready to attack I can walk on at mule pace and look for the next challenge

Reserved For:  Squirrels in the hedge, plastic bags in the hedge, cascading water drains and new road markings

Spookometer Rating: 2/10

180° Spin and Go

Ready to spin?
Tactic:  Reserved only for special occasions Muleteers, I have been using this less as FH is not too impressed by it (oops).  Normally this happens when I am pottering along and someone has had the audacity to place a new object on one of my favourite rides.  Said object is always inanimate, often a tree trunk or boulder. Once I have spied the spooky object I must let FH know that it could be a disguised alien ready to pounce, it is not normally here so it must be bad.  So quick spin, front legs moving fast, back ones doing a perfect pivot (Team GB dressage eat your heart out), now that we're facing in the opposite direction perhaps we should go back the way we came??  Only problem is muleteers that FH is wise to my lazy wish to not investigate these objects and we always end up having to go anyway so I'm giving up on this particular tactic, I do like to keep it in my spooking kit just in case she is getting lazy and not taking notice though ;-)

Reserved For: Tree trunks, rocks, boulders and dead badgers

Spookometer Rating: 6/10

Stop Rigid, Feel Like Unexploded Bomb

Tactic:  This is a good spook muleteers and one that us long ears have off to perfection... one of my favourites as it has taught FH A LOT of manners.  This one involves seeing a spooky object and letting FH know that things are really very serious!  I will grow at least 10 inches in height, my ears extend like a telescope, my neck becomes a bulging arch of muscle and I shorten my back by about 6 inches as I draw myself up to my mulificent best (super models look out!).  I show off the prettiest whites of my eyes, snort out my nostrils and stand very still.... except for the slightest twitch of my tail (if a mule swishes it's tail it's thinking.).  FH describes me as being a unexploded bomb, I have taught her that despite thinking that she should do something to defuse the bomb that actually she should sit there with my reins loose, not moving, no legs and just some soothing words.  Once she's relaxed I defuse my bomb, hopefully spooky object has gone and we carry on without a backward glance.

Reserved For: Motorbikes, joggers in full neon brights chasing towards me and umbrellas

Spookometer Rating: 4/10

Ears on Full Alert, Nonchalant Continuance

It's all in the ears, am I bothered??
Tactic: This has been an adaptation of the 'Stop Rigid' spook, now that FH has mastered the unexploded bomb I have decided to be nice and not test her quite so often so we have progressed to this spook.  When riding a mule it is essential that you mule riders keep a firm eye on our ear antennae and listen out for our swishy tail, they will tell you all you need to know.  If you're annoying us our ears will go back and you'll hear the wind whistling through our tail, if we're on the alert our ears will nearly touch in the middle to show you where the concern lies.  Once you have acknowledged that we are being extremely brave mules by continuing we will reward you by continuing past our spooky object nonchalantly while you wonder what all the fuss was about.  By the time you have realised what the spooky object was we are past it and on our way.

Reserved For:  The really scary stuff for you humans.... tractors hedge trimming, combine harvesters, trucks, bouncy trailers, trains whizzing past our heads, torrents of water, lawn mowers, prams, scooters, cyclists, bonfires, thunder and lightning...

Spookometer Rating: 1/10

Sit Down, Springboard

Tactic:  This is one of my favourites muleteers.  It is normally reserved for barky dogs that come from nowhere and try to attack me through a fence or gate.  As I am strolling along all peaceful suddenly a rude canine will launch itself at its gate barking savagely and flinging slobber and gravel everywhere... I proceed to sit on a sixpence and hunch down ready to launch. My back legs hunker down and I'm ready to springboard in to launch mode.  FH says that it feels like I am serpent ready to strike!  She has  asked me if I can be a little more gentle in my coiling as she says it's like being on a fairground ride where you are suspended in mid air only to have to come back to earth (or my back in this case...).  Once I have decided if I need to remonstrate with my canine attacker I will either continue in nonchalant mule fashion or will move on to step 2...

Reserved for: Rude barking dogs flinging themselves at me through a gate or fence.

Spookometer Rating: 3/10

Sit Down, Springboard, Leap and Attack

Tactic:  This is a continuance of the original springboard.  Once I have decided that FH is sitting comfortably and have looked to check if naughty canine is contained behind bars I may move on to this.  If naughty canine has decided to come and introduce themselves in person I will move from my springboard stance to the leap and attack.  At this stage I will make sure that my front dog defenders are positioned well to give my canine attacker a little bit of a lesson if required.  FH is normally very cross with me if I try to squash our neighbourhood canines so I do normally only chase the canine back to their gate or owner by giving them a Dragon glare, this normally suffices.  There was one occasion though where a naughty canine thought it would be nice to nip my heels, hmmm lets just say that a firm telling off was given and he won't be doing that again although no permanent harm done....

Reserved For: Naughty canines who don't know when they're beaten, I am not a skittish short ears you know, this mule can defend herself!

Spookometer Rating: 4/10 (a 10/10 for the canine involved!)

Turbo Charged Full Steam Ahead

Dive for nearest bush!
Tactic:  It pains me to say that FH thinks this is my my most short eared like spook.  When I'm not quite concentrating (often because FH is too busy chattering away) I can sometimes get caught out when my mule radar is not fully deployed.  When this happens some things can take me by surprise and I just have a little run away at a trot or a canter (quite often downhill which FH is not keen on).  No sooner have I started than FH tells me to stop being so short eared and I remember that she expects more from a mule....oops.  So to save further embarrassment I stop after a couple of strides and stuff my face in the nearest bush.  Honestly muleteers it was nothing and I'm so embarrassed about my behaviour that I have a sudden need to eat.....  hopefully once FH has stopped laughing she'll have forgotten all about it.
Thankfully this doesn't happen often, my mule street cred is still in tact and I am forgiven...phew!

Reserved For: Really scary stuff when my mule radar is faulty.  Most recently the neighbour's dog jumping over the gate to nip my heels (oops I had a stride of canter down a terrifyingly steep hill...) or the cow that was stuck in the fence above my head on the sunken road.... we did go back and rescue it once my mule radar was working again.

Spookometer Rating: 8/10

So there we have it muleteers, as you can see there are many subtle ways of spooking and I'm so pleased that FH has mastered them.  It has taken me a while to train her, I had to teach her to do the following:
Sit still!

1/. Sit still and deep
2/. Don't squeeze with those knees or I'll go faster....
3/. Don't grip those reins too tightly when I go in to unexploded bomb mode, I need to know you're there but not feel your death grip thank you!
4/. Don't force me past, I'll go in my own sweet mule time thank you.
5/. If I really don't like something it's ok to get off, I would much prefer it if you would stand between me and the monster so that you get eaten first (I'm not daft you know ;-)
6/. Don't predict what I will and won't like too much, yes it's kind that you know I won't like the whizzy bike because I have shown you before but next time I meet something new like a hot air balloon, ostrich or alpaca I'll be fine if you are.
7/. Make sure our gear is up to the job, this is not the time for slippy saddles or worn out reins.
8/. Let me see loads of exciting and different things so that I know it's not scary, FH and I spent lots of time train spotting when I first owned her so that when we met them out and about I know they're not spooky objects.
8/. The most important one - MOVE ON!  When we've had our spook (and yes it is normally our spook and you are normally part of it) just let my reins go, settle back and enjoy the ride, I've forgotten about what just happened - so should you!

FH would like me to report that I really am a very good muletta who hardly ever deploys her spooks but when I do I have taught her a lot, this mule is apparently a very good teacher (like I didn't know that already :-) She apologises for the lack of relevant pictures, it would seem her hands are normally full when I'm spooking??!

To spook or not to spook? That is the question!  ....... 
Nah I think I'll just go and hedge picnic instead :-)


  1. Brilliant descriptions, definately jogs some memories which make me smile! What a very wise mule rider FH is going to become learning so much already and the journey has barely begun, and with you still so young with all the learning and experience you are getting you will be a professor amoung British mules...

    1. I knew you would be impressed with my spooking finesse Jo! Good memories! Now I do like the ring of Professor Callie, yes that has such a nice ring to it :-)

  2. Dear Callie, after reading in awe about your vast array of techniques, maneuvers and defensive tactics, there is no shade of doubt that you are a martial artist!. Guarding off nipping and jumping canines while dodging a rainbow of frightening objects and beings is no small task. The Dragon stare, the Cobra coil, the lethal rear kick, the Crane high stance, the Tiger leap and attack ... well, you have certainly earnt your black belt darling!.

    What a skillfull amazona FH is surviving stealthy downhill tactics!.

    1. Oh Carmen, I am so pleased that you are impressed with my techniques and I certainly like the thought of earning my black belt - wow, this is mulificent! FH has pretty good stickability, mostly she just laughs at my spook tactics.... I think she is a little odd!

  3. Good descriptions there. I like the 180 or as I call it spin n tank. Never fails to leave human in a heap using words that would make a builder blush.
    Never mind the spooks I am impressed your human lets you eat when out. Got any spaces at your home for a short slightly portly rotund short ear?

    1. The spin and tank is a very good description, I can highly recommend the spin and munch! Yes FH is very generous on the hedge picnicking front as long as it's on her terms..... hmmm she can be very bossy when she hasn't said stop. Always room for a short eared one although I'm not sure I'd recommend sharing stables with the mini ones, they are not that house proud - typical boys!

  4. Haha! I love it, so descriptive!