Friday, 30 August 2013

First Ride Ever!

Wow Muleteers, what fun, I got ridden for the first time EVER!

Yesterday I had a new fan visit. I knew I was going to be the centre of the attention as FH got me on to the yard without the long eared ones..... apparently they were not what was required for the afternoon's excitement.... hmmm?

I waited a little while and what's this?  One of my favourite people has brought some visitors with her... and look there are small humans!  Humans that are not giants!  I can look one of the humans right in the eye, he is just MY size :-)

Hello little friend, would you like to brush me?  That's right I like being brushed there!  I am sooo soft and warm and not at all like those big monster horses and mules, you and me are just the right height, it's everyone else that is the wrong size, I think.

I was having such a lovely time!  Lots of brushing and stroking and my new little friend was very interested in my stable and what I ate.... I like humans that understand the important things in life.  

Dragon was busy trying to get in on the action!  Ermm hello!  I am the centre of attention today!

I was just having a little doze when I heard my new little friend say "can I ride him".... "yes, yes, yes, FH say yes!"  I've never found anyone the right size and ok I'm not really trained but I was born ready!
Hmmm FH has said "maybe"I think that should mean YES!  So I try a little harder and show off how calm and well behaved I am.... 

And then!  I had a little rider all of my own!  We had a little potter around on the yard and my little friend hung on tight to my ample and well placed mane while his Mum held on tight.  Oh I like this!  I have my own jockey!  If you look close I think the long ears are impressed aren't they?  Dragon is busy checking that I am doing it right, of course I am! 

Before my riding lesson began it was over... not fair!  But I heard plans for more riding with proper gear and everything!  Yay :-)  I do have a teeny weeny (read normal sized) saddle which I have always wanted to try so this may be just the occasion, I think I have found my very own jockey, Shetland Pony Grand National here I come?  Might be hard work.... maybe the Eating Grand National?

I knew that my new little friend was just the partner in crime for me!  After we had been riding he stood and chatted to me about the benefits of straw and even gave me a hand with pulling the straw from the net - a little man after my own heart.

I am loving this riding thing!  I hope my little friend doesn't grow too much, he only visits occasionally, next time he might be full grown, I hope not!  

So in honour of my new found career as a riding pony (please let there be more rides!) I leave you with my Friday Quote.

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in to contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and fire.
Sharon Ralls

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Catching Up With The Girls!

Don't you just love a good catch up with pals?  I had a lovely weekend catching up with the girls :-)  It's been ages since I've been out for a lovely long ride with my short eared hero Breeze and her human, we'd almost forgotten what Dartmoor looks like!

So we put our ears together and hatched a plan and made the humans promise to take us out this weekend!  It was a long holiday weekend so there was no excuse.

My Hero and I carried our humans all the way to the moor, can you believe how much they talk?  Honestly blah, blah, blah, do they not realise that my ears are delicate and all that noise... but it was good to listen in to the tales of silly humans (best not to even think about...), the weather (not bad for the UK!), the hay crop (apparently good - phew!), friends (mostly good), acquaintances (mostly puzzling) and just odd things.... Breeze and I exchanged our own news, I told her about my win at Mule Agility, she told me about her new task teaching a new short eared friend the ropes and her sessions with the dancing teacher - very impressive!

Most of all the four of us just went *sigh* isn't it pretty, ah isn't it peaceful, ah why don't we do this more often (what's stopping you humans?) and we must get to the top of that VERY steep hill before the end of the Autumn (hmmm looks like a jolly steep climb and it's not the picture below that's a tiny mound in comparison).

So we splashed (well I mostly got wet as My Hero is such a good aim with her splashing) and pranced and had a jolly old time....

It's coming up to the best time of year for riding on the moor, not too many flies, cooler breezes, clear skies (please) and hopefully less rain than the winter - here's hoping!

Alas it was time for home, I was sad and a little deflated to have to wave my ears goodbye to my pal, it was secretly nice to have a girl to discuss stuff with.  

FH promised a little something to say thank you for a nice time though... I wonder what she has in there for me?

Aha!  A lovely carroty treat, I am very gentle really and didn't chomp her fingers as it might look like in the picture....

Finally ears of relaxation and happiness. I'm dreaming of the next work day!  

 Until next time Muleteers I wish you a good week ahead!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Wound Dressing (Up)

Oops I did it again.... I speeded around a bit too much upset the senior dog and got chomped!

I is not bothered at all, the itty bitty (ok maybe quite big) hole in my side is healing ok and my leg hasn't falled off so I'm all good :-)  Unfortunately I has managed to pull out my staples that was supposed to be holding me together which made the humans a little bit anxious, don't they know that us Super Pups is indestructible!

It appears that it's pretty difficult to keep bandages on a wiggly lurcher pup, you should see how they tried at first, they got this horrible lamp shade thingy out and put it on my head.... hmmm how many bruises did I put on your shins for that disgraceful behaviour?

So FH decided to take drastic action!  She raided her wardrobe and is dressing me up in her image!  I wasn't sure at first.... I don't want no pink dressing up stuff!

OK so she actually chose something quite fitting.  I gots myself a blue muscle top to wear which covers all the relevant bits to keep them and the dressing clean.

I tested it out, could I play in it?  The answer was yes! Do I look good or what?

As an invalid pup I must try to milk sympathy as much as possible, look at my soulful eyes.... I know what will fix me.... more food!

Later pupeteers! I'm off to look pathetic and wounded at FH to see if it's dinner time yet!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Roller's Philosophical Friday: Limitations

Some of the inhabitants of Muleteer HQ have been getting in a bit of bother.... honestly, it's a good job one of us is sensible!  After Dragon's victory dance on Sunday night (think bucking, rearing, galloping mule) and The Mini's near hoarse (not HORSE!) voice from shouting for his Dragon while she was out  I thought all the excitement was over. this time it was the turn of the non-equine members of the clan.

Firstly there was Catanian and her dice with danger.  We found her with a very fat chin and a sad look on her face.

Thank goodness the kitty cat is soft and likes being fussed, she let the humans investigate and they found a nasty bee sting in her chin!  Ouch!  That must have really hurt!  So with some tweezer style finger nails and some yummy soft food she is fixed.... perhaps next time you could not hunt stingy things?

Then it was the turn of the puppy..... he is getting very speedy and decided to have a run around with some doggy pals.  Oops he was too speedy and enthusiastic and got told off in not very nice style by one of the 'senior' dogs to be left with a bite hole in his side!  Poor pups was not very happy :-(  thankfully he has a whole fan club of doggy doctors at the ready who patched him up, he was telling me that they don't stitch no more but use staple things, I thought that was for the office desk, maybe they got confused between him and a paper document, he is quite slim?  To top it off the pups has also cut his leg.... totally in the wars!

Thankfully the puppy is healing and none the worst for wear, perhaps he might be a little more careful about being speedy around 'senior' dogs.... somehow we think he won't learn but anyway we wouldn't want to curb his enthusiasm?

Kitty Cat is also totally fine, she is still hunting bees, we can't persuade her otherwise!  Alas she is a 'giant' in her world.... she brought FH home a Weasel to celebrate feeling better..... no mean feat the teeth on those things are sharp!

So I got to thinking that my little furry friends are not very good at knowing their limitations.  Both are totally whacky and wild and seem to think they're indestructible.... I guess that's what makes them so fun?

I myself know no limitations, they are only in my mind.... which is always open to new experiences... especially culinary ones!

So here's to no limits and the healing power of rest, relaxation and some tasty food :-)

Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.
Mignon McLaughlin

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Winning Mule

Winning agility mule!
My attempts at human training are coming on well!  After reading all about what FH really thinks of me  (I knew she was soft on me really....) I decided that I should take our training to the next level and enter her for an agility competition.

Whilst the competition was called 'Horse Agility' I shall rename it 'Human Agility', FH has named it 'Mule Agility'.  Honestly I think she just tries to deflect pressure from herself on to me!

So the Dragon mobile arrived and I hopped on board without any problems..... I had plans for my day out....

Hello fans, nice to see you all.  There were lots of handsome short ears to chat with and show off in front of.  They had all brought a human with them too, some had even brought two (not sure I could cope with two humans, one to train is quite enough thank you!).  

So we had a little practice,   I got FH through the flappy curtain once she'd decided it wasn't a human eater....

Then over some poles, through and hoop and over a jump, backed over the poles, controlled FH's paces (impossible, she is too slow and prone to stopping for a little rest....

Then I loaded myself in the trailer while FH watched (lazy human), picked my way through the 'S' bend pretending there were snake infested waters on either side, stood on the podium with all four hoofellas off the ground

Then I had a little play on the tarpaulin...again FH stopped for a little chat... honestly humans talk too much... have you noticed me?!

Then my big mule moment came when I showed FH how to play see-saw, I was not at all bothered about tottering on the plank.... FH looked alarmed!  Sorry no pics of this one... blink and you'll miss it!

Then a stop for a lunch snack.... mule cannot function on an empty tummy so I opted for the 'all you can eat grass buffet'.  FH went and ate unhealthy human food, no wonder she was sluggish!

Then my big moment!  The competition!  Gotta show those short ears how to train humans..... I gotta prove that humans are not stubborn (not all the time at least) and if you negotiate with them you can get them to achieve quite a lot.

So around the obstacles I went with mulish charm and a swish of the tail here and there to keep the human listening to me.  FH did fairly well and managed to keep her feet up with mine most of the time, she did fail to get her feet in the right place in the S bend and dropped some points but I was perfect (not meaning to be big headed of course...)!  When we'd done we patiently watched everyone else who did great (whilst eating grass ;-) and then waited for the big results!

And the winner is...... ME!!! I managed to train my human so well that we got first prize!  How about that!  My first competition and a winner :-)  It's not the winning that was good though, it was the big grin on the human's face and the fun that we had.  Secretly I quite like this human training thing, I could get used to it..... now I have to train her to provide carrots on demand, scratch my itches, tidy my room, talk to me nicely..... hmmm actually I'm not doing too bad so far am I?  

Time for home and there was just one thing left for this superstar mule to do.  Have a nice little snooze in the afternoon sun.... it's hard work training humans!

Snoozy Mule!
Have a great week muleteers, whoever said that humans were stubborn?  They're actually quite a trainable species really but I doubt they have the intelligence of us mules... ah well at least they have us to look after them :-)

Many of the pictures  in this post are used with the kind permission of Martin Lovell Photography and remain copyrighted.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Striking a Deal With The Dragon Mule

Part angel, part devil, a Dragon that breathes fire and blows kisses in equal measures.... these are all good descriptions of a certain beautiful mule that I have finally struck a deal with.

I hope you don't mind me taking over the Muleteers blog for a little while to talk to you about Dragon.  I think she deserves a little explanation all of her very own for this is one complex lady!  First of all let me deal with the name.... Dragon's name to most of the world is Callie.  Callie is the name we use in company and for anything official, I think if people heard me call her Dragon without understanding that this is a term of endearment they might think wrong of her (and me!).  But Dragon is the name we use ourselves, it suits this unique individual who is capable of being a fire breathing, snorting beast as much as she is of blowing kisses to the minis and displaying 'emotional ears' when enjoying hugs and scratches.

Dragon joined us about 18 months ago from a home where she had begun her journey towards being a riding mule, she was only four so very much still a baby.  She was part way there but for me to be able to do what I wanted with her safely she needed some refinement.  We needed to find a way of being together and understanding each others messages!

When Dragon first arrived she was quite reserved, she didn't make noise, she'd tolerate us and would obviously rather be with the minis than with us humans.  She was certainly not convinced of the benefits of owning us, if it was up to her she would have been quite happy to never see us apart from when the food ran out.  I think we were a bit of an irritation!

Those first few weeks I took time to walk with her, spend time with her and just be around without any pressure to ride.  It kinda worked a bit although she was still tolerating.  The first ride was not quite what you would call refined, it was a bit like hang on, sit deep, point in the general direction and try not to annoy her too much.  Hmmmm, I wondered how this was going to work?


I have ridden plenty of green and 'difficult' horses but with time I really learnt that riding mules, even young, green ones you need a different attitude.  You need to 'strike a deal' with them. It's no use telling them what to do because it's what you want to do, rather it's all about persuading them that what you're going to do together is in both of your best interests.  I had to rapidly change how I asked and how I introduced new things and new places.  I spent A LOT of time on the ground (and still do!), we tackled new places and obstacles (trains, bikes, dogs, rivers, tiny bridges and farmyards) with us both taking the perceived risk together, Dragon was quite happy for me to run the risk of being eaten by the mule killer alongside her, the responsibility was not all on her to make decisions and keep us safe.  So we pottered around with many a cute remark from the locals about me walking and her being a mule..... amazing how thick your skin can get quickly ;-)


I guess what I'm saying is working this mule has taught me a lot about partnerships, the risk and the ride should be shared.  When we ride or work together there should be pleasure for both parties, it should not be a chore.  Work in most mule's eyes, as long as its fair, is pleasurable.  Dragon has taught me that work can be a real bonus to an animal, I've seen some equines enjoy their work but never met one whose whole attitude to life is changed by it.  Dragon is never happier than when she's done something, her happy mood continues for days!


With time Dragon has settled in to life with us, I shouldn't be surprised at how long it has taken, The Mini taught me that mule time is 'as long as it takes', he needed about 18 months and so did Dragon.  She has shown us some other mulish traits which I have learnt to love and appreciate!


We now have a mule who squawks and neighbrays in her unique mulish way at us every morning and whenever she sees someone in the garden, I was so ridiculously happy to hear her voice when it first appeared, it took her about 9 months to start and now we can't stop her.... the noises she makes are hilarious!  I really think that mules make noise when they're happy and secure where they are.

Body Language

Dragon is probably the most complicated animal on the body language front that I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  She is very 'honest' in her reactions to what you ask with your body language, if you ask her to back off she will, if you ask her to move forward she will..... if you get it wrong and block her forward movement she'll show you that you're being rubbish!

Dragon is not quite so sensitive to other equines' body language though.... she can be a real cause of confusion for horses.  She just doesn't react in the way that horses think she should!  One of Dragon's riding buddies is a lovely, alpha mare who likes to put others in their place, but try as she might she finds Dragon exasperating!  She threatens the mule, the mule looks at her with a 'whatever' look on her face. No matter how hard she seems to try the mule just stands there like 'nah can't understand a word you're saying....'  It's not that she doesn't understand it just seems to be that she is far too sure of herself to be bothered.


Speaking of confidence this is another trait that Dragon has in abundance.  She is totally happy about her own ability to make sense of the world and keep herself safe.  She will try to face down the local dog population (I dread ever meeting the local hunt when out for a ride.... I think she would see them as a challenge!), any tractor or lorry, livestock including huge cattle are fair game and obstacles are for walking all over even if they shouldn't be.  While this is a great trait it can also have its moments, having a grown mule chasing a dog down the road can be hairy as can having a mule desperate to poke it's nose in to the engine of a tractor as it rumbles by very close!

Mule Moods

There are some days when Dragon is having a mule moment day.  It doesn't seem to go with her hormones, it just seems to be one of those days when it's simply not worth the hassle to try to 'play'.  Dragon can be angel or devil, these days the angel surfaces much more often than the devil but woe betide the day when you don't listen to the warning signs.  I generally start my rides on the ground to test what mood the mule is in, best to do this before getting on board and it gives me the information I need to assess where to go, what questions to ask and how to answer the questions I will be inevitably asked!  Do we canter a lot or do we walk, do we go somewhere busy or go for the quiet option?  I've also learnt that unless you're in the right frame of mind not to try!  The few times when I've been silly enough to try to play with Dragon in the wrong frame of mind or not on top physical form and I've regretted it, although I have to say she nearly always leaves me with a smile on my face (and sometimes mud on my butt!)

Mule Affection

Earning affection and returning it has been a real challenge with this lady. She can be aloof in the extreme and until fairly recently would rather walk away than 'suffer' much in the way of cuddles and scratches.  I believe in doing as much as possible with the gang on their own terms so tend not to tie them up to fuss, pet and train.  This means that unless they want fuss they are free to leave when they want, invariably this is exactly what Dragon would do.  She would turn her back and deliberately whip you with her tail, she is an extremely good aim with her whip tail and very adept at swiping you on the way past, there's a reason her nickname on occasions is Miss Whiplash ;-)

But recently this mule has started going soft, there are more occasions than not that she presents herself for attention, 'asks' gently for an ear rub or backs up slowly towards you to present her butt for a scratch!  These occasions really make me smile and feel grateful.  To be freely given affection from a mule like Dragon means such a lot.  I like to think that it means our 'deal' is complete and that she is as happy with her lot in life as I am with mine.

Life with Dragon

There is never a dull moment with this Dragon around; she's opinionated to the extreme, challenging, bossy, hides her sensitivity behind bluster and is always willing to give things a go, she can be grumpy if she gets out of bed the wrong side, she does not suffer fools gladly, she will work when asked nicely and work hard, she gives her friendship rarely but is loyal to those who deserve it...... strange old thing, somehow she reminds me a lot of myself.... maybe there's truth in choosing animals to share your life with who are a little like yourself!

I have a feeling that this beautiful mule is going to teach me a lot over the years to come, spending time with such honest animals teaches you much about the world around you and about yourself.

Think it must be time for my next lesson in humility, I'm off to play chamber maid to the mule!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Roller's Philosophical Friday: Patience

The best things come to those who wait.....

Last night was a fun packed night, we had hoof man come to visit!  The thought of hoof man's visit normally gives me and FH the groans.  We pace a little and wait for the answer to our big question!

How will the mules behave this time?  The Mini in particular is not too keen on having his feet touched by anyone except FH, Dragon is well indecisive..... most times she's fine with the concept of getting a mani-pedi but sometimes she just ain't in the mood (typical woman... best not say that too loud ;-)

So the evening drew closer and FH and I decided what would be would be and we'd just roll with the punches.  Hoof man was patient and kind and both of the mules were.... shock horror..... extremely well behaved!  It would seem that with patience those mules are coming round to the idea of a lovely mani-pedi and the idea that people in general are nice :-)

In this house we understand that mules will teach you patience and test your patience but when they have blessed you with their trust the rewards are ample.

And what about me I hear you cry?  Well I kinda snuffled hoof man a bit, especially when he said I had the nicest little feet, I gazed adoringly at the little raspy thing and then I ate my reward pear very noisily and made sure that FH got to share too, I gave her some pear juice on her trousers to lick off later - lucky or what?!

I'm so looking forward to a weekend of fun and sun, I am busy growing my winter woolies again too so no time to waste, must persuade FH to groom me some more.  I kept my summer coat for all of 2 weeks and have now decided it's time to work up to winter weight.... coat weight anyway!

Have a lovely weekend friends and in honour of the concept of mule patience here's my quote for today:

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monday, 12 August 2013

Giraffe Mule

If only I were a little, itty bit taller..... you know us mules are browsers as well as grazers right?  Well there is a problem..... I just need to get a little bit taller.  I been watching those giraffey things on the telly and thought I'd practice.  

If I keep reaching up maybe my neck will get longer and I can reach even more branches? The best ones are always the ones right out of reach.

What's that I heard MH.... I do not look like some prehistoric antelope... and no I do not look like a wildebeest either.... honestly we're not in Africa you know and I'm greatly offended!  You could at least call me a zebra, I have the stripes on my legs you know.

FH says my neck might not get longer but I sure do look like a giraffe....

What's that about not doing this when we're riding..... but I like sticking my nose in the air and prancing around.  What's wrong with that?  No control?  What?  Who said you're in control anyway?

Laters Dragon fans I'm off to practice standing on tippy toes, then out for a ride where I shall practice my giraffey moves some more.  I certainly shall not be doing my dressagey, tightly coiled snake moves, they is boring.....

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Berry Nice!

There is one thing that all Muleteer HQ inhabitants share..... a love of food!

Imagine my despair when I looked over the fence and saw what those naughty puppyteers were up to!  They had spied the juicy blackcurrants all ready for picking...

FH had picked a lovely box full of blackcurrants and that naughty puppy was trying to help himself! Well FH spied him and soon put a stop to it.....

Blackcurrants are not suitable food for dogs.... they are much more appropriate for herbivores.... like Mini Mules!

Hmmmm try telling that to the Pocket Sized Labrador.

The PSL has had many years of perfecting his fruit picking technique, he is a successful picker of apples, blackcurrants, blackberries and well anything that he views as edible (which is most things, he is a Labrador after all).  He dived right in to the blackcurrant bush once FH had picked what she wanted..... a few unripe berries or slightly squishy ones?  Delightful if you're the PSL!

And then..... can you believe it?  He decided to teach the puppy the skills too, apparently it's important to pass on these techniques to the next generation of fruit picking connoisseurs. Hmmmmm me thinks that PSL might regret this, Milo can reach rather higher than he can these days!

The blackcurrant bush provided plenty for all, nearly two kilos for the humans, scraps for the dogs (and entertainment!) and I even got to taste some berries too, mmmm :-)

I was not to be outdone by those pups though, anything they can do I can do better!

Attention FH this berry picker is ready for action, let us go searching!

I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'S'

Look!  Some wild strawberries, these are my favourite!  They're all hidden away in the hedgerow like perfect little jewels.  Much smaller than the ones you humans normally eat but so much tastier, all in a tiny package, they say good things come in small packages..... I'm sure they're right ;-)

They're a little hard to get to.... could you oblige please FH? Yummy!

What's that I see?  Surely humans don't like strawberries too? I'm sure they're not good for you.... only good for mini mules in need of extra condition (stop giggling FH).

Only one thing for it.  I'm going in.  Berry picking lips at the ready, time for 'Pick Your Own'. 

Do you know, I think strawberries may be my new favourite thing.... mmmm, maybe I could find a full time fruit picking job, I'd be very dedicated!  

Have a Berry Nice Weekend All!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Beauty and The Bees

Greetings Miaowleteers!  When FH said she wanted to photograph something beautiful in the paddocks I rightly assumed it was me, what could be more beautiful than Queen Catanian?

So off I sauntered with FH in tow..... this way....

Wait a minute.... she's taking pictures of other stuff!

Time to leap in her lap and knead her with my claws and purr and headbutt til she sees sense.

Doesn't she know that butterflies and bees are for pretend chasing? OK so I never actually manage to catch any (much to FH's pleasure and my despair) but it's a good game!
Great White Butterfly... Great for chasing.....

After a while I realised that butterflies and bees are not so bad because they make FH sit quietly and still for ages so that I get lots of attention - definite bonus.  We girls stayed monitoring the local wildlife for ages and here are some of our shots taken in the Muleteers winter paddock residence, whoever said equines, cats and nature can't live in harmony?

Peacock Butterfly

Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Bee enjoying yarrow and knapweed
Fly away home.....
Finally FH took some pictures of the real 'wild' life!
Have a purring good week!  Here's hoping for some sunshine, butterflies to lazily watch and lots of kitty cat play :-)