Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It's All In The Log

by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho

Bonnie’s our barn clown. Strolling through the tackroom or sneaking through gates is her specialty. So when she just stood still, not moving at feed time, it was obvious something was wrong

Bonnie, our 16-year-old molly mule wasn’t right. It was a cool morning, about 8 a.m. I’d just finished tossing the morning hay and was about to start picking the corral when I noticed Bonnie just standing there. Warning bells, something was wrong; she’s usually a chow hound. After a quick visual check for obvious injuries, I decided to put her in a smaller holding pen. I took her temperature, which was normal, and she had gut sounds. She wasn’t sweating, trying to roll or looking or kicking at her belly, but her eyes were really dull and she was very lethargic. 
Next step was a call to our vet, Andrea “Andy” Clifton, DVM, Dr. Andy. I told her what I was observing and since there wasn’t anything specific, she advised keeping her separated and just observing her for a while. I’m one of those folks who call the vet for something like this, just to let her know there might be a problem brewing. I’ve never had a vet belittle me for this, as often we were able to catch something before it became a major issue. But I have had other horse people tell me I was overly cautious and just wasting the vet’s time. I filled a bucket with fresh water and made her a nice sloppy bran mash, which she usually slurps up. She wasn’t interested. By noon, she still hadn’t pooped, urinated, drank or touched the small bit of hay I gave her. But, still no signs of colic or a temperature. Another call to Dr. Andy.  She recommended a small dose of Banamine paste. By 3 p.m., Bonnie finally dropped a small hard pile of manure and started picking the hay. I gave her another bran mash, which she ate up. 
This routine went on for 48 hours. No real indication of a major problem, no colic, no temperature. She would eat, poop, and urinate, but her water intake was very limited. Finally blood and urine tests were done and again there were a few slightly above normal, but nothing major. Currently we are still dealing with the situation.
So, here comes the main point of this article: record keeping. With all the observations made over this time period, it would have been impossible to remember what happened at what time since she was checked on at least every two hours throughout the day and several times at night.  I knew Dr. Andy would want to know what Bonnie was doing, and when. What was her temperature the first night, when did she finally poop and what was it like, when did she finally drink, etc.
With a barn of three mules and three horses, keeping track of everyone’s medical history would be a nightmare if we didn’t have a system for recording things. Often folks rely on their vet to keep track of their equines medical records, but that’s really not fair to the vet or the equine. For instance, we also use a second vet that we haul out to because he has a full equine clinic and can do things that can’t be done at the barn. When we go to his clinic, I always have our book with the medical records. That way he can see what has been done, there’s no guess work as to when they had their vaccinations, were wormed, had their teeth worked on or had any ongoing issues.
Because we have a written record of each equine’s history, our vets were able to diagnose one of the horses with sand induced colic. The mare tended to have bouts of colic every three or four months for about a year. By noting how often it was happening, Dr. Andy came up with a plan to put the mare on daily psyllium and it’s been almost two years since she’s had colic.
In Bonnie’s case, a review of her history revieled she had something similar in 2012 and 2014. We still don’t know the exact cause, but I feel a lot better knowing she’s had this before and was alright, instead of not knowing and fearing it’s something major.
Our medical records are kept in the barn in a standard notebook with divider pages for each equine. The notes are kept on a simple log page made on the computer. It was easy to do. The top line says NAME and then it’s just a page of lines. I made a bunch of copies and use them as needed. Each page is then placed in a plastic page protector. Simple! Of course you can get as extravagant as you want and there are a number of templets on line that you can use. Some folks like to keep their records on the computer, but we prefer having the pages so we can use them in the barn to log things as they occur.
Aside from the medical log pages, our files also contain a weight chart. We worm the equines in the spring and fall and record their weight. We also do a sand check every few months. To do this, we simply put a few manure balls in a jar of water, shake it really well and see how much sand drops to the bottom of the jar. You can ask your vet to show you how to do this and what to look for. But it gives us a good idea of how much sand our equine vacuum cleaners are scarfing up and if the psyllium program is working. We have two of the six equines on a daily psyllium program and the other four are on a seven days a month schedule.
By setting up a basic medical log, it’s saved me a lot of frustration trying to remember who had what done, which equine had what medical issues and made life easier since I don’t have to flip back through old calendars or note to recall any of these items.  And, when I go out of town, the person taking care of the equines has instant access to this information which is a big asset to the vet and the equine.

Susan Dudasik is an equine journalist, PATH Intl. Certified riding instructor and a mule enthusiast. She's competed in numerous trail class events, holds clinics and teaches groundwork and trail classes at Misfit Farm in Salmon, Idaho. The advice given here is meant only as a guide. A professional trainer should handle any serious equine training problems.

Friday, July 22, 2016

From Across The Pond - Golega Horse Fair

by Donna Taylor, Puylaurens, France

Carrying on from my last article, when Colin and I went to Spain and Portugal for a two week holiday in November last year.  After driving into Spain and stopping off in Bilbao for a few days, we then headed to Porto in Portugal. We then left Porto and finally reached the horse fair that I have wanted to visit for many years. It was certainly the highlight of my holiday.
The horse fair is situated in the relatively small town of Golega, approximately an hour north by car of the capital city of Lisbon in Portugal. This fair is steeped in history as it dates back to the 16th century. It’s former name was the St Martins Fair, but now it incorporates the National Horse Fair as well as the International Lusitano Horse Fair. It is always held in November and is a ten day exhibition of some of the finest Lusitano horses in the country and probably in the world.
The Lusitano is a Portuguese horse breed, closely related to the Spanish Andalusian horse. The ancestors of the Lusitano were originally used for classical dressage, driving and bullfighting on horseback. 
Golega is known as the Portuguese Capital of the Horse. It benefits from wide-ranging horse-related business activities, from trade, training, sports and culture to leisure, numerous private stud farms, equestrian centres, equipment and services to horses. 
During the fair, there are a lot of competitions that take place including dressage, show jumping, team cross, horse driving, etc. There are also book presentations and painting exhibitions. 
Golega is dedicated to equines. Nearly every street, sign and business in the town has a reference to the horse. There are horse and rider statues dotted around the streets, there are many stables at the back of peoples’ homes. Even the rubbish bins (garbage bins) are designed as a horse shoe with a big net to put the rubbish in. 
When you go into the bars and restaurants you will see photos and paintings of beautiful Lusitano horses. There are jewelery shops, clothes and shoe shops all selling merchandise for the riders. There are many saddlery shops and horse carriage showrooms. Even the police are on horseback. 
In the middle of the town, there is an outer arena known as the manga where people parade on horseback in traditional Portuguese costume and then there is an inner arena where there are competitions, displays and performances. 
As we were only visiting the fair for three days, I had looked at the program in advance and picked the days I was most interested in. I would have loved to have spent a week there, but three days was enough for a very patient husband who likes equines, but would not like to look at them all day and all evening for that length of time!
I wanted to see some dressage and also showing in hand and carriage driving, but most of all, I wanted to see the Blessing of the Saint Martin’s Pilgrims. The parade starts at midday and there are riders and carriage drivers that ride a couple of kilometres through the town to the church. At 13:00 all the equines and their owners and spectators stand outside the church and a Blessing is carried out. It was an incredible sight to see all these beautiful horses and their elegant riders in their traditional costumes standing quietly whilst the priest gave the blessing. 
Throughout those ten days, there are horses being ridden from early morning until very late at night. Even when we were leaving each evening at around 23:00, there were many riders on their horses outside the bars or parading around the outside arena. 
There are no mares allowed at the fair in November. They have their own national fair in Golega every year in June. So the majority of Lusitano horses were stallions. Geldings can participate as well, but they were definitely outnumbered by the stallions. 
Some of the horses at the fair were for sale, others were stud horses, some were competing and some were there just to show off. I loved seeing the riders and carriage drivers in their Portuguese costumes. The ladies looked so elegant and the men so handsome. The Lusitano horses were powerful, bold, so well behaved and so very handsome too. 
On our final evening, Colin and I were sitting outside a bar having a drink and a snack. I was enjoying soaking up the atmosphere and watching the riders come past the bar. A carriage approached us and I had to take a second look as there were two mules coming towards me. Colin wondered what on earth I was getting so excited about, then he saw the mules. I really didn’t expect to see any mules, so this was a complete surprise.
I couldn’t get out of my chair quick enough to take some photos. I told Colin to sit tight and I’d come back in due course. I was so excited to see these two beautiful black mules, both around 14.2hh. I followed the carriage as it went towards the outer arena. 
I was wearing my Mules and More cap and my Carolina Mule Association T-shirt, so I was trying to show the driver that I too loved mules. I’m not quite sure he really understood me, but he gave me a smile as he drove past. 

I watched him for a little while whilst he drove the mules around the outer arena, then I headed back to the bar. What a perfect end to a perfect holiday. I was so happy to see these mules. The Golega National Horse Fair is such an incredible event to visit and one that I would recommend to anyone who has a love of equines. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shawnee Mule Ride: 300 Mules, 24 States, and 3 Countries

Mule Tails and Trails
by Angie J. Mayfield, Loogootee, Ind. 

A group of mule riders Angie guided to Whiskey Cave

Recently, I had the pleasure of helping organize the largest gathering of saddle mules east of the Mississippi, if not anywhere, and we’re still telling stories and sifting through pictures of an amazing week at McAllister and Friends’ Shawnee Mule Ride in southern Illinois. From April 15-24, more than 300 mules and riders from 24 states, plus New Zealand, Canada, and Switzerland, visited High Knob Campground to trail ride and explore the 280,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest. Some stayed a few days and some stayed the entire event, but all left as friends for life and admirers of our scenic piece of paradise here in the Midwest.

Anthony McAllister riding under Jackson Falls at Shawnee

Anthony “Bull” and Cathy McAllister, of Rinard, Ill., who have been camping and riding at High Knob and Shawnee since 1983, and JoJo Moomey, owner of High Knob since 2009, were the forces behind the event, working tirelessly to plan, prepare the 50-acre camp, advertise, and ensure everyone enjoyed their visit. I don’t think these dedicated hosts ever slept. In the early morning, they could be found drinking coffee with campers, answering questions, going over maps, setting out lists of the organized rides that day, or loaning out mules. Late at night, the McAllisters were visiting around the campfire, while JoJo was usually still checking in campers and making sure everyone had what they needed. With more than 150 sites, 80 covered stalls, water, electric, a weekend cook shack, a laundry area, hay, tack supplies, and free coffee, she usually had it covered. Mary Rathbun, Allardt, Tenn., and Ruth Reynolds, Tennessee, took t-shirt orders for the event, and Ival McDermott, New Jersey, even donated commemorative coffee mugs. Mule riders are the best!

Tucker's mule Booger helps Florence Brimstein of Ohio with a trail map

Some other highlights of the mule ride were a tack swap, vendors, including Linda Brown with the Mule Store out of Pennsylvania, Crestridge, Crooked Creek, and Rockin’ R Saddleries, Beth Newmaster, of Boonville, Ind., from Mule Girls, and local Amish shops. Plus there were hog roasts and dances on both Saturday nights. Kathy Lawless of Michigan donated one hog, while Roy and Beth Landers, Illinois, donated the other. Joe Hamp was the cook, and Jackie Lueking donated the tableware. Everyone brought a covered dish, and there was food for an army – and an army of mule riders showed up, with 320 served the first Saturday. The only drama of the week was when the McAllister’s granddaughters, Jesselynn, age 3, and Scarlett, age 2, fought over who was going to dance with Tucker Mayfield (my 6-year-old  son). Scarlett wasn’t interested in sharing her man. Still, they danced all evening, and Tucker was even the opening act for the Johnny Williams and the Steelherders band, playing Cripple Creek and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on his banjo.

Bill Meyer of Tennessee jumps off a rock at Shawnee. His mule, Waylon, won second place for Best Trail Mule at the Shawnee Mule Ride

Although anyone with a mule already owns a trophy and all of the mules were awesome (not one mule bucked anyone off all week), several awards were given at the event. The farthest traveled was Stan Mullen from New Zealand, Katja Frohlich from Switzerland, and Chris and Sarah Hostletter from New Mexico (who drove 1,400 miles). The oldest mules belonged to Dawn Frank of Ohio (Sally, age 24) and Diane Steward of Harrington, Del., (with a 21-year-old mule). The oldest mule rider was Rodney Ellis, 78, of Iowa. The orneriest mule went to Anthony McAllister. Youngest riders (who rode their own mule) were my son Tucker, 6; Taleya McVey, Illinois, 12; Hunter Lawburgh, 12, Indiana;  and Bristol McAllister, 13, of Illinois. The Prettiest Mule trophies were awarded to Cindy Hanson and Fred, of Croswell, Mich., first place; a tie for second with Beth Greenville and Ladybug, of Kentucky, and Tammy Bradley and Ophelia, of Brooksville, Fla.; and a tie for third with Brock Milam and 4 Socks and Sunny from Benton, Mo., and Wendy Griffith and Kate, of Kansas. Finally, the Best Trail Mule award went to Ellen Carmack of Glasgow, MO and her mule, Dish. Second place was Bill Meyer of Tennessee and Waylon. Third place was Charlie Hays of New York.

Loree Brown of Michigan

Of course, even with all of the fun activities, the best part of the week was meeting new mule people, including Mule Girls I’d talked to for years on Facebook, but never met in person, and also seeing the excitement of first-time visitors after experiencing the phenomenal trail riding at Shawnee. Florence Brimstein of Chillicothe, Ohio, described Shawnee as “Hocking Hills on steroids.” Although some riders explored the trails on their own, others took advantage of the many organized rides scheduled each day for various landmarks, such as Garden of the Gods, Hurricane Bluffs and Initial Tree, Rice Hollow and Whiskey Cave, Dead Man’s Canyon, and others. Guides included myself, the McAllisters, Kathy Lawless, Rich Cooper, Tony Lusch, Ross Bird, Bill Meyer, and Wayne Moore. On the last Saturday, many of us left camp early to venture over to the western side of Shawnee to the Jackson Falls area. Rodney Ellis, who has trail ridden in some of the most remote and beautiful areas out West said that his Shawnee experience was “the ride of his lifetime.” 

There are so many to thank and so many memories to cherish from the 2016 McAllister and Friends Shawnee Mule Ride. Make plans to come next year. Check out the High Knob campground website or McAllister and Friends Shawnee Mule Ride on Facebook. We’d love to meet you and your mule.

Ival McDermott of New Jersey and Caroline take a selfie

 ANGIE and Sonny

Anthony MCAllister's grand-daughters, Jesselynn and Scarlett, fighting over Tucker at the dance. Scarlett was not at all happy about sharing her man with her sister

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Subscription Rate Increase

Effective June 1, 2016, the subscription rate for Mules and More will be 
$36 - 1 Year Subscription (12 issues) and $65 - 2 Year Subscription (24 issues)
First Class Rate - $60, Canadian - $65, International - $100, and Single Issue - $5.50

Our last rate increase was October 1, 2007. Due to printing and postal increases we are forced to raise our rates in order to provide readers with the same quality publication they are accustomed to. We want to thank you all for your business and continued support of Mules and More

Monday, May 16, 2016

10th Annual Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races

Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races in Denver, Arkansas, will be celebrating their 10th anniversary over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-29, 2016. The Fowlers (Mike and Lou, along with children Janice, Luke, Jake and Tawnia) have worked to keep this race fresh and exciting each year, and have turned it into a huge event for both spectators and competitors. 
The Fowler’s recipe for success has been to add new and exciting ingredients each year. This year’s events include a switch race during the intermissions of the chuck wagon races, a pasture barrel race following the pasture roping, and a mule jump followed by a team holdback. When you add these new events to their already big lineup, which include two nights of ARA, ACRA and MCRA sanctioned rodeo action, pasture roping, goat roping, and arena roping, you get something for everyone. NBHA barrel racing, pasture bronc fanning, two days of chuck wagon races, a Snowy River Race, trail rides, ranch rodeo, bull riding, miniature bull riding, miniature bronc fanning, camping and four nights of live entertainment round out the weekend’s schedule of events. 
A beautiful creek surrounds the Rock Botton area, providing a perfect place to fish and swim.  “There’s plenty of creek for everyone,” as the Fowler’s say.
Mike, Lou and their children plus lots of their extended family, work hard putting together every years activities.  From working the front gates and welcoming everyone, to picking up trash, they all pull together and make this event happen.  It’s a lot of work but together they have a lot of fun.  “We just keep trying to add a little something extra every year,” said Mike.
Camping sites at Rock Bottom are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but call (870)749-2491 about staking a spot early. There are limited RV hookups, so call in advance to reserve a spot with electric hookup, for an additional charge.
Rock Botton Chuck Wagon Races are not sanctioned.  They are a qualifying race for the Rookie series at the National Championship Race in Clinton. This year’s races will take place on a  new track with more camp stops by the track.
Don’t you think it’s time you hit Rock Bottom?

Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races
(870)749-2491 or (870)715-7046

Contact Jake Fowler at (870)715-8038 for pasture roping information

Schedule of Events
Daily: Breakfast 7:30 a.m.
Trail Ride Leave 10 a.m.  

Wednesday, May 25 - Gates Open 12 p.m.
All Family Rodeo -  8 p.m.

Thursday, May 26
Trail Ride -  10:00 a.m.
Mutton Bustin -  7 p.m.
ARA Rodeo - 8 p.m.
Dance - 10 p.m.

Friday, May 27     
Guided Trail Ride with lunch - 10 a.m.
Pasture Team Roping Check In - 10 a.m.
Pasture Team Roping -  11 a.m.
Mutton Bustin - 7 p.m.
ARA Rodeo -  8 p.m.
Dance - 10 p.m.

Saturday, May 28
Registration NBHA Barrell Race -  9 a.m. 
Exhibition Barrell Race -  9:30 a.m.
NBHA Barrel Race to follow exhibition
NBHA  Pasture Barrell Race -  12 p.m.

Guided Trail Ride - 10 a.m.
Arena Team Roping Check In - 10 a.m.
Arena Team Roping -  12 p.m. 
Chuck Wagon Races - 1 p.m.
Switch Race - Intermission
Horse & Mule Race at Conclusion of Races
Snowy River Race (after horse race)
Evening Trail Ride - 4:30
Racing Awards (Day Winners) - 5 p.m.
Mule Jump Competition -  5:30 p.m.
Ranch Rodeo - 7:30 p.m.
Porta Potty Race at 
Conclusion of Ranch Rodeo
Dance - 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 29
Cowboy Church - 10 a.m.
Guided Trail Ride - 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  
Extreme Cowboy Race
Chuck Wagon Races -  1 p.m.
Switch Race - Intermission
Horse & Mule Race 
at Conclusion of Races
Snowy River Race (after horse race)
Racing Awards  - 5 p.m.
Jr Rough Stock Rodeo - 5 p.m. 
Cowboy Mounted Shooting -  7 p.m.
Freedom Train Tour Rodeo - 8 p.m.
Dance - 10:30 p.m.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Jackie’s Story - June 2014 Cover Story

by Kathy Rohde, Dunlap, Calif.

Bar JF Sterling Silver, aka Jackie

March 27, 2013 started out like any other day, until I opened the living room drapes.
Outside stood my jack, Bar JF Sterling Silver (Jackie).  He was standing in his normal place near the feeder but his lips were parted and he looked like a statue rather than a live animal.  I grabbed the banamine and cell phone and ran outside to his pasture.  When I gave him the banamine there was no reaction.  I called my vets office (Dr. Troy Ford) and told them I was on my way with Jackie and he was very sick.  He was in so much pain, I don't know how he stepped up into the trailer, but he had so much heart and would do anything I asked of him. When I got to Troy's they went to work on him fast and furiously.  I never would have thought this day would end in such heartache.  I thought I would take him to the vet, leave him a couple of days to be treated for whatever his ailments were and then bring him home where life would resume a normal routine. The longer they worked on him the more it appeared that he wasn't going to make it.  Troy did an ultrasound and found a rupture in Jackie's small intestine. Surgery was an option but Troy gave Jackie only a 10 percent chance of survival and recovery.  Had the odds been better and his suffering less, I would have sold the farm to save this guy.  He not only was a wonderful jack, producing some exceptional foals, but he was so dear to me and held a special place in my heart.  

The difficult decision was made to end his suffering.  Troy's wife, Mardee, and his assistants helped me coax Jackie out to a pretty green patch of grass where we would ultimately lay him down.  The finality of what was happening overwhelmed me and the floodgates opened.  As the girls and I cried, my attempt to cope and try to lighten the mood was to kiddingly comment, "It's a shame we couldn't collect him one more time."  At that moment everything stopped.   Troy made a fast call to Dar Hanson, the Reproduction Manager at the Ward Ranch in Kingsburg.  The decision was made to harvest his testicles and retrieve the remaining semen after he was put down.  Troy performed the procedure, packaged everything and through my tears I drove the 30 miles to deliver everything to Dar who would then extract the semen.  While I went home and cried for Jackie, Dar processed the semen. Later that evening Dar called and gave me the hopeful news....the semen appeared viable. There was a chance that Jackie might live on!

This was new territory we were charting and felt the odds may be against us.  The stress to the semen from postmortem harvesting, temperature changes including freezing, transport and so many other variables could be working against us to decrease the viability of the semen. To increase the odds of success, I took only my best mares to be inseminated, those who have successfully foaled several Jackie babies.  If the mares did not settle in foal that would give us an indication the semen may not be viable.  

To play it safe we used four straws of semen per mare.  Ultimately, when I took the mares to be preg-checked, Troy, Dar and I were excited to learn that all mares had settled in foal. We felt we had cleared an impossible hurtle. Because of that success and Troy's re-analysis of the semen, he believes this season we can cut the number of straws to two per mare, with the result being that we may have enough semen to cover over 40 mares!

Now let me tell you about my Jackie. When I made the decision to start my own breeding program, it didn’t take long to find the jack I felt would cross well with my AQHA and APHA registered mares to produce quality mules.  Jackie’s lineage was well established, having produced racing champions such as "Bar JF Hot Ticket," and "Bar JF Red Ticket" and champion show mules.   

Roman IV’s Ima Big Star owned by John and Lyn Ringrose Moe
Call Me The Fireman owned and ridden by Kellie Shields

Jackie had a short but impressive show career, earning first place Jacks at Halter at Squaw Valley Mule Show, third place at Bishop in the two-year-old class, Reserve Champion Jack at the Oakdale Mule Show and Reserve Champion Jack at the Clovis Classic Mule Show.  In 2004 Jackie’s show career ended as it was time to start my breeding program.   

Jackie himself has produced mules that are very successful in their own right. In the show arena his son Call Me The Fireman has won numerous Bishop World and Reserve Championship titles, and the year end 2012 American Mule Association All Around Champion Mule.  A daughter Roman IV's Ima Big Star as a two year old, in 2010, won both her halter classes at Bishop Mule Days.  Star is now competing and excelling against horses in Cowboy Dressage. She was also used to demonstrate Cowboy Dressage at the Horse Expo in Pomona. Jackie's foals are being used in all types of equine activities including, driving, packing, pleasure, trail and the show arena. The biggest source of pride I have in Jackie is hearing from owners of his babies of the trainability, intelligence and overall kind and willing disposition of his foals.

I have been in contact with many people in the mule and donkey industry and various veterinarians trying to ascertain if anyone had knowledge of other postmortem harvested semen from a donkey.  I learned this has been accomplished in the horse industry but was not able to find any history of this procedure being performed on a donkey.    

The most important thing to keep in mind if ever faced with the tragic loss of your jack, all may not be lost.  Depending on circumstances, if there’s any hope of successfully harvesting your jack’s semen postmortem, keep in mind the procedure is time sensitive. In Jackie’s case, we harvested the semen in a matter of minutes after he had been euthanized and before his body temperature dropped.

Jackie's death has brought together many people, those who I would not have expected to be concerned with continuing a donkey's line. It was the open and forward thinking of two men that made this project a reality.  There are no words to express my appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Troy Ford and Dar Hanson.  Because of the success of this project (adventure) we will be expanding our breeding program and accepting a few outside mares.     

Until I owned Jackie, I didn’t understand why mules did some of the things they do.  I always wondered, “Why do they do that?”  Jackie gave me all those answers.  There isn’t a day that goes by, I don’t miss him.  Jackie was my alarm clock, my watchdog and my friend. He will  be in my heart forever.

“Here's the first mule born using the post-mortem harvested semen.,” said KATHY. “His name may end up being Dar Ford IV.  I know it doesn't sound very cool, but without these two wonderful men this whole thing would have never happened.  His barn name is Moon as he was born the night of the eclipse.” 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mules: A Titsworth Family Tradition

by Angie J. Mayfield, Loogootee, Ind

DEAN and LYNN at the Great Celebration
 Mule and Donkey Show in Shelbyville, Tenn., in 2005

New names and methods emerge every few years in the mule breeding, training, and show world, but some are legends that were mule lovers, riders, and trainers long before mules were cool and were bred from the best mares. For Dean and Lynn Titsworth of Murphysboro, Illinois, everything mule has been a family tradition for decades. They trail ride mules, raise, train, and sell them. They also raised their sons, Andy and Joe, with mules and as a family won or placed in almost every national show class and race available for nearly 20 years, including High Point Champion, World Gaited Class, and Western and World Pleasure at Shelbyville; the Denver Stock Show, and even the Clinton, Arkansas Chuckwagon Races. Their mule Jed was the world champion reining mule two years in a row and roping champion at Bishop. Their mules Do It Again Dobber, Unbreakable Sally, Jammin’ Jed, Amy, and Smoky are forever embedded in their photo albums and hearts.
Lynn, who had 12 brothers and sisters, rode horses and mules from the time she was a young girl, but Dean grew up coon and fox hunting and riding motorcycles, which led to a broken leg and weak knees, he laughed. When they married 45 years ago, he bought his first mule, which he admits was “nearly worthless” but forced him to really learn to ride. They spent more time and money searching for their next mule, Kate, but she was worth it. Their kids learned to ride on Kate, and Dean could jump her into the back of his truck and take her coon hunting. Their love of mules – and their herd – grew from there. Showing mules came later. Their first love became trail riding and then breeding and selling mules. They also organized fun shows for years.
Then the boys became involved in rodeo, a natural transition from their cowboy upbringing and rough stock genes. Lynn said it seemed they were in a different state every weekend, and she worried the boys’ teachers and friends thought they were incredible liars when they came back to school with their adventurous stories. However, the time and dedication paid off. Joe was state champion three years in a row and won a rodeo scholarship to Northeastern Oklahoma. 
When not taking care of the farm, mules, and their Bloodhounds, the Titsworths also enjoy hunting and fishing and have harvested bear, elk, caribou, and wild boar in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and even Newfoundland and took a fishing trip to Alaska one year for a change in scenery. However, mules have been their passion and brought them the most pleasure. "We've been everywhere trail riding, driving teams on wagon rides, showing, and selling mules. We've had so many great times and met so many good people," beam Lynn and Dean. Some of their most unique and memorable adventures include delivering a mule to Mexico, selling two mules to the Frenchman who rode across the United States, meeting Joe Runyan, a two-time winner of the Ididerod, and buying a dog from him, and hanging with Dave Merriman, Max Harsha, and Anthony McAllister. “But whether swimming across a river on mules in Eminence, Mo., or hearing someone brag how 'those hillbillies smoked everyone's ass' at a mule show in Denver,” Lynn says she loved it all. 
I arrived at the Titsworth farm to buy a Bloodhound puppy but left with lifelong friends. Tucker would have gladly moved in. We laughed as they told the story of throwing firecrackers from wagon to wagon at the Decatur, IL Fourth of July parade one year. The seat caught on fire and the boys jumped out. Only a well-broke team of mules could pull off such a feat. These days, however, they're more likely to take the grandkids for a calm ride across the farm.
However, Dean admits he's always been a prankster. "We took a lot of ribbing riding mules, and it bothered Lynn, but I never put up with any crap and always took a dare. I loved to show off on my mule and to show people that mules can do anything horses can do - better." Lynn, on the other hand, is quiet and reserved until she climbs on the back of her mule. "Lynn's the real rider," admits Dean. I already gathered that from her box of belt buckles and ribbons. But also when I witnessed this petite 60-some-year-old woman grab the mane of her 15-hand mule and jump straight on like a teenager - bareback wearing Carhart coveralls even! I was in awe.
“Dean’s a hellion and Lynn’s a saint,” says Anthony “Bull” McAllister, another southern Illinois mule man who admires the Titsworths and says Dean has been a mentor and close friend for 25 years. He said he and Dean met coon hunting and their mutual interest in mules bonded them. At the time, there weren’t many mule riders in this area. Anthony stayed with Dean and Lynn for awhile when he was first hired by Illinois Dept. of Corrections in 1990 and worked at the prison in Chester. “We went coon hunting one night, and Dean rode his mule across a railroad bridge all the way across the Mississippi River. I wouldn’t go. No way. People say I’m nuts to go across Phantom Terrace in Colorado, but I realized then he was a little crazier than me - and had better mules.” But Dean will tell you he’s been a bulldog his whole life. “I’ve done what people said I couldn’t do and had a hell of a lot of fun doing it.”
Dean’s deteriorating health and a declining economy have taken a toll on the Titsworth’s adventures. Dean contracted West Nile virus, and he has kidney dialysis three days a week now. In addition to farm duties, Lynn also works for a biotech lab that makes medical serum from cow’s blood. However, the couple plans to ride at the Shawnee Mule Ride in April, and Lynn hopes to take Jed to a couple of shows this year. They are also training a new mule prospect, Lucky Lucille (named by their grandson), a descendant of Secretariet. I don’t know how they manage all they do, but I wish them the best of luck and expect to see more of them. The Titsworth family has already left behind a legacy and helped pave a path for generations of mule enthusiasts to follow.

Angie J. Mayfield is an author, professor, and long ear lover who has trail ridden in 47 states and 6 countries. She can be contacted at
Tucker at the Titsworth’s home with his new Bloodhound puppy, Copper

JOE TITSWORTH packing out elk in Colorado

Lynn and Dean with a few of their awards