Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cousins, Sisters & “Best Friends”

Riding the Gila Wilderness
by Audrey Stogsdill Beggs
R-A Mule Ranch, Sims, Arkansas

Our DNA says we are first cousins, but our hearts say we are closer than sisters and the best of friends. Our dads were brothers, Claude and Clyde Stogsdill; her name is Claudia Stogsdill Sharp. We are neither one considered “a spring chicken” and one of us is already on Medicare. We not only share DNA, but we share a love of riding and a sense of adventure. So, that is how we decided on an all-girl/ride pack trip at Gila Hot Springs Ranch located in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico.

Becky on Dashee with pack mules Star and Molly

This all started when my husband, Rickey and I drove to Cliff, NM last July and bought a wagon advertised in Mules and More by Russell Dobkins. I wrote a story about that trip (see “He Wanted a Red Wagon for His Birthday,” in the October 2016 Mules and More). 
Returning home I was telling our farrier Travis Coffman,about the trip and he asked if we went to Gila Hot Springs. When I told him we didn’t go that far north, he then told me about an outfitter there, Becky Campbell. Later I “Googled” Becky and found she had an outfitter company for hunters, but also took out riders furnishing Tennessee Walkers, and packed mules into the Gila Wilderness.
The Gila Wilderness is 558,014 acres of unspoiled land, with deep canyons, rugged mountain peaks, hot springs and a thick forest. This remote part of southwestern New Mexico became the first designated wilderness area in the United States. The Gila Wilderness lies in what is known as a transition zone, between desert and alpine forest; all of this makes the Gila very unique, offering a wide variety of life forms and magnificent scenery.

Sierra on Rebel with Pardner crossing the East Fork of the Gila River

After doing the research I sent Claudia an email and asked, “Is this something you would consider doing?” I sent the link to the website and our plans began to take form. Claudia and I had drifted apart since we were kids, but reconnected about three years ago when she had a cousin’s get together when she lived in St. Charles, Mo. I attended the get together and we have seen each other a lot, and talked at least once a week since then. She has been to our little mule ranch, and rode our mules twice in the last three years. She loves to ride, so naturally we had a lot to talk about. Claudia is retired but volunteers at an Horses for Heros facility that has therapeutic horseback riding for veterans and children with special needs. She doesn’t own equine and she says this scratches her itch to be around horses.

Audrey on Slim and Claudia on Mindy

I made reservations to fly, meeting up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. From there we flew to Albuquerque and rented a car. We spent the first night in Old Town. We had planned on a sunset ride on the Sandia Tram, but it was cloudy and we were exhausted after our long trip, so we stopped at the little restaurant below the tram for a drink and snacks. We decided to go ahead and do the tram since it was too early to check into the motel. We boarded the tram with about 30 others; the ride up was a lot of fun. We got off at the top and walked around looking at the surroundings. We were at 10,000+ feet elevation and the air was pretty thin. After our long day, with very little sleep, and our drink, we were feeling the effects of it all. We had the chance to take the first tram back down, but decided to wait for another. That was not the best decision as after boarding the tram, and we were about halfway down, the wind came up with a vengeance. The tram was swinging and swaying so they had to stop the tram about halfway down the mountain; wind gusts were in excess of 80 mph, and this was not the most pleasant place to be. They let us hang over the mountains at least 30 minutes before we could get to the landing. There were at least five little ones, under five years old, and they were not happy. One gal just sat and looked at the floor and cried…I felt like joining her before we got down! Finally they got the tram moving; it was quite the experience and not one we plan to do again. It was a memory for a lifetime!

“Our Holiday Inn in the Gila Wilderness where Claudia and I slept. Spud and Pardner are beat after a long day of riding in the Gila Wilderness,” said AUDREY

We were up early the next morning and drove the old Route 66 through Albuquerque. They are restoring the old area and it will be magnificent when finished. We left Albuquerque, drove to Socorro and thru the mountains on the western side of New Mexico, the same route Rickey and I had taken to get the wagon at Cliff. I wanted to show Claudia the mountains, and stopped to say “hi” to Russell Dobkins, having a great visit with him and his wife, Ada.
We left their place and headed to the Gila Hot Springs Ranch, hoping to get there before dark. We decided we had enough gas in our Nissan Versa to make it to Silver City, not knowing there were some pretty big mountains to cross to get there. I was driving, and all of a sudden I see a flashing light on the steering wheel that said 40 miles to empty…this was an “Oh Crap” moment. We had just passed a sign that read, Silver City 29 miles. When I panicked Claudia looked at the gas gauge and said not to worry we still had two bars on the gauge, explaining as long as you have a bar there is nothing to worry about. When it went to one bar I started worrying, then there were no bars and I was really worrying. Then the miles reading went to a straight line. We turn off the a/c and Claudia said to just coast when we go downhill. I told her we had to go UP hill to be able to coast. I told her now was the time to pray. Of course, we had no cell phone signal, and there was not a house, a cow, horse, or mule to be seen. We did make it to Silber City, but I swear we got there on a prayer and gas fumes. From then on when the gas gauge showed half empty we filled it.

Becky with nieces Sierra and Christy getting ready for the trip

We arrived at Becky’s about 7 pm, after 40 miles of narrow road that had many switchbacks and at times it felt like you were going right off of the road into the canyon. Claudia is afraid of heights and was white knuckling it all the way. We spent that night in the apartment at Becky’s and she informed us where to meet her the next morning to get our horses for the trip.
When we got to the trail head Becky, her brother Angus, and a niece Christy, plus Christy’s three children, Sierra, Cayden and Lanie were all helping get the horses and mules ready for the trip. It was a family effort. Claudia and I put our stuff on a table to be loaded into the panniers and we just stood back to watch and take pictures. Fifteen year old Sierra went with us on the ride; Claudia and I were impressed with the teamwork everyone displayed.
It turned out to be Becky, Sierra, me and Claudia on the ride. We all rode Tennessee Walkers, and Becky had two pack mules, Molly and Star loaded with all the supplies. I had not ridden a horse (only mules) since 1990. Becky put me on a 7-year-old by the name of Slim, and Claudia rode Mindy, a mare. Sierra and Becky rode Rebel and Dashee (named after Cowboy Dashee in the Tony Hillerman books. We were accompanied by Ginger, an Australian shepherd, Pardner, a Great Pyrenees and Spud, a precious mixed breed. Spud had a horrible cut around his neck where he had supposedly got into a fight with a pit bull. It did not look like a dogfight, but like someone had taken a knife or box cutter and tried to decapitate him. He had about 60 stitches in his neck, but he was a fun dog, and even though he had some age on him he loved the ride.
Not long after we left camp and headed up the mountain, Becky turned around and told us to look down at the trail. There were mountain lion tracks on the same trail, going the same way we were going. They were not real fresh, but it was still a little unnerving way to start our three day ride. All we saw were tracks, never any real mountain lions.
The first day we rode about 14 miles into the Gila Wilderness. Becky has 25 acres and a cabin she has had for many years. Her dad came to this area in 1929, when he was 16 years old. He started the outfitting company in 1940 and it is still run by his children. Her cabin is in the East Fork Canyon  of the Gila Wilderness. She took her first outfitters out at the age of 15, and is still going strong. Her dad’s store, Doc Campbell’s at Gila Hot Springs is still open and ran by family members.
We had beautiful and awesome scenery on the trails. Claudia said later she thought we cross the Gila River at least 150 times in three days; I’m not sure how many times we crossed it, but we did so many times a day. The dogs loved the water and would be waiting on us when we got to the river.

Audrey with Slim

We had wonderful lunches prepared by Becky and Sierra for the trail, and would stop and sit for a while at a beautiful spot Becky selected. This was a time to take pictures and see the beautiful scenery. We arrived at the cabin about mid-afternoon on Monday. We helped Sierra set up the tent and get stuff unloaded off of the mules. Becky’s water supply is a pitcher pump and it had to have some work done before we could get water. It gave us a chance to have a glass of wine and help with what we could to prepare dinner. There was a propane refrigerator and propane cooktop. Later that night Pardner, the young dog started barking. Claudia worried that we had chocolate energy bars in our bags and that was a sure sign of having bear bait in the tent. I assured her that it was just the young dog, and if there was a bear there, all three of them would be barking. The older dogs never barked so I wasn’t very concerned. Spud slept right next to the tent on my side and I could hear him moving in the leaves during the night, so I felt pretty safe.

Claudia with Mindy

We were amazed that Becky took the halters off the horses and mules and turned them loose into the 100 acres; it is totally fenced, in the middle of the Gila Wilderness. She put cowbells on one of the horses and one of the mules, and off they went. Claudia said she sure hoped they came back the next morning, as we had two more days of riding. The next morning they were there for their feed.
As were just riding the canyon on Tuesday, Becky didn’t take the mules, we left them on a tie line. We rode about four hours and crossed the Gila River at least 20 times. We had lunch at an old dwelling that looked like something the Pueblo Indians had built. We felt some spring water coming out of a mountain, and it was very hot. We saw beautiful wild flowers and native plants to the area. We had dark clouds that morning when we left camp and by the time we returned we had encountered very high winds and sleet, which didn’t last long.
Claudia and I had a glass of wine and it didn’t take any time to get to sleep that night. The moon was full, but we were too exhausted to stay up and enjoy it.
As we were unsaddling a lady came by on a mustang and three pack mules, plus a young black and tan hound. She was repairing fence for a guy that owned the neighboring cabin that had belonged to Becky’s brother. This was quite unsettling to Becky’s horses and mules. The next morning Becky had to put on her boots and go after her stock; they were not happy that we had the company within our little area. The horses, especially Slim, was not a happy camper. Becky rode over to the lady’s camp and asked her to come get her horse and mules. She had been using a chainsaw and it was a little unnerving, not only to me, but to the horses. After she got her horse and mule, our bunch started settling down. While Becky and Sierra saddled the horses and loaded the packs on the mules, Claudia and I put the bear boards on the windows and cleaned the cabin.
One of the neighbor’s mules stayed behind and followed us all the way out of the camp, until we got past the gate and into the wilderness area. He was braying the strangest bray the entire time and wanted to go with us. We were very glad to get out into the wilderness area and get started back to base camp. I know I had a sigh of great relief to be away from the strange animals. I was ready to lead Slim and cross the Gila River. I told Slim it was not only unsettling to him, but to his rider also!
We took a shorter way back to camp, down a very steep mountain with lots of switchbacks. Claudia didn’t know what a switchback was, but I assure you she does now. As I stated earlier, she doesn’t like heights, so I told her to just look at the trail in front of her horse, to not look to the side, or in front. When we got to the bottom I would say she didn’t just have sweaty palms; her palms were dripping with water; but she was a trouper and she did it. We didn’t have sleet this day, but it did rain just before we got down the mountains. We didn’t worry about putting our slickers on, as we had been in these clothes for three days, and it wasn’t going to hurt us to get wet. All we needed was a bar of soap to go with the rain shower.
This was an awesome trip and we had such a wonderful time. We are already making plans to go back next May. Becky hopes to retire soon, but has assured us she will be there next May to take us on another wild adventure into the Gila Wilderness.
Life is a journey…enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Classifieds/Picture Page Ads
RATE: 35¢ per word per issue with a $7 minimum. $1 for each tear sheet. Additional $2 per month billing charge for ads that are not paid by billing date. Deadline for classified advertising is the 1st of the month preceding date of publication.  Not responsible for errors when ads are called into our office.  To place a classified, email (, call the office (573/646-3934) or mail to PO Box 460, Bland MO 65014

SORREL APPALOOSA MULE FOR SALE: Sugar Pea is 10 years old, great trail mule, sound, smooth ride. 14.3 hands. Only selling because shortly after buying her, I was given a young mule sired by the jack I had due to my friends moving. She has great feet, easy keeper, well trained, smooth trot and lope. Looking for home with mule experience. $2,500 obo. Barnesville, MN. Can email or text pictures: or (701)361-9726 

2-YEAR-OLD BLACK WITH 4 WHITE STOCKINGS, quarter-type molly. Now 14 hands. Really nice, has had ground work, good disposition. Potential show mule. $2,400 Oklahoma (405)258-3037

6-YEAR-OLD, BLACK JOHH, 17 HANDS (not draft type). 2 months professional training. Started late, due to my issues, not his. He is willing, smart, balanced, and wanting to learn. For more info call (Canada) (519)384-2339 or email

Pair of 15 hand, black and sorrel, john mules, 4 and 6 years old. Broke to ride and drive, single and double. Had not been used for a year until 79 year old man rode in parade. Raised here. $3,000; Mule factory for sale: Light sorrel jack and mares that produce mules, advertised in June 2015 (page 24) Mules and More. Can deliver. Viroqua, Wisconsin 608/632-1586

YOUNG JACKS FOR SALE- kept with pony mares. 18 month old jack by current national champion 59" Minuteman by Banjo by Texas Scooter. Futurity champion IDMS. Very cute head and neck, smooth build. $1,500. Coming 3 year old tri-colored spotted 57" jack. 50% white. $5,000. Pics available. Doc Colbert. (573)259-8044

HORSES & MULE BREAKING AND TRAINING. $20/day training board. South central PA, 17219. Call/text for more info (717)962-6376

MULE PACKING CLINICS, learn the art of backcountry riding and packing. Gain confidence and safety. Wilderness pack trips. Archaeology expeditions. (575)519-8569

TIN TOP RANCH Bed and Breakfast, oats and stalls to all riding. Located in western Scott County, Arkansas. Totally surrounded by the picturesque Ouachita National Forest., or 800/436-8199   2/15

FOR SALE: Colorado Saddlery Buckaroo Mule Saddle. Full basket stamping, extra long tie strings, extra dee for scabbards and gear, and crupper and britchen dees that fasten into tree. Tree: Wade with mule bars, rawhide covered. Seat: 16", Cantle: 5" rawhide bound. Fork: 9" with rope strap. Horn: #4 Dallypost, rawhide bound (3" high, 2" cap). Rigging: 3-way in skirt rigging. Skirts: Fleece lined. Stirrup Leathers: 3" with Blevin buckles. Stirrups: 2" rawhide covered Visalias. Weight: 45 pounds. Excellent conidition. $2,500. Missouri (816)505-9740
2 EA COMPLETE STEVE EDWARDS Trail Lite Saddles, 15 1/2". Double neoprene cinches, beta britchen, beta breast collar, neoprene saddle pads. Used less than ten rides. Paid $3,000. Both for $1,400, plus shipping. Gary, Bridgeport, CA (760)650-6652
FOR SALE: NEW ERICKSEN SADDLES One 16" and one 15-1/2". Saddle, matching breast collar and britchen; also 5 Star Virgin Wool Pad. $1,800 per set. That's a $1,000 savings! (920)676-7642
FOR SALE: STEVE EDWARDS BETA BRITCHEN, never used. $100 plus shipping. Michigan (810)712-3535
S. A. WALLS handmade Stirrups, Spurs and Bits., or 800/436-8199  2/15
Wagner’s Saddle and Tack. “Saddles that fit the horse, mule and rider.” Handmade Saddles. Fred Wagner, Westcliffe, CO 719/783-2715 tfn

BOOKS! Awesome gifts, 3 animal memoirs: Mules, Mules Mules and More Mules; Horse; and Dogs, too. (928)499-4485

SMALL FARM TODAY® is The 21-year-old how-to magazine of traditional and alternative crops, livestock, and direct marketing, teaching, diversification, and sustainability to make money for your farm or small acreage. To Subscribe send $23.95 to Small Farm Today, 3903 W Ridge Trail Rd, Clark, MO 65243 or call 800/633-2535 (MC/Visa) tfn

THE NATURAL SUPERIORITY OF MULES book. To order, send $39.45 to Mules and More, PO BOX 460, Bland MO 65014, call 573-646-3934, or order online at tfn

My Life With Harry -- The Mule by Lonny Thiele. How a young girl and a mule helped save the family farm in the 1930s in Southeast Missouri. Based on a true story. Art by Bonnie Shields. $20 to Thiele, POB 884, Poplar Bluff, MO 63902. Phone (573)300-3085

THE AMERICAN BEAGLER MAGAZINE – The Magazine Ahead of the Pack:  Published monthly for Beagle owners and gundog enthusiasts as well as upcoming trials and results for competition hunters. The American Beagler is $24.00 for one year, $44.00 for two years, and $66.00 for three years. You may order the magazine on our website: with paypal, call 573-859-6866 with a debit or credit card, or mail your payment to: The American Beagler, PO Box 957, Belle, MO 65013. Find us on Facebook. WE WANT YOU IN THE PACK!

Enjoy VIDEO MIKE’S mule, donkey, horse training, Bishop Mule Days and more. VHS/DVD. See listing at,(707)226-9193

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mules and More Magazine 2017 Christmas Gift Guide

Our Christmas Gift Guide is the place to highlight your product as the perfect gift this Christmas season! 

There is great pricing on display advertising available, but Mules and More is also offering a Christmas Gift Guide in our November issue. This affordable option for advertisers is only $55, which includes 50 words of text highlighting product details, an image, price, contact info, and how to purchase. (No text to be written on the image). 

Since the gift guide will go in the magazine, as well as our website, you get double the exposure. We will also share the gift guide on our Facebook page, as well as in our email newsletter. The gift guide will print in color in the magazine, and in the digital version, also we will link to your website or email. 

We are excited to be able to offer you this cost-efficient, effective way of bringing you sales this Christmas season! Our November issue featuring the gift guide will go in the mail October 25 and online shortly after. The deadline is October 2. The rates and sizes for monthly and 3 month and 6 month discounted ads are attached.

Our November issue also marks the beginning of our 28th year of publication. In addition to our gift guide, another exciting promotion we are offering is a free ad on our website to anyone who places a color display ad with us this month. Ads will remain on the website for 30 days and will also contain a link to your website! The rates and sizes for monthly ads are attached. (Although the Christmas gift guide does not qualify for this promotion, our full page, 2/3 page, 1/2 page, 1/3 page, 1/4 page, and 1/8 page color ads do qualify. We can set these ads up for you, or provide our specs if you are sending it camera ready. Please ask if you have any questions at all!)  

Contact us today to reserve your spot!

Questions? Call the office at 573-646-3934 (Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) 
or email

We have been in business 28 years and some of our advertisers have been with us since the beginning. Let us help you get the word out about your mule and/or donkey business or products.

For more information:    Mules and More Magazine
573-646-3934 -

P.O. Box 460 - Bland, Mo 65014    Fax 573-646-3407

“Mule Power!” Two Mules and the Texas Joust Championships

by David Kaemmerer, Worden, Ill.
photos by Shawn Carlson

DAVE and Buttons lance breaking in the joust

Jeff Johnson and I had been training my mules Buttons and Milly two to three times a week for months to get ready for the joust in Texas. This “Lysts on the Lake Joust” brings together some of the best jousters in the world, and we were both honored to be invited this year. I took second in this joust last year, losing by one point to a veteran jouster and mentor. This was Jeff’s first invitation to this prestigious joust, and we both trained hard and came to show these horse folks that mules rule. 

When my wife, Jeff, and I loaded the mules and left on the 15 hour trip, I thought I was suffering from allergies. As we travelled across the country from St. Louis, Mo., to Austin, Texas, I realized what I actually had was the flu. To make matters worse, we drove through a bad storm for most of our all night drive, adding to my stress.  

When we arrived, we first made sure the mules were settled and cared for, and then began unloading our armor from the truck bed. I had been up for 36 hours at this point and  I was tired. As I attempted to lift my armor box over the truck wall, it slipped, and the weight and weird angle bent my right wrist back, giving me a decent wrist sprain. I found our cabin, crashed, and tried to sleep it off.

The competitions didn’t start until the following day, so the next morning we let our mules rest and get used to the site. That afternoon, Jeff and I decided to stretch the mules out and show them the site and ride a little in the tilt lane with no armor. We were working on tacking up when I stepped down out of the back of the trailer and right into a grass covered hole, bending my ankle sideways and throwing me to the ground.  I was told I shouted, “YOU GOT TO BE FRICKIN KIDDING ME!” (only I didn’t use “frickin”).   My first thought as all that pain shot through my ankle was,  “You just broke your ankle, dummy, and have to joust tomorrow!” As I laid there, people ran over to help me up.   After they made fun of me for not shouting “ouch,” we determined it was a very bad sprain but not anything broken.  After about 20 minutes I realized if I didn’t roll my ankle side to side, I could hobble along. Once I climbed in the saddle, my boots and my stirrup kept my ankle from rolling.  I could ride, but it was painful. As I rode Buttons around, I was  thinking “First the flu, then a light sprained wrist, and now a bad sprained ankle. I am in trouble tomorrow - if I can even joust at all.” Riding while sick and injured in 80 pounds of armor in 90 degree heat was not much to look forward to. Jeff said that he felt sorry for me, but he also jokingly commented that he and Milly wouldn’t get anywhere near me. Not only was I a flu carrier, I was obviously cursed and they didn’t want my bad luck to rub off on them.

I had one thing going for me, and that was that Buttons and I had trained a lot. I think my mule took pity on me because she was riding great. Everyone went to dinner that night and I ended up leaving early due to cold shivers. I went to bed early and hoped for better luck in day one of the three days of upcoming competition.

The next morning I woke early and realized the flu was full on. I put my tall, tight boots on after taking a bunch of medicine and drinking Gatorade. The boots gave my aching ankle better support and I could walk and ride easier, as long as I didn’t roll my ankle. My wrist was hurting but not enough to keep me from holding a lance. Day one was all jousting, with three sessions of five jousters each. We would joust three passes with the four others in your session for 12 passes. The five lowest scores of the day from all 15 jousters would be eliminated in day one and only 10 jousters would move to day two.

I don’t recall much of day one. I was so sick, feverish and sore. I told myself to just go joust and whatever happens is meant to be. I think that thought relaxed me and gave me an “I don’t care anymore” attitude and I didn’t stress. Buttons ran perfect making my job much easier. I knew I had done pretty well, but had no idea what my score was. At the end of the day they tallied the scores and I was amazed when they announced I was tied for first place with another jouster, and Jeff was in second place by only a couple points. Jeff and I and our mules made it through the first round of eliminations. While many of the folks went off and celebrated, I cared for my mule, had more medicine and Gatorade, and went to bed early again.  

DAVE and Buttons jousting

Day two was a games course called The Hunt and two more sessions of jousting. The five jousters with highest scores would progress to the finals the next day. I awoke feeling a little better, so I took less medicine and forced more liquids. The Hunt is like a cross-county course with jumps, ditches and obstacles, combined with targets to hit with sword, spear and bow. Jeff and I have done lots of this skill at arms games over the years with our mules, and we both did well in The Hunt. When we started to armor up to joust  in the afternoon the temperature had risen and the humidity climbed, making it like a sauna.

 JEFF JOHNSON and Milly in the hunt

DAVE and Buttons in the hunt

My good friend and sports photographer Shawn Carlson arrived with his wife to watch us joust. Shawn is a former St. Louis resident who now lives in Houston. My wife’s brother, sister-in-law, and their young children arrived from nearby in Texas, as well. This was the first time these friends and family would all see me joust, so there was no pressure for this sick mule rider. 

I was feeling better, but not a 100 percent. As I finished armoring for my session, Jeff and Milly jousted in the session before mine.  They kicked ass (pun intended). Milly was showing us that all that practice had paid off. Jeff was jousting well and on target. Numerous veteran jousters and judges commented on how far those two had come and how well they were doing. I was very proud of my mule and my buddy Jeff. They were making a great team and their efforts showed. 

My session went pretty well. We got to the field early and I spoke to my niece and nephew and other kids in the crowd.  This chatting before hand tends to relax Buttons and I. I was no longer feeling like total death and, though the humidity was bad and I was still a little feverish, my mule took pity on me again and ran well. I can’t stress enough how much of a difference that makes. All of what we do happens in a few seconds and the mule running well makes my job worlds easier. I can just focus on my seat, my lance control and targeting. She ran perfectly and that made jousting, even when sick, easier than it should have been. 

We were on our final passes of that session with my final opponent, when we hit each other at the same time, and both our lances stuck on each others shields. The hit was one of the hardest I have ever taken. My head whiplashed forward as my shield whiplashed back from the force. The two came together with what felt like an uppercut to my chin. I was then rocked backwards like a giant hand had slowly shoved me continuously back. I “almost” caught myself with my legs, but my cinch had loosen and my saddle slipped sideways leaving me hanging horizontal to my mule. My mule stopped running after the hit at end of the lane (as she was trained to do) and I assume she felt me hanging sideways. I knew I couldn’t go back up from this far down and would only continue to slide. I quickly looked down to make sure I wasn’t going to land on a post and decided with the saddle half way down to her belly I might as well let go. The ground was only a few feet away at this point, so I dropped. The crash a man in armor makes hitting the ground is pretty loud and brutal. My armor fits and protects me and it was a controlled fall. I knew the crowd, judges and staff would be alarmed that I was badly hurt, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t. So the moment after I hit the ground, I rolled to my feet, jumped in the air, waived my arms, and yelled “Tadaaaaaa!”   This brought cheers from the crowd. I was still swarmed with people wanting to make sure I wasn’t hurt or concussed. As they tried to figure out if I was OK, my friends led Buttons off to check her and reset her saddle. They asked me questions to ensure I was “all there,” but all I was worried about was finding out my score from my pass. I had broken the lance all the way for a full four points. They laughed at me and said I must be fine. I assured them I was, and after taking a minute to calm Buttons, check my saddle and assure my mule it wasn’t her fault, I climbed back on to finish what was the last passes of that days last session. 

Luckily for me, two things happened during that freak hit.   One: my niece and nephew got fussy right before hand and their parents, along with my wife, had went to the parking lot to say good bye. They missed their uncle being unhorsed (well, really un-muled, or knocked off, or whatever…they missed my fall from grace). Two: Shawn stopped shooting photos when he saw I was coming off, much to the disappointment of my jouster buddies who wanted to relive and re-share those not so precious moments. (Thanks, Shawn, I owe you one, or probably more than one).

Late that night they announced which five of the original 15 jousters would progress to the finals on the third day.  Again, I was happy to see the list included Jeff and Milly.  Their first Lysts and they were in the finals! The list also included Buttons and I. We had made it, and two mules would be in the finals against three horses and their riders. I would be competing against my buddy, and I told him good luck, and that as long as one of us mule riders win, it’s good.
The day of the finals, I awoke feeling pretty good. I mean, comparatively, that is. After feeling like I was dying and then feeling like the death warmed over, feeling just “OK” was a great feeling. I put my armor on was full of energy and felt like I could lift draft mules with one hand. 

The morning activity was a Mounted Combat, a battle in armor with Batons. Batons are kind of like lightly padded baseball bats. This event, like the skill at arms games, would not add to your joust score but would add to your total score for grand champion. The order you were eliminated equaled your points. Eleven armored riders were competing. If you were eliminated first, you received one point. If eliminated second, you received two points. If eliminated last, you received 11 points. So, score wise, you wanted to be one of the last on the field. A total of five hard blows to your armor from your foes would eliminate you. I felt great and Buttons flew into this combat. This combat is much like old WWI Bi-planes dog fighting. You never want to stop and you want to out-ride your opponents by circling or spinning in place and getting behind them. It’s about fighting, but it’s much more about riding skill and maneuvering.  You can only turn so far around in the saddle to defend yourself, so getting behind your opponent is a big deal. Also, this was every man or woman for their self, no allies. If you stopped fighting one person, you had to worry about another foe coming up on your own flank. Mules are great at this kind of fight, as they typically turn much faster than most horses, and Buttons can turn on a dime and give you some change. We chased down opponents, spun in place and charged others and shot off at a run when I suspected I was being flanked, only to circle back in on our pursuers. Generally I was having a great time as I was finally feeling good. Buttons and I were the fourth from last to be eliminated. I was feeling good and ready for the joust finals that afternoon.  

 DAVE and Buttons in hot pursuit

When the finals began Jeff and Milly were breaking some lances for max points and running smooth as a team. I was feeling good and Buttons was riding nice and looking in great shape, not looking tired and maintaining gate nicely. All the conditioning and practice had both mules still strong on day three. I was not sick and my ankle and wrist pains were drowned by the adrenaline. So I felt jazzed to be jousting and everything seemed brighter after days of sick, stress and being miserable. Even the weather was cooler that day, with a nice cool wind. 

Everyone in the finals was getting some good breaks, so it could be anyone’s win that day, but I felt it was a mule’s time to win this. Jeff was going to have to work for it to beat me today. Finally it came time for Jeff and Milly to ride against Buttons and I. As I approached the lane, just before I took off, I yelled “Mule Power!” at the crowd and slammed the visor on my helmet closed, as we both grabbed lances and charged our mules at each other. We came together with a crash, almost as hard as the hit the day before that had unseated me.   I felt myself rock back and thought, “Oh no you don’t!” and righted myself into my seat. I was not about to be unseated again and not by my friend riding my other mule! We both roared with laughter after this titanic hit. We rode by to clasp hands as best friends enjoying this moment we had trained so hard to get to, and took our places to charge each other again for pass two of three.  

By now both Milly and Buttons had a huge following among the kids. We each spent a fair amount of time before and after each session with the kids and had told them if they cheered for the mules (not us) the mules would hear their names and run harder. Even through our helms we could hear them all alternating shouting “MILLY!!! MILLY!” and “GO BUTTONS GO!!”. Milly the draft mule thundered down the lane at Buttons. Buttons the Thoroughbred mule raced down the lane to meet her. Jeff and I struck each other another solid set of hits. I could see all the passes we had made in practice in these runs. Outside the tilt lane, as we passed each other to return to our ends of the lane for the final pass of three, we paused to shake hands again. I lifted my visor and said, “Hey, Jeff! You’re in the finals of Lysts on the Lake!”

He grinned and replied, “Hey, Dave! So are you!”

“One more pass?” I asked. 

“Yes, sir!” he shouted back.

We returned to our ends and raced at each other to strike each other boldly one more time that day. Both of us spent some time praising our mules, showering them with treats and thanking our very loud pint sized cheering sections of kids.

The scores would be announced shortly after. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I had run pretty well that day, and my mule had done far better than me. But I knew Jeff and Milly had done well, and so had a few others. It was a happy surprise when they announced Buttons and I had won first place in the joust! Jeff and Milly had taken fourth place, a noble showing for the pair in their first Texas joust. They then again honored Buttons and I when they announced we had won the Grand Champion of the tourney, meaning highest points total for all events at Lysts. They gave me a beautiful silver ring for the joust prize and a very awesome silver pin for the Grand Champion. 

We had many of the Joust staff and judges come to us after the event and tell us how nice it was to have two mules that were trained, safe, well behaved and knew their job (while some of the horses were acting crazy).  

A big thanks to my awesome wife Kris for tolerating my joust craziness and obsessiveness, and big thanks to all the Texas Joust staff, the ground crew and those who squired for Jeff and I. We can’t do all that without your help. 

Two mules went to the Texas joust and made it to the finals. One mule won the championship and joust. Chock up another set of wins for the mules of the world. Soon there will be a third mule jousting with us as our mule Rose continues to train. Hear that jousters? A mule storm coming at you soon!

Dave has started a gofundme account to help build an outdoor arena to hold free medieval practices for the mules and his students. See more at 


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Jake Clark Mule Days 2017

by Lenice Basham, PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

The 20th Annual Jake Clark Mule Days was one for the records.  Not because of a record setting mule price – but for the quality of mules that were offered for sale this year.  This group was one of the best across the board that have ever gone through the sale ring.  Over 30 different mules scored a 100 on the trail course.  This wasn’t because the judges were handing out high scores, but because they genuinely deserved them.
The Jake Clark Mule Day experience begins on Wednesday with Mounted Shooting and ends on Sunday when the last mule exits the sale ring.  For those there to purchase a mule, this experience allows for five days of watching, riding, petting and talking mules with the sellers. As Jake encourages potential buyers in the catalog, “Please be sure to talk with the consignors, investigate the mules qualities and be honest with yourself about your abilities to get matched up with the right mule.” 
It would be hard to find a buying experience anywhere else that allows you such access and such observation of mules for sale. Buyers could spend months traveling from state to state and farm to farm and only see 10 or so mules. This event allows you to see 83 high quality mules in one place for five days. Buyers will have already targeted mules they are interested in through advertising in Mules and More and the online catalogue which provides extra photographs and links to videos of the mule that presents additional information. It really is an amazing experience for mule buyers,  one of the most unique experiences that buyers can’t get anywhere else in the world.  
Every mule that goes through the sale must go through the trail course. The obstacles are those that will help a buyer by providing skills that would occur when they get their mule home. The trail course requires saddling, bridling, loading in a trailer – certainly things that every buyer would need to see. There are obstacles like crossing downed timber, standing still, crossing a bridge, dragging a log, leading another mule, crossing a creek, going through a gate, and it ends with putting on a rain slicker. We have all been there when it starts to rain and somebody’s mule runs off when they are trying to put on their slicker. You might not think it is a skill you might want in a mule – but it sure comes in handy when it is necessary and you are caught in the rain.  The trail course provides buyers the opportunity to watch, take notes and eliminate mules on their list just as much as it allows for buyers to put a circle and a star next to the mule they love in the catalog.  
In order to get a mule in the sale, consignors have to be a repeat, reputable seller or submit a video and undergo a screening process to consign a mule.  Most sellers have consigned for multiple years.  Jason Wilf, Pleasant Plains, Ark., and Jeff Tift, Sheridan, Wyo., have been a part of the sale for almost every sale Jake has had in the 20 year event. Each year, about 10 new consignors are added to the list of approved consignors.  All consignors submit their mule’s information in January. Jake reviews each mule submission and those that do not meet criteria are excluded from the sale. His goal is to bring together the best quality mules in the industry. He sets up the entire experience to show the best qualities of the breed and each year he accomplishes this by bringing better trained and better minded mules to his sale. 
The high selling mule, a 6-year-old, 16.1 hand black mare mule, was consigned by Jeff and Christina Tift. The catalog listing indicated that the mule was a very classy coal black mule. Jeff really liked the mule and had used her for most everything on the ranch and in the mountains. He had roped cattle, started and flagged colts, hunted  and guided on her, rode her down the highway to church and just truly enjoyed her.  She was noted to have a good ground covering walk, be soft in the mouth and ribs and had a great neckrein. She was thought to be out of a Thoroughbred mare and a mammoth jack. The buyer spent hours talking and watching and visiting with the Tift’s during the week.  The mule brought $28,500 when she exited the ring. 

JEFF TIFT riding Raven, who he and wife CHRISTINA sold as the high selling mule of the sale. Raven was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Roger Haley of Ventura, Calif., for $28,500

There was a tie for the reserve high selling mule. Both PairADice’s Piper (consigned by Loren Basham, Belle, Mo.) and Miss Kitty (consigned by TJ and Jake Clark, Ralston, WY) brought $26,000.  PairADice’s Piper was a 10-year-old, 14.1 hand sorrel mare mule. She was an outstanding trail mule, the perfect size to get on and off of, and was stout enough to carry anybody. She had been ridden endless miles on the trail and would go anywhere you pointed her. She is going to make her new buyer the perfect trail riding partner.  Miss Kitty was a 6-year-old, 15.2 hand black with blue roan highlights, mare mule.  She was used in TJ and Jake’s strings for three seasons on the mountain, over an extensive number of trails during their summer and fall season both being ridden and being packed.  TJ used her all spring to ride on cattle and doctor calves.  They felt the best part of her was her terrific mind. 
Reserve High Selling Mules Piper and Miss Kitty, who both sold for $26,000. Piper was consigned and shown above at left by LOREN BASHAM. Miss Kitity was consigned by TJ CLARK and shown above with CORT Snidecor in the parade

*These are based only on the sale prices that were announced in the ring at the time of the sale. This does not include those mules that were declared as a no sale in the ring and then sold after the sale.
Under 14 hands:  $7,750 (only 1 mule)
14. to 14.3 hands $8,447 (24 mules)
15 to 15.3 hands $10,338 (34 mules)
16 hands $11,718 (8 mules)
John Mules  $8,900 (30 mules)
Molly Mules  $11,284 (36 mules)
Eight mules were passed out in the ring, and six of these sold outside before the sale was over
First time sellers:  Average $7,357.  The range was $3,000 to $18,500 for new consignors, with Chris Knudson as the highest first time seller at $18,500.  He rode his mule Barbie bareback and bridleless into the sale ring.  She was a 15.1 hand, 7-year-old, sorrel mare mule.  
The second highest first time seller price was $10,500 consigned by Ike Sankey, who sold Amanda, an 8-year-old, 16 hand sorrel mare mule.  
We had beautiful weather for the parade and rodeo on Saturday. The parade was again led by Codi and Colby Gines pack string. It is a beautiful thing to see 25 loose mules lead the parade, with the mountains in the background and the wind softly blowing. The rodeo was high action and a great fun-filled afternoon. If you have never seen a wild cow milking in action, you need to attend next year. It’s an arena full of cows, mules, cowboys/cowgirls and ropes – along with yelling, cussing and bawling cows and a lot of laughter.  The mule race was exciting again this year with Loren and his son Cole’s race mule, Betty, taking home the buckle. It is a tough race across a rock filled pasture that is no way a flat race track.  The mules start at the end of a pasture and race toward Jake’s barns and the arena. The crowd stands along the fence line cheering their favorite. Team roping was fast, serious and professional this year. With ropers like Matt Zacanella and Junior Deiz, along with the ropers that come all the way from Texas, with times of under five seconds the norm.  It is a lot of fun to watch. Alyssa Fournier from Oregon had the fastest pole and barrel run. She had nice runs at the rodeo, as well as at the barrel races all week held in the evenings. The rodeo is a family event – with all ages of the family competing in the day’s events. 

Between the family friendly atmosphere and the quality mules everywhere you look, this event is a great way to spend a beautiful Father’s Day weekend in Ralston.


LACEY WILF riding Loretta, a 6-year-old 14.1 hand mare mule who sold for $6,000

Wesley Wells, Missouri

Driving CodI and Colby Gines’S pack string down the highway to start the parade 

Consignors and exhibitors riding in Saturday’s parade

BRUCE HOHULIN, Morton, Ill., riding Lady A (left)

MARK BAILEY at Saturday’s rodeo