Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Boyd Ranch Mule Ride

story and photos by Katherine M. Cerra, Buckeye, Ariz.
The answer to the question, “What do you carry in your saddlebag?” is age dependent. Me, being 56-ish, along with others in that age bracket, experience frequent reminders of injuries of the past when out enjoying ourselves.
Pain meds and Maximum Strength Flexall join my cache of first aid items, hoof pick and Leatherman Tool. The first two items are very much needed, so come the four-mile mark of a ride I don’t have the personality of a snarling coyote with it’s leg stuck in a trap.
And with age is suppose to come knowledge gained by experience. I’ll be darned though if I remember to thoroughly wipe the Flexall off my hands with baby wipes before using nature’s restroom. Being 16% menthol, I am here to tell you that by not practicing in thorough hand wiping, you will experience sensations where you probably shouldn’t be feeling any sensations. Oh my gosh!
So with my saddlebags packed, camera, GPS, extra batteries, my two mules Floppy and Izzy, and my trusty German Shepard co-pilot pup Sophie all loaded, we headed out to the Boyd Ranch Mule Ride, located north of Wickenburg, about nine miles east of Hwy 93 in the Wickenburg Mountains overlooking the Hassayampa river.
This was my fourth year attending the ride, which has been going on for five years now.  My first two years it was just Floppy and I, and then the third year I added my new mule Izzy. This year my 8-month-old pup Sophie attended. 
I love this ride because of the people and riding.  Though I started off not knowing anyone, it has since turned into more like a family reunion with good down-to-earth people.
Each year the “family” gets bigger. This year there were 64 riders and well over 70 some animals, so...lots of braying going on.
We’ve had a lot of rain here in Arizona, so with safety in mind some of the rides had to be altered due to the presence of quicksand in the Hassayampa, as well as some downed barb wire cattle fencing that was taken down by rushing waters.
On Thursday I went on Cathy’s 9.8 mile ride. There was a 697-foot difference between the minimum and maximum elevation with an overall 1,309-foot in ascents. We saw a coyote making a mad dash up the hillside across the way and a jackrabbit dashing up the hillside we were on. I think the jackrabbit was glad he wasn’t the main entrĂ©e on Mr. Coyote’s menu that day.
After the ride, Brad Pyles and his seven-month -old Rottweiler Chief joined Sophie and I for some play time in the Hassayampa. Sophie is a water diva and with her encouragement Chief joined in on the romping in the water.
Friday was the ride of rides: Scott’s now infamous ride into the Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness. I went on this ride the year before and it was pretty and challenging. Izzy was my mule of choice for the wilderness ride for both years.  This year Scott re-routed the approach into the wilderness, which got a thumbs up from me. The approach this time was along a jeep trail that runs up to and along the boundary of the wilderness (versus riding a wash the year before).
Once in the wilderness area we took the same trail as before, with the only difference being we didn’t cross the Hassayampa. The river was running pretty good, but it was running muddy and you couldn’t see the rocks and/or sand that lay beneath, so we trekked through some old mesquite and landed back on track. The ride was 22.2 miles with nine hours in the saddle and I think everyone’s bodies were reminding them of the time.  There was a 1,055-foot difference between minimum and maximum elevation with 3,320-foot in ascents.
The sharpest descent of the wilderness ride was the same spot as last year where we were left wondering what the heck happened to Scott. He seemed to have disappeared. Just mere minutes before he had told us to take our cameras out as the views were going to be awesome…only thing is he forget to tell us that the descent we were about to make was going to be a butt-pucker.   Seeing how I knew what to expect and I recorded the descent.
Arriving back at the ranch I, as I’m sure as others, was ready to roll off the saddle. And what a pleasant and most appreciated personal pit crew awaited my arrival; Dwight Beard, Donna Norgaard and Debbie Humphries. Thanks so much for your help!
I took the day off on Saturday and caught a ride in a wagon and milled around the ranch. Come 2 p.m. it was time for the Mule Ramble. I think the events (keyhole, barrels, ribbons and obstacle) were a nice mix, ran smoothly and enjoyed by all.  The highlight for me was watching the Masters of Driving (Dwight Beard, Donna Norgaard and Ray from Montana) strut their stuff in the arena. Ray, who I hadn’t met before, likes to leave an impression on people he meets and forever will I remember him as Spartacus, as he showed up dressed in Roman garb driving a chariot.
The Farewell ride was led by Bonnie, another awesome trail boss. Bonnie spends quite a bit of time on the trails in the area and found several spots where we could safely cross the Hassayampa River. Luckily, where we crossed, Floppy didn’t need his water wings. Mother Nature turned up the furnace on Sunday and I was glad we weren’t riding the Wilderness area that day! The Farewell ride was 10.3 miles in length, 648-foot difference between minimum and maximum elevation and 1,442-foot in ascents. This was one of the prettiest short rides. We rode up through a wash into a canyon that had yellow poppies all over the canyon sides.  Very, very pretty. Out on the trail enjoying the high temperatures was a Desert Tortoise. I always feel privileged when I see one of these creatures out in the wild. He had his head tucked in his shell as we passed and I could have sworn I heard him mutter “ass.” Yep, that’s what we’re riding buddy.
Too much to tell and some of which was missed, went on during the event;  music, gold panning, orienteering, a pirate maiden pouring shots, bonfire, socializing and a fox scurrying up a rock canyon.

What goes on, on the Hassayampa stays on the Hassayampa. And even if tales were to be told, one would never know the truth because as legend has it once you sip on the waters of the Hassayampa you never can tell the truth again.

Illinois Horse Fair

by Sue Cole, Senior Editor
photos by Lenice Basham. PairADice Mules
LOREN leading a young mule during a clinic
The 28th Illinois Horse Fair was held March 3-5, 2017 at the State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. This 3-day event is produced by Horsemen’s Council of Illinois located in Quincy. Theme for this year’s event was Horses & Heroes. 
A very reasonable advance admission fee could be purchased at a discounted rate, or at the gate for a slightly higher fee. This fee entitled those attending to all events on the grounds, including 40,000 square feet of “shop ‘til you drop” vendors booths selling fashion, tack, gear, equipment, beautiful trailers of all sizes and price, nutrition information for your mules and donkeys, along with a large variety of food for yourself. Along with all the entertainment, the admission fee entitled you to a full-color, educational program that included a schedule of the activities, as well as advertising for equine products and events.
Two separate arenas were in use for mule and horse clinics, along with breed and sport exhibitions, a stallion parade and horses for sale. Carriage and wagon rides were provided for those attending also.
During the weekend awards were presented to horse and horseman of the year. There was a celebration of veterans, law enforcement, first responders and therapy groups.
Clinics and educational programs were presented throughout the weekend, with Loren Basham of PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo. giving six individual clinics on Building a Braver Young Mule and Strengthening the Connection for Mature Mules. At Basham’s final clinic Saturday afternoon there was a packed house. Loren, and his wife, Lenice, were kept busy between clinics visiting with, and answering questions about mules, in the stall area. His choice of a mount for the weekend was an extremely personable 10-year-old sorrel molly mule, Mary Lou. Mary Lou is consigned to the upcoming Jake Clark Saddle Mule Auction in Wyoming.

We were glad to see mules included in this very entertaining, educational event. 

A demonstrator at the Horse Fair

LOREN working with a young mule


LENICE answers mule questions prior to the clinic

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NASMA 2016 Year End Winners - Youth

2016 NASMA High Point Youth 10 & Under

2016 NASMA High Point Youth Donkey

2016 NASMA High Point Youth Mule - Top 10

(featured in our March 2017 issue)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mules and More's 7th Annual Trail Riding Index

Here are our favorite suggestions for trail riding clinics, campgrounds, and trail riding vacations!
Pick up our April issue of Mules and More to see our full 7th annual Trail Riding issue!

Trail Riding Clinics

Building a Better Trail Partnership with Clinician Karen Lovell

August 5, 6 and 7, 2017
Rocky Mountain Mule Ranch, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta
This clinic is designed to improve the communication between you and your mule. You will work towards achieving this goal by building a strong and trusting relationship that will produce a willing and confident animal. Come stay at the ranch. 
Rocky Mountain Mule & Saddle Co.
Rocky Mountain House, AB, Canada

Overcoming Challenges with Your Horse or Mule with Wild Bunch Mule Co. 

April 28-29, 2017
Whiskey Ridge Ranch in Malvern, Arkansas
Address bad habits, fear, personality conflicts and obstacles in this clinic hosted by Mark and Jennifer Bailey. Instruction in the arena and on the beautiful trails of the ranch and surrounding properties Cost is $300 for two day's instruction with all meals included. Entertainment is proved for Saturday evening. Please RSVP for a clinic participant spot. Spectators are welcome and admission is $24 for two days. 


Fort Valley Ranch Horse & Mule Campground

Fort Valley, VA
Whether you are looking for a guided horseback ride on one of our sure-footed trail horses or bring your own horse, Fort Valley Ranch, nestled in the Massanutten Mountains of the National Forest, has the perfect setting.  We have miles of marked trails on the Ranch as well as direct access to trails in the George Washington National forest.  Hourly, half and full-day rides, as well as multi-day Ranch Packages, are available.  Centrally located in the Shenandoah Valley, minutes from Luray Caverns in Luray, VA and only 1.5 scenic hours from Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

Whiskey Ridge Ranch - Malvern, Arkansas

Whiskey Ridge Guest Ranch features guided and non-guided rides on scenic trails and ponds for fishing and swimming areas. Stalls and trailer hook-ups with water and electric are available. There is a 150 x 250 covered riding arena with bleachers with a full team roping set-up, barrels, poles, jumps and obstacles. Riding lessons are offered. Come ride with us!
Whiskey Ridge Guest Ranch

Buck Fever Camp Trail Rides - Southwest Colorado

Be on your own on trails, or be guided. Move cattle from one pasture to another. Camp in our wall tent, next to a pond with trout, or stay in our cabin. Or you can bring your living quarter trailer and stay in our camp with full hook-up, with a nice fire ring for your group, or put up your own tent.
Arrange for a chuck wagon dinner prepared for your family or group.
Arrange for a wagon ride, this would be an early evening ride, this would be an early evening ride to get a better opportunity to see elk and other wildlife and a beautiful sunset. 
Our ranch is 1,200 acres and borders BLM Land, so there is plenty of riding available. 
Bring your own mules and horses.
Call for details (661)303-0005. 

Turkey Creek Ranch - Newcastle, NE

Turkey Creek Ranch is a dream destination for horse riders. We offer two fully furnished cabins and a campground with electric hook-ups, picnic shelters, shower house, and horse pens. We have miles of mapped trails and an obstacle course you won't find anywhere else!
Call to reserve your spot today! Weekends fill up quickly! 


Riding Vacations

U-Trail's High Adventure Destinations

High adventure destinations and wilderness pack trips enrich and renew your spirit! Reconnect with the natural world on horseback: Gila Wilderness alpine adventures in southwest New Mexico; Unique and stunning destinations each day, including historical sites; Experience Ancient Indian Cliff Dwellings; Pristine solitude, clear running creeks and endless vistas; Observe elk and deer in camp

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Attitude vs Strength

Stephanie proved to Ginger that, despite her physical size and strength, she was a strong, dependable leader that would follow through and not pussyfoot around about her intentions.  They have a relationship built on mutual respect

by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho

Physical strength isn’t everything, especially when dealing with mules. Some folks still believe that to handle a mule you need brute strength, bigger bits and chains on the halter. But that theory doesn’t apply to all mules, though granted, there are those that may need some stronger input. Often, one of the most basic things folks overlook when handling equines in general is attitude and follow through. 
Stephanie Middlebrook is one of my riders. She just turned 28, has cerebral palsy and might weigh a hundred pounds dripping wet. She’s been active with horses since she was five and believe me, this live wire doesn’t take any guff of any of our equines. She doesn’t have the physical strength, but she sure has the attitude of a lead mare, and the equines know and respect her. Though she is non-verbal and just communicates through sounds, Stephanie gets her message across. They also know she will follow through on any corrective action she might have to use.

Stephanie’s first mule encounter was with John, an older john mule that has now passed on. She rode him a bit and did lots of in-hand trail with him. Since they were doing so well together, we thought it might be fun for Stephanie to do an in-hand demonstration at the Salmon Select Mule Sale. So she was going to step up to Ginger, my show mule who’s an opinionated, aged molly. For me, Ginger has always been solid and does what she’s asked. So I thought she would be a good match for Stephanie. Ginger thought she was going to have other ideas.

We were in the trail area where Stephanie was going to lunge Ginger for the first time in the open. Stephanie had lunged her a little in the barn and that went alright. The open area proved to be a different story. Since things went well in the barn, I didn’t hesitate having Stephanie try in the open since the demonstration would be in a big arena. Stephanie held the lungeline and whip and I held the line about six feet behind her, basically to keep it from tangling around her. Stephanie always knows that if anything happens, she’s just to drop the line. Well, Stephanie sent Ginger out on the line and started her going around to the left. Suddenly Ginger snatched the lead and took off across the field, surprising both Stephanie and I. We both let go of the lungeline.  I hiked out, got Ginger and brought her back. Stephanie sent her out again and at the same spot, Ginger snatched the lungeline and was off again. She had never done anything like this before. 

I gathered her up again and Stephanie and I reviewed our strategy. Once was a fluke, twice was planned so we had to be ready for her. I told Stephanie to send her out again and at the spot she took off, to snatch the lungeline as hard as she could and yell “WA,” her sound for whoa. Stephanie sent her out again and at the same spot, we could see Ginger’s nose tip outward. That instant Stephanie pulled on the lungeline with all her might and as Ginger’s nose came inward she yelled “WA” at the top of her lungs! Ginger hit the brakes, her eyes grew big as saucers and she looked at Stephanie. I was trying hard not to laugh at Ginger’s expression.  Stephanie puffed up to her lead mare attitude, looked at Ginger and motioned her to come to her. Ginger did exactly as she was told. Walked up next to Stephanie and stood like a perfect lady. 

Stephanie sent her out on the lungeline again and as Ginger neared her escape spot, Stephanie shook the line, gave a verbal reminder and Ginger politely continued around the circle. Ginger got the message! It didn’t take brute strength, just attitude and timing. Stephanie proved to Ginger that, despite her physical size and strength, she was a strong, dependable leader that would follow through and not pussyfoot around about her intentions. Before long they were working various in-hand obstacles including very tight back throughs and bridges. And, for their demonstration, Stephanie worked Ginger on the lungeline, changed directions and even sent her over a small jump.

Last fall, Stephanie started working with Bonnie, first in the barn doing in-hand work and some obstacles. She’s been on Bonnie twice and this spring hopefully she will be riding her more often. This is a challenge for both of them. Because of Stephanie’s physical condition, she sits differently in the saddle, her leg cues are different and she uses her reins differently than we do.  Bonnie isn’t quite sure what’s expected of her and is having to learn a new set of rider cues as well as to understand Stephanie’s vocal language. And, Stephanie will have to figure out how to communicate her intentions to Bonnie. 

Watching Stephanie working with the equines often reinforces the fact that they are comfortable and respond well to a confident leader. It’s not a person’s size or physical strength, but their heart and attitude that make the best training tools. 
Walk with me! Bonnie confidentially walks with Stephanie off lead

Stephanie and Ginger doing their demonstration at the Salmon Select Horse Sale

Getta and Stephanie helping Bonnie get used to Stephanie’s verbal and physical cues

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, January 27, 2017

Mules and More’s 7th Annual Trail Riding Guide


We are working on our 7th annual trail riding guide for the April 2017 issue of Mules and More. Do you have a favorite place to trail ride, a destination trip or local trip, that you would like to see featured? Send your story and photos to us! Email or mail to PO Box 460, Bland MO 65014. If you email photos, be sure to send them in their original file size and format, and at least 300 dpi. The deadline is March 1. Also - the last several years we have chosen our April cover from submissions to the trail guide. So this might be your chance to be on the cover of Mules and More!


Do you own a campground, trail ride or overnight campground? Let us help you start the season out on the right foot, by getting your business in front of the eyes of thousands of mule owners! Contact us for information on how to advertise in the Trail Riding Issue, which comes with a complimentary spot in our online Trail Riding Guide. This year’s deadline is March 1. 

Big South Fork, Tennessee: A Beautiful Fall Adventure

by Angie J. Mayfield, Loogootee, Idaho
Tennessee is a beautiful state, especially in the mountains when the leaves are changing colors and the air is perfect for a warm campfire. I physically mourned when I heard the gorgeous Gatlinburg area was on fire. As a kid that was our annual family vacation, and I have so many fond memories of the mountains and wildlife there. 
Another gorgeous area of Tennessee not, affected by the fires, lies further north, bordering Kentucky, and that is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It encompasses 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau and surrounds the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. With miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, there is a wide range of equine trails and other outdoor recreational activities. Rich with natural and historic features, it’s a great place to pack up the family and the long ears and spend a weekend or a week. 
There’s a lodge and several equine campgrounds in the Jamestown and Oneida, TN areas of Big South Fork. The first time we went we stayed at True West, which was very nice, but I must admit as an extreme trail rider I was a little disappointed at the wide, road-like trails. However, our November trip this year gave me a whole new appreciation for South Fork. This time we stayed at Honey Creek Campground, about 30 minutes north of Jamestown near Allardt. More secluded but with a bunkhouse, a clean, roomy shower house, and numerous stalls and electric campsites, we were impressed. And the owners are sweethearts who were so helpful and friendly. We even met some great mule Facebook friends from Nashville, Debra and Wilbur Brooks, who came over to visit, sit around the campfire, and listen to Tucker play the banjo.
The trails, however, really won me over to the Honey Creek area. The camp connects to 150 miles of scenic equestrian trails that vary from easy to OMG! We loved it. One trail was literally named the “Oh Sh**” trail, and some rock hopping was required. Little Tucker was with us, and he managed the trail fine, except when he lost his toy pistol and was quite upset. But we ended up finding it and then he was back to having a blast on his little mule, Booger. 
Many of the trails out of Honey Creek run along the beautiful winding White Oak River. The White Oak runs along the old O&W Railroad bed, which served the old mining and timber camps in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, and has since been turned into part of the park's equestrian trail system. After a firm swat on the rear, we convinced the mules to cross the old O&W railroad bridge over the river. It was quite exhilarating and great practice for our upcoming adventure to the Grand Canyon with our mules in March. 
Friday it was 73 degrees and sunny. Saturday it was 42 degrees and cloudy. And I thought 30 degree changes only occurred in Indiana! Thankfully I had packed our long underwear, gloves, and hats. The cold front didn’t stop us from riding 20 miles Saturday, making a big loop along the scenic overlooks and then following the river. Then we explored some of the more adventurous trails on the way back to camp, barely making it in by dark. Fortunately, it didn’t rain as predicted. The outcroppings, giant boulders in the river, and various flora from holly bushes and mountain laurel to pines and hardwoods were breathtaking and distracted us from the cold wind. Most of the trails were covered with a layer of colorful leaves or pine needles, and we didn’t see a soul on the trails all weekend. It was magical and one of the most relaxing weekends I’ve had in awhile. And oh, how good that campfire felt after the ride. 
Our trip reminded me never to let a first impression of a place be my last one. Big South Fork is definitely on our annual trip list now. It’s not far from home but offers great trails, scenery, and camps for all types of mule riders. There are also plenty of gravel roads and fire trails around to bring your wagons so we plan to bring our mini mule and cart next time. We’re going to spend a few days at Honey Creek and then drive down and ride at Cades Cove next year. My New Year’s resolution is to trail ride as many miles and visit as many places as I can, including the final two states in the U.S. I haven’t ridden in. So many trails, so little time! 

Angie J. Mayfield is an author, professor, and columnist for three magazines who has ridden in 48 states and six countries on her mules and logged more than 6,000 trail miles just since she started keeping track in 1999.
View from the O&W railroad bridge at Big South Fork

Doug, Tucker, and mules at the Double Arches near Honey Creek Campground