Thursday, December 1, 2016

2017 Jack Issue & Index Information

Mules and More’s 26th Annual Jack Issue Information

Featured breeders and jack advertising package - $100 - includes both print and online advertising!
This year’s Special Jack Issue will go in the mail January 25, 2017.

Deadline for regular advertising is January 4, 2017
You can’t think of February without thinking of love, and when you raise mules and donkeys, February also means the start of breeding season. Each February, mare and jennet owners look to the February issue of Mules and More to play matchmaker and search for the perfect cross.  

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get your  jack in front of potential clients!  
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

31st Annual National Championship Chuck Wagon Races

by Sue Cole, Mules and More Editor
photos by Porch Pig Productions
My yearly trip to Clinton, Arkansas, to watch the National Championship Chuck Wagon Races is one of the highlights of my year. This was the 31st  year for the event held on the Bar of Ranch. I was once again joined by friends, JoAnn Edwards of Eureka, Mo., and Virginia Bertz of Higginsville, Mo.
Not long after I purchased Mules and More, 26 years ago, my late husband Gene and I had been hearing about the chuck wagon races held on Labor Day weekend. So, we drove down on a Friday just to check them out. At that time the races weren’t nearly as popular, or as well attended, as they are today, and we were able to find a motel room at the small motel in town. Today, if you are wanting to reserve a room, you must call several months in advance. I still remember meeting one of the contestants Jason Wilf of Pleasant Plains, Ark. at the motel; Jason has a way of never meeting a stranger, and he and his family are still competing with their mules.
Ordinarily Labor Day weekend in Arkansas finds the temperatures in the 80’s, 90’s and sometimes 100+ degrees, with high humidity. The first year we attended I don’t remember it being extremely hot, but I do remember it pouring down rain, and almost all of the spectators gathered beneath the roof of the pavilion Dan had constructed; this pavilion is still standing, but it certainly wouldn’t hold but a very small portion of those watching the races (held rain or shine) from the top of the bluff. This year the weather was absolutely perfect, for the first time I can remember.
The races are still as exciting as they were the first time I attended, only now there are just a lot more events and a larger number of contestants. Over the years I’ve watched Dan and Peggy Eoff add new events and entertainment, as well as adding the length of time people are permitted to camp at their ranch.
Everyone entering the gates to the ranch is required to purchase an arm band; these arm bands have the wording “Horses & wagons have the right of way.” Looking out from underneath our little canopy on the bluff, right below Dan and Peggy’s house, campers are assembled below as far as the eye can see. We have an excellent view of the race track/field, being able to see both the starting line and the finish line, as well as the entrance into the river for the Snowy River Race.
We arrive on Friday before noon in order to get settled in by the time the Oklahoma Land Rush race begins promptly at 1 p.m. From that time on there is something happening on the track for the next 2-1/2 to 3 hours. 
Next up is the Saddle Mule Race, the most exciting event of the weekend for our family, as my grandson, Cole Basham of Bland has competed in this event for the past nine years, winning eight of those nine with his black molly mule BB. Eleven riders on mules were lined up this year, ready to mount when the gun was fired. Once again BB won the first heat with a time of 46.2 seconds, the fastest time of the weekend.
The 4-Up Mules consisted of 17 wagons and was won  for the second year in a row by S&S Express, Benton, Ark., Jeremy Sumler and Lee MacDonald. 
The Oklahoma Land Rush had 38 entries and was won by Triple B, of Marshall, Ark.,  young driver John Wayne Daniel. Outrider winner was Kateland Allen, Dike, Tex.
The Bronc Fanning event had 12 contestants and was won again for the second year in a row by Patrick Wood, with 162 points on two head.
The Buckboard event had 34 wagons competing and was won in a run-off by Bar H Ranch & Rodeo, Pleasant Plains, Ark., Brent Henderson, Madelin Martin, Cody Bean. 
The Big Mules  race had 38 teams and was won by Dumb & Dumber, Wilberton, Okla., Cary MacFadden, Perry Murdock, Ben Hartwick. 
The Snowy  River Race  had 8 entries and was won by Mark Brown. It was a thrill to watch Linda Bailey of Wild Bunch Horse & Mule Co., Malvern, Ark. competing, as I have watched this young lady grow up on the back of a mule. She is quite the cowgirl.  
The Classics Division had 40 wagons competing and was won by Cadillac Cowboys, Quitman, Ark. Austin Dotson, Kenneth Barger and Lane Holman.
Among veteran participants acknowledged were Jason Wilf, Pleasant Plains, Ark., and Jason Swart, both for 30 years, and Pee Wee Harris, Travis Mannon, Larry Stallings, Jim Waddle of North Little Rock, Ark., and Jill Rhoda for 25 years. Five, ten, 15 and 20 year veterans were also acknowledged.
Announcers Danny Newland, Dean Holman and Andy Stewart kept the crowd informed of times, winners and information about contestants.
Vendors row is a great place to shop for that new pair of boots you’ve been needing, tack for your mule, or just about anything ‘country and western’ you could wish for, I even found a new purse to purchase. Food vendors provide everything from a cold drink to a huge turkey leg or that delicious bloomin’ onion.

Dan and Peggy have thought of everything to keep you entertained while enjoying some great Arkansas hospitality in the small town of Clinton, and especially on the Bar of Ranch. I can’t begin to describe how exciting and entertaining the National Championship Chuckwagon Races are, so mark your calendars now for Labor Day weekend 2017…we hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Looking for a last minute gift for that special Mule or Donkey person, we’ve got a deal for you. Order a one-year subscription for a new subscriber (not a renewal, or for anyone having been a subscriber in the past 10 months, we can help you with that info if needed) for the old rate of $30. Along with this we will send a gift card letting them know they will be getting this as a Christmas Gift from you. 

HURRY! This offer expires 12/15/16

USEF Proposed Rule Change Will Allow Mules To Compete Equally With Horses

The United States Equestrian Federation has had a “mule rule” proposed during their annual rule change season and it will be coming up for a vote in January.  With the passing of this rule, mules would be able to participate in all non-breed related divisions at USEF competitions.  These include hunters, jumpers, eventing, reining, western, vaulting, and others. 
The USEF has a rulebook that dictates all the rules for showing in sanctioned USEF events.  In the General Rules chapter there is a rule that defines the term “horse” throughout the rulebook. Currently this rule states, “GR126 Horse: 1. The term ‘horse’ as used in these rules denotes either a horse or pony. 2. In all levels of all Federation licensed Driving and Endurance Competitions and in the case of any other Federation Rule as it relates to the Driving or Endurance disciplines as the context permits it, the term ‘horse’ shall also include a mule. See DC Annex 9, EN102.1.” There is an added note that indicates that mules are permitted to compete in dressage with several exceptions.  (To view the entire rule, visit:
 The new proposed rule amends the current language and, if passed, would allow mules to compete in non-breed related divisions.  The proposed rule is such: “GR126 Horse 1. The term ‘horse’ as used in these rules denotes either a horse or pony. 2. In all levels of all Federation licensed non-breed specific divisions, which include Carriage Pleasure Driving, Driving, Combined Driving, Endurance, English Pleasure, Equitation, Eventing, Hunter, Jumper, Parade Horse and Saddle Horse or Pony, Western Equipment, Reining, Vaulting, Western, and Western Dressage, Driving and Endurance Competitions and in the case of any other Federation Rule as it relates to the Driving or Endurance disciplines as the context permits it, the term ‘horse’ shall also include a mule. See DC Annex 9, EN102.1. (To view the rule change proposal and see its intent, visit:
 All of the proposed rules that were submitted to USEF were distributed among the affiliate organizations for discussion and a vote.  For example, because eventing is named in this GR126 mule rule, the United States Eventing Association will have an opportunity to review and vote on the rule.  All the committees on each affiliate organization will also review pertinent rules and submit a recommendation to the USEF Board of Directors.  The USEF BOD will vote at their Annual Meeting during the week of January 11-14, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.  Between now and then, the membership has an opportunity to comment on any rule, including this one.   
Sadly, there is a small catch.  Although USEF does seek comments on all their proposed rules, they are really only interested in comments from USEF members or their affiliates.  For most of us mule people, we do not have USEF numbers because so many of us cannot compete at USEF’s competitions.  There is a chance, however, that if enough mule owners, trainers, riders, and competitors share their support for this rule despite not having a USEF membership, USEF might be willing to accept our comments because the rule does directly affect us. Additionally, it would show USEF how many potential new memberships they may have if the rule is passed and all these people could be paying members.
 There are a couple ways someone can comment and show their support for this rule: If they are a USEF member or a member of an affiliate organization (even if the membership is inactive), mule supporters can log in to their account at and comment on the rule GR126.2. If someone does not have a membership but knows someone with a membership, the mule supporter can ask his pro-mule friend to comment on the rule on his behalf.
Mule supporters without numbers are also encouraged to reach out to USEF or their affiliates by emailing or calling them directly.  USEF Customer Care can be emailed at or contacted by calling 859-258-2472 and showing support for rule GR126.2. I might remind USEF that mule supporters don’t always have a membership because they currently cannot compete but this rule directly affects them and their voices should be heard.
 When contacting USEF and commenting about the rule, it would be very important for supporters to state why the rule is a good idea. Many people make uneducated excuses about why mules should not be included in sanctioned competition so educating people and sharing how wonderful mules are is important. For example, mules are raised, trained, ridden, fed, and treated no differently than horses; accepting mules would provide access to educational opportunities and programs for mule owner/riders; USEF would see an increase in membership. Other reasons might be that divisions that already allow mules (dressage, combined driving, endurance) are having success with competing mules without any issues, or that the intrigue of mules can bring new interest and excitement for many divisions and competition. As for the “your mule will scare my horse!” excuse, mules can be as well behaved or ill-behaved as any horse (stallions, green horses, green riders)…the argument that mules are unpredictable is not valid.

Feel free to share this information with the mule community and encourage them to support and comment while we have the opportunity! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Rear Cinch

by Capt. Joe Vaclavik, Chicago, Illinois 
The rear cinch, also known as the rear flank strap, rear girth, or back cinch is found on all western saddles.  It's there for specific purposes!  The use of a front and rear cinch is known as a "double rig."
The western saddle has either reinforced leather slits on the rear section of the saddle skirt or "D" rings.  Attached to these are billets.  Billets are short leather or nylon straps that have punched holes.  The leather cinch has buckles on both ends that fasten to the billets. 
The rear cinch needs to be snug against the mule and fastened to the front cinch with a short strap or hobble to prevent the rear cinch from shifting backward.  If the cinch happened to slide to the back flank of the mule it could cause your mule to go "western," i.e. buck!
The rear cinch should only be snugged up after the front one is tightened.
This important strap is especially critical when roping livestock. It prevents the saddle from tipping forward and keeping the saddle flat on the mules back as forward pressure is  applied on a saddle horn by a dallied rope.  
The rear cinch also provides a secure saddle for the trail rider as it prevents the saddle from rocking back and forth as the rider covers rough terrain, it also helps prevent lateral movement of the saddle.  A secure saddle gives the rider a firm seat and the mule better balance because the rider is sitting square.
During a ride, the wrangler needs to re-examine both the front and rear cinch. As the day progresses the cinches loosen as the mule sweats and loses body bloat.
I've seen many people riding with loose rear cinches hanging several inches or more. This is an invitation for disaster.  A mule could easily hook a rear hoof in the cinch and by "brush hopping" off a groomed trail, the probability of a branch slipping between the underside of your mule and the cinch is high.    

Whenever around your mount, always use "good old" common sense. Both on the ground and in the saddle. Don't become complacent, don't treat your mule as you would treat your dog. Be vigilant, you’re around an incredible powerful animal with flight instincts!  You'll inevitable get hurt if you treat your mule as your baby!

- From the October 2016 Issue of Mules and More

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time to Make Your 2016 Christmas Wish List!

Festus, owned by BETSY SKINNER, dressed up for Christmas 

Whether you are making your of wish list of what you hope is under the tree on December 25th, or shopping for your friends and family,  use this list to start getting ready for Christmas!

-Last Minute Gifts

Queen Valley Mule Ranch Instructional Video Streaming
Stream many of Steve Edward’s instructional DVDs right from your computer. Watch on your computer or personal electronic devise (like a Youtube video). Titles include, Why Does My Mule Do That?, Communicating from the Lines, So You Want to Buy a Mule? and Trailer Loading

The Mischka Press Calendars and Books
Mischka Press calendars and books make wonderful, long lasting gifts your loved ones will treasure all year long. We offer Mule, Donkey, Draft Horse and Driving Horse wall calendars, as well as an Appointment Calendar and small, standup Desk Calendar. All of these include quantity discounts and free shipping. Send us your gift list, and we’ll send calendars directly to your giftees — the free shipping and discounts still apply! See our calendars, books and DVDs online or ask for a free catalog. 1-877-647-2452 

-Gifts for Little Ones

Jasper the Mule
Give the gift of reading and laughter with Jasper the Mule adventure collections. Choose from the Reading Bundle, Movie Bundle, the Complete Collection or individual books and DVDs. Free shipping on collections!, (800)816-7566

-Mulemanship Gifts

Ty Evans Mulemanship Ground Work Basics DVD 
Ty Evans of TS Mules, Chester, Utah, has spent most of his life riding and training mules, and perfecting his methods. Ty was the winner of the 2015 American Mule Trainers Challenge, and his methods are based off of “feel” and “timing,” which can produce great results in the mules he works with. Ty travels the U.S. teaching mulemanship clinics and is willing to share his knowledge and insight with anyone who desires to listen. In this DVD Ty covers the basics of ground work; these exercises are critical elements of a mule’s foundation. DVD includes Hooking-on to you, Halter Driving, Gaining Confidence through desensitizing, Handling a saddle for the first time and Ground Driving. $35.00, (801)598-7465 or 573-646-3934 or

Brad Cameron Mule Training DVDs
Learn from the best! A great do it yourself, learn at home tool, for that hard to buy for mule rider. By Cameron Mule Company of Corvallis, Mont. • $149.95 plus s/h • 406-369-5190 or

Teaching Your Mule To Lie Down
This is an easy four-step instruction on how to teach your mule or horse to lie down to mount and dismount. No harsh methods used, just pressure and release. “Anyone can do this!” says instructor Dave Recker. “I have had numerous professional trainers as well as hundreds of amateurs use this method with great success.” $44.95 (shipping included) To order:, (573)881-0324

Lucky Three Ranch
Give you and your equine the gift of a harmonious and rewarding partnership with training packages for every level from Meredith Hodges and Lucky Three Ranch. Free shipping on all training packages!, (800)816-7566

-For the Book Lover 

SMOKE the Donkey 
A Marine’s Unlikely Friend by Cate Folsom – Smoke the Donkey is a story about two American heroes and their surprising friendship---‘Semper Fidelis’ at its finest. Smoke steals all of the hearts of everyone. Smoke served as mascot, ambassador, and battle buddy on a U.S. military base near Fallujah in war-torn Iraq. Hardback. $24.99 plus s/h 573-646-3934 or

-For the Traveler

Nationwide Overnight Stabling Directory and Equestrian 
Vacation Guide, (Volume 28)  A great guide/directory if you are planning on traveling with your mule; very easy to use. 192 pages. $26.95. 573-646-3934 or

-Gifts for the Tack Room

Leather Cavesson/Nose Band with adjustable hanger and adjustment around the nose. The one-earred head stall adjust to fit mules nicely.
Contact The Rein Maker Sandy Boaz at (270)365-7899 (shop). (270)836-9762 (cell), or by email at

Swiss Grazing Bells & Bell Collars
Long range Swiss made grazing bells are the loudest and clearest bells on the market, making them a must for all backcountry grazing. Perfect gift for new trail riders, and a much appreciated upgrade for those that use standard cow bells. Bells and bell collars sold separately. (406)752-4437,

 As a Saddlemaker & Treemaker I know the key element  to making a saddle work is keeping it in position where it was made to be used. The Never-Tight Crupper allows 10” of adjustment. Each inch = 5lbs of tension. I set it at 15lbs and let the tuck of the hindquarters add the rest. No rubbing from a loose crupper, no hit on the tail. IT WORKS! Len Brown,  816-625-0333

Donkey Whisperer
 Celebrate your donkey this holiday season with a custom made donkey rope halter and matching lead line!  Our rope halters and lead lines are made of thick, durable, high quality yacht rope and come in Mammoth, Standard and Miniature sizes. Fantastic for training or daily use. Made in the USA in 11 gorgeous colors.  Life time warranty!  Visit Donkey Whisperer and our online store at or contact us at

2RMules Easy On Headstall
2RMules is the place to shop for all your mule needs. Our heart is to sell you quality products for a reasonable price.  2RMules Easy On Headstall has a brass “easy snap” for mules or horses with sensitive ears. The brow band measures 16 inches and it is 48 inches bit to bit. The snaps are turned so they will not catch on limbs or other brush. This headstall is made with Hermann Oak harness leather for a real strong yet soft feel, and is available in our harness leather colors. Made in the USA! $64.00 (479)670-2144

-Gifts for the Cowboys & Cowgirls

The Ericksen Mountain Saddle
Handmade from Hermann Oak skirting leather.  This saddle features braided rawhide on the horn and swells laced to match, a rawhide cantle binding, and the slots in the cantle are lined with rawhide as well.  It’s durable and looks good.  (406) 682-7380

Handmade Stock Whips
What Cowboy wouldn’t like a Handmade Stock Whip for Christmas? These handmade stock whips are made of weatherproof waxed nylon with hardwood handles. They come in several colors and are extremely loud. How about your little Cowboy? Bet he would be so excited to find a 5 foot whip under his Christmas tree! Scotty also makes 6 foot, or longer, whips upon request. Give him a call at (870) 816-5746

Sugar Creek Graphics
Printed t-shirts and sweatshirts. Over 60 prints of mules, donkeys and draft horses. T-shirt sizes: small-5XL, sweatshirt sizes: small-3XL. All sizes same low price, no up charge for larger shirts. Your choice of 13 colors of t-shirts. (877)242-4449

JC’s Cow Horn Buckles
Hand made buckles of cow horn. Each is unique.  No two are alike. They can be personalized with brand or initials. Prices range from $120-$220 580-761-8235

Reed’s Custom Cowboy Knives
Handmade knives available in 6”, 7”, or 8.5”. All knives are made from M2 Toolsteel and natural materials, unless otherwise requested. Handle options include: Walnut, Cow Horn, Elk Antler, Deer Antler, Cow Bone. Knive Sheaths available,  with belt clip and brand. (918)625-7260 or

Silver & Brass Mule Head Conchos 
Available in all silver or silver with brass mule head and dots. 1-1/2 inches in diameter. These antiqued silver conchos come with an antiqued silver mule head. 
The conchos come with a Chicago screw in the back.  Great for decorating bridles, belts, purses, cell phone holders, dog collars, and many other items. $7.00 each 573-646-3934 or


Mules and More Gift Subscriptions - A gift subscription to Mules and More is a great gift that can be enjoyed all year long! If indicated, we will send a gift card (via mail or email) to the recipient free of charge, too.1 Year - $36          2 Years - $65      Include $5.50 for any back issuesAvailable online at By phone at (573)646-3934. Or mail form to Mules and More, PO Box 460, Bland MO 65014

Monday, September 26, 2016

Good Friends & Good Mules: Riding The Shawnee National Forest

Four sisters in 1968: Rhonda, Ruth, Reena and Rita out for a ride; The four sisters on the trail ride in the Shawnee National Forest, the first time they had all ridden together since they were kids at home: Renna Moss on Turbo, Ruth Niles on Shadow, Rhonda Hintermeister on Sugar, Rita Rasmussen on Casino in Shawnee National Forest

Good Friends & Good Mules: Riding The Shawnee National Forest
by Audrey M. Beggs, Sims, Arkansas
Our baby boomer adventure in 2013 was to trailer the mules and horses, and ride the Shawnee National Forest in Simpson, Illinois, where we had reservations for six days at Bay Creek Horse Camp. The Shawnee National Forest is a U. S. National Forest located in the Ozark and Shawnee Hills of southern Illinois; it consists of approximately 280,000 acres of federal managed lands. The Shawnee National Forest is the single largest publicly owned body of land in the state of Illinois. Designated as the Illini and Shawnee Purchase Units, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared these purchase units to be the Shawnee National Forest September 1939.
Most of the land added to the Forest in its first decade of existence was exhausted farmland. Throughout the 1930 and 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted pine trees to prevent erosion, and help rebuild the soil. However the Forest is also home to many hardwood trees and other plant and animal species characteristic of the region.
During the Illinoian Stage (between 352,000 to 132,000 years ago), the Lauren tide ice sheet covered almost 85 percent of Illinois. The southern margin of this ice sheet was located within what is now the area of the Shawnee National Forest. There are many points of interest marking the southern edge of the glacier. Some are located within the Shawnee Forest boundary, others are on public land in proximity. (Information from Wikipedia)
Audrey Beggs on Sugar and Rickey Beggs

This baby boomer adventure started with Renna Moss leaving Sanger, Texas with Turbo to overnight with Rickey and myself in Sims, Arkansas, Sunday, October 20. We loaded mules, Ben and Sugar, Renna loaded Turbo, and we headed to Crystal Springs to meet Vernie Harris and his mule, Cheyenne. I normally do not trailer Sugar long distances as she is getting on in years; she was 28 years old when we made this trip. Once she gets there and is unloaded, she does wonderful, it is just the trip and standing in the trailer for hours that makes her stiff. But, she is a real trouper and did great, once she got her land legs under her she was raring to go.
Our friendship with Vernie had a very unique beginning. I wrote a story many years ago that was published in Mules and More, about my husband, Rickey and a tattoo of Mutt (his mule) on his arm. Vernie read the story when he was visiting a long time mule friend, Walt Cox in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Vernie and his wife, Jo have a son that lives between Mount Ida and Hot Springs, not that far from Sims. While Vernie was there his son was having a yard sale and some friends of ours stopped at the yard sale. They started visiting and he asked them if they knew me and Rickey; they did, and told Vernie where we lived. We still had an egg farm, and were gathering eggs one day when I heard a truck pull up to the chicken house. Rickey and I went out to see who it was. Vernie told us he was trying to find a guy in Sims, Arkansas that had a mule tattoo on his arm. Rickey pulled his shirt sleeve up and said, “Is this what you are looking for?” Vernie was surprised that he had finally found the guy with the mule tattoo. After visiting with us and seeing where we ride, Vernie decided to bring his horse, Montana, and ride the mountains behind our home. He and his wife still live in Flippin, Arkansas, but eventually bought land and built a new home in Royal, Arkansas. Since then we all have become friends and he has become one of our trail riding group that meets twice a year at our place. At least once a year we trailer to a horse camp and meet to ride other trails. Now, his friends are ours and our friends are his.
Vernie Harris on Cheyenne

After we met Vernie in Crystal Springs we caravanned through Little Rock and on to Memphis, then north to Illinois. The same day, Tom and Ruth Niles left from Caulfield, Missouri with their horses, Jessie and Shadow. Ruth is a sister of Renna. One of her other sisters, Rita Rasmussen left Mechanicsville, Iowa with her horse, Casino; she and Casino met another sister, Rhonda Hintermeister, her husband Kevin and daughter Jessica on the road from Muscatine, Iowa. We all arrived at Bay Creek Ranch that afternoon. This was not only a riding trip, but a family reunion for the four sisters.
Ruth and Rita had birthdays in October so we had a birthday party for them the first night. This was the first time the four sisters had been together in a long time. We all share not only a love for trail riding, but a great camaraderie and friendship.
The next day I loaned Sugar to Rhonda so she could ride with Renna, Ruth and Rita. Rhonda does not have a horse, so I stayed in camp so she could ride with her three sisters. This was the first time since they were all kids at home they had ridden together.
Since Kevin does not ride, the highlight of his day was to count the times the owner of the horse camp came around in his golf cart. We had left the front door open as we were unloading and the heat had been turned on. The owner happened to come by and see the door was open, so he went in and turned the heat off; he was not a happy camper. Then it turned cold and I had to go ask him to please come and turn the heat back on. The cabin we stayed in was adequate for our group and had a lot of sleeping areas. Most of the activity though was centered around the kitchen and dining room.
The group rode 8.6 miles the first day. Rhonda and Sugar got along great. The second day we headed out and rode over 16 miles; that was a long day. We did not have a great map of the trails, so Renna was designated as our trail guide. We rode through lots of big rock and ended up in a box canyon by Peter Cave; the scenery was absolutely beautiful!
Audrey Beggs on Ben and Rhonda Hintermeister on Sugar

Wednesday we headed north to a trail we were told was very pretty, and boasted two caves. We rode across Maxwell Ford, watered the mules and horses, and then rode on up the trail. The scenery was just as gorgeous as we had been told. The first cave we came to had vines hanging over the face of the cave and nearby was a hanging tree with a rope. We wondered if anyone had ever been hanged on that tree. We decided this must be Fern Cave; not any ferns except near the trees at the front of the cave. Then we rode on down the trail to Sand Cave. We were able to ride the mules and horses into this cave. A beautiful area, and a great place for a photo op.
Thursday we rode in search of the Jackson Falls Loop; this trail is very treacherous, extremely scenic and took us deep into a very remote area. A lot of rock climbers seek out this area and we did see a couple of guys who were rock climbing that day. We followed the east side of the railroad, but the noise from the trains made the mules and horses extremely nervous. There were square cement culverts that ran under the railroad.
The whole area has an abundance of huge rocks; we had to cross one area that was almost solid rock. This was not a time for your mount to be afraid of rocks.
When we got back to camp Rita wanted to ride Ben, as she had never been on a mule. I rode Sugar and she rode Ben around camp for a few minutes. Ben is one of our ‘go to’ mules and is safe for anyone to ride. As most everyone is that rides Ben, Rita was very impressed with him. At that time all of the sisters had ridden a mule except Renna. But that has now changed, as she has borrowed Ben a couple of times when Turbo was having issues and she didn’t want to ride him in the mountains. Erin, Renna’s daughter has also ridden Ben, and she and he got along great. As Rickey like to say, “Ben is one of those animals that will make you smile even if you are having a bad day.”

Kevin, Rhonda and Jessica left on Thursday morning to head home. Before they left for Iowa we got Jessica to get in the saddle on Sugar, as she had never been on a horse or mule. I think it was a little scary for her at first, but she had a smile on her face as I led her around.
Tom’s trail riding got cut short as his mare developed a sore place under the saddle from the ride on Thursday; he was not able to ride with us on Friday.
Headed up the trail in the Shawnee National Forest with Vernie Harris on Cheyenne in the lead

Friday morning we woke to a cold 27 degrees, so we waited until after 9:30 to ride. At that time it still was not a heat wave. We rode along the train trestle again. Renna yelled for me to bring Sugar up and lead them through the trestle tunnel; I don’t think Turbo liked the looks of the dark tunnel with water standing in it. Sugar was brave and she and I led the group under the train tracks of the Illinois Central at the Tin Whistle overpass. After hours of riding toward what we thought was Cove Hollow, we ran out of trail markers.
The guys all wanted to ride through the cement culverts, under the railroad tracks. These were full of water, and the rest of us refused. That turned out to be a good call as we met a guy on the trail that told us there was a 30 foot drop off at the end of those culverts. While we were wandering around in the woods, trying to find a trail marker, Rickey and Vernie kept us entertained with their singing.
We made it back through the Tin Whistle, across the dam and back to camp; that turned out to be our longest ride yet…17 miles. A lot of miles for us baby boomers.
Saturday we got up early and headed home. It was raining when we got back to Sims. Renna and Turbo spent the night with us, it was still raining when she pulled out for Texas the next morning.
We hit the jackpot, as we had five beautiful sunny days of riding in the Shawnee National Forest. After I got home and looked at the map and the places we had ridden, I realized it was only about 30 miles from Smithland, Kentucky, the birthplace of my paternal grandmother. What a coincidence that I was that close and didn’t realize it.
Rita Rasmussen and Casino can't believe the size of the rocks in the Shawnee National Forest

Our next trip was to ride the Buffalo National River area in 2014. A story about that trip will be written next.  Life is a journey…enjoy the ride!