Friday, May 23, 2014

Keep It Safe Trail Riding

by Brad Cameron, Cameron Mule Co., Corvallis, Mont.

Wouldn’t it be great to head out on the trail and have the confidence to know that everything was going to go well? To know that you could control your mule’s feet, stop him in an emergency, and ride through problems because you and your mule were working together? It is a great feeling to know that your mule is taking care of you on a ride, because you are taking care of him.

In thinking of a topic for this months Trail Riding issue the first thing that jumps to my mind is safety. I know of so many riders who head out, only hoping to survive the day. Many people ride with fear, expecting the wreck to happen. Even more people ride along in a state of bliss, with no idea of the explosion that is about to take place.

Lots of riders feel that safety has nothing to do with the mule at all. They think safety comes from some sort of bit, and the bigger the better. A bit should be used to communicate with the mule and not for overpowering him with pressure. Many places I go there are folks who use a moderate bit for training but they have to stick the monster, nose biter mule bit on for trail riding. “I need that for brakes” they say. If you think the “train by pain” method is going to stop a mule in a panic situation then friend, you are riding on borrowed time. When the chips are really down that mule isn’t going to care about you regardless of the amount of pain your bit is inflicting. It is only a matter of time before the wreck happens.

One of the biggest problems people create is simply being oblivious to the mule as they ride. A real common example is the trail rider who just lets the mule go down the trail at his own pace. You know the one’s I’m talking about as you’ve probably ridden with some. Their mule just plods down the trail ever so slowly. Then when they ride down into a draw, or get behind the others, the mule trots up the other side or trots to catch up. Once up the other side it goes back to plodding along. Then it’s just trot and plod and trot and plod all day long. It makes for a miserable day. In situations like this riders are not actively riding at all. They are simply sitting on top of the saddle, totally unaware of what the mule is doing or how the mule is feeling. Often times a mule might start out a ride being troubled about something. If you are unaware, the longer the ride goes the more troubled he gets. You might be several hours into the ride when suddenly, while unwrapping a candy bar from your pocket, he spooks and bolts off. Thus the bewildered rider is left on the ground wondering what happened. Almost everyone, including myself, enjoys trail riding. If I can get folks to be more aware, and work at getting with their mule, it would just make things safer.

Cowboys are some of the most routine trail riders I know. You may not think of it as trail riding but we are out riding all the time and encountering all the same obstacles anyone else would while on the trail, only there is no trail in cattle country! When my cattle are turned out to graze in the summer months there are no groomed trails or easy loops to get to them. Often when going to check my cows, our rides just getting to the cattle could be considered extreme by most. I don’t even own a four-wheeler so everything I do is with a mule. At the time of this writing I am calving and sometimes have to ride in extreme conditions. Rainstorms, snowstorms, darkness, slick icy footing, etc. If a cow is calving and needs to come in during a storm in the middle of the night it is something that has to be done regardless of the conditions. I have to have my mules where I can rely on them, no matter what. So I am constantly trying to practice what I preach so that no matter what I do, I can feel like I will stay safe. When we do head to the high country with open trails and beautiful scenery it is relaxing, fun and always something we enjoy.

So how do you avoid some of the pitfalls and start riding safer and with more confidence? Start learning how to get your mule working with you. Learn to listen to your mule and read what he is telling you, without anthropomorphizing and putting the animal’s reaction into human terms and emotions. Most important keep him thinking about you while you are riding by becoming an active rider, not just a passenger. I often tell people in the clinics that you have to be in the driver’s seat driving, not in the passenger’s seat taking a nap. Here are some ideas that will start you toward a safer and more enjoyable trail ride.

Make sure your mule is mentally with you before you even get in the saddle and leave the trailer. He may be distracted by other sights and sounds at the trailhead so do the groundwork first. By directing his feet through the halter driving exercises he will have to focus more on you than on his environment. Get that focus before mounting up, it only takes a few minutes.

Practice your emergency lateral stop a few times before leaving the trailer. With one rein, ask your mule to bend his head around and use your leg to bump his hindquarters over. Get control of the life and energy that is in your mule as soon as you get in the saddle. By disengaging his hindquarters you are again directing his feet, which will shift his focus to you.

Actively ride and actively direct your mule’s feet during your ride. You don’t have to overwork yourself while trying to enjoy your ride. Little simple things can keep your mule focused on you. Choose the speed in which your mule goes down the trail. You don’t have to wear your mule out by asking him to really hurry all day, but don’t let him choose the pace. Just a nice walk with a little life to it. Avoid the trot and plod. When you ride into a dip in the trail pick up on the reins and get a hold of him just before you hit the bottom. Don’t let him trot up the other side, be sure that he walks up. Little things like this can keep your mule thinking more about you. You folks who have worked with me in the clinics know exactly what I am talking about in these steps so practice it and maybe help a friend to learn. In conclusion, if you are taking steps to keep your mule mentally close to you, you will also become mentally more aware of your mule. By doing so you will realize much sooner if your mule is getting troubled and be able to deal with it long before it gets out of hand. By taking a more active roll in riding you can cut down on the variables and have many safe and enjoyable trail rides, think about it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Riding Our National Park Systems: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Riding Our National Park Systems
by Lenice Basham
PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was chartered in 1934 and dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. It is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. It was the first national park whose land and other costs were paid with federal funds. Previous parks were funded with state or private funds. John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated $5 million dollars toward the park. The United States government added $2 million to the cost with private donations for the remaining $5 million for a total cost of $12 million. 

More than 1,200 landowners had to leave their land when it was created a National Park. Half of the National Park is in Tennessee and half of the park is in North Carolina. It earned its name from the smoke like haze that clings to the ridge. Cherokee called it Shaconage or “place of the blue smoke”. The park sets along the Cherokee National Forest, Nantahala National Forest and the Pisgah National Forest. The National Forests each have horse camping sites available within their boundaries as well as about 600 miles of trails per each National Forest site for additional trails.

The park has a moderate climate with mild winters and hot humid summers. There are elevations from 875 feet to 6,675 feet. There are variations in the temperature of 10-20 degrees from the mountain base to the mountain tops. There are currently 550 of 800 miles of trails open to horse/mule riders. The park’s backcountry is managed as a natural area where the “forces of nature” determine trail conditions. The National Park Services cautions that there may be swollen streams, bridge washouts, downed trees and trail erosion. They do not recommend trail riding in this park from early December until May. The park had their highest number of visitors in 1993 with 10,300,000 visits being recorded. Current information indicates that camping is down as much as 6.8% this year from last. There is one commercial lodging site within the park, LeConte Lodge. It is located on the summit of Mount LeConte and is only accessible by hiking at 6,360 feet. There are multiple trails that lead to the lodge. The lodge offers overnight stays as well as lunch, dinner for those headed back down the trail.

The Clingman’s Dome is an additional site of interest that you may want to visit while in the park. It is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. It is a one-half mile hike to a 54’ observation tower where you get a 360 degree view of the mountains. You can see for over 22 miles from the Dome. The observation tower was built in 1959. Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in Tennessee.

There are more than 130 species of trees and 4,000 plant species within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are also about 600 black bears in the park. The National Park Service indicates, “Black bears in the Park are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat all bear encounters with extreme caution and follow these guidelines.” They had the following guidelines for encounters with bears along the trails: Don’t approach a bear if you see it. Slowly back away from the bear. If the bear follows you or approaches you, try changing directions. If the bear gets closer, begin talking loudly or shouting at it. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as big as possible. Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Don’t run and don’t turn away from a bear.

The park also contains elk that were experimentally released in February 2001. Two dozen elk were imported into the park. Elk once lived in the national park but were eliminated in over hunting and loss of habitat in the late 1700’s. In 1991, wolves were also reintroduced into the park. About 25 wolves remain in the park. The park also contains some snakes. Copperhead and timber rattler snakes can be found in the park. Copperhead’s can be found below 3,000 feet and Timber Rattler snakes can be found up to 6,000 ft.

There are five different drive-in horse camps within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, four in North Carolina and one in the Tennessee section:

Anthony Creek campgrounds in the north western section near Cades Cove. Cades Cove is an 11 mile one way loop. It is the most visited part of the park and is a valley surrounded by the mountains. It is a great spot for wildlife viewing. Cades Cove contains historic farm buildings from the 1820’s. The horse camp is open from late March until November.

Big Creek campgrounds in north eastern section in North Carolina near Cosby, TN

Catalooche campgrounds in south eastern section in North Carolina near Maggie Valley, N.C. This is similar to the Anthony Creek campground but is not as crowded and is away from busy traffic routes. It is located along the Catalooche River. There are several different trails that leave camp. The Boogerman Trail is restricted to hikers only so make sure you take a look at a map to make sure you are only on a trail that is able to be used for horse/mule riding. This campground has four horse stalls (tie stalls by looking at pictures) for each campsite.

“The road into the campground is 12 miles long and will take approximately an hour to drive into the camp,” said mule rider Teddy Royal. He and his wife camped with their mules. “It is very narrow with over 20 blind curves. Half of the road is paved and the rest is dirt. It is a pain to drive in and out but it is one of my favorite places to ride in the Smokies,” says Royal.

Round Bottom campgrounds in eastern section in North Carolina near Cherokee N.C. Round Bottom is the most remote of the campgrounds.

Tow String campgrounds in the southern section in North Carolina near the Cherokee, N.C. entrance.

“The trails are well marked, with a map of the park, you can preplan your day down to the miles to travel,” says Royal.

Drive-in horse camps have designated parking spots and most sites allow two vehicles and two trailers per site with a maximum occupancy of six people and 4 horses/mules. The horse camp amenities are different depending on the site, but most are equipped with barbeque grills, picnic tables, horse hitching racks and refuse containers. All of the horse camps have at least portable toilets and most do not have drinking water.

The National Park Service has the following recommendations for trail riding at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park:

Avoid thawing or frozen trails – save them for dry times. Soil is easily damaged when it is soft. Stay on the trails and don’t use shortcuts. Ride single-file down the center of the trails. When crossing roads and paved areas, dismount and lead your horse/mule. Pack out what you pack in. Know which trails are open to horses/mules. Check the trail map before you head out for the day.

Keep horses/mules away from the springs. Carry and use a collapsible bucket to water your horse/mule. Use processed feed to eliminate introducing weed seeds into the park. Avoid disturbing wildlife by observing them from a distance. Bears are dangerous – do not feed them or other wildlife.

Pets are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry areas. Do not pick, dig or remove any plant, flower or natural object. This includes antlers and rocks. It is illegal to remove any of these items from the park.

Reservations must be made in advance by contacting 877-444-6777 between 10 am and 10 p.m. You may also make reservations online at This site takes care of all reservations made at National Parks. Don’t expect them to be able to answer any of your questions concerning the site or area of interest. Fees are $20 per site, except for Big Creek, which is $25 per site. Fees cannot be paid at the park. A cancellation fee will be charged if you can (or change) your reservation.

You will want to take a look at the National Park website prior to making your reservations to look for news releases or alerts about the campground. Information about camp closures, weather closures and other necessary information is available at the parks website. An added bonus for all iPhone users is Hiking The Great Smoky Mountain National Park app that is available for $1.99 on iTunes. The app is meant for hikers – but I think it can easily be used by trail riders. This app provides information about trailhead information, hiking distances, elevation change, trail difficulty, trail rating, trail description and trail map. I believe the trail map (which is not internet bound) would be the best part of the app. (Not that my husband ever gets me lost on the trail…).

Riding Our National Park Systems: Devils Tower National Monument

Riding Our National Park Systems

By Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to

Devils Tower National Monument

This month’s National Park article is slightly different in that you cannot take your mules to this National Park. The Devils Tower National Monument is located in northeast Wyoming. It was the first national monument and some people feel it is the only natural monument. It is the core of a volcano exposed after millions of years of erosion brought on by the Belle Fourche River and the weather. The rocks and boulders around the base of the tower are actually broken pieces of columns having fallen from the sides. The tower stands 865 feet high.

We recently visited the Devils Tower Monument on our way to Jake Clark Mule Days. Because of this series of articles, I encouraged (OK, maybe forced) our entire group to go with me to see the National Park. It is quite impressive.

The Native American legend that has been passed down through time indicates that one day an Indian tribe was camped beside the river and seven small girls were playing at a distance. The region had a large bear population and a bear began to chase the girls. They ran back toward their village but the bear was about to catch them. The girls jumped up on a rock about three feet high and began to pray to the rock. The rock heard their pleas and began to move upwards pushing them higher and higher out of the reach of the bear. The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock and broke its claws and fell to the ground. The bear continued to jump at the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky where they are to this day in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades).

The National Park was established in 1906 by President Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act. It was the first monument established with the National Park service. Technical rock climbing is allowed on the monument. There is no climbing in June out of respect for Native American ceremonies held that month. It is not an equestrian site. However, it is a truly magnificent monument that you should visit on your travels to or from Jake Clark Mule Days. For more information about Devils Tower, you can visit It is located 28 miles from Sundance, Wyo.

Riding Our National Park Systems: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Riding Our National Park Systems

by Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Chinle, Ariz.

A few years ago, Loren and I had the opportunity to attend a camping trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We spent several nights camping in the canyon and riding out among the various canyons. It was an amazing adventure. At that time, Ron-D-View had arranged an authorized guide to take us into the canyon. The first day we rode 12 miles into the canyon. We set up camp and slept in teepees while we were there. (See the July 2011 issue of Mules and More for more info on the Basham’s trip).

Canyon de Chelly offers auto tours, horseback riding tours and jeep tours, but I cannot imagine touring this magnificent canyon any other way than on the back of a mule. To ride through the Canyon, looking back at the covered wagon and mules, to have the only sounds you hear be the wind and the mules, is one of the most amazing adventures I have ever had the opportunity to experience. I don’t think Ron-D-View still offers this opportunity, but a Google search found several horseback riding options. ( I guess this would be the second best way.)

A National Monument is defined by the National Park Service as, “… a protected area that is similar to a National Park except that the President of the United States can declare an area of the United States to be a National Monument without approval of Congress. A National Monument receives less funding and have fewer wildlife protections,” ( There are 100 National Monuments. The executive order process was authorized by the Antiquities Act of 1906. The goal from the President’s point of view was to protect historic and prehistoric sites while waiting for Congress to take action. Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover to preserve the important archeological resources that span more than 4,000 years of human occupation. The monument is approximately 84,000 acres of land located entirely on the Navajo Nation. It includes three major canyons: Canyon de Chelly, Canyon de Muerto and Monument Canyon, all located in northeastern Arizona. It is the only monument the park service does not own. “Canyon de Chelly sustains a living community of Navajo people who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance.” (National Park Service) Canyon de Chelly is unique among national park service units as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land. The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation are working to develop a cooperative management plan. Currently tours into the backcountry require a backcountry permit and hiring an authorized guide.

The elevation ranges from 5,500 at the visitor center to over 7,000 feet at the overlook. Spring is cool and windy with possibilities of dust storms. The highs range from 50-70 degrees with average lows of 35.

Canyon de Chelly contains numerous amazing ruins. The White House Ruins date from 1200. It is some of the oldest ruins in the Canyon. The sites exhibit more than 1,500 years of human occupation. The White House Ruins were built by the Anasazi people. The ruins are comprised of about 80 rooms and four kivas located on both the Canyon floor and in a cave 50 feet above the Canyon floor.

Mummy Cave Ruins were built by ancestral Puebloans in Canyon del Muerto. Ruins are located on a promontory in the middle of a cliff face with over 80 rooms and three kivas. The ruins were named after two mummies that were discovered by an archeological expedition in 1882 still wrapped in yucca plant fiber. It is said to be the last pueblo the Anasazi occupied before abandoning the Canyon around 1300 AD.

Massacre Cave Overlook. In 1805 Spanish military expedition fired on Navajos hiding in the alcove. 105 Navajos were killed in an all day battle to defend their land. It was said that a Navajo woman tried to save the others by flinging herself off the cave ledge and taking a Spanish soldier with her. According to legend, Spanish soldiers came to the Navajo dwellings while the men were away. The women, children and elders climbed into the cave to escape. Spanish soldiers fired into the cave killing everyone.

Spider Rock is a sandstone spire that rises 800 feet from the Canyon floor. It was formed by sand that blew and was compressed. It is considered sacred by the Navajo. According to legend, the Spider Woman lived on top of the spire and was the one to teach humans the art of weaving. It is truly an amazing site to see.

Canyon de Chelly is currently the home of 80 Navajo families who continue to live and farm in the Canyon.

Roads along the rim at the top of the Canyon, running northeast and southwest, are open to the public. There is a moderate 2.5 mile hike to the White House ruins trail. This is the only place you can go without an authorized guide. Maps are available at the visitor center for self guided tours and Canyon tours.

Canyon de Chelly holds many important clues to the past that need to be protected and preserved for future generations. The following rules are strictly enforced.

Pets are not allowed on hiking trails or on Canyon tours, even when using your own vehicle. Pets must be leashed at all times in the parking lots or campground. Owners are to pick up after pets.

Do not wander away from your group, especially in the backcountry. Guides must remain with group.

Do not touch, collect or remove natural features. Leave rocks, plants, animals, artifacts or rock art undisturbed.

Do not sit, lean, walk or climb on boulders or on walls. Rocks or walls may collapse or cause damage.

Do not enter, alter or deface archeological sites.

Do not enter private property without landowner’s permission.

Do not write, draw or carve on rock walls. Defacing the Canyon walls is prohibited.

Do not hunt, feed or disturb wild or domestic animals. Animals may charge or bite.

Do not take photographs from the rims or in the Canyon of Navajo people, their homes or animals without permission.

Leave no trace of your visit. Carry out and dispose of trash properly. Penalties for violations under Section 6 of the Archeological Resources Protection Act include up to $250,000 in fines and/or up to 5 years imprisonment.

Riding Our National Park Systems: Introduction

Riding Our National Park Systems

by Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to


According to Wikipedia, a National Park is defined as “… a reserve of natural or semi-natural land, declared or owned by a government, set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, animal and environmental protection and restricted from most development.” I define National Parks as a fantastic place to take your next mule vacation. There are approximately 84 million acres in the United States that have been declared as a National Park. There are National Parks in every state as well as in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The first attempt to protect land was in 1832 when Andrew Jackson set aside land around Hot Springs, Ark., to protect the thermal springs. In 1864, President Lincoln signed an act of Congress ceding Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to California. This would later become Yosemite National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the first “real” National Park because there wasn’t a state government to cede the land to, like there was in California. The federal government took over the responsibility of care of the land. Theodore Roosevelt enacted the Antiquities Act in 1906 which allowed the federal government to take over ownership of historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest and proclaim them to be national monuments and under the supervision of the federal government. (President Carter and President Clinton have also used this act.) Roosevelt used the act to add Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, Chaco Canyon National Monument in New Mexico, the Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona and the Grand Canyon to the list of National Parks. There are currently 400 parks in the National Park System. Not all of these are sites for a mule vacation, of course. There are 100 National Parks that allow mule riding and mule camping. Each park has similar horse/mule camp regulations. Advanced reservations are required.

There are many internet sites that can help you with your vacation planning at the National Park System. There are reviews available, maps of the areas and photographs that you can view of the trails. Many of the National Park sites have GPS data available and trail information you can download to your GPS or Smartphone.

Our family has had the opportunity to camp in several National Parks. With gas/diesel prices soaring, you may want to look at campgrounds in your state for a mini vacation. I encourage everyone to look to your National Parks this summer for a fantastic experience.

Click on the "Riding Our National Park System" label to see the full series.

Riding Our National Park Systems: Horseshoe Canyon

Riding Our National Park Systems

by Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to

Horseshoe Canyon

Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah

Maze Overlook - Photo by National Park Service

Great Gallery - Photo by National Park Service

The Canyonlands National Pak is located within the Colorado Plateau which is a section of continental crust. It was established in September 1964 when President Johnson signed public law 88-590. Horseshoe Canyon is a detached unit of the Canyonlands National Park that was added in 1971. It is located in Southeast Utah near Moab. This southeast area is part of the high desert region that experiences wide temperature fluctuations. The spring and fall seasons have temperatures from daytime highs of 60-80 degrees and lows from 30-50 degrees. In the summer the temperatures reach over 100. The geology and climate of the Canyonlands have created unusual landscapes. One reviewer said she felt that she was driving onto another planet – maybe Mars. There are maze-like canyons, sheer cliff, faces, strange rock formations, crevices and alcoves.

The Canyonlands National Park is a 337,570 acre park and is separated into three different districts by the Green and Colorado Rivers. It has an average annual visitor total of around 376,000.

There is no overnight camping allowed in Horseshoe Canyon. However, the Bureau of Land Management has a trail head in which you can take your horse trailer and your stock. It is located on the west rim. Pack and saddle stock may be taken on all backcountry roads and in Horseshoe Canyon. Pack and saddle stock includes horses, burros and mules only. You must have a backcountry permit that you can get at the visitor center. Group size is limited to 10 animals and 10 people. Stock must be fed pelletized feed 48 hours in advance and during a trip in order to prevent the spread of exotic plant species. The trail is 6.5 miles round trip with a trail that has a 750 feet descent. The trails are well marked. Lack of water is a limiting factor – take plenty of water with you for the daytrip and take plenty of water with you in the trailer for your stock. There are no facilities and no potable water sources. There are also excellent trails in the Maze and Orange Cliff areas in the Canyonlands National Park.

Horseshoe Canyon has some of the most significant rock art in North America. Native American rock art in Horseshoe Canyon is painted in a styled known as Barrier Canyon believed to date to the late Archaic Period which was from 2000-1000 BC. The art includes pictographs (painted figures) and petroglyphs (figures etched in the rock with sharp stone). The Horseshoe Canyon houses the Great Gallery. There are almost two dozen huge figures of which most are life-sized. It contains the “Holy Ghost” which is a 7 foot tall figure.

Outlaws like Butch Cassidy made use of Horseshoe Canyon in the 1800’s. The final scene of Thelma and Louise was filed in this area and actor John Wayne shot Hollywood western’s in what is now the park.

This area of Utah is absolutely beautiful. As you are riding along the trails you feel like you are in those John Wayne westerns. It is an amazing area to ride in. Each turn in the crevices finds a more beautiful view than the one before. Permits are difficult to obtain as only a limited number are given during the spring and fall. Make plans now to see this beautiful area of the United States. For information about obtaining a permit, you can contact the National Park Service Ranger office at 435-259-4712.

Riding Our National Park Systems: The Ozark National Scenic Riverway

Riding Our National Park Systems

by Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to

Part One: The Ozark National Scenic Riverway

Photo by National Park Service

It is appropriate, as Loren’s family spent millions of hours running the Cross Country Trail Ride (before its move to the current location), to begin this series about our National Park System with the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. Loren’s grandparents, Ralph and Mildred Branson, purchased the Cross Country Trail Ride in 1961 and moved it to Leonard Bolin’s Circle B Campground, along the banks of the Jack’s Fork River. The trail ride moved again in 1963 to Montauk State Park on the Current River. In 1964, the ride was moved to Alley Springs, once again on the Jack’s Fork River. After staying there for five years, the late Danny Staples bought property down river from Alley Springs and the Branson’s, along with their daughter, Sue, operated the trail rides there until it was sold to the present owners in 1980. In 1981 owners, Jim and Jane Smith moved the location further downstream to its present location.

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways has approximately 80,000 acres along the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers in Missouri. In 1924 state parks were established at Round Spring, Alley Spring and Big Spring. In 1933, land was purchased for the Clark National Forest. This later became known as the Mark Twain National Forest. In 1964, the area became the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. The park was dedicated on June 10, 1972, when Tricia Nixon christened the river. There are more than 130 miles of rivers included in this riverways. The rivers are largely spring fed with seven major springs and an additional 51 smaller springs.

Primitive camping is available in multiple areas in the park. Generally these have rustic facilities such as pit type toilets and no electricity. The fee for these “backcountry” sites is $5.00. Do not bring firewood with you to the National Park. The National Park Service states, “Moving firewood around the country helps spread forest pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Gypsy Moth.”

A map of the parks can be found at There is access to the Ozark Riverways via US 60 or Missouri state highway 19. Highway 19 is a narrow and windy two lane highway with beautiful scenery.

The National Park Service has the following guidelines for horse camping while at the Ozark National Scenic Riverway: 1. Stay on established roads and traces. 2. Please cross only at designated river crossings. This prevents erosion and deterioration of riverbanks which muddies the river and degrades fish habitat. 3. Please do not bathe your horse in the river. Thousands of horses and their riders visit the area each year. The cumulative effect can be diminished water quality. 4. Respect the land you've come to enjoy. Please do not litter, gather artifacts (including arrowheads) or damage natural or historical features. Leave it beautiful for the next rider. 5. Use hitching rails where available, rather than tying horses to trees. Horses may damage trees by gnawing on bark or pawing roots. 6. Springs and spring branches are unique and beautiful. Please keep them running clear and clean by not riding swimming or wading into them. 7. Please do not ride into campgrounds, picnic areas and other developed areas. (Except designated horse camps: Bay Creek and "Horse Camp" near Alley.) 8. Most of the riding trails pass through private lands. Please respect the landowners where you ride. It only takes a few unfortunate incidents to cause a private landowner to close his land.

Horse camping is available at Bay Creek and Horse Camp near Alley Springs.

This is a beautiful place to visit and take your mules. You will enjoy the spring and fall foliage. You will enjoy the cool river during the summer months. Take time now to plan a trip to this or any other National Park.

Mule Prejudice In The Tetons; Ignorance Shielded Under Color Of Law Keeps Big Mama Out Of The Force

originally published in 5/10

by Vic Otten - Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was the last place in the world I expected to find institutionalized mule prejudice. With rugged mountains, Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone Park, Jackson Hole is a place of astounding beauty. Its history is filled with memories of the mountaineers who relied on mules to carry on their trade; a place where people routinely packed into the wilderness to hunt, fish and trap. Mules pulled wagons that brought supplies to the area and played a significant part in the settlement of the region.

Today, Jackson Hole is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise offering numerous activities including world class hunting, fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, packing, camping and skiing. Wildlife including moose, elk, bear, owls and beaver is abundant. It is the home of the famous cowboy lawyer Gerry Spence, a man who spent much of his legal career fighting civil injustice.

This is why I was surprised to learn that the Jackson Police Department refuses to allow mules in its Citizens Mounted Patrol.

It makes perfect sense that this is the place that Jayme Feary, writer, photographer, and equine trainer, calls home. Some might recall that Jayme is the guy that attempted to be the first person to ride the length of the U.S. Continental Divide in a single season. He eventually rode over 2,000 miles and is working on a book describing his experiences called Riding America’s Spine (see

Jayme first contacted me about the “Society To Obliterate Mule Prejudice” (S.T.O.M.P.) in November 2008. He sent me an email stating that he wholeheartedly supported S.T.O.M.P.’s efforts to eradicate mule prejudice and wanted to learn more about the organization.

Through the course of several emails, we both agreed that education was probably the best way to improve the image of the mule. Jayme likened the current situation with mules to that of the wild mustang—in the beginning, mustangs had a poor reputation. People would adopt the wild horses and have bad experiences; they would blame the horse rather than the rider. Jayme explained that the BLM eventually started to focus on training the mustangs prior to putting them up for adoption. With the advent of programs like “Mustang Challenge” and “Wyoming Mustang Makeover,” the image of the mustang then began to improve.

It was not until some time later that I learned that Jayme was prohibited from using his mule in the Jackson Mounted Unit. I was astounded. Jayme has one of the most well trained and dead broke equines that I have ever seen. I had watched a video of Jayme and Big Mama and, to this day, cannot believe what a spectacular mount she is (see I explained to Jayme that it is outrageous that Big Mama cannot participate in the unit and that we have several mounted units in Los Angeles that allow mules. I told him that S.T.O.M.P. should take action. I suggested that we write a letter to the Jackson Police and perhaps do an article. Jayme said that he had already sent a couple of emails and that he did not want to do anything to upset the people at the police station.

When it became apparent that he could not change the policy of the Jackson Police Department, Jayme reluctantly agreed to allow me to write this article. His hesitation about the article stemmed from his desire to only bring positive publicity to the unit, which he believes is a great asset to the community. It was now time, however, to remind the equine world that even in 2010 mule prejudice still exits and that something needs to be done about it.

In the interest of fairness, I reached out to the Jackson Police Mounted Unit in an attempt to understand why mules were prohibited from its program. I sent the following e-mail to the officer in charge of the Mounted Unit:

Dear Sgt. Alan John:

My name is Vic Otten, and I am the author of several equestrian-related articles. My work has appeared in The Equestrian News, Mules and More Magazine, The Southern Sierran and The Dispatch.

I am currently working on an article about Citzens’ Mounted Patrol Units. It is my understanding that your mounted patrol unit does not allow the use of mules. As I read the page on your website, it refers specifically to horses. As a horse and mule owner, I am curious why your department has a policy of excluding mules from your program.

Does it have to do with image? I am aware of at least one mounted unit, for example, that only uses Palominos.

If not image, what is the basis for your policy?

Any information you can provide for my article is appreciated.

Kind regards,

Vic Otten

I did not expect to get an answer. What could the sergeant possibly say to justify the policy to exclude mules? If image was the reason for the policy, these people are taking themselves way too seriously. If there is a genuine concern that mules were not suited for this type of work, how do you explain the video of Big Mama? Why not let Big Mama enter the training class? There could be no arguing with the results, pass or fail.

Searching for clues, I turned to the website for the Jackson Police Department to understand what types of duties the equine and rider would be expected to perform. I wanted to believe that this was not a blatant case of mule prejudice. The website states that because Jackson is a small town, it relies on volunteers to help the “police departments for traffic control, public contact posts or an extra set of eyes and ears in a busy commercial district.” Regarding the type of skills a mounted patrol needs, the website states the “skills most necessary within the team are a basic understanding of the role, a safe horse and a competent rider.” (

Jayme and Big Mama would be perfect for the Mounted Unit. Obviously, there is something more going on here. The travesty is that the Citizens of Jackson are the ones that suffer for this type of prejudice in that they lose a valuable asset to the Mounted Unit. The public also loses because it will not be exposed to mules.

This month, I plan to be at Bishop Mule Days with my mules, Cheyenne Mountain Ruby and Jesse James. If Sgt. Alan John could attend this event, I believe that his opinion about mules would change forever. I suspect that thousands of people’s opinions about these amazing animals change every year as they attend Bishop Mule Days.

If you want to help Big Mama get into the Jackson Mounted Patrol, please send a letter to the Jackson Police Department describing your opinion about mules in mounted patrol units: Todd Smith, Chief of Police, Jackson Police Department, P.O. Box 1687, Jackson, WY 83001.

Our Sympthay To...

Trenton Cain Beaver, 11, of Stilwell, Okla., departed this life to be with his Lord on January 14 in an Oklahoma City, OK hospital.       
Dozer was 100 percent boy, earning his nickname at an early age by crawling right over things instead of around them. He loved all sports, but his favorites were football, baseball and wrestling. He also loved riding donkeys and spending time with his friends and family. He was an avid OU fan during football season, but an equally avid OSU fan during wrestling season, most of all he was a Christian and loved the Lord.
Those surviving Dozer and keeping his memory alive is his mother, Courtney Garrett of Stilwell, OK; father Hickory Beaver and wife Emily of Keys, OK; sisters Becca Garrett of the home in Stilwell, Sadie Garrett of Stilwell, McKenzie and Megan Smith and Shaydia Hallmark of Keys; grandparents Bill and Gina Garrett of the home, Susie and Sam Beaver of Stilwell; great-grandma Lois Bradford and husband Dean of Stilwell, aunts, uncles and many other relatives, and a multitude of friends from around the world.
(March 25, 1944 - February 2, 2012)
William Owen “Bill” Moore, 67, of Shelbyville, Tenn., passed away Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, at Middle Tennessee Medical Center after an extended illness.  He was a retired owner/operator of Moore Equipment Company and owner of Stepping Out Farm. He has served as president of the American Gaited Mule Association for 20+ years, and is a member of Southside Baptist Church.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Jane Mooneyham Moore of Shelbyville; two sons, William Christopher “Chris” (Pam) Moore of Murfreesboro, Cary Jacob (Lori) Moore of Bell Buckle, three daughters, Lisa (Rodney) Schmiede of Shelbyville, Sheila (Donnie) Higgins of Bell Buckle, Angela (John) Floyd of Murfreesboro; and 11 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
In 1993, Bill Moore chose to become part of 15 families who made a substantial commitment to the development of a dream. Their charter memberships provided the initial funds with which to underwrite the formation of the North American Saddle Mule Association. Without their commitment to saddle mules and the saddle mule industry, NASMA would not be a reality. Their foresight and pledge of confidence established the association we now know. 
In addition to serving as a Zone Director on the Board of Directors of NASMA, Bill chaired the NASMA Gaited Committee and provided leadership in both NASMA and AGMA with the desire to establish rules to protect the gaited saddle mule, no matter what breed of origin, from the ever growing abuses that were coming under scrutiny in the walking horse industry. With the increasing popularity of the smooth gaited saddle mule for trail riding, Bill realized that this mule would soon be a favorite in the show ring just like its gaited horse cousins. His insistence on NASMA gaited rules that protected the animal from abuse and held owners, trainers and riders accountable for their actions resulted in rules and restrictions which prevented those actions prevalent in the horse industry.
Bill also turned his efforts toward establishing an association  AGMA, American Gaited Mule Association which would go on to develop a registration for gaited mules and the gaited jacks used to produce them.
After working diligently to incorporate a mule show at The Celebration, Bill lobbied for NASMA to be the official Association of the The Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show. Through his efforts and dedication the Shelbyvilloe show has grown to the largest mule show in the East.  This year the show celebrates its 20th Anniversary and is now home of the NASMA National Show.
Bill also served as one of the first Executive Committee Members. Bill and his wife Jane founded Stepping Out Farm in 1990.  Located just outside Shelbyville, the farm became a hub for gaited mule enthusiasts who would experience Bill and Jane’s superb southern hospitality.  A training and breeding facility, Stepping Out Farm produced high powered gaited mules in its Hall of Fame.
Bill Moore worked diligently for the development of a gaited mule industry in which exhibitors could compete fairly, trail riders could enjoy their smooth riding mounts in all parts of the country and owners and breeders could receive recognition for their efforts in producing quality gaited saddle mules.
Bill will be missed as an industry leader, and personally by many who came to know him and were fortunate enough to share his friendship. Taken with permission from
Paul E. Stamper, 52, of Hazel Green, Ky. passed away January 25 in a Lexington, Ky. Hospital from heart complications.
Surviving Paul is his wife, Ronetta, daughters, Reesha Oakley of Ashland, Ky. and Jessica Cornett of Mt. Sterling, Ky.; three sisters and four brothers.
Funeral services were held January 28.
“The mule industry lost a great man today,” are the words that spread quickly as the news of the passing of Paul leaked out into the mule and donkey industry. Paul was very instrumental in getting the Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show in Shelbyville, Tn. started. He was a board member and the man who also started the Kentucky Mule and Donkey Association. He was given the first Lifetime Member award recently at the KMDA 2011 State Championship Show. He was very active in the American Gaited Mule Association, serving as a board of director. Paul had several world champion mules, among them the famous Red Rooster.
"It is with sadness that I send this to you to let you know of the passing of my husband, Rol Gallaher. He has many friends in the mule and donkey community all over the west and this seemed like an appropriate way to let them know.
We had both been very active in the Oregon Mr. Longear Club for many years. We made many friends at mule and donkey shows around the western states.
Rol struggled with dementia in his final years. I’m happy he is now free to ride his mule across the sky unfettered by the constraints of life." --Lee Gallaher, Jacksonville, Ore.

Originally published 2012

Spooky Mules

by Max Harsha
originally published in 12/08

Here lately I have had several phone calls about what to do because their mules seem to shy at a lot of things, and they wonder how they can get them over the problem.
Well, first of all a mule is very keen on what goes on around them, as most of us are. When they are out on the trail they are going to encounter many things that they normally don’t see around where they are kept, so naturally they are going to be skeptical of many things they may encounter. This is why it is best if you don’t want surprises to get mules that have been ridden a lot in the wild, so to speak, and have encountered a lot of things not seen at home.

I recommend mules with a little age on them that have been ridden out a lot in the wild, and have come across different situations. I really like mules that have been used on ranches around here, as they have been exposed to deer, elk and/or bear on many occasions, as well as cattle, havalina and especially charred stumps. The reason I say charred stumps is, I have seen well-broke mules that you would have a heck of a time riding up to a black, charred stump.

I can remember several years ago four of us were going riding up in the wilderness and I had saddled my mule and was riding him around, while the others were getting ready, when he came to a black, charred stump which was barely sticking above the ground, and from the way that mule acted you would have thought he had encountered a bear! He whirled and tried to run away from it, and that is when the Harsha mule bit came into play, because I could control him with that bit.

We went around and around for 15 minutes or more before I could ride him right across that stump. This was his first time to the mountains and he found a few more ‘boogers’ that day, but it did not take me long to get him to ride up to them because I had won our first war.

Now, normally on a mule like that, when I got home with him I would have got some of those black leaf bags and filled them full of hay and tin cans and such and hung them around his feed trough and around the water trough and hung them loosely enough that the wind could blow them around.

This is the way I recommend to get the mule used to the boogers. When I said normally that is what I would do with a mule like that, is because I sold him that day to a friend who was with me, and was making fun of me when I was having the stump trouble on the start.

That day I had put a running walk on him that was as smooth as it gets, and he could darn sure cover some country. The friend wanted to ride this mule, so he got on and away they went in that running walk, in the very comfortable gait. He asked me what I would take for the mule and I told him; he replied he would give me about $500 less and I told him he better take his money and get a hearing aid, as that was not what I priced the mule for. To make a long story short, when we got back to our rigs the friend said he would go ahead and buy the mule. Later his girlfriend at that time got to riding the mule and fell in love with him (the mule, not the man) and when they split up, she got the mule.

I guess the moral to this story is, cowboys don’t get lucky all the time.

I’m looking for a place in Kansas or Oklahoma to do a little squirrel and quail hunting this fall and winter; if you know of a good place, give me a call at 575/535-4220.

"Go Forward" Cue

by Tim Doud - Diamond Creek Mules - Cody, Wyoming

Originally published in 7/09

Training starts with an exercise as basic as moving forward. Teaching your mule the “go forward” cue is essential to everything he does. It is essential to walking, side-passing, loping, trotting, trailer loading, leading, crossing water, leaving a group on a trail ride to ride alone, jumping, moving cattle, barrel racing… and the list goes on.

Once your mule understands the cue to move forward, then you can teach him any maneuver with the reins and your legs. But if your mule ever locks his feet or is reluctant to move then you are missing this essential step in your training.

Has your mule ever refused to move when you ride or lead him? Do you ever find yourself constantly kicking your mule to get him to walk forward? The “go forward” cue is the answer.

You ride the mule you lead

Many people don’t think leading and ground manners are important. They think that it is OK for their mule to have bad ground and leading manners, as long as he is fine under saddle.

However, if there are “holes” in your mule’s leading and ground manners, then there will be “holes” when you are riding your mule and in his overall training. Period.

Many people will bring me a mule with riding problems. The mule will buck, run off, lock-up his feet, won’t respond to the bridle, etc. In every case, I can see the problem when the owner is handling the mule on the ground. Most of the time, the problem can be fixed on the ground before I even get on the mule. I will never ride a mule that has bad ground manners.

“Go forward” cue

This is why the “go forward” cue is essential to your mule’s training. If this is not solid, then everything else will have holes. Your mule should go forward when you ask him to. It should not matter if you are asking him to walk, trot or run next to you on the ground. It also should not matter that you are moving through the pasture, walking into the trailer or running across a tarp.

To teach the “Go Forward” cue, you will concentrate on the point of the hip. If you get the hip to move forward, the rest of the mule will follow.

For this lesson, you will need a halter and lead rope or a bridle with a snaffle bit and a stiff dressage whip.

With the halter or bridle on the mule, stand off to the side of the mule at the shoulder. Place the free end of the lead rope over the mule’s neck. Hold the lead rope about six inches from the halter or bit. Look at the point of the hip. Looking at the point of the hip is your first cue. This is called a “pre-cue.”

If the mule does not move forward, kiss or cluck to your mule. This is your second “pre-cue.” The next cue is to take the dressage whip and gently tap the mules “point of the hip.” We want to encourage the mule to move forward, not beat or hurt the mule. We do not want the mule to feel any pain. Pain will only cause resistance in the mule. You want the mule to know that you will keep tapping until he moves forward.

The second the mule moves a foot forward, immediately stop the tapping and praise the mule. If the mule does not respond, tap a little harder. But be sure to stop tapping the minute the mule moves forward, even if for just one step.

It is important to stop the cue and praise the mule. This tells the mule he gave you the right answer. It will get the mule to try harder to find the right answer.

Be sure to understand how your mule thinks. He may try to move backward, left or right, or up or down before he tries moving forward. This is how he finds the right answer. Your mule can move in six different directions; up, down, left, right, forward or backward. When he finds the answer you are looking for, then you praise him. As you continue to reinforce the cue and continue asking, he will learn exactly what you are looking for and begin getting the answer sooner and sooner.

An immediate release will get your mule to respond quicker and try harder. After much practice, the mule will start to respond from your pre-cues. You will be able to teach your mule to “go forward” by looking at the point of the hip and kissing to the mule.

After the mule responds to your cue and you have praised him, ask the mule to “go forward” again. Go through your pre-cues and cues until the mule moves forward.

Work on getting your mule to constantly take one step forward. Then, after he is consistent with one step, begin asking the mule for two steps, then three and four and so on. By now your mule should be responding to your pre-cues, but be patient, this will take many repetitions.

You may be thinking, “How will this help me in the saddle?” When riding, you will use the same formula, but with your legs. Understand that this will translate to the saddle. Your mule will begin associating what you are asking with what you did on the ground and he will get the right answer quicker and more consistently.

While in the saddle, if your mule stops moving forward, concentrate on the point of the hip, then kiss or cluck to the mule. These are your “pre-cues.” A kiss or cluck tells the mule you want “movement.” You are asking the mule to move something.

Squeeze with your legs if the mule does not move forward. If he does not respond to a squeeze, you will start lightly bumping the mule’s side with your legs. Finally, you bump harder until the mule moves forward.

Just like when you were on the ground, the second the mule moves forward, stop the cue and praise the mule. If the mule is moving forward, leave your legs still.

However, understand that if you keep bumping the mule with your legs as he is moving, the mule will start ignoring your cues. This is called “burning the cue.” If you keep cueing your mule after he is doing what you’ve asked, then he will say, “Well, he keeps kicking me when I am not moving and when I am moving, so I guess it doesn’t matter what I do, so I will just stop moving.” Then, your cue is burned out.

Just like on the ground, If you are consistence with your cues, your mule will start to respond from your cue, then from your pre-cues.

So, if you are leading your mule and he stops and will not move his feet, go back to his shoulder and ask his hip to move forward. You now have a cue to give your mule to step into the trailer, walk up to the wash rack or cross a tarp, cross the river, and move forward. You will be amazed at how your mule will follow you any where.
Tim Doud can be reached at, or by phone at 307-899-1089.

Granny's Adventure Continues...

originally published in 9/09

by Anna Arnold
Winchester, Calif.

Great friends and beautiful mules were aplenty at the Turlock Fair Mule Show. Turlock is located close to Sacramento, Calif., which is just a short little drive for us...only like 400 miles.

The weather was in the 100s most of the days. Luckily for us, it cooled off in the evening.

I left my mules at home and rode up with Debbie Humphreys, Kris Keeler, Tucker Slender and friends, and we all camped under what trees we could find.

A high line was set up for the mules, and they too enjoyed what shade they could find.

The show offered many classes, from halter to cattle sorting. Friday evening, the game classes were held, which were well attended.

Saturday the riders were out with their mules at the first call at 8 a.m., and some were still in the arena when the last team rode out of the cattle sorting at 10:30 p.m.

The mules and riders were exhausted. But Sunday morning they were up and at it again.

Some of the mules had had it and let their riders know it with refusals and ringing of tails. One of our good old reining mules said it was too hot for him and he refused to work. A few of the young green mules sold out on their riders.

With the desire to win year end awards, sometimes we get so wrapped up in winning all the points we can, we forget that these animals do their best for us.

And what kind of reward do we give them? We spur and whip in the game events, even when they are running as fast as they can, and push and push in the other events. Some of the sneaky riders jerk their heads off in the pleasure class when the judge is not looking. I just about ruined my good mule in the quest for another saddle.

Another thing I am seeing a lot of is judges placing a low head carriage and slow gaits.

In the American Mule Association, we have very strict rules that the natural head carriage is to be used and judges should penalize those who carry them too high or low. Some of the judges who are not so familiar with mules are using the Quarter Horse lethargic look, as well.

If we are going to keep riding with a natural head carriage and way of going, we must not send our mules to trainers who train that way and we must ask the show chairman to stop using such judges.

If you are tired of the way our mules are headed, pick up your pen and write to your mule association and let them know how you feel.

I love these old, big eared guys and hate to see them being made into these unnatural-looking movers. Those who think little ears and slow gates are “in” are not true mule lovers. Most of these people couldn’t make it in the horse show world and now they are here to see if they can change our mules.

Well off my soap box. I just can’t seem to stay off it.

While in Turlock, I was invited to have lunch with a mule lover and one who recognizes their talents in the feed lot and on the track, John Kidd. John has some very nice trail mules, along with his race mules. John invited me to go over to the off-track betting and have lunch.

His friend Bill May joined us. He and John make videos about the Turlock Fair and Mule Show.

We were there for a mule race and had fun watching our bet run back and forth across the track, but we didn’t win anything on that race.

We were talking with Bill and telling him about when I rode in the Rose Parade with all the rain, when John noticed a horse with “rose” in its name come up. John placed a bet on it and he won enough to pay for our lunches.

It was cool in there and we hated to leave, but the mule show was going on and we couldn’t miss a class. Back out into the heat we went.

One of the young riders that caught my eye was Dakota Massey, better know as Cody. This young man is 9 years old and loves to ride mules. So Tucker Slender offered him Rosie to ride. (Rosie is her ranch name, but she is the great retired race mule called Sanger Red. She had won many championships at Bishop in cattle classes and Tucker has also ridden her to many victories in jumping.)

In the barrel race, Rosie did a fast move and Dakota went off. She stopped and stood like a statue while this little guy got up and got back on her, and they continued the race. He took a bump to the head but had his crash helmet on. Cody was very glad he had it on as it had a pretty good scratch on it.

Rosie is one of many race mules that have gone on to be excellent using mules. She ran with the best, placing behind Black Ruby and winning over $30,000 in her racing career.

Another youngster that I had the privilege of riding with this spring is Lindsey Michaelis. She is 10 years old and lives in Lakeside where she attends school. She is a student in driving with LaDonn Hatley at Sioux Munyons ranch in Lakeside, Calif. Her passion for horses and donkeys has been rewarded and she will be driving Sioux’s big Belgian horses in some of the coming draft shows.

Lindsey’s driving in the Coronado Parade on the Fourth of July was excellent. She drove Willie the Magnificent, Sioux’s donkey, and was sure a crowd pleaser. She wore an outfit that we made for my friend Lois Carritte some years ago. She was also a great hand cleaning my boots before the parade!

Our next adventure will be spending five days at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. I, along with others, will do mule and donkey exhibitions for those days. We will pack up Sunday after the performance and head up to Ventura, where we will have a show Monday and a drill team exhibition on Tuesday.

I will be at the National Chuck Wagon Races in Clinton, Ark...hope to see you all there.

Look for me on the trail or in the show ring. I’m the granny wearing a big hat and riding a fine mule.

Safe Fly Control For Mules

1 cup Avon Skin-So-Soft Body Oil
2 cups white vinegar
1 Tbsp. Eucalyptus Oil or Citronella (found in health food stores)
1 to 3 cups water (3 cups to repel flies)
Cap tightly and shake well. Spray on as needed. Great for trail riding season!

Q&A with Tim Doud: Training is a Long Term Commitment

originally published in 2009

by Tim Doud
Diamond Creek Mules
Cody, Wyoming

My husband, Jim and I live in NE Arizona. We bought two older mules three years ago…our first mules. Two years ago we bought two paint mares; they were both in foal to a jack. Those two mule colts will be 2-years-old in May. They lead, tie, trailer and pick up their feet. We have had pack saddles on them, overnight camp trips, saddles with long-lines with just a halter and snaffle bits. They get handled daily, but not worked on a real regular basis; we both still work full time away from the home. Wanted to give you some background on them and me.

Both Jim and I have had horses for the past 25 years. What I am looking for is other training lessons I can work them with. These two john colts are our first babies ever – then we turned around and rebred the mares to a much smaller jack to give us some future mules we could use for packing. Those two will be one year old in May. The 2-year-olds are 15 hands already. What I don’t want to do is burn them out on the same ‘ole lessons. Can you give me some pointers? We ride, pack and drive. We have a forecart now with two harnesses and my husband is building a covered wagon. Any info you can give
us would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much for your time and input,
Tanya and Jim Pea, Concho, Arizona.

It sounds like you have a plan for your mules and your mules have a great start. The number one thing to remember about training is training is a long term commitment. We live in a ‘quick fix’ society, but you cannot buy this bit, or that video and your mule will magically be trained. You can get any mule to do anything you wish with a snaffle bit. It is not the bit that trains the mule; it is the person behind the bit. A good example is the mule that won’t stop. I am sure you have seen ads for bits, “guaranteed to stop your mule”; most of these bits are very severe. What happens is the bit will cause the mule pain. The mule will stop when you first use the bit on him, but as the mule gets use to the pain he will run through the bit.

The best solution…..Training. Any mule will stop on a dime with a halter if he is trained to do so. That type of response will not happen overnight; it takes many hours of teaching on your part and learning on your mule’s part.
But, it is possible. Anything is possible with your mules, but teaching and learning needs to happen for them to learn what you want them to learn.

The first and most important detail in training… takes place every time you are in contact with your mule, whether you are feeding, brushing, leading, petting, etc. There are lessons that can be taught in several brief segments or lessons that can be taught over several 60-90 minute sessions.

A few examples of lessons that can be taught in brief segments are teaching him or her to pick up his feet on cue, come to you on cue, leading with or without a lead rope, or waiting patiently for your cue to eat his hay.

A few examples of lessons that should be done several times in 60 or 90 minute segments are: teaching turns in the round pen, sacking out, saddling, ground driving. I will explain these lessons in detail in upcoming articles.

Regardless of the length of the lesson, over time, you are teaching him to always look for a cue from you when you are around him. It will also build a partnership between you and your mule. Any time you ask your mules to respond to a cue and they respond correctly, make sure you reward them. This is the process that will have your mule looking forward to your lessons and learning.

A Few More Examples:
Since your mules are wearing snaffle bits, you can work on bridle work from the ground. Everything you do with the bridle on the ground will transfer to the saddle. Bridle work can be done in 60 minute or 15 minute lessons. You can work on give to the bit, disengage the hindquarters, move and lift their front shoulders, side-pass, etc. Just be sure that when you end your lesson with your mule he is better at the exercise than when you started.

Another great lesson to teach any mule is to ‘Spook in Place’. It is unfair to ask any mule not to be afraid. Just like different people are afraid of different things, so are mules. What you want to teach your mule is “I know you are afraid. But, here is what you do when you are afraid. I will give you a cue and tell you what to do.” Eventually you will have taught your mule to stand still, not run away, buck or rear. Anyone can ride a mule that is afraid if the mule does not move his feet and knows what to do when he is afraid.

I teach all young mules these lessons BEFORE I climb into the saddle for the first time. I spend a minimum of 90 days starting a mule under saddle and at least four to six weeks doing ground work before I even think about mounting. That way the mule knows how to respond to my rein cues should he get scared when I am riding him.

A solid foundation is the key to a great partnership between you and your mule. No matter what the age of the mule is, a foundation can be put on your mule, it just takes time.

Tanya and Jim, you are correct that you do not want to drill any lesson into your mules. The mule will lose interest and his performance will suffer. I am sure you have seen a mule with his ears always pinned back. This is a mule that is not enjoying what he is doing. Always remember to allow the mule to be a mule; he is not a machine or a piece of equipment. He thinks and breaths and lives just like we do. If the mule enjoys what he is doing he will look like he was born to lope or slide or stop or anything else you ask him to do.

It is a personal decision you will have to make on when to start your mules. Your two year olds can be ridden if their joints are closed. Only an x-ray from your vet will tell if the joints are closed. Personally, I start all my personal mules the fall of their third year. A mule will live 10 years longer than a horse. I will give the mule a year in the front because I know I will get 10 years in the back, and they will not have joint problems later in life.

Another reason I wait until they are three years old is I have other mules to start. When a person only has one or two mules it is harder to wait. You want to start your mules so you can use them. I also run an outfitting business. My camp is located 22 miles from the road. This requires a 10 hour ride to get into the camp. So, by starting my mules the fall of their third year, by the time they are ready to be ridden, I can ride them into my back country camp.
This allows me to put about 50 miles of riding on them each week.

Again, in the following months I will be writing articles explaining how to teach some of the exercises I discussed previously in this article. I would like to thank Tanya and Jim, and all the other readers, who have sent questions. If you would like a question answered in an upcoming article, or would like me to discuss a specific lesson for you, please let me know. I would be happy to discuss it with, or for you.

Tim Doud can be reached at, or by phone at 307/899-1089 or by email at
If you mail please include your phone number so Tim can call you to answer questions.

Photos from the National Western Stock Show held in Denver, Colo., on Jan. 22-24

Friday, Jan 22. - Day 1
Saturday, Jan. 23 - Day 2 - Part One
Saturday, Jan. 23, Day 2 - Part Two
Sunday, Jan. 24 - Day 3
For more photos, results, and articles from the event, look in the March 2010 issue of Mules and More

The Day That Rocked Bob's World

by Molly Shakespear Almo, Ky.

It was the day that would change Bob’s world forever. It started like many others: up early, coffee on, mules fed on their tie line, breakfast cooking on the grill. We were camped at Double M Campground in Shawnee National Forest, located in southern Illinois.
Having ridden in that area many times, I knew the riding would be good. With all the forest trails, streams to cross, and rock ledges, it is a nice cool place to ride in July.
There was a large group of us, mostly from western Kentucky, so I knew most of the other mules and horses on my tie line. We generally all get along as the pecking order has long since been established. With this large of a group, an early start just isn’t going to happen. At around 9 a.m., everyone is finally ready to head out.
Today Jeff Jones is elected, by acclamation, to be the trail boss. Jeff has ridden in Shawnee National Forest for several years so he was the best choice for the job.
The group was only about a mile from camp when (what I call) “the event” happened.
Bob was riding drag on the group of 11 riders. This is his permanent position because of his unorthodox riding methods and general lack of skill in the saddle. (As a side note, let me say that Bob has great difficulty with items that are sharp or hot and he doesn’t have a working knowledge of gravity or balance. This is why Brenda will not allow him to wear spurs or to ride any where except for the back of the pack.)
What happened next is a bit foggy and changes each time Bob tells the tale. What is known is that Bob had stopped along the trail to get a snack out of his saddle bags and to allow Libby to grab a mouth full of grass. At such a time, Bob usually kicks his feet out of the stirrups, drapes the reins over the saddle horn , and sets in the saddle like a rag doll.
It is believed that Libby was stung by a bee, as she took a giant jump sideways, leaving Bob suspended in mid-air, at which time gravity took over bringing Bob to rest on his left side on the hardest piece of Terra Firma that exist in the Western Hemisphere.
A few years ago, (well maybe more than a few) Bob would have jumped up, looking around to see if anyone was watching. Today, however, he just laid there hoping someone was watching and would come to his aide.
Fortunately for Bob, Libby had stopped close enough to him that he could reach up with his good arm, grab the stirrup, and get back on his feet.
By the time Bob was on his feet, Bill Eyre and his mule Herbie had ridden back to render aide. Bob was busy gathering up his glasses, hat, GPS unit, and what little pride he had left. With Bill’s help and the use of a nearby stump, Bob was able to get back in the saddle.
After catching up with the rest of the group, Bob was greeted with many words of encouragement, like “Ride it out,” “Cowboy up,” and “Stop whining.” I think Bob was really touched by their sympathy until he realized the tears in their eyes were from laughter.
On the trail again, we headed into some really beautiful riding, the rock formations and meandering streams were just as I remembered them. Lunch was at a place called Round Rock where there were tie lines for me and my friends and large flat rocks for the humans to lunch on.
During our lunch break, we saw a large mule coming down the trail and he stopped for a visit. We learned his name was Murphy Brown and his human was Chad from Mattoon, Ky.
After a pleasant break and a filling lunch, we were again on the trail. Bob once again was relegated to the drag position. As he was ambling down the trail, he heard someone yell “BEES!” Looking up, he saw his wife Brenda in what was a half-dismount/half-fall from my saddle and me with my head between my front legs, trying to get the bees off my face and ears. Once Brenda was clear of me I headed for the brush to try and escape all the stinging, and Brenda tried to keep the bees off her face and arms.
All was soon clear of the bees and some order was restored. It was discovered that I, and several of my friends, had multiple stings, along with several for Brenda and some of the other humans.
I should point out that bees are not normally a problem this time of year, but I believe the abnormally hot weather had the bee’s confused.
As we returned to camp the last drop of daylight was fading from the western sky - a draining that seemed more a suffocation than a sunset, a final faint gasp as the day died of heatstroke.
Later that evening everyone set around discussing the days ride. However, it seemed to Bob that his display of mulemanship was mentioned way too often.
The next morning everyone was up having coffee and discussing the upcoming days ride, I took this opportunity to lead a human to water to see if I could make him drink. This task proved almost impossible with Jeff.
We look forward to another visit to Double M Horse Camp in the fall. Hope you have safe and happy trail riding.
Chad, of Matoon, Ky., and Murphy Brown

Molly lead's a human (Jeff) to water to see if she could make him drink

Brenda riding Molly and Bob riding Libby

On the tie line
originally published in the 9/10 issue of Mules and More

August 2012 Correction

2012 Jake Clark Mule Days

The Jake Clark Mule Day annual rodeo and sale, held Father’s Day weekend (June 13-17) in Ralston, Wyo, had  sunny (and windy) weather and spectacular mules! This year contained the highest sale of a mule in the history of the auction. If you are a potential seller or buyer – mark your calendar now and ask for time off next year. Each year the rodeo and sale get bigger and better. 
Click here to view more photos from this event!
Mounted Shooting
The Mounted Shooting competition was held on Wednesday with over 35 participants. There were four different patterns for them to compete in.  The top four participants, Mark  Bailey and Ty McManigal, representing the Wild Bunch from Vilonia, Ark., TJ Clark, of Ralston, Wyo., and John Cipollone, were invited back for a demonstration shooting during the rodeo on Saturday afternoon. John is the Range Master for the event and designs and sets up each of the mounted shooting  patterns.  This was the first year he had advanced to the finals during the rodeo.  The level of interest in mounted shooting at this event has been amazing.  Each year the courses get more challenging and more people want to be a part of the event. 
Barrel Racing and Team Roping
These are held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night.  Wednesday night Steve King and Loren Basham won the team roping. Mark Bailey and Loren won Friday night.  Mark and Loren had the fastest time going into the third head Thursday night but they missed.  There weren’t a lot of barrel racers – mostly youth who love an opportunity to run the pattern when they can.
Team Sorting
Team Sorting was held on Thursday. The practice sorting was held in the morning and the competition was held in the afternoon. The event starts with a jackpot draw partner and than a second competition where you chose your own partner. In the second competition Brad Cameron of Cameron Mule Co., in Corvalli, Mont., ended up winning three out of the four placings partners (first with Mark Bailey, second with Randy Gibbs, Peyton, Colo., and third with Chuck Reed). Brad’s mule Concho is amazing to watch work cattle. He pins back his ears and tracks those cattle like few other mules I’ve ever seen work.
The team sorting classes have also exploded in numbers in the last few years. I believe it is because it doesn’t require a rope like team roping classes do – you just need confidence and a mule that isn’t afraid of cattle in order to participate.  The other participants are very encouraging and provide positive reinforcement even when the run didn’t go as they had planned.
Ranch Mule Competition
The Ranch Mule Competition is always a nice event to watch. The contestants are both those with mules in the sale and mules that their owners want to show off their abilities.  It is a combination of a basic reining pattern and cow working. There were some very good contestants in this event.  Mark Bailey ended up on top riding the mule that would become the high selling mule, owned by Mike and Angie Lee.  Brad Cameron had a good run as did Chuck Reed and Walter Nunn, from Texas. I thought Walter’s run would earn him top placing – but I am certainly not the judge. TJ Clark also had a nice run. Some of the steers were a little sticky and hard to get them to move away from the pen.  However, as with all cattle classes, it is the luck of the draw.  
The Annual Parade was held Saturday morning in downtown Ralston.  The weather was beautiful for a parade with fewer numbers of hats blowing away than usual.  The streets were lined with spectators.  It is an inspiring moment when you catch sight of the first mule carrying the United States flag, with mules as far as the eye can see centered in front of the mountain range.  It is always good to see a mule that you might want to bid on in the sale calmly walking down the highway with kids running out of the crowd to pet them or cars whizzing by. 
The Rodeo was well attended with both spectators and contestants. The contestants ranged in age from four to 80.  They traditional classes were held: Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Goat Tying, Ribbon Roping and Team Roping. In addition the non-traditional rodeo classes were held:  mule race, wild cow milking, steer riding, wild cow riding, mule wild ride and new this year was the hide race. Von Twitchell, the 80 year old cowboy from Tecumseh, Okla., riding a 22 year old mule, had a smoking pole run this year.  Randy Gibbs, riding Squirrel Tooth Betty, was unstoppable during the mule race.  Betty stayed just ahead of the second place winner and refused to let the other mule get by. Betty is fast – she expends just enough energy to make sure she is always in the lead.  Randy and Betty also had a great run in the barrel race, taking home a buckle in this event as well.
The wild cow milking was crazy as usual. If you have not seen this event – it is chaos.  All of the teams are in the arena at the same time, cows are turned loose, milkers are on foot in among it all.  Ropes are flying and I am sure several participants were clothes-lined and knocked down.  TJ Clark and his team played it smart by moving the cows down near the finish line, roping one and milking before anyone else had come anywhere close.  The hide race was amusing to watch but it was very dusty and it was tough to see the hide rider by the finish line.  Several smart contestants put on goggles! 
Only one team caught in the team roping during the rodeo and their run certainly wasn’t pretty. They were one of the last teams to compete and finally got a clean run. The youth and peewee barrel race and pole bending was fun to watch.  A couple kids were on their first mules and tried very hard to get the patterns completed.  The Cobb children, of Weiser, Idaho, also did a good job on mules that were for sale in the auction. There was a great announcer this year that kept everything going and did a fantastic job.  The arena crew was quick and on top of things.  The pick up horses and their riders were some of the best you will find anywhere!

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Contestants in the hide race. Photo by Bob Kisken; One of the Cobb daughters running in the barrels. Photo by Lenice Basham

Mule Preview
I love the Mule Preview. I do not know of another sale who allows the potential buyer to watch every mule go over the same course within a three hour time span. It is a great indicator of what the potential buyer could have when they get home. I know it is exhausting for the Clark team to set up, judge, and tear down, but it is so worth it to the buyer. It is hard to see everything from one viewing post – therefore, many buyers put a partner at the other side and then pass on their observations. On the far side of the arena, there is a trailer.  The mules are bridled and saddled, have their feet picked up, and are loaded in a trailer. They then enter the arena and mount.  The mule crosses some logs, walks into a box and stands for 90 seconds and then crosses more logs.  They serpentine cones at a trot, trot a circle and then drag a log.  (It is really more like a telephone pole.)  They then lead a pack mule (who is very tired of this by the 100th trip) and cross a small bridge.  They cross the creek a couple times, put on a slicker and then finish the course.   The pack mules are provided by Jake.  It is the luck of the draw – one pulls back, one is hateful and one is OK. I heard rumor that one liked to nip the lead mule (but I did not observe him doing this). Every mule that was allowed in the sale ring went through the trail course. The scores ranged from 69 to 100. The judges put notes alongside their scores (excellent, nice job, strikes, bites, etc.)  The scores are then posted for potential bidders to see.  They are only discussed in the sale ring if the buyer brings it up. 
I find this trail course to be enlightening.  Mules that you have watched all week in the arena may have difficulties that you didn’t expect – they may back across the field while leading their pack mule.  This is not important if you aren’t going to lead a pack mule – but it is a big deal if you are taking this mule hunting and will lead a pack mule.  The mule may not stand in the box – the mule may not drag the log – these are decisions that the buyer has to decide are important or not.  You have been given the information – you have to decide what will work for you.  This is a better indicator than just talking to the owner.  The mules who brought higher prices were mules that scored well on the trail course (for the most part). 
There is such a variety of mules that are offered at this sale.  There are mules offered for every riding ability – but it is up to the buyer to discuss their true riding abilities with the seller.  The seller cannot read their minds. A buyer needs to honestly express their riding abilities and insecurities and find out which mule meets their needs.  The trail preview allows buyers to really see what the issues of each mule might be and lets them decide what is important.  All mules have something they do we don’t like – it’s up to us to decide what we can live with.  My mule, Jessie, swats you in the face with her tail every time you walk behind her.  Can I live with it? Yes.  No mule is absolutely perfect – the buyer and seller need open communication to discuss this.  There is a second preview the morning of the sale in which the seller enters the arena and Jake talks about the mule.  It is a very short look but allows for bidders to clarify in their minds (after three days of watching hundred’s of mules) which ones are the possibilities for purchase. 
Mule Sale
The Mule Sale started with a bang with the #1 mule, Gismo, a 9-year-old 15-hand red dun horse mule consigned by Jake Clark bringing $12,000.  It ended with the #110 mule, Cimarron, a 15.2 hand iron grey mare mule consigned by Jake Clark bringing $6,000.  The high selling mule was Bailey, a 8 year old 14.3 hand, buckskin horse mule consigned by Mike and Angie Lee purchased for $23,500 by Pat and Marla O’Halloran, Kirkland, Ariz. Bailey had been sold as a four year old for $10,000 and had been in training with Mark Bailey of Wild Bunch for the last year.  The Bailey family showed the mule all week long.  They used it for team sorting, team roping, barrels, and the ranch mule competition.  Bailey was a very sweet, gentle mule that would be broke for anybody.  O’Hallorran’s got a nice mule with Bailey.
The reserve high selling mule was PairADice’s Smarty, #18, an 8-year-old 15-hand black horse mule consigned by Loren purchased by Pat and Marla O’Halloran. Smarty was an awesome mule. I had ridden him all week in the Big Horn Mountains and he took incredible care and showed great patience.  He placed his feet so steady throughout some of the toughest terrain we rode in.  Loren had been using him in the sale barn to pen back cattle and for branding cattle.  Smarty will be perfect for the O’Halloran’s. He is sweet and kind and can be safely ridden by anyone who can get in the saddle.  The third high selling mule was sold by Matt and Jerry Cobb.  It was an 11 year old 15.1 hand palomino horse mule.  It was broke, broke.  A family from Helena, MT with two kids who were new to riding bought the mule. This family bought a total of four mules at the sale. 
Phone bidding is not new to Mule Days, but this year there were a number of successful phone bidders. One in particular phone bidder was Tom Huggins of Virginia. His wife Beth, daughter Elizabeth, and friend Tara, flew out for the auction. While Beth and the girls were here most of the week interviewing and scrutinizing the auction mules personally, her husband made plans for a phone bid. Beth ended up with two mules. Her husband was called via phone bid on the mule he had decided upon, and successfully purchased him.  “The Huggins returned home, the new proud new owners of three mules who arrived only three days later,” said Kay Clark. “The Huggins have reported that they are very happy with their purchases and even Tom is planning to attend next year.  These are the success stories that Jake Clark’s Mule Days is so proud to be a part of.”
Mrs. Clark always provides details of the sale but here are some different facts about the mules that sold. These are not official results from the sale – just information compiled based on my sitting through the sale and writing down the purchase price as they went through the ring. 
The average price for a molly mule was $5,151 and the average price for a john mule was $5,750.  When you average the price of the top five molly mules it was $10,550.  The average price of the top five john mules was $15,900.  Of the top 10 selling mules at the sale, six of the 10 were horse mules.  I find this interesting only because most people claim to want a molly mule.  There were more 6 year olds sold than any other age. The average price for the 6 year olds was $4,832. The highest average age price was the 8 year olds at $7,514. Second to that was the average price of a 9 year old which was $7,350.  The majority of mules sold at the sale were 15 hands (this may be that people stated they had a 15 hand mule without really measuring?). The average price for a 14.3 hand mule was $6,926 (this included the high selling mule).  The average price for a 15 hand mule was $6,011 (this included the reserve high selling mule).  The average price for a 16 hand mule was $4,680.  I find this type of information interesting – and would be curious to see if these are trends.
“We are so very happy to bring both great mules together for our happy buyers as well as making Mule Days a genuine family get together!” said Kay Clark. To keep up with Jake Clark’s Mule Days, visit their website,, or follow on Facebook by searching “Jake Clarks Mule Days,” and clicking the “Like” button.

This video, courtesy PairADice Mules, is just a series of short clips from the auction. It includes a clip of both the high selling and reserve high selling mules.