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.
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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 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
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.
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, www.saddlemule.com, 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.