Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mammoth Cave Mule Days 2010

by Bob Ammons - Almo, Ky.

Mammoth Cave Horse Camp hosts a Steve Edwards clinic, “Wild Wild Trail Challenge,” and trail ride

It’s was Thursday morning and we were headed to Mammoth Cave Horse Camp in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. On the way we hooked up with Bill and Helen Eyre from Shelburn, Indiana. We arrived at the camp around noon.

I had read about the three day mule event in the July issue of Mules and More and it didn’t take me long to convince Brenda we needed to attend, especially when I pointed out that breakfast would be catered Saturday and Sunday morning with a pig roast and entertainment Saturday evening. What I didn’t realize was that Brenda had her own agenda for going.

While it’s true we had been wanting to ride the Mammoth Cave area, it has been a very hot summer here in Kentucky, so we had slacked off on some of our riding hoping for a long, cooler fall.

As we sat around our camp that afternoon, a large fifth wheel camper was backing into the site next to ours. I was grumbling about non-mule/horse people moving into a horse camp and taking up space when Bill pointed out that the camper had Arizona plates and he figured it must belong to Steve Edwards. It was then that Brenda’s agenda started to become clear.

Brenda is always picking on my mulemanship abilities and is often telling me that I need help. While I will agree that I have my own style of riding, it suits me and I usually get from point A to point B with minimal problems, thanks to a lot of help from my mule Libby.

Thursday evening after it had cooled off to around 96 degrees, we decided to saddle up and have some fun in the arena where part of the trail challenge course was set up. Brenda and Molly Shakespear were negotiating the course with little difficulty and Bill and Herbie were also doing an impressive job. But Libby was not very willing to try the obstacles. I found this hard to understand because out on the trail we almost never run into anything she won’t cross, climb, or jump.

About the time I was ready to give up and just watch Brenda and Bill have all the fun, who should walk up? Yep, Steve Edwards. He ask if I was interested in a “Teachable Moment” and of course I was. Steve spent at least an hour with me and Libby, teaching her to be more responsive and giving me many pointers on how to be consistent in working with her. Brenda, Bill and Myself are SOLD…We are all now huge Steve Edwards fans!

The next morning we saddled up and rode onto some really outstanding trails. They were well marked and the scenery can’t be beat.

On Saturday morning Steve started his clinic. There were 11 mules and their owners in the arena, with the rest of the mule people setting around the arena watching as Steve talked everyone through the basics of tacking up their mules and teaching good ground manners, and than working individually with each one. Eleven-year-old Zoie Markman of Albion, Ohio was in the clinic with her mule Kelly and Steve spent quite a bit of time with them teaching Zoie how to make Kelly walk along quietly instead of trying to drag Zoie around.

Every 10 to 15 minutes Steve would stop and take questions from the crowd, giving answers and demonstrations using the mules in the arena to make his point. I will admit that this is my first clinic, but I was impressed with the way Steve not only answered the questions but the demonstrations he used to explain the answers.

After a lunch break everyone gathered under the pavilion to continue the clinic. Steve explained the physical differences between horses and mules, the reasons why saddles fit each breed differently, and why many saddles designed for a horse will be uncomfortable on a mule and will in fact sometimes cause harm to your mule. Two other mules, along with Molly Shakespear, served as models for Steve’s demonstration.

After the clinic it was time for the “Wild Wild West Trail Challenge.” I think that Brenda and Molly Shakespear or Bill and Herbie could have given the contestants a real run for their money, but they didn’t enter because we had been in the arena playing around on some of the obstacles (not knowing that no practicing was allowed). Oh well, look out next year. Terry from Alabama (dressed in his signature “bibs”) won the event and took home the belt buckle donated by Steve and Susan Edwards.

Saturday evening after an outstanding catered meal, everyone got a chance to set around and talk mules. I spent the time with Kevin Davis, owner of Mammoth Cave Horse Camp ( asking him about the camp. Kevin told me the camp had opened in April of 2009 and construction had started about eight months earlier. Kevin told me this was the first all mule event and that since 43 of the 52 sites were occupied by mule people he would make this an annual event and hope to have a clinic every year with more vendors and maybe an auction. Kevin and his crew did a first class job making everyone comfortable and the facility was one of the best.

I would strongly suggest that if you are interested in good trail riding and great camping, that you keep an eye on Mules and More and on Mammoth Cave Horse Camp for information on next years Mammoth Cave Mules Days.

It’s was Thursday morning and we were headed to Mammoth Cave Horse Camp in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. On the way we hooked up with Bill and Helen Eyre from Shelburn, Indiana. We arrived at the camp around noon.


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