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.