Thursday, March 19, 2015

5th Annual Trail Riding Guide

Are you anxiously looking at the calendar, wondering when you will get to load the mules up and hit the road for a riding vacation this summer?  Now is the time to start making plans and filling in those empty dates! We’ve gathered everything you need to plan your perfect trail riding vacation in the fifth annual trail riding issue of Mules and More!

Bookmark this post - it contains our trail riding guide, with our recommendations for planning your trail riding vacation this summer.

Check out the April issue to see the full trail guide, where we gathered several stories from subscribers detailing their favorite trail rides, as well. It's pages are filled with snapshots of mule and donkey trail riders from across the country. We have what you need to plan out your next trail riding trip, and then saddle up and go!

Riding Vacations

Wyoming Wilderness Outfitters

Step back in time, ride with Wyoming Wilderness Outfitters.  Born cowboys, we take pride in providing you with a unique and memorable summer adventure. With the vast number of trails in northwest Wyoming and Yellowstone to choose from, we plan to make this one of the best vacation experiences of a lifetime. We’ll arrange the trip to best fit your personal needs; fishing, riding, camping, exploring, wildlife viewing, and photography.  We provide teepees, pack and riding animals, saddles, wrangler and a cook complete with kitchen. 
Whether you travel from location to location, set up camp at the base of the mountain along a river and take day rides from your campsite to surrounding valleys and passes, or bring your own living quarters horse trailer and horses/mules – we can guide you through some spectacular country. We’ll have our mules/horses saddled waiting for your call. For more information call (307) 754-4320 or visit

Overnight Camps

Ears the Place Equine Inn

At 6,200’ elevation in a mountain valley on the west side of the Tetons in Teton Valley, Idaho, with a 360 degree view. There are hundreds of miles of trails to explore in Targhee National Forest and Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area. It is in close proximity to both Grand Teton (50 miles) and Yellowstone (90 miles) National Parks. There are also a wide variety of other outdoor activities available, including fly fishing, mountain biking, glider rides, floating the river and golf.
Three 40’x 60’ pipe and cable outdoor corrals with windbreaks made from a recycled grainery, a 75’ x 60’ corral with a lean off the barn, and four 12’ x 12’ stalls in the barn. There is room to turn a big rig, space for dry camping, and room to park and leave trailers. There are five motels within five miles, plus one 12 miles away, with a good variety of restaurants.
Elaine Johnson, (208)354-2471 or (208)201-8979,

Trail Riding Camps


Nestled deep in the heart of the Ozarks, surrounded on three sides by the Mark Twain National Forest, The Flying-R-Ranch is a must visit, family oriented, vacation destination. Near West Plains, Mo., the Flying-R offers 800 acres of private property with several trails leaving the Ranch and entering the National Forest giving riders literally hundreds of miles of trails. And with approximately two miles of the North Fork of the White River running through the Ranch there's always plenty of fun on the water. The Flying-R also has caves to explore for the adventurous type.
Amenities include RV sites with water and electric for each site, multi-room cabins, bunkhouse rooms, primitive campsites for tents, covered stalls with free bedding, free firewood for your campsite, an obstacle course for your animal, the cleanest showerhouses to be  found, a full dining facility serving three home style meals each day, The Hitch n Post store, a laundry room, free Wi-Fi, an onsite dump station, and the friendliest staff anywhere.
We have both pull through and back in RV sites, with someone available to help you park, if needed. Trail riding at the Flying-R is always open, even on event weekends. You can join in or go riding on your own.
The Flying-R-Ranch has been featured on The Best of America by Horseback the T.V. show three times and we are very proud to have been voted as being in the top 5% of trail riding destinations for the past three years by It’s always best to call ahead for reservations. Check our website for information or call (417)469-2267.

Mule Power Farms, LLC

Located in beautiful Tucson, Ariz., Mule Power Farms is your winter destination and is more than a full hook-up RV resort; It’s a full-service boarding facility for your equine friends.
From here you can ride in Saguaro National Park East, Coronado National Forest, Catalina State Park, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, Cochise Stronghold, and Chiricahua National Monument.  This secluded retreat is just minutes from the amenities of the big city. Living-quarters horse trailer camping, full hookups, including cable T.V. and Wifi, loaner horse trailers available. (520)298-1536 or (520)975-0377,

Winding River Resort


Located outside of Grand Lake, CO on the north fork of the Colorado River, bordering Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho National Forest offers limitless beauty and recreation.
With your own mule you have direct access to miles of designated trails adjacent in Rocky Mountain National Park, or trailer your mules to more distant trail heads.  You can even take a day trail ride through the park over the Continental Divide to Estes Park, CO.  Camp next to your mules on water/electric sites or stay in our cabins or lodge rooms with pens available at the barn.
Camping facilities include showers, restrooms, and laundry.  For more information visit or call 970-627-3215.

Tin Top Ranch Trailriding


This 160-acre ranch is located in the beautiful Ouachita National Forest of southwest Scott County, Arkansas. They offer a unique opportunity to provide you with a quiet, secluded retreat where you, your mule and a few friends can get away from it all. It's not hard to do in the middle of 1.8 million acres of forest.
Tin Top Ranch’s ranch house has a complete kitchen, dining area, three bedrooms and two baths. There is also a half-basement outfitted as a bedroom. A cozy wood-burning fireplace will provide comfort on chilly evenings, after a long day hunting or trail riding. Like to star-gaze? You'll never see a night sky until you see the skies at Tin Top.
Organized trailrides are offered several times a year, or you can bring your mules and explore the wilderness on your own. During hunting season, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest within a short distance. Like to fish? Catch a mess of pan-fish in one of the stocked ponds and local creeks.
For more information or to reserve your weekend or weeklong vacation, call 1-800-436-8199 and ask for Terri or Scott, or email

Whiskey Ridge Guest Ranch

Stop by overnight or come and stay the weekend! Professional Arena, Great Trails, Good People - Come Ride With Us!
Located in Malvern, Ark.,Whiskey Ranch offers unlimited primitive camping (limited electrical outlets & water available). Stalls and cabins are available for rent. The ranch has a 150’ × 250’ covered arena with complete team roping set up.
The ranch has access to lots of trails, as well.
Contact (501) 213-8594 for more, or visit the Whiskey Ridge Guest Ranch Facebook page.

Hayes Canyon


Hayes Canyon, in Eddyville, Illinois, is a family-owned campground located adjacent to the Shawnee National Forest with access to the Shawnee’s extensive trail system for hikers, equestrians, hunters, and nature lovers of all sorts. They have 30 RV campsites available for rent with electric hookups and city water, picnic table, and fire ring.  Most have sewer hookups.
Campsites have 2-4 pens for horses or mules which offers peace of mind and convenience of having your mule right there within eyesight. This is an ideal location, centrally located in the middle of the most popular trail riding area of the Shawnee, with direct access to the trails. Within a 10-mile radius of Hayes Canyon Campground there are 180 miles of Forest Service trails. (618) 672-4751,

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rider Caused Mounting Issues

by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho

Here’s a simple question, what’s the first thing you do before you get on your mule? I often ask this question when I’m helping someone mounting up for a lesson or clinic and they are about to put their foot in the stirrup. Their response is, “Check the cinch, make sure the mule is squared up, or be sure the saddle is straight.” Good answers. But often, as I’m watching the person prepare to mount, I notice they have both hands on the saddle and the reins are lying on the mule’s neck. So, my next question is, “Do you have any control of your mule?” Think about that for a second.

Next time you’re around a group of riders, observe their mounting techniques. Take note of which mules stand still and which ones walk off as the rider gets on. Who had full control of their mule before getting on and which didn’t have hold of the reins?  Lots of folks complain that their mule doesn’t stand when they get on, but is it really the mule’s fault or the rider? A typical scenario is that the rider grabs the saddle with both hands and pulls themselves into the seat. As they do, the mule is often pulled off balance causing him to move or it simply decides to walk away. Now the rider has to scramble to get into the saddle and fumble around to find the reins. In that time, the mule has walked off several strides before the rider gets the reins, yells “WHOA!” and gives a hard yank on the reins causing the mule to throw its head to escape the harsh pull. As this method continues, the mule learns to resent being mounted by grabbing the bit, moving away from the rider or maybe trotting or running off several strides.  Then, the rider complains that the mule has a problem and wouldn’t stand still. Sadly, this is not something only beginner riders do. Many of the folks I ask this question to are seasoned, experienced riders who assume their mule will stand still.  And, most often, they do. But, things do happen and if the rider isn’t in control of the situation, things can go south really fast.

Some of the biggest buzz words in the equine industry are “timing and feel.” When mounting, it’s very easy to feel if your mule is about to walk off. To do so, he must shift his weight or move his body in some way before he can actually step forward. Here’s the “feel” part. If you’re in tune to your mule, you will feel this slight action. Now for the “timing.” As you feel the mule move to start walking off, you need to correct it as quickly as possible. If you have the reins in your hand, you may simply need to close your fingers on the reins and say “whoa,” for your mule to instantly get the message. If you have to scramble to find and grab the reins, the “timing” is all off and the mule gets confused since the correcting rein cue to stand comes after he’s already walked off, not before.

The easiest way to make mounting, and dismounting, a safe process for you and your mule is to have hold of at least one rein before putting a foot in the stirrup. Many instructors advise making the rein closest to you a bit shorter than the other so if your mule does walk off, you can pull his head around causing him to circle around you. Much like a one-rein stop when mounted. You don’t have to have his head cranked around to his side, or the reins so tight he can’t move, you just need to have contact so if your mule does start to step off, you can quickly correct him.

If you look on the internet or in various equine magazines, you will find numerous ways to “correct” the equine and “fix” his problem of walking off. With all that advice, it’s apparent this is a common problem in the equine world. Again, if you observe riders at a show, trail ride, clinic or other activity, you’ll be surprised how many people get on a thousand-pound, independently thinking, fight or flight, equine without having any form of control. This is not really a trust issue, it is a safety and training issue. Some will argue they trust their mule to stand when they get on no matter what.  OK, if you want to consider it a trust issue, why would a mule trust you if you allow him to walk off, then harshly correct him? He’s trusting you to let him know what you expect of him in a fair manner. So, the next time you mount up, be considerate of your mule and support him by taking hold of the reins before you step into the stirrup.                                                                  
What’s wrong with this picture? Does your mule walk off when you try to get on? 
Maybe you are the reason

Having control of your mule before putting a foot in the stirrup is a major training and safety factor

Even though the mule is standing still, the rider still keeps slight contact on the reins as she adjusts her stirrup, just in case the mule tries to walk off

Susan Dudasik is an equine journalist, PATH Intl. Certified riding instructor and a mule enthusiast. She's competed in numerous trail class events, holds clinics and teaches groundwork and trail classes at Misfit Farm in Salmon, Idaho. The advice given here is meant only as a guide. A professional trainer should handle any serious mule training problems.