Siera has never been a mule that was willing to leave home very well, especially first thing in the spring. And especially solo. Usually towards the end of summer she has decided that it is okay.
So I've been taking her on walks to do such mundane things as to pick up the mail on the ridge.
It involves her least favorite walk.
Up the driveway and away from her buddies.
I used to have to wait for her after she locked her legs. I could force her but I want her to cooperate as her own idea.
You can force a mule, but it doesn't always seem the best way of training.
Siera is very 'sensitive' whereas Badger was not.
Up we started, Siera was doing the perfect job of 'heeling' me on the leadline. Her head was dropped and she plopped along as if there was not a care in the world.
That is until Fred and a couple of the mares whinnied.
Then she stopped and looked around as if coming out of her zone.
I let her stand and take a quick look, then asked her with a jiggle of the leadline to please pay attention to me.
I took a step forward. She stepped a bit sideways. I said quietly, but firmly, "Siera, walk."
She did. When we walked passed the entrance to the woods trail, she looked over and stepped slightly in that direction.
Routine can sometimes be the best and worst training method for a mule. But I think if I establish a 'routine' about leaving home with me while not saddled, it will become a non-issue when she is saddled.
We walked up the steep hill and every once in a while she stopped. I let her take a look around and then simply said, "Siera, walk."
And she did.
We got to the mailbox and I gabbed the 'junk' mail out. Siera looked past me to the corn field and the gravel road which goes east to a secluded farm and to the south which leads to the ridge.
When riding we go both ways.
I walked her passed the mailboxes and down the road a bit. She walked like a big obedient dog.
I needed to return home but would have liked a longer walk with her since she was being so incredible.
But home it was...half way down our steep driveway Siera stopped and looked around.
I let her because it seemed she was in no hurry to join her friends.
Suddenly her eyes widened and she leaped sideways. The lead rope never tightened in my hands. I consider that a good 'spook'. I looked over my shoulder to find the mule monster.
Really, I expected to find one?
Then Siera did something very funny.
She dropped her head and stepped around to face me. I don't normally put human emotions with animals, but it was almost as if she was apologizing.
She then lifted her head and stared off towards home.
She made no move forward until I asked her to. And the rest of our walk was about as exciting as watching paint dry.
I let her read the junk mail when we got home, but she was more interested in trying to find a bit of grass.
I would have loved to walk with her in the woods, but the north hillsides are mud/ice, the south hillsides are slimy slippery mud, and level land is saturated.
So for now we are sticking to the roads. I hope to take her on a longer walk next time. Maybe I'll toss a saddle on so she can give me a lift on the way back!
Good girl Siera.
I am proud of you.