Most people who own and ride mules are used to the occasional comment on their mount. Of course being a mule rider means you need to have a sense of humor when dealing with all those comments.
A few weeks ago my gal friend who I’ve traveled to endurance rides with, came over with her horse. We saddled up and went for a ride on the back roads where I live. She has a beautiful black Arab horse and I ride my bay mule Badger.
Down the road we go, my friend is quick to point out that any bad behavior on her horse’s part is because ‘that is the way she is supposed to be’. I shrug it off as we’ve had so many discussions over bad behavior and simple training along with equine manners. I am not going to convince her that her horses ‘bad’ behaviors are fixable with some discipline.
We are stopped by a couple of fellows who are driving down the road. The driver jumps out and asks excitedly—“Is that a Mule? Wow, what a good looking mule!” Badger stands patiently as the stranger approaches and pets him on the neck.
“So is it true that mules are stubborn, like to kick, and bite, and are mean?” he asks.
Don’t we always get this question?
I grin and reply, “Oh no sir, that is not true about mules at all, it is the owners that are that way.” He laughs and his partner laughs. Both men are now petting Badger and admiring him. My gal friend pipes up, “I’m riding an Egyptian Arab!” The men glance over at the pretty black mare that is pawing, snorting, shaking her head, and causing the rider distress. They sort of shrug and turn back to me, pet Badger again and leave. We ride on. At another point my gal friend has to get off and use the bushes. I hold onto her horse then help her remount the Arab-in-motion who won’t stand still. I drop Badger’s reins and he becomes ground tied while I deal with the horse and rider.
Back down the road we go. We see cattle, enjoy the beautiful quiet countryside and eventually meet up with a fella who is out splitting wood with an axe. His Labrador mix dog slides out and gives a little ‘ruff’. This fella looks up and stops what he is doing. We say hello and suddenly he says—“Is THAT a mule?” My gal friend huffs and puffs and then hollers at the man to get his dog under control, it is making her horse nervous. The man pats his leg and the dog comes and sits next to my mule. Of course this fellow wants to know all about mules and why I ride them and goes on and on … as my gal friend struggles to make her horse stand and behave. Finally she says, “I hate to cut short your visiting, but my mare won’t stand still any longer so we have to go.”
We say our goodbyes and move on.
We finish our ride and say our goodbyes.
The next morning she calls me at work. “What is wrong with people? Why didn’t they notice my horse? After all she is a pure black Egyptian Arab! All they wanted to do was look at your mule. I mean I paid a good dollar for this horse and all they wanted to do was pet your mule! And besides that, no mules have ever done well in endurance; no mule has ever won Tevis. Just look at the results they are all Arabs. Arabians are the ONLY horse to have if you are doing distance riding.” Of course she went on while I remained silently shocked. This was a good friend I thought. Her ‘nice’ Arab has never gotten silly and dumped her while riding with Badger, but any time she rides with someone else the mare ends up hurting her. I sigh and hang up the phone after listening to her diatribe.
Then a thought occurred to me. Was she just jealous of the attention my mule got? Perhaps. Maybe if her horse had manners?
Did I deserve the mule bashing? Well mule bashing comes with the territory and I get pretty tired of it, but try to keep my good humor. When asked why I ride a mule instead of a horse, I generally shrug and say: Because not everyone else does!
We as mule riders deal with mule ‘bashing’ constantly. How have I solved my issue with my gal friend? Oh easily. She can call and request to ride with me if she wants. I’ll take a mule again.
I do want to add here that I am not bashing Arabian horses. I have a half Arab who has wonderful manners and I ride with many horses that are excellent and fantastic mounts. Any equine of any breed should have manners and discipline not excuses for bad behavior.