Monday, July 23, 2012

Good Mule, Bad Mule

If there is one thing that I have learned over many years in dealing with mules is ... don't let them get away with a Bad Habit.
Siera has decided lately that she will walk with me calmly on the lead until she reaches sight of the horse trailer where I normally tie her up and groom her.  Mind you, I don't ride her each and every single time I get her out of the pasture.

But apparently she has decided to go so far and then 'lock' her legs.  I can usually get her there with some backing and circling.  But the other night I decided that she was going to stop this behavior and that I wasn't going to allow it even if it meant NO riding that night.

The habit had to stop now or it was just going to get worse.  I tried backing her up and circling her, and for a half hour she and I got no further than one certain spot in the dooryard.  She wasn't acting fearful or wild.  She was just being, well....stubborn!
I finally found something I could tie her to and got a lunge whip.

We headed back towards her pasture and then I did a 180 and started back to the problem area.  As soon as the legs locked I cracked the lunge whip in the air behind her.  She hunched and crept forward, relocking her legs.  So I kept her moving in circles around me.  I found that I wasn't very handy at this method so I changed to a short riding crop.

When she locked up I either tapped her on the flank and if that didn't work, I turned her and tapped her chest and made her back up quickly towards the trailer.

This worked well.  
So I decided to try the rule of thirds with her.  Three chances at walking from the pasture gate to the trailer without hesitation.  First time we had two stops which quickly were remedied.  The second time, one hesitation.
The third time was a charm.  She walked right up to the trailer and stood quietly.

Each time I had taken her to the trailer before I also had tied her and groomed her for a period of time.  The trailer is to become a place of comfort for her, not a place of dread.

I'm also wondering if it is being tied up that bothers her so much.  She will stand untied with a lead rope and let me wash her and groom her.
I may try saddling her without being tied once and see how that goes.

But.  She does need to learn to be comfortable tied to the trailer for many obvious reasons.
Good mule.  She really is.  Bad mule, she really isn't!


  1. Great post, sounds so familiar! Like the rule of three tries, I will remember that next time :-)

  2. What I should have also said is that if she does it the third time, that is when I stop that work.
    She is then released on a positive note.


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