Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Malaga - Part 2

Please read Part one first!!!!


Malaga came over the channel to Dover where he had yet another rest before being brought to me.

I had arranged for him to be dropped off a few fields away on my neighbours land as there was no way a lorry could turn into my driveway. As it was he only just made it onto my neighbours land. The lorry was HUGE and “sat down” on command in order to make the ramp almost level to the ground.(Better behaved than my Giant Schnauzer pup!)

The ramp was opened and Malaga walked down, head up and ears pricked wondering where he was and how long was he going to stay for this time. He looked so big compared to Sarah-lee and sported a lovely green and white head collar (Andalusian colours) I was so excited I forgot to check the readings on my camera so most of them didn’t turn out :0( but I got a couple before it grew too dark
I’ve had him a whole week now and what are my impressions?—He’s gorgeous, a bit of a gangly teenager but that’s only to be expected. His manners are good and he’s not at all head shy which is another reason Albie chose him for me. He’s obviously been bought on gently. I was warned that he’s difficult to catch but once he has a hand on his body he stands like a rock “Don’t remove the lead rope”.

I took him out to the round pen and joined up with him—that is with “Equeous mule talk” (Round the pen twice then turn and look at you till YOU join up and do as HE asks!) He also did a pretty passable “follow up” and was soon following me round the pen at my shoulder asking me when I was going to put the headcollor back on him and quit playing around he wanted to go out into the field and play.

I let him out and after a graze and a roll he walked off to explore while I got on preparing his supper. After a while he got bored and came looking for me and when I pretended to ignore him he trotted (Or should I say floated) up and down the fence trying to get my attention-he certainly succeeded!

Eventually I took pity on him and went out put his lead rope on and bought him in.

I’ve yet to introduce him properly to Sarah-lee and the others (They don’t seem that impressed) but I think that will wait a while as I can’t see them being a good influence on him! I want to play some games with him first and get him used to my ways.

A progress report to follow—watch this space!

Malaga - Part 1

This is Part one of the story of "Malaga" a Spanish Mule belonging to Jenny Williams. Jenny wrote the following article and it was first published in the British Mule Society Magazine.


I had been corresponding with Albie Vickers a mule owner in Spain for a couple of years. He had contacted me originally because I was one of the few mule owners who actually rode their mules in the U.K. We chatted back and forth via computer and snail mail, swapping photos and mule tales. He sent me some lovely photos of the area he lived and of his, and his friend’s mules.

I told him that dear Sarah-lee was getting on a bit and although we still had fun and she took me to work occasionally I was aware that she would have to retire and asked if he could keep a look out for a suitable mule once I had saved enough “pennies”.

Things weren’t easy for him and his family recently and I knew things were bad when he sold all his mules including his beloved Ruby but the rough times smoothed over and he was able to start again Eventually I was able to give him the go ahead to start searching in earnest. One day a few weeks ago the e-mail arrived “I’ve found you a mule!”

He’d found a new “ganadero” who kept over two hundred animals and had shaken hands on a deal for some of them. He was impressed by this young four year old gelding although it wasn’t his type but he reckoned it was the type I had said I was looking for.Albie likes a more heavy weight working animal but he knew I wanted what I described as the lighter weight type that could do some Le Trec and also jump a little but would make the horse people look twice. The next day he went back to have another look and sent me a picture. I e-mailed him back to “go for him”. I had absolutely no idea what happened next but Albie talked me through it. First—get yourself a horse transporter. I did some research on the Intelligent Horsemanship forum and got a few clues on who NOT to go for but one name came up as reliable and good with the equines including Donkeys and mules and they were in Spain at least three times a month although they weren’t cheap.

Albie invited me over to stay at his lovely “casita” (a small self contained holiday cottage on his land) but there was no way I could get there and back in one day and you know me I never go south of Banbury! So I contacted John Parker,left my details and waited.

I soon got a phone call to say they would be in Spain around the 5th or the 10th November, only a few days time. In the meantime Albie would work on my boys “feet manners” and sort out a new head collar for me.

There was the vetting to be sorted and on the first Wednesday when the vet was due the lorry driver rang to say he was in the area could he pick up my boy too. Of coarse this was not possible because the vetting couldn’t be done in time so frustratingly it had to be the following Wednesday. Then on the day before the pick up a telephone call from the driver—he was running late and couldn’t make it till Friday! Just within the vetting limit! Albie was due to take his partner to the hospital but if he had said no it would mean another vetting and having to wait. Despite the inconvenience he went ahead and we had visions of his muleteer (Who didn’t speak English) and the lorry driver (who didn’t speak Spanish) desperately trying to meet up with Albie on his mobile at the hospital trying to get them both together! As it was Albie was on his way back from the Hospital when the lorry arrived so was able to oversee the loading. I was here in England feeling very helpless. Apparently my lad was last on before the return journey to England and had a little “short ear” as company in the next stall so was quite happy and loaded O.K.

That left me holding my breath while “Malaga”, as I decided to call him (‘cos that’s where he came from), journeyed through Spain and France.

To be continued....

Monday, 24 December 2007

Malaga at Christmas....

Malaga belonging to Jenny Williams!

Christmas Eve!

Santa and the Packer - author unknown....

Santa clause was in a fix, the worst you could believe,
For his reindeer team had quit on him, and it was Christmas Eve.
This was even worse, than that foggy night,
When Santa called on Rudolph, to help him in his plight.

For Dancer had bog spavins, and Prancer had a cough,
Donner suffered from colic, and Blitzen's shoes had all come off.
Comet wheezed from bad distemper, Cupids hind leg was lame,
Dasher was off his feed and Vixen was the same.

It was early in the journey, yet the reindeer team was through,
The sleigh was filled with toys, What was Santa to do?
So when Santa saw this cabin, with a window light aglow,
He nursed the team to the place, and stopped out in the snow.

He trudged upto the shanty, and knocked apon the door,
He was greated by a packer, judging from the garb he wore.
"Hello my name is Santa Claus" declared the fat man dressed in red,
"I've had some grave misfortune, that has stopped me in my stead."

"You see I drive eight reindeer, that pull this little sleigh.
But now my team is ailing, and we cannot make it on our way."
"I'd say you've got big troubles," the stranger then did chime,
"Your welcome to lay over here and make the trip another time."

"Oh I can not." Said Santa. "For this is Christmas Eve,
What would the children think, what would they believe,
For if on Christmas morning, they found no gifts and toys?
They'd think Santa was a blowhard, just full of sound and noise."

The packer thought but just a minute, then he said "I'll lend a hand,
But best we hurry, if we're to get across this land."
They went quickly to the tack shed, laid open wide the door,
Pulled out canvass bags and panniers, and other packing gear galore.
The contents of the sleigh, then was quickly boxed or sacked,
Wrapped up tight in canvas, best known as manti packed.

And the packer whistled, and in from out the night,
Trotted eight fine pack mules, it was the grandest sight.
Their ears were up and forward, each one looked the same,
Yet when the packer saddled, he called each one by name.

In a flash the mules were ready, a saddle on each back,
Crossbuck and Ritter, Decker and Salmon River tack.
Then the Christmas gifts were loaded, the packs were lashed down tight,
Box hitched or double diamonded, slung or barrel hitched right.

Then the packer said to Santa, "Now I'll lead this string,
But sliding down the chimneys, sure ain't my kind of thing.
So Santa you best mount up and with us you must go,
For I will be your guide, but I won't say Ho, Ho, Ho."
Before Santa could object or think of a reason why,
He was deep seat in the saddle, and they were on the fly.

Now the presents got delivered, the children received their toys.
But folks said Christmas Eve was different, they heard the strangest noise,
And some of them are certain, they swear to this very day,
Instead of hearing sleigh bells ring, they heard a pack mule bray.


Sunday, 23 December 2007

Mules Spain - Albert Vickers

Looking for a good sized mule and struggling to find one in the U.K? Many people have imported mules from Albert Vickers at MulesSpain - I have included extracts from an email from Albert in Italics to give an idea of costs and some photos of some beautiful mules to whet your appetite!!

A Horse looks into your eye's, a mule looks into your soul". Author unknown!

Spanish mules can have the most fantastic conformation as good as anything you have seen anywhere! They are noble animals that should be respected. There dignity reflects well on us. There suffering reflects badly on all of us!
"To ride a horse you must be proud, to ride a mule you must be humble"!. Author unknown!

These days the price of mules ranges from around 1.000euros to 6.000euros. I only send mules between April and September as English winters can be exceptionally hard compared to our 55f minimum. Transport is around another 1.000euros. As from April this year 2007. The animal registration regulations in Andalucia (soon all Spain) is now extremely strict.
Before anyone can buy or sell an equine Mule,Horse,Donkey, they must be registered owners/dealers. They must have a 'Codigo' which is a registration number that is tied to the owner. They must now have a hygiene certificate from a vet to say the animal has no infestations. The animal must be wormed. The place the animal stays must have automatic drinking water and suitable housing. animals must be micro chipped. There should also be 3rd Party Insurance. In fact this is just a part of the new legislation. Sadly this has tended to put up the price of the animals obviously! The best specialist Animal Transport companies often make pick ups here twice a month! Mules have passports with their micro chip number visible.
If a donkey was good enough for the Christ, it's hybrid offspring is to good for most people. Mules are too smart for the average person! Oh I said that

I would love to have any photos you have of mules jumping, eventing etc, I sold 25 mules to the UK in 2004, and 40 all told there so far. Mostly they are used for trekking holidays and a few are saddle rides for their owners.

Spain is wonderful for mule riding. Although they generally are misunderstood by the average Spaniard, they are accepted. Also there is several thousands kilometers of tracks we can ride in a hundreds of thousands of hectares we can actually ride across without problem just here in Andalucia.

Mule Line-up!!

Obviously not in the UK but just a lovely photo to share!

Albert Vickers emailed me the following information on the 9th of January 2008 as some background information to the photo -

The line up of mules you have on your site is as I said, a line of working mules. I took the photo in June 2007 in Sorocaba District of Sau Paulo Province Brasil. The guy in the photo is my friend, the young veterinarian and trainer Fernando Rolim.

An amazing photo!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

A mule, a fool and a stool at Yule!

Found this on the internet!!!! I believe "Millie" is a real live mule who does these acts quite regularly, hoping to source some more information soon!

A light-hearted tale for Yule featuring Millie the mule and a very naughty jester - as performed in the days of old the medieval knights. Performances at 12 noon, 1.30 & 2.30pm.
Sunday 23 December 2007 - Sunday 23 December 2007
12:00 pm
Cost: Free event. Parking £3
Sherwood Forest Country Park (link will open a new browser window)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Treacle - Part 2

Well like almost everyone else this year was a bit of a washout, but I'd like to share a few Treacle photos with everyone!

Treacle had last winter off - having made it quite clear she wanted to spend the winter with the 2yo fillies (repeated fence hopping and serious sad droopy eared mule looks when put back in own paddock!) so she wintered out, got wild and wooly and taught the thoroughbreds how to leap in the feed troughs to demand dinner.

In April a friend offered to teach her to log - look at the sun, look at the smugness on our faces - this was the start of SUMMER!!!! (no your right that was summer, never again did we get our jumpers off!)

Then we got busy covering mares and setting up the stud and muley spent the time in the field unridden (I know I'm bad!) We did drag ourselves out, scrubbed up and hogged to the bone, to the western show at Carlisle run by SHAPS. Disaster - mules classes were the 5th and 8th with no classes before 2pm.... well change of plan on the day due to rain and her first class the showmanship started at 1.55pm and the trail straight after. We did not show ourselves off to our best, half dressed and gawping round the indoor school with eyes on stalks. On the plus side muley said she met some lovely ladies and chomped her way through many a pack of polos - leaving them in no doubt she did not get sweeties at home and wasn't she a poor deprived mule?!!!

In June we went to a BBQ - and a friend mentioned evening showjumping at a local arena - Oh I said "I'll take muley one night" - friend said "Friday?" - "Ha ha I havn't cantered her in a year and she's never jumped, no not Friday" On Tuesday friend booked the local arena for a practise and on Friday muley went "showjumping" Well steering is still an issue and I wouldn't describe her as "careful" but she loves to jump. This year we puddled round the tiny classes but hopefully next year we will have done a lot more work and can step up a gear.

Well she's clipped and rugged this year but I must admit I don't "do" winter so I suspect she'll not be over worked again until the spring!! Big plans for next year though.... watch this space!

Does this photo not scream "Arghhhhh I've been mugged, some swine snuck into my stable and stole half my fur" Unamused mule!!

Getting ready for the bigger classes!!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Christmas is coming......

So check out !!

High on my wish list is this T-shirt

and the stress mule....

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Tresaison Cefyn

Tresaison Cefyn - by Lesley

A rather unusual part of our herd, but a much loved little fella and of course always a great talking point! We believe he is the only one of his kind in the UK and therefore a great rarity. He is a miniature spotted mule standing around 35” tall.

Bred by ourselves his dam is a mini few spot mare and his sire is a black Mediterranean Miniature Donkey. It was a bit of a surprise when he was born, as we had only realised Susie was in foal about two weeks before! When he was born with his big ears and little blanket we were smitten! He is colouring out more and more each year and now sports many different colours in his summer coat whilst still retaining the beige around his eyes and muzzle like his Dad.
Cefyn (pronounced ‘Kevin’) comes from the Welsh words Ceffyl (horse) and Assyn (Donkey). His main job is as a companion and lawn mower but we will perhaps be breaking him for our children to ride – if they are not too embarrassed!

Mule Cufflinks!

Well they could be donkey - the article is not entirely clear but still - cufflinks with longears!

Monday, 26 November 2007

(Another!) Muffin....

Our second Muffin is a permanent resident at Willows Animal Sanctuary -

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Muffin - Valley Farm

Muffin by Sarah Ling.

Our mule is called Muffin. She is a ride and drive and works in the riding school. She has a very large fan club here. She is very unusual as she is totally white and has some strange whorls on her body (I think who ever designed her ran out of fur and so just stuck it on randomly which is why the whorls don't meet up in the normal places). At Christmas she is much in demand locally to be the Christmas Donkey. She often delivers Mary to an inn. At Easter she is again in demand as the Easter Donkey and has transported many a Jesus over palm leaves to assorted churches. She is very house trained. She has also met all the cast from Dad's Army and the Hi-de-Hi crew when she spent a day at Bressingham Steam Museum as a beach donkey in a Hi-de-Hi re-enactment.
Muffin has her own book. It is used when she visits the schools as part of her educating children bit. It compares Muffin's daily routine to the childrens and they are surprised to find how alike they all are, especially that they share the same bone layout. Also, Muffin is featured in the Valley Farm book, twenty five years of animal antics. It is for sale from the centre at £5.00 a book plus P&P if you know anyone who is intrested.

Molly - Spencer Animal Sanctuary

Molly is a part bred New Forest Mule born in 2004. She lives at Spencer Animal Sanctuary in Dorset - please check out their website -

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Widget - Part 4

(please read 1-3 first!!! Further down the blog)

The Next Installement - By Helen Pring

Well here is the next thrilling instalment of the tale of the wonder mule, it does seem like rather a long time since I last wrote and I have a horrible feeling that this is going to be a long article. Last time I wrote we were still firmly in winter coats and rugs having just completed a lovely day’s trail hunting.

First and foremost we have re-introduced Widget to harness, I bought a set of harness for her and after lots of head scratching and looking in books we got the harness on. I did some driving years ago but I can’t say it was much use as I didn’t remember much. Widge stood patiently for all the fiddling with the harness with the air of a professional having to put up with amateurs. She took the blinkered bridle with no trouble and I was convinced that she must have done it before to be so laid back about it, so after a few trial runs we got going . And surprise surprise she turns out to be a laid back driving mule!! Is there nothing this mule can’t do we ask ourselves…. Well actually standing still doesn’t come easily to her so there is something to work on.

We had a lot of plans laid out for the summer and we were eagerly planning a trip to the New Forest when disaster struck and the pony’s jockey Brenda was struck down with illness and had to undergo major abdominal surgery. It was of course a bitter blow for us all as it has wiped out nearly 3 months of activities. I was reluctant to let Widgets fitness slip so I took to riding her and leading Autumn when I could to keep them both ticking over. Widge didn’t appear to mind towing a small chestnut pony behind her around the village but some people did point and stare at the ‘odd couple’.

However after consultation with my mother who lives up near Chippenham we managed to organise a weekend away staying with mum and going on the Miserden Fun ride with a friends daughter and her very good pony. In hindsight I should have taken the pony with me as company but I sadly underestimated the power of separation anxiety that Widget would feel. We arrived in the beautiful yard where the friends lived and Widge was put in a paddock next to another horse. I expected her to take it all in her usual accepting stride but she didn’t settle at all and bearing in mind that the fencing must have been over 5ft and very sturdy, I was horrified to see her sizing it up and making little runs at it.

Mum and I watched her for a while trying to decide what would be best to do, we were sure that she would eventually try to jump out and the friend wasn’t keen on letting a mad mule run with any of her horses so we decided to take her back to mum’s yard. There was a problem though in the form of mums highly strung pony broodmare and last years gelding. Nevertheless we boxed a reluctant mule and took her to the yard. The pony mare was shouting madly as the trailer came down the drive and was in the yard waiting to see who was in the box before we even got there. The look of complete horror on her beautifully well bred face when she saw the lovely banner-like ears of Widge spoke volumes and we unboxed and let them meet over the gate. A tense second passed while they sniffed then the mare exploded into the most violent outburst I have ever seen. She was screaming obscenities at my poor girl and striking out, then she reared high and struck over the gate at Widget. She caught her leg on the gate and went crashing to the floor, the poor silly old thing. However we used the momentary pause in the outburst to get Widge into a stable before the mare was on her feet shouting at the top of her voice. Then to add insult to injury the mare backed up to the door and gave it such a kick it punched a hole in the wood. All this time the yearling was at the back of the yard with his eyes popping out at Auntie Izzy gone mad, apparently unable to believe his eyes. Widget was calling to them every time they got more then five foot away and straining at the door. She was saying something about just wanting to be loved but we doubted that she was in line for anything like that.
Mum and I had a very sleepless night and I crept out several times to see if they were settling. By the morning all was quiet and Izzy had decided that all the excitement was enough to bring her into season, and maybe this odd creature was actually some sort of new stallion. After some debating we turned them out together and they were fine.

The day of the fun ride dawned and we boxed up, not with much co-operation on Widge’s behalf it has to be said, and arrived in the beautiful rolling countryside of Miserden. As I opened the top door Widgets head appeared and her ears were nearly falling off they were so far forward. She told me that even though she couldn’t see them she KNEW hounds were close, and looked almost excited when we led her out. Apparently it occurred to her early on that it was a fun ride not hunting as she fell asleep in the sunshine within a few minutes. I think that as she has been dragged around the countryside a lot in the last 12 months she must be used to people staring at her as she sighed heavily as people stopped to have a look. Anyway the ride itself was wonderful and out of the 70 jumps (yes that’s right 70 jumps!) we did about 55 which must be good going in anybody’s book. The best bit was when we stopped for refreshments along the way, a nice old chap came over and patted her and then he got a misty look in his eye and put his hand on her nose and said softly ‘we won the war on the back of these animals’ Widget was gazing back at him with that unfathomable expression of wisdom that she has and I felt strangely touched to witness it. The moment passed and he told us that we could go down the hill and up through the woods or we could jump the stone wall behind him to miss it out. I was prepared to go down the hill but when he added that not many people had fancied the wall, the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down! I suppose it was about 2’6” but lower this side and feeling all eyes on us Maddie and I cantered towards the wall, Maddie and her pony Arthur sailed over like pros and Widge and I followed suit. It was hard to resist the temptation to turn around and wave at the onlookers.

So that was a lovely weekend away.

Brenda started riding again and after the slow build up as she healed we were out and about again, we are still taking it easy but we did go to our riding club show a few weekends ago. We dragged the animals out of the field and I groomed and plaited her, trimmed her ears and oiled her hooves and generally made her as beautiful as she could be. She didn’t entirely approve of the plaiting bit, she was suspicious that something new was happening and she said that she wasn’t sure if she was going to like it if it meant looking pleasant all day. We arrived at the show in plenty of time, and most of it was taken up with the usual bombardment of fascinated people. Even though I did hear a child cry out ‘look mummy it’s a donkey’. Brenda an I both entered for the Prettiest Mare class so in we went with 10 others, we circled round the ring and I kept up a steady stream of muttered bribes to Widge to encourage pricked ears. I though she looked like a million dollars so you can imagine my outrage when Brenda and Autumn were called out 2nd and we only just scraped a rosette in 6th place. However I didn’t think I should argue as I’m not convinced that she should have been in a mares class in the first place.

We did meet a very nice chap in a wheelchair who had suffered a stroke but was previously in the England Tentpegging team. He wheeled himself over and wanted to pat Widget who was engrossed in watching the dog show, but when she realised her presence was required she very gently lowered her head into the chaps lap so he could stroke her. I am sure that most animals know when someone is vulnerable and when caution and tenderness is required. All this however went out the window when Autumn went into the veterans class. For almost twenty minutes nothing could be heard throughout the showground because some long eared prat was shouting at the top of her voice for her beloved chestnut mare to come back to her. Needless to say it was highly embarrassing and once the mare did come back Widget feigned indifference. Still we redeemed ourselves by jumping two clear rounds in the fun jumping.
Widget is about to become immortalised in bronze as the well known artist Susie Whitcombe flew down in early May to take photos and sketches of her to model her next bronze on. Susie was really lovely and has such a wonderful ability to capture animals on canvas and in clay. Widge was clearly unaware of what an honour it was as she complained about me leading her about for no good reason but was obliging enough to prick her ears and did take an interest in the sketch pad Susie had. So we will wait and see what comes of this but I am thrilled that my very special mule will always be remembered in bronze.

So I think that this about brings us up to date with what is happening in our little yard, an unlikely hotbed of international mule relations!

Widget - Part 3

(Again - parts 1 and 2 are further down the blog - start at the bottom)

Widget the hunting mule - by Helen Pring

Well winter here in Somerset has been pretty wet but thanks to the positioning of our fields we have managed to escape the hock deep mud that seems to plague other parts of the world. We have kept ours turned out all winter so far with only the lameness episode confining them to the yard so far.

Since the last instalment of the incredible magic go anywhere do anything mule (this is more or less how my friends and family refer to her as I constantly tell everyone how wonderful she is) we have been out and about surprising more horses and people. So after a few weeks rest while she was lame she needed to be brought up to speed before I took her hunting so another busy afternoon clipping followed, honestly she did need it, then she was once again shining and ready to go. This session clipping went even better then the first as she knew what was going to happen and just stood and let me take my time. I even ran the clippers down the length of her ears and clipped her head out completely this time. My friend with the pony wanted her clipped a bit more as she was sweating every time we went out so I duly oiled the clippers and did a blanket clip.

I was itching to get out and do something fun as winter road riding does get rather tedious so we decided to load the horses up and go out to Brean to ride on the beach. Having endured a lecture from husband on the dangers of the mud, the tide, the other beach users, the possibility of being blown to France we loaded up and away we went. All I can say is wow, the beach was so long it just disappeared into the distance and barely anyone in sight. We parked in the car park, tacked up and road down towards the sand, we had to ride down a steep jetty to get to the sand. All was going well but then both animals refused to step onto the sand. Widget said that it might be anything and how could se possibly know if she would sink and never be seen again, and Autumn said that is Widge didn’t like it then there was no way she was going to risk her life. We went sideways and backwards then forwards and after a good amount of coxing Widget shut her eyes and tentatively put a hoof on the sand. Finding that it didn’t in fact give way or suck her under she walked on as if she had never harboured any suspicions about it. It was a lovely ride up the beach, we trotted and cantered and generally had a lovely time. Now Brenda had never galloped before and I saw this as a perfect opportunity to initiate her to the noble sport of trying to hang on while the wind tries to tear you off the back of your animal. So when we got to the far end of the beach, bearing in mind that it is 3 miles long, we turned and I told her just to grab a handful of mane and let the pony do her thing. We cantered and then I shouted to her to give Autumn her head and kick on. Autumn is a game little pony and possibly the fastest thing on four legs so when Brenda did as she was told the pony shifted effortlessly into top gear and all I saw and heard was a round chestnut backside kicking sand in our faces and a squeal of excitement from Brenda. Widge galloped after them but no matter how much I love her she will never be very fast and we quickly fell behind. Eventually we caught up with Brenda and Autumn who had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and made our way with a couple more gallops back to the box.

A few weeks before Christmas I decided that I had no excuse to put off taking her out hunting so I duly rang the secretary of the Taunton Vale hounds and asked if I could join them for a day. I got her in the night before and groomed her until she was spotless and then settled down for a restless night. Husband was grumbling because I couldn’t sleep for excitement and apprehension but the most beautiful day dawned and I was up and about getting her fed and generally mucking about. We were a bit late getting to the meet as for all her lovely qualities she can sometimes be reluctant to box, especially when she is suspicious about being tacked up and going into the trailer alone. The pony didn’t help by insisting on calling her every five seconds but she did go up with a bit of persuasion and we were off. I rolled up to the meet to find the usual assortment of large and beautiful horses as well as a few smart cobs and unruly ponies. We saw the quarry in the form of a rider with a sock dangling off the end of a rope disappearing into the distance and after a short break the Huntsman moved off and cast hounds in the first field. I has been pretty well hidden just outside of the farm yard talking to a nice girl on a big chestnut, Widge had been dozing in the sun not really bothering about much, however when we moved off people suddenly noticed that there was an alien in their midst and I got mobbed by interested followers. My wonderful mule took it all in her stride and didn’t even worry when hounds came streaming around her legs. She was willing to keep up but said that she saw very little point in the whole thing. One of the horses was rapidly obsessed with her and kept being silly when he lost sight of her and calling. I don’t think that any of the horses or people were anything other then interested and certainly none of them had a strong aversion to her.

In all honesty we didn’t do much that day, the ground was very wet and hounds kept loosing the trail and getting confused. I think the highlight was when we checked in a farmyard and were standing about, Widget decided that is was far to quiet so she brayed at the top of her voice. As the hideous noise died away there was shocked silence followed by peals of laughter by everyone in earshot. Taking this a request for an encore she proceeded to bray again.

I did manage to get out again before Christmas but it was so foggy we just loaded back up and went home again. I went out with the Taunton Vale again in late January and this time we had a lovely day. She was very sensible at the meet and drifted in and out of sleep but was polite when a nice gentleman on an old grey horse came to say hello.

The first tricky bit we came to was a stream at the bottom of a steep field but with catlike agility (alright maybe not catlike but not too far off) she jumped over and away we went up the other side of the hill. We had a lovely day and even though we missed the first few fences we were still up with the rest of the field. We went down though a quarry and up the steep other side to a nasty rail with a ditchy thing in front, so me and another girl with a bit thoroughbred horse slipped out of the wood the further down and round the outside of the wood to hopefully catch up. We could see them going off across the fields the other side of the hedge but the only way to follow was over a set of narrow rails around 2’6”. We decided to go over so the girl put her horse at the rails where it promptly refused. I trotted Widge towards them and she popped over obediently, so I waited on the other side for the girl to join me. But this horse wasn’t having any of it and after countless attempts I suggested that maybe I should just jump back and we would try to find another way round. So, silently grateful of the work that I we put into our jumping in the summer, we hopped back across and cantered back to the woods. Fate was against us though as we didn’t find a way round or meet up with hounds again but I went away thrilled that she had behaved well and jumped nicely.

So she has another string to her bow and is a mannerly and sensible hunter. I did get a nice exercise trap from husband for Christmas so the next thing on my list is to introduce her to the joys of harness. I know she has done some harness work but quite what and when I am not sure.
So we are up to date with the magic go anywhere do anything mule, I am not sure she signed up for all this excitement when I brought her home but I like to think she is enjoying it.

Widget - Part 2

(The second installment of "Widget" - by Helen Pring - The way blogs work the most recent post is on the top, so if you havn't read part 1 - scroll down and start with it first! Thanks Laura)
Memoirs of a mule

This summer has brought us lots of pleasure, we have been out and about doing fun rides and going places. Widget has taken everything in her stride and has been much admired. Her jumping is coming on and we did do some of the jumps on the rides. Not with any real style but we did get over.

I thought it was about time to hire a course to have a practice on so in October we hired Stockland Lovall cross country course. Mum came with us as the instructress and we set out towards the 100 odd jumps to go round. Widge saw what was coming before Autumn did and her pace slackened off, she was clearly unimpressed by the course. We got off to a good start over the mini section and then went on to have a fabulous day, Widge ended up leading over all sorts of jumps, we did tyres and ditches, and water. Then we did steps and coffins and gates. She took to it with a willing attitude and only stopped when it was me who was thinking ‘urgh this is a horrible fence!’ we noticed that a small crowd had gathered a field away, undoubtedly thrilled by the quality of horsemanship on the course, I suppose it may have been they had never seen a mule on the course but I like to think it was the former.

I realised summer had really gone when stripped off Widgets lightweight rug and suddenly found that she had grown a winter coat seemingly overnight. Now I must explain that I am somewhat of a rug fetishist and take enormous pleasure in rugging horses and indeed mules up to their eyeballs.

It is not unknown for the cry to go up in my household of ‘ oh no, not another blasted rug’ from a frustrated husband. When I lost my old horse he had somewhere in the region of 10-12 rugs. One for all occasions I liked to think. But as he was a good deal bigger then Widge and sadly I have had to start my collecting all over again. The main up side is that she takes the same size as the pony so at least they have interchangeable wardrobes. Lately I have been favouring a good think combo style, and lie in bed safe in the knowledge that she is warm all over.
However this hair development also allowed me to indulge in another favourite winter pastime, clipping.

I did the pony first, just a chaser for her as she is a bit old now and doesn’t do much work. Then I turned my attention to my mule. Now during the summer I had been running the clippers closer and closer until she was happy to have them all over her, and even let me put them on her ears. So after a night in the dry I tied her up and got the clippers. She watched me with the air of an animal who knows that this is not a drill, one ear was back but she stood still while hair started to fall away from her body. Now I had decided to do a high blanket clip as I was intending to do some work this winter and was going to take her our hunting. But I blame the hair in my eyes, I can’t accuse her of moving as she didn’t move a muscle during the whole process, but my lines went horribly wrong and I ended up with a hunter clip.

Widget was shocked into silence I think at the outrage of being naked, but I told her all the best mules were doing it. I don’t think she believed me as a long stony glare was all I got. However I was pleased as she was shining like a vision of beauty. Incidentally this is how I described her to hubby when I came in but all I got were gales of laughter, and him begging me to stop making such funny jokes.

I was pleased to see that mine were the first horses in the village to be clipped as we rode out, Widget being an amiable sort of person took her new look with good grace after getting over the shock and was pretty frisky that day.

But we were not able to enjoy it for long as she went lame a few weeks after. I was so surprised to find her unlevel I stood for ages just looking at her and wondering how this had happened. After a few lusty sighs and resting of foot I called the farrier out who diagnosed a bruise on her sole and told me to rest it. So out she went (rugged up well of course!). I checked on her everyday, and so did Brenda my pony’s jockey. But a week later we went to get them in and to my horror she was hopping on three legs. I was astonished that she could have gotten so bad overnight, having never had lameness in any of my horses before. And feeling like the worst mother in the world I made her walk down the road back to the yard. Leaving Brenda to see to the horses I rushed in and called the vet out. It was pitiful to see my beloved mule limping dejectedly around, if anyone has had a lame animal you know how it feels, I wanted to tell her to stop walking about.
So Brenda and I waited about for the vet to arrive, and were chatting when I saw a car drive past.
‘that’s the vet just missed us’ I told Brenda, she asked how I could tell and I struggled to explain that a vets car just has a certain look about it. Usually a nondescript estate, bit muddy and weighed down a bit on the back, just a vets car.
After a minute or two the vet came back and remarked on seeing Widge that he hadn’t seen a mule for over twenty years. He dug about in her foot and extracted some gravel from the wall of her hoof. Then he said that she probably had an infection and to give her antibiotics and let the pus ‘work it’s way out’ he left and I decided after several conversations that I wasn’t altogether happy with the visit but I would see how we went. Four days of antibiotics later she was still unhappy in her foot. I called the farrier again and he came out the next day. I tied her up and the farrier, after bemoaning the butchery the vet called cleaning the feet out, he set to work looking for the sore site. Her foot had quite a lot of heat in it and was testing sore all across her sole. Out came the knife and he started cutting, tense seconds ticked by as he tapped and cut and scraped. Once he thought he has found a black spot that marked the infection but it turned out to be a black spot and nothing sinister. The silence was broken only by the grunts and huffs of the farrier, the atmosphere was thick with expectation then all of a sudden Matthew shouted ‘I’ve got it, I’ve got it!!!’
I have never been so relieved to see pus in all my life. She had picked up something very sharp and very thin in her toe which had introduced an infection. I could almost see the relief in her face as the pus drained out and left her feeling so much better. The infection had been behind her sole and apparently a new sole will grow behind the old one and replace it in the future. We decided that the best thing to do was to leave the hole open for a bit to let the pus drain away, and to soak it in salt water everyday and poultice it for two days. However Widget had different ideas. I was very organised and got the hot water, Animalintex, bandages, tape and thick plastic all ready, tied her up and soaked the foot. Then lifting her hoof out of the water I put the square of poultice on, I turned to get the bandage and she whipped her head down grabbed the poultice and threw it across the yard and snatched her foot away and plonked it into a puddle of dirty water before I even knew what happened. Over the next few days she doggedly removed all bandaging and protective footwear that I put on. Most didn’t last the night. Then my mum hit on putting Vaseline soaked cotton wool on the hole to keep it from getting dirty. I duly followed the advice which worked well. My farming neighbour appeared with a Shoof, a plastic hoof cover that ties up over the coronet band. Overjoyed with this I put it on and turned her out as she was getting very bored indeed with being in. Well the Shoof lasted about 20mins, before it was sent flying across the field.
I know she was grinning as she disappeared round the corner.

However despite her best efforts to evade having her hoof treated she came sound and Matthew and I decided to put front shoes on to keep the hole covered and reduce the risk of getting rubbish up there again.
I was prepared for her to be silly about having red hot strips of iron pressed against her foot but to my surprise and delight she took it all in her stride, all she required was a handful of feed and my armpit to tuck her nose under.

So that brings us up to date really, she is basically sound but I have to keep the shoe clean or bits of dirt wedge underneath where the hole is, and has become rather noisy on the road, no more sneaking up on unsuspecting OAP’s. During the month that she was off work her coat has grown enough to warrant another clip, and I am planning to take her out hunting soon. Goodness only knows what the nice well bred horses will think of her, especially as she is bound to shout a bit. But I am looking forward to finding out!!!!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Widget - by Helen Pring.

But why a mule?

I have always been interested in mules but had never really given them a serious thought before, I had never met one and in truth never expected to do so. However last June just before my first son was born I unexpectedly lost my old and beloved horse. Suddenly I found myself without anything except my old chestnut broodmare too keep me company. It wasn’t until November that I really began to miss having a riding horse around so I turned my attention to finding something good in traffic, box, clip, to handle and something that I could take out anywhere and know it would be sane and sensible. I did rather think this was a lot to ask but it was worth a shot. Well the first thing I realised very quickly was that a good happy hacker was an awful lot of money!! Where was I when the horse market boomed?! Whilst trawling through the internet I found an article about mules, I read it with interest and the idea was born that I may have just found the ideal animal for me. I got in contact with the British Mule Society and introduced myself and started looking for my first mule.

Then on day in late April I got an e-mail from Ann Dyer with some details of a 15hh mule for sale about 2 hours drive away. I thought that I might as well go and have a look ‘just so that I can have a look at a real life mule, oh but maybe I ought to take the trailer, just in case..’ So a friend and I drove up to see this mule of which I knew nothing about. After getting horribly lost a few times (never ask a non-driver to navigate) we eventually got there. My first impression of Widget was that here was the poorest, most unfriendly animal I had seen in a very long time.

Her owner told me that she was broken to drive as well as ride, and in a subsequent conversation with her previous French owner I learned that she drove, ploughed and packed too. She refused to be caught at first and when we did get her she stood tied up with those lovely long ears back and a scowl on her face. Her tack consisted of a treeless saddle, I have heard that they are very good but this one had been in a bag for a while so was out of shape and a bridle with a long shanked bit and curb chain. It did occur to me that this might be the epitome of all the stories about stubborn mules and with some trepidation I mounted. I didn’t want to take the poor old bag of bones too far in fear she might not make it. However she set her ears back and refused to go up the lane. Her owner told me she had little steering, which didn’t go far to reassuring me. But a combination of my squeezes and her owners flaps and slaps we went off up the lane

What made me buy her I can’t say, she certainly made no effort to impress but there was something I liked, under the thin nearly bald exterior. So I paid the money, got her passport and loaded her into the trailer. She loaded and travelled well, and after what seemed like hours she arrived in my yard.

As I unloaded her my husband came to have a look and said ‘What a dopey stupid looking Donkey’ but he duly helped me put her away for the night. I did learn later on that one of the local girls was riding past after she arrived, and as she went by Widget let out a mournful bray, resulting in a very rapid speed increase down the road for one very surprised child!!
I put her out into our orchard next to the old brood mare Autumn, who being a very accepting little mare, just did the cursory hellos and went back to grazing. After I left I had two phone calls from concerned people in the houses next to the orchard who told me that my new funny looking horse was trying to break down the fence in between her and Autumn, by the time I got up there ( about 5 mins!) she had broken through and was grazing contently by Autumn. I did wonder what I had gotten myself into as I put antiseptic cream onto the cuts and scratches that pushing through barbed wire fences tends to cause. I had a really good look over her and discovered that ,apart from being able to feel every rib and her breast bone sticking out about three inches, she had lice everywhere and then I found an abscess on her dock which needed quite a lot of attention. Her off hind had quite a large cavity where she has had some White Line Disease but that is well on the mend now. I also wormed her with Lung worm specific wormer as she had a suspicious cough, and since the worming she hasn’t coughed once.

Over the next few days I started riding her out accompanied by Autumn who had recently come back into work. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt regarding her mouth, so I put a fat mouth eggbutt in her mouth and away we went. She was as light and easy to stop as I could have wished for and I found our early that milk tankers and tractors held no fear for her as she boldly strides past anything and everything. The only time she gets agitated is when you try to rein her in when a lorry is approaching, she doesn’t consider that a mere articulated is worthy of a change of pace. I had always expected mules to have short, choppy action and was very pleasantly surprised by just how comfortable she is. I have ridden a lot of horses over the years and the closest comparison I could make was that of a Thoroughbred, I don’t find that she is any less comfortable in any pace then a good horse, in fact her walk and trot are very balanced and after she got used to the idea that she could canter with me on top, that is also coming on leaps and bounds. And whoever said Mules can’t gallop have obviously never tried to keep up with a small chestnut pony going flat out over the beach! Autumn does struggle to keep up as Widget walks out like she has a mission to complete in record time, but that is a small price to pay for a happy forward going ride.

Over the following weeks I couldn’t believe how fast the weight was going on and she now comes trotting over to greet me with that strange sound like an asthma attack that they make. She has bloomed and with careful lice treatment which is still ongoing, and the combination of a bit of work and food she has transformed into a lovely animal.

I expect all mule owners have heard most of the comments that people make, ranging from things that incensed me like
‘well of course you’ll never teach THAT any manners’ or ‘ what on earth did you buy such a ugly thing for’ all the way to people telling me how beautiful she is and how much they like mules. The main thing people asked was can you ride them? I did find it difficult not to be sarcastic as most people asked this question whilst I was sitting on her! I was riding her one day when someone, looking rather embarrassed confessed that she didn’t realise I had been talking about a real mule, she thought I was just being rude about my new horse! I have since taken her on fun rides where you get lots of funny looks and double takes, but the first one on the Quantocks she was met at the end by a crowd of people who had heard that there was a mule going round and wanted to have a look! I did feel rather like a celebrity, and Widget stood and let herself be admired while she drank orange squash from my cup

She has been to the beach and has proved herself to be quiet but enthusiastic when taken out and just so bold and safe. She has quirks of course, like playing ‘hide the water bucket’ when she is in. So far it has disappeared into several new and exciting places, just right for mum to spend half an hour looking for it. And she does tend to untie the gates and let herself and Autumn out, which would be fine except they always make a bee-line for my father-in-law’s veggie patch. I have started to teach her to jump coloured poles which she is taking to with a willing attitude. We are doing a bit of schooling which, much to my satisfaction, is going very well and I am hoping to get her entered in a test in the spring.

So really I have Ann to thank for the lovely mule that I have, she didn’t look like the fun 9yr old that she really is when I first saw her, but since then we have gotten to know each other and I would like to think that she is fond of me, as I just love her to bits. Husband still can’t see the beauty in her but he does admit that she carries me as safely as he could wish for. I am a mule convert and I don’t care what anyone says about mules, I just love those long ears!

Meg - Out hunting.

Another photo of Meg - This time Hunting! Opening Meet 2006


Eeyore is about 12.1 hands at the moment & is 2 years old & black. He has been in his current home for nearly a year now and was bought from a lady in Hirwaun, South Wales, who also owns his dam, a pretty welsh sec C.

It is hoped that he will be broken to ride & maybe drive when hes older and used for donkey /pony rides (Tanrallts Furry Friends) Hes very sweet & lovable, but has just a few little silly ways that need sorting out, one of them being that if he doesn't like the look of something he will just go into reverse!! He's always the first to come over for some fuss and when when he brays/neighs? it sounds just like an old lorry starting up!

The photos show Eeyore in 2006 and growing up into a lovely looking mule in summer 2007.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Book Review!!

"The Natural Superiority of Mules" by John Hauer.

I think this is a beautiful book that mule lovers would enjoy. The Natural Superiority of Mules is a collection of articles, essays and stories about mules from a distinguished group of experts, with one thing in common, their love of the mule. All are enhanced by the addition of fabulous photos. It covers mule breeding, mule genetics, mule training, mules in history and the use of mules in other countries (the book is, of course, American). Initially I bought this book thinking it would be a nice "coffee table" book, full of scenic shots of long ears but it is much much more than that. It is a real insight into what mules are capable of and how they have shaped peoples lives. Quite simply I can recommend it highly enough!

Mule vs Hinny

I found this a very interesting article....

So what do you have - a Mule? Or a Hinny?

Meg - "History Horse"

Meg is one of the stars of History Horse -

History Horse is a small, unique display who's aim is to provide the public an insight into the role animals have played in history.

I think the photos of Meg say it all - what a fabulous mule (Jelous!!)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Sililia - Mossburn Animal Centre

Mossburn animal rescue centre in Scotland, UK rescues and shelters misused, abused, unwanted and neglected animals, and provide therapeutic work placements for children and adults with problems. Their aim is to enhance the lives of both animals and people through their animal rescue work -

They have one mule - Sililia

To quote from the Mossburn website (where Sililia can be sponsored)

As a mule her mother was a pony and her father a donkey. Sililia is much smaller than most mules being only about 12 hands high and is a wonderful dark brown chocolate colour. Sililia was about 9 years old when she arrived at Mossburn on the 27th of April 2002 with an elderly grey mare called Tanya. Their owner had sold his house and land and they were to be shot as he had nowhere else to put them. Fortunately for the pair somebody stepped in and asked if the animals could be saved if a home could be found, and that is how they came to be here.

We were told that Sililia had been broken in but this was patently untrue. She was very nervous on arrival here and it took a month before we could halter her. As she has gained confidence she has become inquisitive and enjoys being led around, looking at things and also being groomed. She has accepted a rider and goes out for hacks locally - she even assisted with 'pony rides' at a recent open day! She can still be difficult if she chooses - sometimes when being led she will stop dead and refuse to move (usually in the middle of a road!) - the saying "Stubborn as a mule" was not coined in jest!Sililia is not keen on men, which does not make the farrier's job any easier, but she is improving in confidence all the time and becoming much easier to handle all round.

Treacle the mule.... PART ONE

To start an Article I wrote about my own mule for the British Mule Society Newsletter - after one years ownership!


Well I have now owned Treacle over a year so I thought I’d tell you our story so far….

In June 2005 we decided to visit Appleby fair to buy a nice quiet cob for my boyfriend’s dad (Peter) to learn to ride on. After a fairly fruitless search Mark my boyfriend muttered the now fateful words “Have you seen those ears?” I think now he wishes he has quietly led me away in the opposite direction!!! It was too late though and I shot through the crowd to meet a fully clipped, nearly black mule standing around 14hh. Despite having just moved house, being currently unemployed with a broken arm and owning a perfectly good riding horse I asked “How much?” Well we all nearly choked at the figure mentioned but it was too late I grovelled and begged for the men to lend me the money, haggled a little and Treacle was mine (well naturally she was called Muffin at the time!!!). Mark said he’d paid less money for winning racehorses and it took me ten months to finally pay off the “Great Mule Debt.” Peter finally got his nice quiet cob six months later; they are made for each other and have recently been to their first show – must have been fate!!!! I have since met several people who had seen Treacle, intended to buy her and had just gone to “find hubby/get the cash/ arrange transport” and returned to find her gone. I don’t hang about!!!

Well we were told at Appleby that Treacle drove but we took it on trust as there was no cart or harness available. (Though to be fair we were told she didn’t ride and she had a lot of miles on her shoes!!) Well Treacle drives beautifully and Mark broke her to ride for me (His business is breaking in and re-schooling difficult horses – this was his first mule though!). We haven’t done much this year but we decided that an outing to our local show was in order last month. Permission was asked for to enter her in the “Novice horse, pony (and now mule) class in hand” and granted! So her mane was hogged, she had her first bath, and walked in to the trailer like a pro. Treacle was in her element, meeting her fans, fluttering her eyelashes, and generally sashaying round the showground. Well what can I say? One very brave judge later and a red rosette pinned under the long ears. The second and third placed competitors were not amused!!!! We were asked to bring her back next year but I think escaping alive this year was lucky and we may have retired from the show ring!!

Are we mule people? Well No! She is treated just like the thoroughbreds here, lives in a pen with my neurotic ex racer. She loves racehorse mix and has the run of twenty acres of good grazing. She truly believes herself to be a racehorse and is probably expecting a trip to Ascot or Cheltenham next year. Scarily when the vet was last out to vaccinate he asked “Which one is the mule?” (looking at a pen of five racehorses and Treacle) er…. that will be the one with the long ears!!!!

Thanks to Jenny Williams my business is now named after Treacle – so if you see a little white van around your area with “Only Mules and Horses – Mobile Tack Shop,” give us a wave. There is only one small flaw in this…. Treacle is thought by many to be a hinny… However I’d already named her “Mule of Kintyre” on her passport, so she will always be THE MULE around here!!! (Mark often adds a rude word in the middle, but we know he loves her really!)

We are getting used to “mule humour” – this is a typical example! One morning Mark was turning out my two, it was a filthy day, heavy rain, mud over the wellies, cold, truly miserable. He had on his drizabone and akubra hat and goes into the first pen. “Morning” says Quin my TB, bouncing enthusiastically, keen to get out. “Arghhhhhhh” says muley, flattening herself against the wall “you’re wearing a HAT.” Mark casually sneaks up on her but she’s having none of it. Mark takes off his hat and looks for a safe place for it while he gets a rope on Treacle. Quin’s head! As Mark is no longer wearing his hat, mule condescends to having a rope around her neck and allows Mark to lead her to the gate, when out of the corner of her eye she spots the now very fashionable Quin. “ARGHHHHHHH – Quin’s wearing a hat” says muley now truly terrified (yeah right!) and off she goes, barging through Quin, Mark valiantly water skiing behind her…. I think I heard the swearing twenty miles away…. But he loves her really!

She merrily flattens electric fencing, leaps gates if she wants to be elsewhere and yet despite some amazing offers I think she’s here to stay!! So hopefully this will be part one of the treacle story and if I can lay hands on enough stirrup cup, Part two will be “Mule goes hunting!