Incidentally, Mr. Bob Bingham of Missouri Mule Company once sold a mule to Donald Rumsfelt for his wife's 78 birthday. When Bob asked Joyce (whilst surrounded by Secret Service agents) why she wanted a mule, she said "Why, the mule helped settle this country and I just had to have one!" As of last contact, the Secret Service and Gus the gaited mule were keeping Joyce Rumsfelt safe.

rebelhammerSoftware and s/w Development

Nov 2, 2013 (4 years and 5 days ago)

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In the

beginning..


George Washington is often given credit as being the first
promoter of quality mules in
America
. It is a fact that
the King of Spain presented
George with two
fine
Spanish Jacks. These
jacks were highly anticipated as it is said that
George

believed that horses “ate too much,
worked too little, and died too young” to be productive at farm work.


Incidentally, Mr. Bob Bingham of Missouri Mule Company once sold a mule to Donald
Rumsfelt for his wife's 78
th

birthday. When Bob asked Joyc
e (whilst surrounded by Secret
Service agents) why she wanted a mule, she said "Why, the mule helped settle this country
and I just had to have one!" As of last contact, the Secret Service and Gus the gaited mule
were keeping Joyce Rumsfelt safe.


Who's y
er daddy?


But I digress… back to the story. George Washington's intentions were
to cross
his

jack
s

with
horses, creating a sturdier, hardier equine with a better work ethic. "Royal Gift", as he was
called, was a busy boy, siring mules across the country
. Through the application of hybrid vigor
(the production of specific qualities by intentional crossbreeding), several distinct body types
and characteristics began to arise, depending on the size and gaits of the mare.




Although it is possible to obtai
n hybrids between
equines (
equids
)
, it is noteworthy to mention
that mules and horses are, in fact, two different species and the cross thereof produces sterile
offspring

in all but an infinitesimal number of cases
. What does this mean? It means that to
p
roduce a mule, you
always

have to start out with one horse, and one
donkey
. Specifically, a
Donkey Jack (stud) and a horse mare.

On the flip side, a "hinny" is the term used for the
crossbreed resulting from a female ass (jennet) and a male horse (stallion). Genetically, the
hinny and the mule are the same, however since size is mainly contributed by the mare, hinny's
tend toward
the smallish side

and does not have as much marketability as a mule does
.


A horse mule or
john mule (terms for a male mule)
with all his plumbing and the molly mule
comes with all her eggs. They cycle and mate just like the rest of creation. The problem

is in the
genes. It takes 13 genes from each parent to settle (or impregnate) the mare and both mules
have only 12 genes each. So, the chance of a mule reproducing is literally one in a million.


Half
-
ass results
(pun intended)


The mule shares a resembla
nce to each of its parents, owing the long ears, short manes and
small feet to the donkey jack but the size of a mule and how it is put to work is largely
dependent upon the breed of the mule's dam. The horse contributes size, speed and muscle
mass to the
hardiness, strength and tendency towards good health exhibited by the donkey.
Interestingly enough, the voice of the mule i
s also a combination of both it
s par
ents, sort of like
a whinny that
ends up

in a bray

at the mule's next intake of breath

-

Whinnee
-

aw
-
ah
-
aw
-
ah
-
aw.


Got gait?


What do you get when you cross a gaited mare and a donkey?
Perfection
, some would say.
Mule fans will claim that mules are more patient, sure
-
footed, healthy and long
-
lived than
horses

as well as more smooth to ride than their

dam
. Since gaited mules are half
-
horse, they
will typically be capable of any gait the horse can perform as well as the fast
-
walking amble of a
donkey. It can (and is) argued amongst the mule community that the most consistent
production of a gaited mul
e weighs most heavily on the mare. Others will argue that they can
produce gait in any mare at all, regardless of breed, if they simply have a good gaited jack.


Large breeding facilities as well as h
obby breeders in decades past are responsible for the
intentional pairing of great
jacks

with great mares, resulting in the modern gaited mule.
Often,
mares that did not produce a good horse colt were often cast off to be bred for mules
, greatly
improving
the
quality of the cross
. Even today, top bred mares from all breeds bred to jacks can
actually have a pedigree for producing mules that are consistent in quality of gait.
Equine
competitions are no longer just for horses! Gaited mules
have proven to be
co
ntenders in
versatility, trail, buggy, wagon, jumping, dressage
, western and english pleasure
and reining
competit
ions.
There is one competition though, where the mule outshines the horse
. It's a
high jumping spor
t all their own called the
"
Coon Hunter’s

Jump
"
.

It seems that

the
avid
raccoon hunter
would come upon obstacles and fences too sturdy to take down and impossible
for a horse to jump over given the woods terrain (they couldn't get a running start)
The hunter
s

would flag the fence with
whatever
he had handy, and the mules were able to launch off of the
ground from a virtual standstill. (think a deer jumping a fence)

In the
"Coon Hunter's Jump"
competition, mules jump
rail
s

to increasing heights. The last clean jump is the winner. Mules
have bee
n known to jump at heights equal to their heads, again….from a standing start.

The most popular events for the gaited mule however, gives them a chance to show off their
"glide ride".


Officially, a "gaited" mule is any mule that has a smooth gait other than a walk (not to be
confused with a smooth TROT). Common gaits are: Single
-
foot, fox
-
trot, rack, flat walk, running
walk, stepping pace, paso fino, and, really, any other smooth gait
that excludes a trot (SMOOTH
being the operative word here)
.


Why all the effort?


If the added bonus of a potential "Coon Jumper" is still not swaying your mind in the direction
of those big, fuzzy ears as a potential trail partner, chew on this: Mules
tolerate extreme heat
and dry conditions better than horses do. Their surefooted feet rarely need shod and are
typically strong and tough
, making themselves invaluable not only on the flats but in rough
terrain
. If you still aren't convinced, consider the
vet bill (or lack thereof) for the typical mule.
Although they have more longevity than a horse, they are often described as being
"maintenance free" thanks to the donkey
's healthy

gene pool

and often continue to be good
riding partners into their 30's and

40's.


Mules also have a keen sense of self
-
preservation which is one reason why they are physically
he
althier

and, arguably, mentally safer

than
a lot of
horses.
A donkey’s intuition is to stand and
fight a predator. Crossing that aptitude with the fli
ght instinct in a mare produces a nicely
minded mule with the flight syndrome mostly removed. This mind set, along with hybrid
stamina
has resulted in the
mule
consistently being chosen as the

primary conveyance on the
legendary
Grand Canyon Trail. Severa
l sources confirm, not one mule/human accident has
occurred while traversing the Canyon trails for a hundred years.


A mule will slow down or stop
when overworked or overheated, and has a tendency not to panic and be reactive, but to think

through potentia
lly dangerous situations and act accordingly. Not surprisingly, this is where the
"balkiness" reputation comes into play. What is perceived as "stubborn" though, typically is a
behavior produced simply by caution.


Intelligent and opinionated, a mule wi
ll often require his trainer to outthink or outmaneuver
him in order to achieve a specific goal, making the task of training a mule challenging

and
creative
. It is said that you "have" to train a mule the way all horses "should" be trained; with
patience,
calmness, consistency and clarity.


In other words, training the mule forces you to
stretch your brain and your patience. Personally, I find that a challenging equine makes me not
only a better trainer but a better person in general. It helps me "think ou
tside the box" and flex
my brain power. Are you up to the challenge?


The AWWWW factor


In my humble opinion, there is nothing much cuter than a baby mule. The mature mule though,
garners his own amount of oohs and aahs on the trail. Have you ever noticed

that when a mule
passes by on the trail, everyone has to stop and ogle him, asking tons of questions? Who
doesn't appreciate the comedy of those big ears flopping to the rhythm of his fabulous 4 beat
gait? I recently downloaded a sound byte of a mule bra
ying and my 16 year old son came
running into my office full speed yelling "WHAT is THAT?" He was genuinely alarmed. As it was
around Halloween time, I think he thought someone had sent me a scary email. As I explained it
was a mule braying, he left the
room laughing. I then listened to it a dozen more times. I am in
love.
I don't know if a mule is in my future (my crystal ball is broken), but I can tell you this.. I
want one. Oh yea. I want one.