Monday, November 25, 2013

No Good Deed goes Unpunished...  

So, what does that mean anyway.  Well, until recently, I have never given that statement much thought.  However, I am thinking of it more and more these days.  This is why...

When we go about our lives, we all seem to follow a similar sort of moral code.  We drive carefully on the streets, stop and go when the light allows, park in one spot at the store and not the handicapped spot, pay for our groceries and don't eat them while shopping (except the grapes, that's a grey area).  We don't tell lies we can't back up, we generally don't slander or badmouth people.  We try to pay our bills, we keep our heads down and our eyes open. Sound familiar?  It does to me...  It seems that people generally do all of this and try to stay out of the line of fire.  Right?  Now, what if your faced with a situation that requires you actually do something to make things right?  To take a stand?  For example, maybe your kid is in school and they see someone being picked on.  What is your advice to them?  Just keep your head down and stay out of it?  This will guarantee your kid doesn't become the object of ridicule.  It is the safe path.  You know saying something will make them a target, right?  No one wants that, hmmm...

Ok, now assume for a minute that you are faced with a moral decision that will cost you a lot of money.  What if you know that the likelihood of hurting someone has increased tremendously over the years in your business.  However, you also know that you will make more money if you just keep your head down and your mouth shut.  What if you know that saying something to change it could cost you your business?   What if you know that the general public is not aware of the danger that has developed due to existing factors.  What do you do then?  Hmmm.... 

Now, apply all this to Winterhaven  Rides.  So, everyone seems to want to blame someone for the changes that have developed in Winterhaven.  Who is to blame?  Who did it?  Why change if there hasn't been an accident?  Why?

Well, lets look at it a little closer.  What is more lucrative, change or keeping the mules in Winterhaven?  Of course, the mules are a great draw... that is a no brainer.  Mules are definitely more lucrative than any other possibility.  The bonus is that mules are very cheap to maintain!  This is one more reason we love them.    So, financially... mules are definitely the best choice.

Ok, what about accidents?  Why change if there hasn't been accidents?   To start with, there is always a public view and an insiders view.  Who says there hasn't been any accidents?  Hmmm...  maybe we should do a little homework on that one people.  I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who know more about that.  Still, assume for a minute that it was true?  What justifies waiting until someone is hurt?  When the streets are completely full of people we look like fools trying to keep our teams in there.  Anyone educated in driving teams knows this.  We look ridiculous keeping our mules in an event that has simply outgrown them. 

Now, what has changed?  The teams have been in there forever??  Why change now?  Lets look a little at how the Festival of Lights works.  The committee in charge of this event are volunteers.  This was a little Festival years ago.   It was manageable and fun for them.  When the economy changed, funding of this event became the responsibility of the Winterhaven Neighborhood.  The City of Tucson was no longer able to fund.  In order to keep this event alive for all you guys, they used vendors and sponsors to pay for the expense of the event.  They placed Kettlecorn, Hot Cocoa, and Cupcakes in the center of Winterhaven.  They invited the Tombstone Trolley to be a vendor to help chip in.  Then, of course, us mule vendors.  Although the mule vendors had been there for many years, the new vendors were a great addition to the atmosphere of the Festival.  They are also helpful in paying for the police, barricades, and insurance for the event.   They are helping to keep your Festival returning year to year.  So, what has changed?    People are making an evening of the beautiful displays, the goodies available at the square, and the fact it is free to walk.  Therefore, the number of people inside has increased with the arrival of the vendors inside of the event. 

Ok, so... knowing what has changed over the course of the last few years... what are we to do?  We kept our heads down and played the game.  How long can we keep up the fa├žade that it is no different than years passed?  We have been kidding ourselves.   Is it fair of us to subject the visitors walking inside the event, the Winterhaven committee, and the Residents of Winterhaven to the liability of our mules inside an event that has simply outgrown them.    Well...  we tried.   Morally, we just couldn't keep the cat in the bag.  So... who is to blame?  Us for standing up and saying that driving teams through thousands of people is becoming a problem... what can we do about it?  The Winterhaven Committee, who are volunteers trying to provide an amazing and fun event for Tucson, for requiring that we go mechanized?  The mules for being mules?  The families for walking inside and enjoying the hard work of the Winterhaven Residents?  The Winterhaven Residents for having displays that are so good that they get crowds of people around their house... aka "dangerously great displays"?  The vendors in the center for being there, but actually helping to keep this festival a possibility?  I guess it's us....  because we let the cat out of the bag. 

So, this is why I am beginning to understand that no good deed goes unpunished...    

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why do the mules factor into the decision of Safety inside of Winterhaven?

Hmmm.... that's a tricky one....  Lets start with a team of mules working happily together.  They are very strong and powerful.  Remember, they LOVE to pull.  They have all this muscle and now they have something to do with it!  When they work, we have to consider personalities and who they will work next to.  We drive either a 2 up hitch or a 3 abreast hitch.  If we put a team of mules together that have dominance issues where one is trying to be the boss, only one will pull and the other two will comply with the dominance threat and keep back a little.  This is a problem because you no longer have a "team", you have one pulling and two threatened.  Anyone who drives teams knows that you have to put together a team of mules that get along, like each other and work well together.    When they are working content, they are easy to drive, easy to catch to drive the next day, and altogether a joy to work with.  When you put them into Winterhaven and they are pulling their wagons, they love it.  They enjoy their work and everything is good.  When we add the crowds that are moderate, it isn't an issue because we can work our way around them as you have seen for many years.  Now add a stifling crowd.  This forces the driver of the teams to make a choice... they must try to negotiate safely through the crowd or they must stop in order to clear the path to travel through.  As we pass through Winterhaven, we do everything in our power to keep our teams rolling along as they should be.  Of course, we have obstacles that require our stopping.  This is a given.  When it is a minimal number of obstacles and stops, the mules let it go and don't become concerned.  If we begin to stop and go often, the mules become irritated with the interruption in what they believe is a destination they are heading for.  This irritation is exhibited in many different behaviors by the mules.  Some of them will rear up or jump when we stop too many times, communicating to us that they want to get going... they are excited to keep rolling and that they don't know why we are holding them back.  Others will start to goof around and mess up the harness, chew on the lines, hook their headstall on the hames of their neighboring mule, others will push the team from side to side simply communicating their displeasure at the hold up.  Still others will kick out to express their lack of patience.  Of course, this is normal and natural behavior.  This is their instinct and their only means of communication to their surroundings and handlers.  We, as being the people responsible for the safety of the visitors around our mules, have to accomplish a delicate balance between clearing the crowd so we can keep our stops to a minimum and stop when we have to but not too often as to maintain a good attitude in our mules.  This has been a reasonable request during all the years we have worked this event.  In December 2012, it had become clear to us that this delicate balance was becoming something that was more and more difficult to achieve.  We tried our best to ignore this problem.  We tried our best to "play the game" and say everything is fine and that this is a normal environment for driving teams.  When the season approached... we again faced the gravity of this situation.  What is the right thing to do?  Do we say something?  Do we risk losing our vendorship for the sake of asking for a better path for our teams inside the event?  Or... do we do what so many do... be quiet and grateful for the chance to drive inside again.  We decided to do the right thing and voice our concerns.  Clearly this was a difficult choice for us as we have all our teams, whom we have fed all year, ready for the event.  We have all our wagons rigged with hydrolic brakes for driving teams.  We have all our triple trees and double trees ready to hook our mules to.  We have all 21 sets of harness ready and waiting for the mules to wear.  We have trucks ready to haul our teams.  We have 2 20 foot horse trailers and one 28 ft horse trailer waiting for hauling 21 mules a night.  We have 24 diapers ready and waiting to be used.  We have all our mule shoes and borium purchased and ready to put on our mules feet.  Taking all this into consideration we asked ourselves....  what do we do? 

What would you do?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Seriously, does anyone care about the animals working anymore?
We too are saddened by this required change of events. For all of you who do not quite understand why this could be safer, please read on... Our motto is "give your mule a life" We have been training mules for over 14 years. What do you suppose this means? It means that people should educate their mules and use their mules. However, is it reasonable to put a mule into a crowd of thousands of people.  Hmm... that is the question. That brings us to thinking about how the mules work. When animals pull a wagon, they are built to get the wagon rolling, which requires a lot of energy. They are then required to keep it rolling, which is easier for them using momentum. When a wagon can roll along without conflict, it is good for the mules and they enjoy their work. Now add thousands of people in their way. This re...quires that we demand our mules either walk slower, which is difficult and much more work for them, or stop and go, which sores their shoulders and makes them unhappy in their work. In order to avoid them stopping and going, we place two people walking in front of the wagon to clear the road. Our employees have been required to pick up small children and baby carraiges and move them to avoid conflict with our teams. Because of these two factors, and the fact that we actually care about the wellbeing of our mules, we asked the Winterhaven Committee what they can do to make this a better and safer driving environment. They deemed that it become mechanized.    We are happy to have anyone who has information on how to better drive teams safely through huge crowds, come on down and give us some ideas. To all those naysayers, we are open to suggestions and insight, not just blind judgement. Now, the question is, why would it be safer to be mechanized? Because we can stop and go and not be concerned with the well being of the mules who are working under our care. So, we welcome all of you in the vicinity to come on over, give us some information on a better plan! Welcome! We will hook up a team and let you help us with this problem. All of you are invited! Finally, to anyone who believes it is fair and just to put mules inside of and event of this magnitude and call if fair to the animals and the people walking inside, please explain to us how. We are happy to change back if you find a way to make it safe and fair for our mules and those visiting winterhaven!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ok, I'm finally back!  Does time ever fly by in this life we all live.  Just a blink of an eye and the weeks turn into months... well, you all know the rest.  Funny, we never get any more mature though, do we?  haha

We have had a pretty busy year.  We have trained quite a few mules and have met lots of really interesting people.   Of the mules we have recently trained, one mule sticks out like a sore thumb.  Of course, this is Leroy. 

Leroy came here from a great little family in Arizona.  He met him just after he inhaled a pellet and was wheezing, coughing and drooling enough that we were worried whether he would make it though the next 5 minutes!  Still, this tough guy managed to survive.  We had placed him in a quarantine pen when he arrived and it was large.  After he was here about a week, and had appeared to recover from his drama, we went to catch him.  By this time, he had gotten his wits about him and his plans were not the same as ours.  There was no way to reasonably catch him.  After we tried cornering him, coaxing him, and every other trick we could come up with to catch him, we decided that we had no other choice but to rope him.  We would rather not resort to this, however, it was what needed to be done.  We worked together, Red with the lariot, me on the ground trying to stop 1000lbs of adamant fury from galloping away long enough to get a halter on him.  In the end, we managed to get him caught and that is when our next challenge began.  Uh oh!  Catching was easy!  It was the leading that became the more interesting event of the day.  We had put a halter and lead rope on him and also left the lariot on him to ensure not to lose him between pens.  With me leading and Red following with the lariot in hand, we felt that things were pretty well under control.   Leroy, however, had tried quite diligently to run away in spite of the lead rope, halter and lariot.  After a few convincing bluffs on our part, he decided that going to the new pen was a great idea and one he managed to be sure was his own. 

Leading was quite an effort with Leroy.  It didn't matter if it was from his pen to the hitch rail to get tacked.  Or from the hitch rail to the round pen, or wagon.... He wasn't game to go anywhere he didn't decide to go on his own.  We had to double lead him, (one of us leading and one of us pushing) everywhere we went for about 2 weeks.  After driving Leroy in harness with two other mules, he realized what all the fuss was about and from then on, he led like a champ.  No more problems there.  He loved pulling the wagon.  He found out he was good at something and loved it!  He became proud of himself.  It was quite the sight to see... a mule who NEVER went where we wanted easily becoming such a great partner in work just by enjoying his job. 

So... what is the moral of this story?  I don't know.  Guess we just don't know how great something can be until we try it.  Maybe even kicking and screaming we stop things in life that could turn out to be the most rewarding thing ever.  Who knows...  Leroy seemed to figure it out.  Winterhaven is coming again and the work has begun.   Although it is a mountain of work, I will not approach it kicking and screaming!!  I'll jump right in....


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So... Halters in pasture?? Haven't we learned our lesson??

Don't leave halters on when your mule/horse/donkey is out in pasture or turned out anywhere without supervision... THEY HANG THEMSELVES!! Beware!!

Just a thought!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So, they say the cage has to be strong enough to hold the lion, right?

Thought I would comment again on these appaloosas. We have grass everywhere which is amazing for Arizona. The monsoon has been kind to us this year and the rain has brought grass and mesquite beans. Of course, we like our mules to enjoy a little freedom and have multiple pastures for them. Most of our mature animals go out in a 50 or 340 acre pasture. They spend the summer out there. Our new or younger animals stay home. I thought it would be nice to let them out individually to enjoy the goodies around. So... I let Pecos and Yoyo out. Well, after a few hours they disappeared! The entire property is fenced and there is no way out?? After some investigating, we found that they had jumped the fence into the 50 acre pasture to visit the other mules! We decided to leave them out for the night and woke to find them home agan! I put them up for a few days to let others out. Well, let them out this am... it didn't take long for Pecos to start yelling for Yoyo... who again left the property and jumped into the other pasture! If you have been to our place, our fences are very tall. 5-6 foot! How they are managing this is beyond me! Still... I know Bob, their owner who passed, is getting quite a laugh out of this!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Life is short, SMELL THE ROSES!!

Today I am thinking about how short life is. Really, the time seems to go slow and things happen. We work, pay bills, cook dinner, all that good stuff. We always wait for something... What does that mean? I mean that we are always waiting for "this" or "that" to happen, then things will be alright. Well, things are alright TODAY. Right now. We cannot waste the beauty of NOW for things to be perfect. Guess what, they never are. And that is what is perfect. Look outside... if it is sunny... it is BEAUTIFUL. If it is raining... it is BEAUTIFUL. Snow? Well, a little cold but BEAUTIFUL too! Remember, things won't be what we anticipate so cherish right now!!

Riding... well, I'm having a blast with my Pecos... my Appaloosa mule who is relearning everything. He is the fairest, most amazing mule I have worked with in a long time. I am relearning everything which I love. He is challenging and yet, completely fair. Creating a relationship with a mule like this is special and only happens once in a great number of mules. I'm blessed!