Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why hire someone to teach your mules to drive?

Why hire someone to train your mules to drive?  Well, let me tell you a little about driving mules for the first time based on our experience today.  Today we drove a three a breast team of mules.   (That means three mules hooked to the wagon).  We had an experienced mule in the center, by the name of Miss Kitty.  Our right mule, Mattei,  has had some experience driving, but is by no means a finished driving animal.  Our left mule, Ceasar,  has been driven about 5 times, which were all successful by the mule driving standards of a 5th drive... (we made it home and the wagon was in one piece.  Also, the mule was happy to be caught for the next drive...  Yeah!!). 

We hitched the three of them to the wagon.  We unhooked, left the hitchrail and headed towards the wash where we drive our beginning mules (as this teaches them to pull).   We immediately knew we were in for a day when Ceasar, the one on the left , decided that he would rather not turn left at all.  He figured it the best idea to keep his head tucked firmly against the middle mule, Miss Kitty.  Things were progressing down the wash without too much incident, and Miss Kitty did a fabulous job of keeping Ceasar off of her.  We drove for about 20 minutes and Ceasar decided that he was all done driving.... 

We proceeded through a narrow gate.  Now, to negotiate a narrow gate with three mules side by side, pulling a wagon, with the left mule pushing right....  I'm sure you can figure how that went.  Well, after the wagon got hung up on the post, I had to run 1/2 mile home to get my truck, get some chains, and pull the wagon backwards and away from the post.  All of this while the Mule trainer had to stay seated and hold the team.  We  got that drama under control and we were on our way... again....

By now, Ceasar had decided that he had had enough of this game.    He began to rear up.  He managed to rear up high enough to actually pull the center mule off of her feet (although she is easily 16.2 hands).  Miss Kitty, our center mule, fell over.  Ceasar proceeded to struggle until he managed to turn himself around and fell on top of Miss Kitty!  This all took about 12 seconds to occur. 

Fortunately, both The Mule Trainer and I are experienced with things like this and had them both untangled within a few minutes.   The right mule was not involved in the wreck and couldn't figure out what the big drama was all about.  After refitting all the harness properly, reattaching the mules to the wagon, and climbing aboard, we headed on down the road... again...

There are a few things about this day as a mule trainer, we need to consider....  First of all, after all this has occurred, it is our responsibility to give the mules a positive experience.  I'm sure you all are wondering what could possibly be positive about this experience for them?  After we got them all straightened up, we drove another 20 uneventful minutes.  The mules relaxed, their ears were flopping, and everybody enjoyed the end of their drive.  From this experience, Ceasar learned that it really doesn't matter what he tries, the end result will still be what we had planned initially for him.  Miss Kitty learned that in a fix, we are trustworthy, calm, methodical, and will help her.  Mattei learned that driving isn't such a big deal, even when catastrophe strikes both mules next to her. 

So, in a nutshell, it was a great day training mules!  Guess we will have to do it again tomorrow.... I can't wait...

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