by Lesley Scott
This story is to promote donkeys and mules. It is worth reading, as well as surprising.
|Have you ever kissed a mule?
Every Saturday night, my friend, Beverly, and I had our special “Girls’ Night Out” at the local horse auction. It was exciting to see all kinds of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, sometimes the dealers happen to have a slug of hooch in the parking lot, and let us ride some of the horses for sale. A lot of the bartering happened outside of the big old barn. It was where I rode my first Paso Fino. It was a flashy black stallion, and I knew I was riding Something.. He arched his neck and pranced with that famous Paso gait.
The second horse in the ring one night, a well-built half-arab mare caught all eyes. I turned to ask Beverly to check her out for any faults and Bev, a tough farm girl, rested her tanned arm on my shoulder and whispered, “I know that mare would make some outstanding mules.” Looking closely at the mare, I noticed a sweet and quiet temperament on her face. Plus she behaved herself and I wished so much that I could buy her. I never had any money, plus, I had a pasture full of animals. A week later, I bought her for next to nothing from one of the horse dealers that stopped by my farm a lot. She later delivered one of the best mules I've owned.
That is how we usually checked out mares. After all, they are the mothers of mules. The jack, as well, must be well conformated and gentle to pass those traits along. Over the years, Bev and I lived on our farms and bred mares to her spotted Spanish Jack, Sidney. He produced some fine mules and had repeat customers. I recently bought a large Mammoth Jack and attracted horse owners who wanted large and quiet mules or mules to plow or pull a wagon.
One day, tired of hearing mule jokes, I wrote an ad in a state trading newspaper, " Donkey and mule enthusiasts needed to form an organization,” and my name, phone number and address. The very day we received our newspaper, my phone wouldn't stop ringing. I never imagined so many people loved long eared critters so much. My list really grew when the mail flooded in a couple of days later. I met a lot of nice people who either owned mules or used to own them. I heard many great stories about mules that were gone or sold or still loved at home.
I found it unusual that a few horse lovers asked me, “What is a mule?” The simple explanation is that a horse is a mule's mother and a donkey is the father. That made me want to breed and promote donkeys and mules more aggressively. We coordinated trail rides, our own donkey and mule shows, and I wrote about mules and donkeys in the local Tri-County area newspapers, including pictures. Reporters called me quite often on my barn phone. Whom so ever it would be, the loud Hee Haws made us pause in our conversation. I felt like my fifteen minutes had come.
"The South Carolina Donkey and Mule Society," (SCDMS) became a charter organization of the "American Donkey and Mule Society," (ADMS) Their monthly magazine, The Brayer; Voice of the Donkey and Mule is read world wide. I wrote for the magazine about our members and their mules. We always had plenty of activities going on in our “little club.” My mini-mule, Top Hat ‘n Tails with little training, won the ADMS National Versatility Award before the age of three. He and I were so close and it felt like we could read each other's mind.
A good or even a great mule is sired by an exceptional jack and bred to an exceptional mare. The best mules come from the best parents. A mule is not stubborn. If he or she has a bond and trust with his rider, a mule is eager to please, just ask him. On the other hand, mules, and especially donkeys, are not “broken” like a horse. some mules may never trust people again.
There is a true story about President George Washington and his fascination with mule breeding. He imported the best jacks, and jennets from all over the world. The most difficult to buy was the French Poitou. At that time, they were rare, and it took some “horse trading” to own this large boned 16hh jack. The 16, which is four inches per hand, is counted as the animal’s height at the shoulder. I’m not writing about a common burro. These very large donkeys were the best representatives of their breed. The Poitous are covered with dreadlocks and highly prized. Even now, there are only a few in the world, some in the US.
Washington was not only the “Father of our Country,” but also, “The Father of America Jackstock.” He and Henry Clay worked together planning their American breed, the Mammoth Jack with the first truly, large, 16hh curly haired jack with a sweet disposition and well put together. "Warrior," one of the first to be bred to a unusually large jennets, will always be considered the "founder of American Jackstock." Every Registered Mammoth Jack or Jennet can trace his or her origins to this beautiful, and unusual jack. Thanks also goes out to President George Washington and Henry Clay's thoughts of the future of these jacks and their value to making the best mules in America --- maybe the world.
Mules and donkeys have become more popular. Shows in several states and the South Carolina State Fair attract the best riders and mules from all over the country to these three day shows. Included in the awards, and money was won in the placing. Top Hat usually won around $400 per show. Yes, I made money from showing my mule, or should I say, "half-ass."
A mule is not ugly, He is usually attractive if bred from good parents. Think of the gene pool you are tapping into! The same mare and jack can raise mules, all being unique. There is endless variation in genetic material. Sidney, our Spanish Spotted Jack, bred many mares over the years and each mule looked different from the others and had his or her own personality.
So if you think you want a horse, check around for a good mule. They can be any color and even spotted like an appaloosa or pinto and well trained. As we all know: “There’s nothing better for a man’s inside than the outside of a horse.” He would probably have said mule if he knew about those fun, gentle and smart equines with long ears. Yes, I have kissed mules and donkeys.
One of our ADMS bumper sticker says, “Save Fuel, Ride A Mule.”