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Journey of a Spotted Mule – Always Learning
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Journey of a Spotted Mule – Always Learning

About three years ago, my girl decided to try this “bareback” riding with me…once. I let her try it once. I didn’t like it. It felt weird and no, I just couldn’t let it happen. Let’s just say she was happy to have mule mama right there with her to hang on to her when I fled from the situation. She didn’t even get close to sitting on me, and it seemed like that’s what she wanted to do. I thought to myself, “Whew, Z, that’s how you get out of doing things!” WRONG!!!

It all came back to haunt me when I least expected it. I’ve been so good. Mule mama and I have been taking frequent leisurely rides together and I haven’t been freaking out at every little thing. She likes that. To be honest, I like it, too. Mama doesn’t really make me work too much when we ride like she does when we do ground work. We just sort of stroll along while she talks nice to me and giggles a lot.

But my girl has started getting creative with our workout schedule lately. We’ve mastered round pen free lunging like champions over the years and, I’ll never admit this to her, I kind of like when we have that time to bond, just the two of us. Ok, ok, sometimes I turn my backside to her and remind her that I can still be a feisty boy, but I promise it’s all in fun so she can see how her hard work and love has made me a better mule. But suddenly she decided to take me out of my comfort zone into the big pasture on a long lunge line and I didn’t know what to do. What was this madness?? There was a bit of frustration on both of our parts until mule mama reminded us both that we have to go back to the beginning, like it’s our very first lesson, and communicate with each other. Read each other. Understand each other. Mule mama’s rule of three came back into play when my girl discovered lunging on a line to the right isn’t my strongest movement. When I got it right, sent off correctly and followed her directions three times in a row, I got sweet little pets on the neck. Slowly, I began picking up what she was putting down…and she started learning how my mule mind operates.

And then my girl took it one step further and dug deep into her bag of training tricks by revisiting this “bareback” phenomenon. Oh no. Into the round pen, off with the halter, on with the bridle, on with her helmet and to the step stool we went. Bottom step, ok. Second step, I just moved away to get a better look at what she’s doing. Wait, what?! She just kept moving it toward me! Alright, so I stood still while my girl climbed to the second step. Now she’s going for the top step and I need a better view! Great, here she comes with that stool again. This is really getting her nowhere, and I secretly hoped she’d just give up. But, much to my disappointment, she knows me too well. She led me over to the rail and plopped that stool down right beside me. I could only move forward or backward, but she knows that my preferred escape route is to jump to the right. Ohhhhh, what a sneaky girl she is! She rubbed me all over my back and neck…yeah, that felt nice. Then patted me on the back, put weight all over me, lifted her leg up onto me, then sat on me, then I slooooooooowly sunk down my back end and stared deeply at mule mama. I stood all the way back up, then slooooooooowly sunk down my back end again while my girl slipped onto the rail and I took off not-so-gracefully from under her. I got to the other side of that round pen and looked at them both – they were laughing like they had me all figured out and all I could do was think about what was that weird feeling in my ruffled up back hair??? But before I had time to give it too much thought, mule mama had led me back over between my girl, standing on her step stool, and the rail.

My girl smiled, pet me all over, put her weight on me just like before and slid her leg up my side. She’s patient, I’ll give her that. Maybe in another three years I’ll be ready for her to actually ride me without a saddle. Right now, though, that feeling just totally creeps me out. I guess we’ll keep working on it, me and my girl.

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