Of Horse

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Journey of a Spotted Mule - Desensitizing
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Journey of a Spotted Mule - Desensitizing

Not long after my new ladies greeted me with open arms, they showered me in a wonderful bath, braided my tail and spent time getting to know my body. I quickly taught them that I was not fond of having my flanks, buttocks, any part of my back legs or my entire right side touched. I really didn’t care for anyone touching the top part of my head or getting anywhere my ears either. So naturally, this is what my girls wanted to “fix” about me. To be perfectly honest, some of their techniques have been a little startling, but looking back on it all now, I’m grateful for everything we’ve gone through together.

Some humans have described desensitizing as “continually applying a stimulus until all response is eliminated”. My adopted mama’s good friend, upon observing several of our early sessions together, called it “mule voodoo”.  A frightened mule like me simply thinks “what are these crazy people going to put me through today?!?”  Mule mama often whispers to me that nothing she’s going to do with me is going to hurt me and that I should just relax and trust her. Even now, though, when I think I’ve seen everything in the world with her, she still manages to surprise me from time to time.

She once took a feed sack and rubbed it all over my body until I stopped moving away from it. She said that was to keep me from being scared if one suddenly blew through the barn. I get it. Then she rubbed my ears with it, and I wasn’t cool with the lesson anymore. Another time she touched my whole body with a rope and said it was to help keep me calm in case I ever got tangled up. That was ok. Until she touched my ears with it.  Over days, weeks, months and years, I’ve had hundreds of things touch my whole body and learned they weren’t going to eat me. Unless they touched my ears.

Mama didn’t press too much with the whole ear thing because she learned that, every now and then like a typical 3 year old, I could have a temper tantrum. On occasion, looking back, I took my overreaction a little too far. But mama and my girl were still new to me, and I’d been hurt before. Because of their sweetness, kindness and gentleness toward me, I never intended to put them in any harm or frighten them, but I know I did. I’m so thankful those days are in our past.


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  1. shumes
    I love how you write these posts from the mule's point of view. Really looking forward to seeing his progress. I voted up your post. If you have a moment could you check out my two latest posts? It would be appreciated if you could vote them up if you enjoy them! :) http://www.ofhorse.com/view-post/How-to-Store-Your-Winter-Blankets-the-Right-Way-In-3-Steps-2 http://www.ofhorse.com/view-post/Have-You-Caught-People-Exposing-Children-To-This-Dangerous-Piece-of-Safety-Equipment
    1. Karin Barga
      Karin Barga
      Thank you! This mule of mine has a pretty huge personality, but it took us quite a while to really discover all of it. He's quite a character. I am really enjoying your posts as well. Thank you for sharing your great advice!

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