Speak to me about mules

So I did a really stupid thing and let my husband talk me into buying a young, pitiful-looking, skinny mule from an auction. I went to see him yesterday. He seems very sweet, though he is very nervous of people, and he made no offer to kick or bite but it seems like he’s a little thrown from so much life upheaval and like maybe he hasn’t been handled very much. Right now he’s in quarantine with a case of the respiratory nasties he’s on antibiotics for, I was originally supposed to bring him home in two weeks but will extend out until he’s healthy and has had all his shots. The quarantine place is inexpensive so if this takes awhile so be it.

I have never had a mule before. We do have a trainer who knows me well who has extensive mule experience involved, and the trainer seems to think having a mule of this description is something I’m capable of handling. If I’m wrong and need help, I can send him to her place.

Our plans for this guy are really just for him to be my husband’s pet. We might have my trainer teach him to do…idk, something down the road if my husband decides he would like to do that but if he’s just a buddy to my aging gelding and a thing for my husband to have as ‘his’ that’s fine too, his last horse that was ‘his’ was 35 so it doesn’t really matter.

Anything specific people can think of with their mules vs horses? I already have been told that they need less food, and that they are much smarter than horses, and if you try to drill them or push them to do things they think are stupid, you won’t succeed like you will with a horse.

Interested to hear everyone else’s thoughts and experiences!

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I wonder some times if humans make big distinctions where there are few.
Horses, mules, they really are equines all.

Growing up in the mountains, farms had my guess 9 mules for every horse.
We happened to have a smaller belgian, our closest neighbor had a white mule that I got to exercise for him, since he and his wife were older and not very active any more.

As a kid, mules and horses were the same, more differences between individuals than because some were mules, others horses.
If yours is a lovely individual, lucky you, enjoy as such.
Our horse was great, some mules can be awesome, like our neighbor’s grey mule was in my young eyes. :star_struck:

I bet your DH will have a lovely pet to care for or do whatever he chooses with.

Any pictures to share with us? :innocent:


I have some photos but he truly looks pitiful. He’s very underweight, has a rough hair coat, and his nose is all snotty. I can see the potential, I can see he’s going to be really beautiful when he’s properly cared for. Right now he’s in a safe place, and he can’t come live at my house until he’s better, but they’re feeding him an appropriate number of calories so I’m going to guess he’ll gain weight between then and now. He’s just a little guy, he still has some of his baby teeth. My trainer seems very excited because she loves mules and not many people around here have them.


I like the way your husband thinks! I will preface this by saying the only experience I’ve had with mules was many many years ago at a small schooling show, where I had to ride in a tiny warm up arena with several mules and their brays terrified my pony. But I’ve heard several times that you HAVE to train a mule the way you SHOULD train a horse. It sounds like you have a fantastic support system for training the little guy. He will probably be very thankful to have found such a wonderful new home!

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Awww…he’s going to be so happy with his soft landing! :slight_smile: I bought a 3 year old mule and have trained her myself with no mule experience (just horse starting experience) and it’s been great and lots of fun. Just take your time - you are on “mule time” now which is a bit different from horse time. Slow = fast and fast = slow.

Read up a bit on donkey behavior a bit - it will help you. They tend to freeze and try to sort things out before moving on / making a decision. As long as a mule (or donkey) feels safe, I’ve found they will pretty much do anything for you. But I’ve found the basic training is pretty much the same as a horse.

Right now, the best thing you can do is to make friends with him. Treats, scratches, etc. so he knows you are a friend and not “stranger danger”. If you build the trust up front, it makes it so much easier to work with them. Best of luck!!


My plan right now after he gets home is to put him in my round pen and leave him for a couple weeks so he can decompress. I’ll feed him and spend some time with him but not do any actual training. It sounds a little mean but I want him to be lonely and bored when he’s not spending time with humans. Once he decides humans are trustworthy and his friends, he can have horse friends.

If we send him to learn how to do anything (driving/riding), it likely won’t be until next summer. He needs to get healthy, put weight on, and learn to not be afraid of humans first.

Honestly every description I’ve read has been like people comparing poodles to other dogs LMAO. I have a poodle. She’s freakishly smart but if she thinks it’s dumb she will refuse to do it. If I try to ask her to do the same new behavior more than three times she starts metaphorically rolling her eyes as if she’s annoyed I’m asking her to repeat it again. People will get poodles and act like they’ve never trained a dog before in their life. They’re also slow to mature, so all in all sounds like a similar analogue.


The thing that’s different about mules is they are wicked smart and don’t fall for stupid human tricks. They really do think more like donkeys than horses. I got badddly hurt by a poorly started mule, please be careful in all that you do until you get to know him better.

Meredith is a great resource to consider.


I would just send him to the Trainer from the isolation location. Has mule been gelded? Gelding should be first on your list. Take out his wolf teeth at the same time, be done with it. He may need teeth care too. Get the most out of his being tranquilizer ONCE, so he is ready to work with for the Trainer. An entire Jack has big notions of his importance, hormones flourish, you DO NOT want to deal with that!!

If Trainer knows mules, she can educate good manners right from the start. Mule needs to learn the proper responses to being led, handled, foot care, because it will MAKE HIS FUTURE BETTER! Your husband will enjoy him a LOT more once mule knows the proper responses of a civilized guy. Then a few husband lessons with trainer to make husband a better handler, MORE AWARE of mule signals in being careful around the mule. I don’t care how big or small he is, mule NEEDS a good basic education to not hurt someone when mule is surprised or frightened in situations.

If he is two, she can start him wearing a saddle, bridle, tack or harness as part of his education. Best to learn his jobs young, makes him a better equine to be around. Someday you may want/need to sell him on, the good basics of his education makes him more salable, more comfortable in new situations with other people.

Mules are NOT HORSES, do not react like horses to stimuli. They need to be trusting of you, to go or do as you ask. Not stubborn but VERY wary, self-protective about things they are unsure of. Waiting them out can often help, but it may be a LONG wait and people get impatient, try to force the issue. Forcing seldom works, someone gets hurt.

They are amazingly fast kicking and striking. They usually will go after small things, especially dogs. They WILL hurt or kill them! Part of their donkey nature. So keep small creatures out of their paddock or stalls. They can also bite like Alligators, take a BIG hold of whatever they are after. This includes them possibly going after SMALL CHILDREN, so be careful. This is why we sold our mule, she chased small animals and our small son had started coming to the barn. My Gramma warned us of their farm work mule experiences, we listened. Becky got sold on to a Mule Man who LOVED her! Did we have more mules to sell? Ha ha

There are some amazing mules around, can do anything. Other nice, finished mules people buy and use. But the mule owners we talk to never taught the mule anything new! Mule came trained, does MANY things, but they just use him, did not expand mule’s knowledge.

One “wives tale” is that mules will not overeat. Not true. Same as any easy keeper on rich pasture, they get overweight, will founder. Same with new spring grass, overeat, founder or colic. So be careful and keep him on the lean side for his continued good health. Mules can live a long time with good care. Even “just pets” deserve good educations by skilled trainers, to make them enjoyable to have around. Like donkeys, 40 years is possible, so make them good years with you.


Yes, as with any youngster, sending to trainer right off is the best idea, no question, since it is an uneducated, green mule.
Instilling good manners to get along in the human world where is going to have to live in the rest off its life best up front, before it has a chance to find ways to resist what it doesn’t know, so it doesn’t do wrong by default.

Our local college hired a new equestrian program director some years ago and he came with two wonderfully trained competition mules.
One had been World Champion roping mule, the other was a reining mule.
They were very competitive, better than many horses. :slightly_smiling_face:

He’s already gelded thank christ, I probably would have flat refused my husband if he wasn’t, I don’t play with unknown equines that still have their testicles usually. He doesn’t appear to have wolf teeth which presumably means someone took them out at some point. We think he’s three or four, his inner incisors are still baby teeth

Like I said, I’m working with an experienced trainer, who runs the local ‘horse with serious behavioral issues’ rehab barn. I work with her three times a week on all different kinds of horses so she knows where I’m at as far as handling goes. If I can’t trust her to tell me ‘it’s okay to bring this animal to your house’ I literally can’t trust anyone. She would tell me if it was a bad idea and it’s not like I haven’t had bad ideas before. I am very, very fortunate and blessed to have the relationship I have with my trainer in that I can trust she will tell me if I’m about to do something outside my ability level.

Ironically, I didn’t go there because I had a horse with a behavioral issue. I just wanted to take lessons!

The good news is if I change my mind–and I will in an instant if he turns out to be actively dangerous–he can literally go to her place that day or the next day. Two of my horses already live with her full time for convenience reasons, mainly that I don’t have an indoor :wink:


Good luck with your mule! A friend of mine has a driving mule who he trained himself (he had some mule experience) he went about it pretty much the same as you would a horse and ended up with a solid citizen.

Does mule have a name yet?

The time when young a critter is learning, when it’s brain is like a sponge, is invaluable to how it will be able to adapt later to any and all life brings.
If we want a horse or mule be part of the human world, seeing it gets an early education is very important.
Your mule may be too young for much real work, but teaching is not about work load, but handling so it learns to learn and that can happen at any age.
There is also merit to chill some, but really, in this situation, I would start now, horse or mule, with a solid structure to build into what would be a nice mule to live with and handle, as soon and at whatever speed it’s physical and mental condition requires.

Turning out without doing much will be ok later, now being in a program seems to make more sense, unless, as you say, your trainer also agrees waiting is best, since you know best that mule and what it needs.

As you say, you can watch the situation and if you feel sooner rather than later starts making sense once you have him home, you can always see about that.

Thanks for the picture, he looks like he will be quiet and sensible, lovable and huggable, once it feels better.


I have all the opportunity ever to reassess, on a continuous basis if I need to. I am probably capable at this point of doing some of the initial handling work on my own and if I’m not…that’s why I have a trainer. This was not true four or five years ago, but I’ve learned a lot since then and gotten really lucky with mentors. The realization would come quickly if I got in over my head at any rate and I’m long past the days where I’m too proud to ask for help, lol. He also needs to gain a lot of weight and I’m in the better position to get that accomplished because I don’t have as many horses.

I’m also blessed to be an adult with the funding to send him my trainer’s for many months if such a thing were to become necessary. The reason for keeping him home initially is not financially motivated. This isn’t the days when twenty two year old me decided to buy a green horse off the track and wanted to do it all on my own with no knowledge because I was broke–I’m lucky I didn’t get killed and frankly shouldn’t have had a horse at all. I have the money, resources, and knowledge to at least try to do right by this guy.

In an ideal world he’d have been handled since birth frankly, but that’s not our world :frowning: He’s realistically already missed the boat on a lot of important early experiences, if he hasn’t really been handled enough and he’s four.


From the pic I’d say he has a sweet face & soft eye.
I have zero mule knowledge, but do have friends who use only mules for extensive trailriding & horsecamping.
One gal did the MI Coast to Coast with hers.
They tell me there is a difference in the training from horses.
But as you’re set up with a good mule-savvy trainer, sound like a recipe for success :ok_hand:

Does DH have a name in mind for his mule?

His name is Sal. It’s from an old folk song.


That is a great name for him.

The song is literally about a guy who has a mule named Sal and how he loves this mule. My husband loves the song and has always wanted a mule so here we are lmao


Nothing wrong with dreams coming true, Sal may just be one your DH gets to fulfill.


I know full well ‘unbroke not really handled four year old’ was like the WORST mule for us to buy, but I’ve picked every other animal in the household so when my husband was like ‘HE LOOKS SO SAD’ I had a weak moment lol.

He waffled on the price initially but then broke down. Honestly the amount he was going for was a fair price for what he is.


I think I’d rather have a blank slate mule, honestly. That way I can teach them all my bad habits and not worry about someone else’s. :laughing: :wink:

In any case, he’s a lucky mule!!