I Like Mules

A mule looks sort of like a horse with long ears, a long face, bristles instead of a mane along the neck, and a wisp of a tail. I’ve never ridden one, but I’ve known a few, and I like them a lot. I’ve done several pack trips through wild mountains here in North America. We dudes were on horses, but many of the pack animals were mules, especially the one entrusted with the bulky and awkward and all-important cookstove. I’ve known wranglers who prefer riding mules. The head cowboy on a trip through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico rode a mule. He claimed that his good mule had saved his life several times. Mules have a deeply-ingrained sense of self-preservation. If you load their packs unevenly, they won’t budge. If you ask a mule to go through a mucky area, he’ll tell you if the footing is unsafe. The cowboy in the Sangre de Cristos, as we rode along the mountain ridge, pointed out a charred tree trunk. He’d been on his mule, just the two of them out in the wilderness, when all of a sudden the mule stopped dead. Refused to budge. A sudden boom of thunder. A crack. A flash. The tree a few hundred feet in front of them burst into flames. Any closer, and both he and his mule would have been dead. That mule just stood and watched. A horse would have high-tailed it into the next state.

Some mules are quite large. In times past, mules could be used to plow a field and then take you to church on Sunday. Look at this gentle giant. His lady is riding him with just a simple bit held on with a strap of twine.



I did think about getting a mule instead of a horse; if I lived in the mountains I just might have. Do any of you have experience with mules? Do tell!


  1. In my 75 year old brain I have memories of when my Dad rented a mule to pull the “plow” when he worked some of our 3 acres -what was then called a “truck farm”. (one year he rented a horse and said never again.) Anyway, I got to ride the mule back to his farm, about 2 miles, when my Dad was done. Enjoyable task but I learned to never allow him to lower his head to eat because I could never get it up again without getting off his back and I could not get back up so I ended up leading him home.

  2. I wonder if that mule could feel the electric current building in the ground? So interesting. I’ve never ridden a mule but we had a donkey for a while and a more stubborn bull-headed hard-mouthed donkey there never was! He took off with my sister and ran through a half finished fence. Of course he fit underneath the completed top pole but not my sister. Neither of us wanted to ride him much after that.

  3. My grandparents kept a mule to plow with until he passed away in the 70’s. I’ve always been fascinated with mules too. Their vast capabilities, steadiness, and intelligence are really attractive qualities – plus they are such multipurpose animal. I read an article recently that was talking about how mules are starting to become popular as dressage mounts. I also think they are very beautiful – definitely a different kind of beauty than a horse….but it is there all the same.

    Just Google Mules and Dressage and it will bring up lots of videos, blogs, and articles.

  4. I too LOVE mules. I have ridden one on two occasions down the Bright Angel trail into the Grand Canyon. They are so surefooted and calm and the wrangler said he would never trust a horse down that trail. On the first trip there was a young woman who was so afraid when she got “aboard” she could not stop crying. She didn’t quit thought and by the time we arrived at the bottom she was laughing and praising her mule! They are sweet animals.

  5. The mule has a beautiful face. Looks like one could have an interesting conversation with his lady. I also admire her posture riding side-saddle no less.

  6. On New Years Eve day last year I was looking out my window near the sidewalk of a busy urban boulevard in Pasadena a few blocks away from where the famous Tournament of Roses Parade was going to be passing by the next day. A man dressed like a prospector-mountain man walked by on the sidewalk leading three pack mules! The strangest sight!  I thought he was part of the next day’s parade. No! He’s been wandering all over California like this. Not much was known about him then, but in this past year a documentary photographer has followed him and his cause of living simply, out in nature. He has created a website and Facebook page. “Mule”, his nickname, has been cited often for taking mules through cities. Very interesting. Fortunately, his mules seem okay.  
    Website: 3Mules.com OR https://www.facebook.com/3Mules?fref=ts        

  7. No experience here. Although I have always loved Donkeys. Thats a great photo!

  8. yes i have a mule story – an on-going mule story and i’ll share – but later. my stray cat – the one who looked like a thug likes to help me type when he hears the keys rattle – and here he commes

  9. We have lots of Mules in Lancaster, Pa. The Amish use them for plowing. I’ve never seen them use a saddle to ride them, it’s always bareback. Often you’ll see a young boy unhitch them from the plow and ride them back to the pasture at lunch time and then ride them back out to the plow for more work. I think if you really look at them you’ll see kind eyes and they look back like they are studying you in the same way. I think they have their own beauty.

  10. I’ve been beaten soundly by a mule in a dressage show. Humbling. I think this lady was riding.

  11. For decades Missouri was the nation’s primary mule producer. The Missouri Mule became our official state animal in 1995. Many Missourians, including yours truly, are often accused of being “stubborn as a mule”! We are also accused of “having to be shown”, therefore we are considered “the show me state”! Sorry, I just had to share a little bit of state trivia!

  12. Pat you are correct most of us Missourians are just plan stubborn, through and through.

    My mule stories come from my grandpa. They used them as work animals. The barn caught fire one night. The mules broke free from their leads an ran out the horses stayed in their stall and died. He said several years later on a Sunday (the animals were also given the day off) the milk cow, horses and mules were all in the field grazing when a tornado came roaring through. You guessed it the mules were the lone survivors. They don’t know how, if the ran and the others didn’t or if they were just that tough but when they emerged from the storm cellar the mules were in the field grazing as if nothing happened.

  13. I have had the joy of riding mules twice down the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch. I grew up with horses and love riding. The mules were amazing on the trails and just wonderful to be around.