Training your mule for the trail takes time, patience and practice says Montana mule trainer Brad Cameron (see WH story, “The Mule Mindset,” May 2007). And, one of the most important lessons you can teach your mule is to stand still for mounting. Getting on an animal that won’t stand still is dangerous.
“If your mule starts to leave as soon as you put your foot in the stirrup, he’s not with you mentally or physically,” Cameron explains.
He recommends taking the left rein and bending the mule’s head toward you prior to putting your foot in the stirrup. But be ready for your mule to move as you begin to mount.
“When the mule moves as you mount, take your foot out of the stirrup and direct his hindquarters around the front quarters to keep him busy and help him focus on you,” Cameron says. “Then, stop and try mounting again.”
If your mule still won’t stand still repeat the exercise until he will.
“By directing his feet, the mule comes back to you mentally. And when he’s with you mentally he’s with you physically.”
Some mules will stand still for mounting, but will take off just as you settle into the saddle.
“At that point, take a hold of your animal and back him up to the spot he started from,” Cameron explains. “If there is even the tiniest moment when you’re not having to hold the mule in place, reward him with a release and let him walk forward. With consistency, the mule will wait longer and longer for you.”
For more information on mule training or clinics, contact the Cameron Mule Company at (406) 961-1381 or muletrainer.com.