Top Notch Purpose Bred Riding Mules
We are passionate about the breeding and training of the very best quality riding mules available in Southern Africa. At this point you may be asking a few very valid questions:-
- How does one achieve the above?
- Why a mule at all?
- I know nothing about mules, where do I start etc?
- What saddlery must I use on a mule?
- I have a mule that needs training, can you help me?
Well my friends the answers are in fact both simple and enlightening.
a) How does one breed a “Top Notch Purpose Bred, Riding Mule”?
To breed Top Notch Purpose Bred Riding Mules one must use top quality mares of a type that will impart both excellent confirmation and temperaments to their mule foals. We choose well put together Boerperd and American Quarter Horse type mares in the 15hh to 15,2hh high class. We have carefully selected our mares for the following traits-
- Good temperaments, easy handling and trainability.
- Our mares need to have sound confirmation with good width in the pelvis to allow for the easy and natural delivery of our foals.
- We require our mares to be excellent mothers producing copious amounts of milk. We are not for the hand raising of foals due to the mares inadequacies.
- We place a lot of emphasis on selecting mares with good heads that are “pretty” to look at. We aim to breed attractive Mules.
The mares are handled often and so are their foals. We find that this affords our foals a very nurturing environment in which to grow up in and therefore to mature into friendly tractable adult equines!
Samuel Mule Maker
To these lovely calm and very easy handling mares we put our current Jack; Samuel Mule Maker (aka Samuel). Samuel is a 15hh black with white points Spanish jack. He brings a good head, sound tough hooves and constitution along with an uncanny amount of sure footedness to the final mix. Being a mountain bred Jack, Samuel imparts a lot of his hardiness to his offspring!
In the early days of our country when mules were in common use for both animal traction as well as riding animals, the vast majority of these mules had bad reputations as far as temperament and to a lesser degree confirmation. They were called Dumb, Vicious and Stubborn. Well as with anything in life garbage in = garbage out. That I am afraid was the way mule breeding was done in those days. The best mares went to the prize stallions and the scrap, dumb, vicious, lazy mares were put to a jack this equalled bad mules.
b) Why a Mule?
To the converted the real question is, WHY NOT A MULE? My love and interest in mules goes right back to my school days when learning about the history of South Africa and the parallels in the History of South Africa and the USA. Yes it was the role that mules and donkeys played in the opening up of both these great lands that sparked my imagination.
We as a family first started with a team of two standard donkeys “Pongola” and “Bandit” these guys were full brothers a year apart in age. They were broken in and trained to pack, ride and be driven in a 100 year old cart. To this team we added a further a team of full brothers, “Scottsburg” and “Busy Bend”. We now drove four in hand and had great fun as a family going to church in the cart. We also went on picnics and even sundowners in the bush or up on the mountains in our cart!
From here it was a natural progression to acquire our first mule. His name is “Marmalade” he is now 7 years old and a more dependable and friendly chap one could not ask for. Marmalade is out of a Boerperd type mare and sired by a Standard Donkey, he was an “accident” but in God we all know that there are no accidents or co-incidents!
It is through Marmalade that we as a family came to love and understand Mules. We are now hooked by Mule Fever. Mules are by far cleverer on the average than any number of horses that I have worked with. They are very quick to learn new commands and routines. Mules tend to develop much closer ties with their human handlers than do horses on the whole. The Mule is comprised of traits inherited from its father the donkey (who has sixty two chromosomes) and from its mother the horse (who has sixty four chromosomes).
The Mule has a genetic make up of sixty three chromosomes, thirty one from the Donkey and thirty two from its mother the horse. It is for this reason that mules are sterile, their chromosomes can not divide equally.
However it is this odd number of chromosomes that cause the Mule to be a “Super Equine”. Read below and see why they are “Super Equines!”
- Mules are more sure footed than horses; they are able to see all four feet as once just like a donkey can.
- Mules have tougher hides than horses do and therefore stand up to chaffing from harness better than a horse would.
- A Mule is stronger than either a horse or a donkey of the same size.
- The Mules straight strong back is far better suited to carrying heavy weight than is that of a horse. When carrying a pack the Mule does not sway from side to side as much as a horse does. This makes for a safer trip for the loaded goods.
- Not only can Mules subsist on poor quality roughage but they prefer to eat lower quality roughage than do horses. This enables them to survive where horses would die.
- A Mule eats on average one third less than a horse of equal size.
- Mule’s hybrid vigour helps it to with stand heat as well as diseases better than a horse can do.
- Mules are more often than not far more intelligent than horses and this combined with a strong sense of preservation enables them to handle dangerous situations far better than horses would.
- Mules are very affectionate and loyal animals that build strong bonds with work mates as well as their owners and handlers.
- Mules are capable of long working lives, many is the instance of mules putting in a good days work at the ripe age of thirty years.
- Mules are just adorable!
Over and above the facts stated above Mules are the coolest equines out and we love our long eared friends! Now do not get me wrong I love horses and really enjoy horses, in fact we as a family have owned a lot of horses. We have ridden them to work livestock, we have ridden them for pleasure, we have trail ridden them and we have competed on then when playing Polo, Polo Crosse as well as endurance riding. We breed horses and good horses are vital to the breeding of Top Notch Mules!
However once you have had the pure pleasure of riding a Top Notch Purpose Bred Riding Mule, be it behind a herd of cattle; on a precarious mountain trail; across a fast flowing river; over a jumping course or put him or her through her paces in the Dressage arena, you will be hooked on the horses noble Long Eared cousin!
c) Where do I start?
- Always buy your mule from a reputable breeder who is willing to spend time with you and help you get started.
- Make sure that the mule you are interested in buying has been foundations proper ally laid down and both you and the mule like each other.
- Do not be shy to ask questions, a reputable breeder will only be too willing to answer your questions and go the extra mile to ensure that you becoming a mule owner and rider will be a very enjoyable experience!
- Mules are no more difficult to work than horses and in many instances they are easier to work with than horses.
d) What are my Saddlery Requirements?
Due to mules having a back more like their Donkey daddy, it being flat with a slight or no wither one must keep in mind that a saddle with flat bars is the order of the day. We generally use Western Saddles or Trail Saddles.
Ben Liebenberg of the Mooi River, Kwa Zulu Natal based saddlery firm long established and reputable “Franco C Saddlery” can and will modify your “horse” saddles to fit your mule or he will custom build you a saddle for your mule.
You can contact Ben on -
Cell: 084-514 7667
Examples of hand-plaited rawhide tack
Should you wish to and should your budget allow it you can import excellent Mule specific saddlery from various top class manufacturers. One such supplier is a well known mule trainer and clinician – Mr Steve Edwards.
You can contact Steve on –
Please remember that due to the low wither on a mule it is always a good idea to use a crupper strap (some riders advocate birthing) and a good non choke breast plate especially when riding in mountainous terrain.
I personally prefer to use a saddle with double girths (double cinch rigging). What ever saddlery you use the secret is that it must fit your mule properly. When it comes to halters and headstalls every body has there own preferences, I personally prefer a well made knotted rope halter with a well made rawhide lead (“Riem” in the Afrikaans language). The riem is easy on the handler’s hands, very strong and if by chance it gets around the mules legs or neck it will not cause rope burn.
The knotted rope halter when fitted correctly puts pressure on the pole, under the jaw bones and on the bridge of the nose as soon as the mule pulls back on the lead riem. As soon as the mule moves forward the pressure “automatically” released.
e) I have a mule that needs training, can you help me?
Yes we can most certainly help you with your mule that needs training or even re-training to get rid of those bad habits. Call or mail us for a chat and approximate quote to train your mule/s at your place or ours. We will help make your mule a pleasure to own and ride! We have clients from all over South Africa that send us both their mules and horses to Foundation, Back and School.