Horse Training And Riding

Tips for Training a Mule

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"Tips for Training a Mule"
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Training a Mule is not totally unlike training a horse. The biggest difference with training a mule as opposed to a horse, is that although some people think of mules as being dumb, they are amazingly intelligent, and like to think about what they are doing, where as a horse can be forced to do most things, even if it doesn't want to. Training a mule is not as extreme in this area as training a donkey, but must be considered.

-Mule Training Tips-

1)  Because unsocialized mules, like donkeys, are known to kick without warning, it is always a good idea to start working with them when young in terms of getting them use to being handled. They sometimes object to their ears being touched so it is important this is done a lot while they are young.

2)  Mules are greatly motivated by food, and do better with a slow, understanding, trainer, rather than a forceful one. When leading a mule, and it refuses to move forward, rather than pulling it off balance, as you might with a young horse who is learning how to lead, try bribing it with treats, while gently asking it to move ahead. As with training a horse to lead, release as soon as the animal takes a step in the right direction. The mule needs to see a reason for it to move forward, in this case the reason is treats.

3)  Some trainers “break” horses, by putting them in a round pen with a saddle on, and running them until they are tired, then mounting them. This can be done with mules too, but is not the best way to “train” one, and in fact can cause more problems than it solves. This is to say, mules should be trained, rather than “broke”. The approach should be to teach it to be lunged, then ground driven, then saddled. These steps should be accomplished slowly and not rushed.

4)  A mule trainer needs to remember that in addition to rewards, as mentioned above, the mule needs time to think. They are suspicious and cautious. A mule needs to be given the time to understand that what you are asking it to do will not hurt it. They are a thinking animal, and their stubborn reputation is the result of people misunderstanding them needing time to think things over.

5)  Allow the mule an opportunity to investigate the lunge line, the saddle, and so forth, offer treats so it associates anything new with good emotions. Expose the mule to new things at every opportunity as this will make it more relaxed and less suspicious about strange things.

6)  With mules it is important to remember that they have a good memory. If you end the lesson early on a positive you will gain more of an advance than if you work too long pushing it to do things it isn't ready to do and start getting into a fight.

7)  Mules become very attached to attention, they enjoy it. Anyone with mules will note how quick they bond if treated correctly and with a gentle hand. This is not to say that a mule should be allowed to get pushy, but to note that they do get lonely.

8)  Tack for mules may need to be specialized, they tend to have smaller withers than horses, and longer heads.

9)  Be aware that some mules have a strong dislike for dogs, as such it may be a good idea to keep any dogs out of the training area, or to introduce them to the mule slowly and carefully.


Mules are smart animals, that can be taught to do anything a horse can do, from harness work to jumping. In training it is important to treat them as you would a donkey, allowing it time to think about what it is doing, and aways rewarding it for correct behavior.

More about this author: Brenda Nelson

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