don't look like horses.
This is the thing about a mule that is most obvious to the casual
observer--of course they look different. Well, you see, mule lovers like
the look of a mule. We love those magnificent big ears and long
goofy face. We love to
watch those ears flop in a relaxing rhythm on a relaxing ride, or
prick rigidly forward when the mule spots something
interesting. We enjoy being different, knowing that a mule
will draw attention where only the most outstanding and expensive
horse will stand out from the crowd. We like they way a mule
sounds, too—kinda silly, but fun. It makes me smile or laugh every time
my mule brays.
Mules are loaded with personality.
Mules are smarter than horses by far. Mules learn things (Good
or bad things) often times when they only see them 3 times.
Mules are smart enough to not do things they think are dangerous.
Mules have a personality of their own that I just don't see as much
of in horses. They are friendly, caring animals, as long as you
treat them right. For example my Mule Star will often come running
to the gate and jump up and down like a dog wanting attention or if
he thinks its time to go for a ride.
Mules have their own time clock
The mule has an amazing ability to
tell time. When worked on a regular basis he can tell break time,
feed time or quitting time within a few minutes, if these breaks
take place the same time on a daily routine.
Mules endure heat better than
It has been scientifically proven that the donkey is similar to the
camel in its ability, when water starved, to drink only enough water
to replace lost body fluids. Most mules inherit this ability. Water
founder in a mule is so rare as to be notable when it does occur.
Mules have fewer feeding problems
than horses do.
Many farmers keep their draft and work mules together in pens with
feed available at all times, yet the mules rarely overeat to the
point of colic or founder. Mules require no fancy hay—just plain,
clean, fresh hay suitable for equines.
Mules eat less than horses do.
Mules that are not working usually don't need grain at all. Good
pasture or clean hay is the usual maintenance ration
When mules are working, their grain
ration is usually about 1/3 less than that of a horse of the same
Mules rarely have hoof problems.
Mules naturally have small, upright, boxy feet—which is part of
the secret of their surefootedness. Mules that work on pavement,
stony ground, etc. are shod, but most pleasure animals, or mules
that work on softer ground, never see a shoe. Regular hoof trimming
keeps them just fine. Their feet are strong, tough, flexible, and
usually not as brittle and shelly as those of a horse. They have
less of a problem with splitting, chipping, and contracted heels.
Mules excel in physical soundness.
Mules last longer, are more "maintenance free," and are
less expensive at the vet's office than horses are. Leg problems are
far less likely in a mule than in a horse, and when leg problems do
occur, they are far less severe. Parts of the mule including his
hide are tougher and more durable than comparable parts of the
Mules live longer productive lives
than horses do.
Farm mules average 18 years to a horse's 15 years. When the mule is
a companion animal doing lighter work and getting better medical
care, better feed, and good management, the mule can give its owner
good riding at age 30; 40-year-old retirees are not at all uncommon.
I own and ride a 28 year old mule who can out perform and recover
faster after climbing big hills than our 6 year old paint
Mules have a strong sense of self
This is one good reason why mules physically last longer than horses
do. If they are overheated, overworked, or overused for any reason,
mules will either slow down to a safe pace or stop completely. Mules
are not stubborn. Neither are donkeys. Yes, if you want them to work
too hard for their own well being, especially in hot weather, they
will be "stubborn." We have never heard of a messenger
running a mule to death the way legends say they ran their horses!
The facts that mules are inclined not to panic, that they think
about what is happening to them, and they take care of their own
physical well being prevents many accidents that might happen if
they were horses. Also mules often inherit the Donkey fight response
to danger instead of the horse flight response to danger. If a
horse is scared and isn't sure what has startled it the horse will
usually run from the scary thing (this is a flight response and can
lead to a thrown rider or injured horse and rider). A mule will most
often when frightened spin in place to face the threat to fight
first and run second. This gives the mule time to see what it
was that scared it and usually realize its not a threat. This response
can often keep the other mules and horse from running if they are
behind the mule. The same horse who runs off out of control at the
front of a trail ride can cause other animals to panic run.
Mules are surefooted and careful.
Their surefootedness is partly physical and partly psychological. On
the physical side, the mule has a narrower body than a horse of the
same height and weight. He gets this from the ass side of the
family. His legs are strong and his feet are small and neat. This
narrow structure and small hoof configuration enable him to place
his feet carefully and neatly. On the psychological side, mules have
a tendency to assess situations and act according to their views
(most of which have to do with self preservation). I often let my
mule pick the safest way down a bad path. The trail rides that
go down into the grand canyon only use mules to carry people down
the very narrow rocky paths that are usually long deadly drops to
the bottom. Picture in your mind, a narrow trail winding down
the wall of the Grand Canyon, a string of riders on mules. Where
each mule places each foot is critical. He does it from memory. The
mule cannot see his feet, but he anticipates where each foot has to
go as he moves forward. Horses do the same, but the mule is much
better at it. Most things I have heard and read say mules
are better on all four feet than a horse is on its best two.
The bad side to this is a mule can kick with all four hooves more accurately
than a horse with its best two.