3 Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Mule
by Ty Evans
We’ve all made mistakes when buying mules and horses, and I’ve made all the mistakes in the book. I’ve bought mules sight-unseen, at auctions, in back yards, on the trail, and in the arena. Some of those deals worked out awesome; others ended up in disappointment and frustration. All these successes and failures have taught me a lot about mules and people. I’ve gained valuable experience which I hope helps you in your search for a mule.
Whether you are thinking about getting your first mule or adding another to your herd, finding the right mule for your needs (and wants) can be challenging and often intimidating. When looking at mules, there are three things I keep in mind that makes decision-making much easier when it comes to purchasing one. These are disposition, conformation, and training in that order.
In my opinion disposition is the most important piece of the puzzle when buying a mule. Disposition is not something that is easy to change, although there are rare occasions when I have seen it happen. More often than not you get what you get.
When you are looking at your possible mule-to-be, does the mule seem interested in you? Does the mule seem curious about your presence? I like a mule that likes humans and doesn’t seem fearful or worried about being around me. We’ve all heard the term “meets you at the gate.” Does the mule you are looking at meet you at the gate? If it seems troubled, acts troubled, or causes trouble, then it’s probably trouble!
The seller might say something along these lines: “Normally the mule isn’t like that,” and they are probably telling the truth, but for me how the mule behaves right now means the most.
Disposition in a mule is something you can feel, just like the disposition of a person. Some people can easily and instantly make you feel welcome, while others give you a bad feeling. It’s the same with a mule. How does this mule make you feel and how do you make the mule feel? If things check out and the disposition impresses you, then it’s time to move on to the next part of your evaluation. If the disposition doesn’t check out for you, pass on that mule and keep searching.
Conformation is something you can be as serious about as you like; it really depends on what you plan to do with your mule. A show mule will have different criteria for conformational needs than a pack mule will. List your specific needs in regard to conformation and go from there.
Some things that should always be taken into consideration are the physical health of the mule including structurally strong bones, sound hooves, healthy teeth, good weight, etc. All these things need to check out before I would move on to the next step in evaluating this potential new mule.
Compare the mule’s training and experience to your own abilities as a rider or handler. If you are in need of a safe, reliable, “Steady Eddy” type mule than it’s probably not wise to be looking at a young, green mule. Folks that are really handy might not need a mule that is well finished because they can get the mule to this level themselves. It’s like the old saying: “green on green makes for black and blue.” Find a mule that fits your needs and matches your experience/comfort level.
If you use these three points as guidelines when looking for your mule, some stress will be relieved. Don’t be shy—ask questions! And don’t be afraid to look at a number of mules. Sometimes we get excited and buy the first thing that comes along. I recommend looking at several mules, getting a feel for different types, and visiting with all those great mule people. If these key points check out for you, your prospective mule is probably a good fit. Buying mules doesn’t need to be stressful. Keep it simple and have some fun, you’ll make a lot of friends along the way.
Traveling the country from coast to coast with family, mules, and dogs in tow, Ty and Skye Evans teach mulemanship clinics, “helping people with mule problems and mules with people problems.” Ty and Skye are passionate about mules and people and love helping them get along a little better. Along with teaching clinics, Ty and Skye enjoy buying, training, and selling top-quality saddle mules for mountain and trail riding.