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1 year ago

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Hello everybody
Im new to this forum so maybe this question has already been asked befor
Im breaking a team of mules and the one sometimes starts befor i have given the command( he is quite impatient) and then usually his teammate will follow, I want to feed cows with them this spring using a wheeled bale unroller but concerned when I get off to cut strings on bale or put spears into the bale to load they may start without me. I have no brakes on this rig and have been racking my brain to think of an idea to lock the wheels or somehow keep bale from rolling while I am cutting strings. Thinking if they start they would have to skid bale on ground adding considerably to the load. I ve been thinking of carrying wheel chocks to throw in front of wheels but figure they would just get pushed aside of wheel after a few feet. Im by myself and some work is what they need to overcome this problem just want to make sure im on the rig befor they start?

vince mautino says 2017-01-10 14:18:46 (CST)

You will need to go back to the initial ground work and teach them basic verbal commands before hitching them up.

Some folks recomend it , but I don't, and that is tying them for long periods of time teaching them patience.

The best training is work them down until they are flat out tired and happy to stand. Most folks don't work their mules or horses hard enough though.

Before dragging bales, you might try working them around in big circle and stopping at a particular place every time. Mules get so they know that place and will stop there. That might work if you are hauling bales out to the same place every day.

Could you add to the length of your lines with rope or? such that you will have ahold of them while you are cutting the strings ?

I don't think chocking the wheels is going to stop them. I have seen too many teams drag wagons with all the wheels locked up.

Best bet is my 1st paragraph

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2017-01-10 14:22:08 (CST)

First dozen times or so you might have to go around the field several times pulling he load to get them tired enough to want to stop and not move off before you get off to do your work.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Todd NE WY says 2017-01-10 15:57:15 (CST)

Two things come to mind right off. More practice starting and stopping. If the impatient one takes off immediately stop them and start again, this may take awhile but he will get it. Make sure to reward him when he gets it right. Second thing, get longer lines or add rope to them so when you get off you have them in your hands.


1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2017-01-10 18:42:01 (CST)

I'm certain others will chime in too, but in general, it sounds risky if you don't have a full broke team in which you and they have total confidence in each other. You or they could get seriously hurt. Brakes or no brakes, if mules want to go, the cart will go, even if the tires aren't rotating. One other thing. It's generally ill-advised to do any task without the lines firmly in your hand.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2017-01-11 04:25:37 (CST)

I think what Vince has said is spot on. When I started feeding with my mules, they wouldn't stand either, and like Brian stated, if they wanted to leave, having the brakes set on my forecart wasn't gonna matter either. They'd pull it and the hay carrying and go. The first thing I did was have my local harness shop make me a long set of lines that would allow me to keep them in my hands while I was working on the hay. I left the bale carry setting and went to a sheet of plywood. I sandwiched one end between two pieces of oak 2 x8, drilled a hole though it and looped a trace chain through the hole. I fixed the trace chain so that it had a loop that was short enough to cause the front of the board to lift when the team started. I got me an iron pin, about 18 inches long, or so, with a point on one end and a ring on the other. I would push the pin into the roll on the flat side away from the plywood sheet. With a rope tied into the pin, I would throw the other end over the roll and by trial and error and fixed a loop in the end that would let me drop it on a ball hitch on the fore cart at a manageable distance for my line. I could drop the loop on the ball hitch, step the mules up and they would tip the bale onto the plywood. I could then reach down and remove the rope, flip it up onto the flat with the iron pin, swing the team around to the front and drop the chain on the ball hitch and drive to the field. Once there, the reverse was done. I'd unhook the chain, grab the loop drop it back on the ball hitch, pull the bale over and kick the roll off the plywood. I unroll my bales, but all I had to do was cut the strings and feed on the top of one of my hill and the bale would roll down by itself. My mules finally got to where they knew exactly how many steps to take to tip the bale for me or to unload it. They would step out as far as needed and stop with no verbal command from me. At that point, I figured they knew the job, but that we were also working as a team. By the next spring I had worked them enough that I put them back to the bale carrier and used them to move bales out of the field. After enough picking up and setting down, they knew how to stand. They finally got to where they would follow the tracks of the previous bales and follow it to the stack yard, again with no verbal commands. They knew exactly how many steps to take past the last bale to drop the next one in line. And by then, they would stand to load and unload. I think the key to all of it though was plenty of work and plenty of repetition building good habits.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Andy Daniel says 2017-01-11 05:14:13 (CST)

All things said are very true. The first step me mules take when I finish hooking is backwards.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

DSASK says 2017-01-11 11:00:40 (CST)

Thank you

These are all good advice and after reading these will forget my idea of chocking the wheels the first thing i will do is lengthen my lines. When I bought my mules one was supposedly started but after I worked with him Im convinced there is some unwanted history to him. He is quiet and gentle until I hook him to wagon and then he is quite nervous of anything behind him Ive done a ton of groundwork with him and tried open and blinder bridles but still nervous of anything hitched behind him, hence the reason he is wanting to start prematurely. I think some steady work will hopefully resolve his nervousness and starting early habit. Is 30 straight days enough in your opinions or is there a magic number where he won't be back to square one if turned out for a week?


1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2017-01-11 22:27:52 (CST)

Never a magic number . Every mule is different. He might be ok in a month, he may never change. You will just have to work on it to see

I had a mule that got away from me with single tree attached, He ran around the pasture with that single banging him and every thing close. Then he had runaway with a sleigh.

That was when he was 6-7. When I had to put him down at 24 due to a dislocated hip, he was still the same. Darn fine saddle mule, and a good packer. I could work him with a stone boat or harrow, but when I put harness on him he just shook with fear. They never forget a bad experience

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2017-01-12 05:06:54 (CST)

One thing I've seen, with my mules at least, they are all individuals and there really is no set time as to when they'll learn to trust you and work with you. When I got my team, they hadn't been worked in over three years and in that time had only run loose in a big pasture. It took two of us to hook them the first time. I put them to a disk harrow in a big field and we worked some long days for a few weeks. They helped a lot. I could at least catch harness and hook them by myself. They would, however, try me with something new every day. They would take turns being hard to catch. I started a policy of, if I can't catch you, I ain't a'gonna feed you. Then when turning them out, they would jump away from as soon as the halter was unbuckled, maybe jerking out of my hand, or maybe jerking me down. I have a big round pen that one can walk through to go into my pasture. I started turning out in the round pen. I'd lead them to the pen, throw there lead rope over their shoulder and walk to the back gate. I said, as much to me as to the mules, as I knew they didn't understand me. "If you can unhook a gate, you can go on. Otherwise you'll stand to let me take that damned halter off." I let them walk around the round pen until they decided to come to me. When they came to me, I unbuckled the halter and then open the gate to let them out. They would take turns being stubborn and not lead, in which case I'd just stop where ever they stopped and tie them to what ever was handy and leave them. Go do something else. Eventually they would get tired of standing. They would trot with the plow, we went back to the disk, or the sled. They tried something new every day, or sometimes every week. I was really hating this team. I had to use them because they were all I had. I was starting to really wish for a pair of horses. But, I remember when it happened. It took close to two years and just like flipping a switch, everything changes. They respond perfectly, or close to it, on verbal commands. I can plow with the lines on my shoulders and one hand on the plow. They were able to feed or move round bales with no issues. They were a team that was a pleasure to work. But in that two years time there was a lot of wet collars, theirs and mine. I have two other mules, one never really had a "breaking in period". He's been a big pet and what I'd call a buddy mule from day one and will follow me like a dog. The other took about ten months to come around but still has a few issues. I think come spring and his time on the disk will help to get his mind right. It could happen in 30 days, but I'd brace for 300 or more. This is just my two cents worth.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2017-01-12 09:02:56 (CST)

I can't begin to count the number of times I have told new mule owners that their new mule will work or perform a lot better once each gets to know each other and trust each other.

That is why that great mule worked so well when you went to look at it ,but is a complete jughead you think when you get it home

With all this renew interest in mules you have people and trainers saying if a mule is really trained, you can take them home and use them right now. Yep, you can use them but wait a year or so and see the difference

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

DSASK says 2017-01-12 11:33:09 (CST)

These are some good pointers. I cant say I have these two figured out what does it take to get them to trust you? Every once and a while the one will come up to me in the corral and other days she acts like im going to eat her. Can't figure out the reason for the inconsistency and can't figure out why she don't trust me, have never given her a reason not to as far as i know? They seem more relaxed once on a halter but when standing in corral or pasture they always seem leary of me or new people

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2017-01-13 05:01:22 (CST)

I think trust comes with good association, repetition and consistency. Develop a good routine and stick with it. I bring my mules into the barn and put them in a tie stall every morning,whether I use them or not. I don't tolerate foolishness. I've hit one of my mules except one time when I had one them kick at me. She didn't kick hard, but I was about to snap a quarter strap and she brought a hoof up and "gently" brushed my hand away. Kicking is a capital offense. I try in the mean to control my temper and out think the mule. It doesn't pay to fly off the handle with a mule. That could be why they are a little skittish. Who knows what sort of experience they had previously. You just have to build with what you have and take it one day at a time. The mule I consider my best mule was like that when I first got her. She would spook at things anything flapping or moving strangely. I spent a lot of time getting her used to me and to things flapping and moving around in the barn while she was tied. The turning point came after about six months. I was turning out one evening and the wind was really kicking. I keep a barrel with a drum liner garbage bag in it at the entrance to my barn for trash. As we were going out I just knew she would be antsy in the wind and booger at something. Just as we got to that barrel a feed sack jump up and out of it on the wind and dropped right in front of her. Rather than shy from it, she jumped on it with both front feet, grabbed it in her teeth and shook the hell out of it. She never boogered at strange things again. Feed and water will go a long way to helping the mules gain your trust too. If you only feed in the barn and they have to depend on you to get to that barn, you will suddenly become there favorite fellow, providing you develop a routine that they can depend on.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2017-01-20 08:14:24 (CST)

Lots of good advice here. I'd just add that training, and winning over a mule's trust doesn't end when the harness comes off. Even in the off season, brushing them out, giving them a carrot now and then, or just talking to them, gives them the assurance you're an OK human. When I first got mine, it was toward the end of the season. They did their job fine but after a long winter, our relationship was tighter come spring. Not so much of what they learned while in harness. But what we learned about each other in the off season.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

DSASK says 2017-01-22 20:27:33 (CST)

Thanks Brian

this is something I could spend more time doing

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-01-23 08:48:05 (CST)

What learned out of this thread ( I have had and worked with horses, not mules, for over 50 years) is, that actually the term "break" doesn't apply to mules, it's get to know them, build a relationship of mutual trust, develop working habits together. Sounds pretty much like in the world of humans. My question is, if you have to replace one part of the team for whatever reason, and you need to work with the team immediately after that, what will happen? With my horses I did that a number of times as there were either losses of life or temporary illnesses, but of course work on the farm continued and didn't wait. With horses I never had a problem with that, they got used to each other fairly quickly and also to me.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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