Texas County has often been host to large-scale gatherings related to horses and horsemanship, but it was mules that took center stage during the inaugural “Missouri Mule Days” Sept. 21 through 24 at Golden Hills Trail Rides and Resort near Raymondville.

The event was attended by more than 100 mule enthusiasts from multiple states, and included advice, tips and teachings from several renowned mule experts and “clinicians” with regard to “mulemanship” and mules in general. One of those was Cindy K. Roberts, author of several books about mules, including her latest, “How to Buy a Mule and Not Get Screwed.” Roberts is from the St. Louis area, and is also on the four-member Missouri Mule Days Inc. board of directors who organized the event, which was the first in what is expected to be a series of mule-related gatherings at venues around the country.

The Missouri Mule Days group also plans to participate in major mule gatherings sponsored by other groups.

Why mules?

“All of us who are into mules as heavily as we are understand their positive attributes,” Roberts said. “We recognize that the mule is stronger and smarter than both of his parents, and that makes him very special.”

Owning, training and riding a mule is rewarding, Roberts said, but can’t necessarily be approached the same way as with a horse.

“It takes a mindset,” she said. “You can’t just have been raised with horses and then decide you’re going to be owning and riding a mule. The mindset is completely different than with a horse; the mule is altogether his own deal.”

The difference?

“The mindset of a mule is, ‘it has to be my own idea for me to go along with what you’re asking me,'” Roberts said. “The mule has to understand what you’re asking him. You can tell a horse what to do; you can order him around and work him to death and he’ll be submissive to you.

“But a mule is going to ask to see your resume every time.”

Roberts has been riding horses and ponies since she was 2 years old. She made the move into the world of mules when she was in her 20s because of an unwritten rule in her family stemming from her grandfather’s connection to mules while he was a sharpshooter in the last U.S. Army Cavalry in the 1920s.

“It was criteria in my family and it was expected of you to learn how to ride,” she said. “My grandfather was in charge of the mule barn. Although we weren’t at war at that time, they still used mules as well as horses for training.”

Roberts said she’s happy to be from a long line of mule people.

“I’m very proud of that,” she said.

For Missouri Mule Days Inc., the months ahead will include many stops in places where mules will be in the spotlight.

“We’re going to do a lot of clinics and educational things,” Roberts said, “because we want people to learn more about the mule and how to make life better for the mule and themselves so that both are working in a partnership.”

Missouri Mule Days Inc. intends to “encourage positive growth in the mule industry” and wants to connect with business partners that are pro-mule and from Missouri. For more information, log onto www.momule days.com or email momuledays@yahoo.com.

For more about Roberts, log onto www.everycowgirlsdream.com.

MULE MUSINGS

A mule can either be a cross between a female horse (mare) and male donkey (jack) or a male horse (stallion) and female donkey (jenny or jennet).

But the latter is also called a “hinny” (or “hinney”). Experts say a hinny is different than a true mule in several ways. They move more meticulously (and are therefore better suited for steep, rocky terrain) and will not tire as quickly, and they will eat a variety of shrubs and bushes to sustain themselves, while their mule counterparts are far more picky (which makes the hinny more desirable to people in remote mountain areas with little vegetation). Mules can carry more weight than a horse of similar size.

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