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Horses and a mule

July 16, 2015


July 16, 2015

We had been to this horseback ride place just this side of Absaroke maybe 6 years ago, but I had forgotten how much fun it can be for kids like our grandchildren ages 6-9. Owner Wanda Wilcox (406-328-4158) had young adults from France and England working for her, as well as a couple of more experienced local wranglers like Lexie Lacie of Hardin. Lexie has worked for Wanda 14 summers.
P. paid for riding lessons and an hour horseback ride so the three kids started with brushing and getting acquainted with the horses. Wanda taught the kids how to choose and put a saddle on a horse, even having them practice a couple times. She had them bridle a horse, then mount and dismount a few times. She was charismatic, telling about her parents until nearly everyone was passing tissues around for the tears of emotion.



I did not cry, but I came reasonably close, I thought.
We selected our horse. In my case I selected a mule, named J.O. Our ride took us through some river bottom, across some hayfields, through a wood, back around the river bottom, into and out of, a boggy area, then along the river. We had three wranglers and 6 of us, all nose-to-tail, on a trail. I was second to last, on my mule.



J.O. was a beautiful chestnut mule, moderate size. We once went packing, once, with some really huge mules that must have been bred from work horses. J.O. was not nearly that big, but he had a mellow disposition like the big ones had. He pretty much did what he wanted, although I did get him to turn once, using the reins. I tried to turn him a dozen other times and the reins had no effect. I tried turning his head with my hands, but I could feel that he had muscles of steel beneath that chestnut hide of his. Perhaps I really didn’t need him to turn. Perhaps he knew the routine better than I did.
If turning him was impossible, except just once when I must have been supposed to by circumstances, or perhaps by wrangler Lexie Lacie, who asked me to turn him, I was able to get J.O. to hurry by placing my heels into his flanks. I tried to be humane, but a gentle nudge with my heels had no effect. I used a verbal command. “Git, mule!” and kicked somewhat harder. We were walking along but the rest of the riders were getting farther ahead. I began kicking with both heels at once, with as much energy as I could dig up. Once, twice I let them strike J.O.’s sides, and lo! He began to walk faster, even sort of gallop, until we caught up.
A couple times I was able to coax J.O. to stop by pulling back the reins. “Whoa mule!” I said, but that was just for showing off, in imitation of a Yosemite Sam cartoon. J.O. stopped willingly. The steering by means of reins was problematic twice when he walked under low-hanging branches. The first time the branches were light and springy.



We knew the kids enjoyed the experience because they asked when we could be back to do it again.

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