Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Story of Ms. Melman, Part 2

We bought a 3 year old, female mule in May of 2008.  Per our agreement with the previous owners, they trailered her to our place as we didn't yet own a livestock trailer.  Since the pasture where she'd be kept is not by the house (it's about 3/4 mile up the road), we stuck around for the day to make sure she settled in ok. 

Ms. Melman's first day with us.

There was much running around, checking out the fence line (and the hot wire....zap!) but eventually she calmed down.  Of course, a nasty thunderstorm came through that evening so we went up there several times during the evening to make sure she was doing ok.  The next few days I just pulled up a chair and waited for her to come to me.  Eventually curiosity gets the best of her and I started brushing her and finding the sweet scratchy spots. 
Ms. Melman was basically "Green"; meaning no formal training.  And I was a far cry from a horse or mule trainer.  I've done my share of reading and internet searching for mule training help, but honestly, I'm a hands on kind'a gal and found it difficult to understand the methods without having someone there to show me.  But we were persistent.  And quickly found out that she was food-motivated (sounds like me).  So with the help of a fanny-pouch full of grain for treats, I was able to get her to pick up her feet and use the hoof pick on her.  I also got her to accept the halter and lead and we started getting her to back up and whoa by voice.
I would bring in new "stuff" for her to see, sniff and then rub on her to show her it wouldn't hurt.  We got a blanket on her back, then a bareback pad with a loose cinch.  She didn't buck or run when she was sacked out, but if it was something she didn't like, she would just walk away.  We didn't have her tied for a lot of this.
I started longeing her in the arena, but it was too large of an area to do that effectively, even with a long longe line.  We really needed a round pen if we were going to continue our training attempts.  Another thing we found out is that if we pushed her too hard or demanded too much from her too quickly, she would get mad at us and hold a grudge.  For days.  So it was back to earning her trust again until we could continue any training.  But when everyone had said sorry and she forgave us, she showed us that she did indeed retain the previous lesson.
Fast forward two months.  It's now July of 2008 and Ms. Melman is doing well with our feeble and slow attempts of training.  And then we find out that I'm pregnant.  Not that we weren't expecting it (the pregnancy part), but what I didn't anticipate is that I'd have to really lay off working with the mule for the sake of our unborn child.  Even though we weren't showing her new things, I would try to at least put the halter on her every day and reward her for that and for picking up her hooves.  Paul would continue leading her around the arena and grooms her just to keep her from being too bored.
Not that it's a valid excuse, but being pregnant, then having to care for Rhiannon really put a damper on any sort of additional improvements in our training sessions with Ms. Melman.  Basically we were on auto-pilot for a good two years.  She wasn't neglected, but she definitely wasn't being paid as much attention as she was before Rhiannon came along.  It also didn't help that she was away from the house, so even though we stop up there twice a day to make sure everyone is ok, additional visits aren't easy to squeeze into the schedule.  Rhiannon loved seeing Ms. Melman and would be more than happy to visit her more often, but I wasn't able to keep Rhiannon safe while working with her.
I felt badly for Ms. Melman.  I wish we had an area ready for her by the house with the rest of the Krazo Acres critters.  So when Paul found a mini-horse wandering around her pasture one morning, we jumped on the opportunity to re-home the little guy with Ms. Melman so she'd at least have a pasture buddy.

A "Nugget" for Ms. Melman
Ms. Melman and Nugget quickly became best buddies (he was also an only "child" at his previous home).  When we had to take him to the vet, she worked herself up into a slobbering sweat until he came back home.  So even though my guilt was reduced a little bit with the addition of another equine buddy, she still wasn't being given the attention she needs.  But then sometimes I wonder to myself, does she even care that we're not around?   Is she happy just having hay and water provided?  I'd like to think that she'd be happier with us nearby and that she'd eventually enjoy taking trail rides or being driven.  But since I don't have the ability to read her mind, I guess I'll just continue mulling that thought over until something else pops into my.....

Oh, look!  Something shiny!

One of our fellow firefighter friends is a "horse gal".  She's trained several of her own horses and has a bunch of awards for halter showing and barrel racing and recently trained her mini-horse to pull a cart.  So when she offered to help us work with Ms. Melman I took her up on it.  She's never worked with a mule before, so it's a bit of a learning experience for even her.  But she's also the kind of person that craves a challenge. 

So last week, Liz (the horse gal) and I went shopping for a bridle, bit and reigns.  And so the "Training of Ms. Melman" began......

PS - Since we couldn't think of a better name at the time we got her, I just put a "Ms." in front of my first online mule love, Melman, and she's been known as Ms. Melman since.  How original, hugh?


  1. Ms. Melman is a regal Mule! She has quite a beautiful profile. And I love Nugget! Boy, would I love a horse. I tend toward Belgians or Haflingers (while longing for a Clydesdale). I hope you inted to do a Part 3 and 4 if necessary!

  2. Good luck with Ms. Melman's training! As you have already learned, they are a little different than a horse! LOL!! Sounds like you and your friend have a good plan in place! Keep us posted! :)

  3. ("something shiney"...@:) MM is a beauty! Great story, can't wait to hear to about how her training goes...

  4. Eager for the next installment! What a big challenge you've taken on. Makes me feel like a real slug-a-bed!