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Connecting with My Mule

Connecting with My Mule | Testimonials

Connecting with My Mule All my Connected Groundwork and Riding lessons came together for me today out in the open field with my mule Royce. Royce is a 15 year old gaited mule I’ve owned for almost 2 years. He is a well-trained mule and has a lovely gait. Royce, however, lacks confidence and exhibits anxiousness when ridden alone. I took Royce for a short ride away from the barn this morning out my long driveway and into the front fields, just at a walk all alone. At first he was calm and willing, but the further we got from the barn the higher his head went and the hollower his back became. By the time we reached the road and turned to come home, his pace quickened emphatically. I didn’t panic nor did I feel afraid. I had a tool box of knowledge in my brain to work with Royce’s anxiousness and “hurry home” attitude. I acquired these skills through the dedicated patience, persistence, and hard work of my Connected Groundwork practitioner-in-training Devan Economides and my trainer Joe London. Because these two people have graciously shared their equine knowledge with me, it has changed the way I ride and work with my mules. Devan and Joe each has bolstered my own confidence so that I in turn can do the same for my mules. Let me describe what made today’s ride so memorable. As Royce picked up his pace heading home, I asked him to stop with just my seat. I breathed. I rotated. I focused on a neutral posture. I kept my legs soft. I let the tension out of my back. I bent my elbows. I remembered that I had to practice these skills consistently and continuously. Then I asked Royce to walk on. He was still too fast. I asked for a stop. Breathe. Walk on. Royce was still too fast with his head too high. The hollowness in his back made me imagine I was sitting on a swayback. I asked Royce to back three steps. Then walk on. He was still too anxious. We stopped. I asked for a side pass left and then walk on. I asked for a side pass right. We repeated the walk, the stop, the back, side pass left and side pass right several times. I gave the cue to walk on. Royce was still too fast. Ahem! Then another tool from my tool kit popped into my head. Circles! I bent my inside elbow, lifting the inside rein to ask for a circle. I asked my mule to bend around my inside leg. We did lots of circles at the walk out in the open fields. Circle to the left. Circle to the right. We spiraled in. We spiraled out and back again. Finally, Royce’s head telescoped out and lowered at the same time his back came up under me. I could feel Royce’s body change as it happened. The last half mile ride home was stupendous. It was as though I was riding a different mule! It is so exciting for me to recognize these changes in my mule. Not only am I happy with the change in Royce, I am also thrilled that I am the one with the knowledge to bring about these changes in him. I have nothing but praises and high honors for my dedicated teachers, Devan Economides and Joe London, for all they have done to help me Connect with my mule. By Toni Sheads November 9, 2015

--Toni Sheads