The horse is the prime equine animal in the western culture and anyone who might try to dispute that will probably raise many eyebrows.
But Alberta Donkey and Mule Club thinks other equine kinds are being unfairly ignored and neglected, so to raise awareness, they organize an annual show to educate people about the talents and skills of mules and donkeys.
This year’s show at Tees ag grounds over the weekend of Aug. 16 and 17 attracted participants not only from all corners of Alberta, but also from B.C and Saskatchewan, with participants driving up to 10 hours or more just to be able to share their love of mules and donkeys and enjoying their animals’ abilities, which they say are not inferior to those of horses.
Marlene Quiring of the Club says the annual show has been going on for 25 years and the club has members from all over Canada and the United States.
“This is the biggest mule and donkey show in Canada,” said Quiring.
“Our main goal is to bring mule and donkey folk together, have some fun, learn a little bit.”
She said the first day of the show was reserved for classes, for both owners and spectators to learn about mules and donkeys and the second day, Sunday was to be more of a fun day to help practice together.
“Saturday was more set up for audience for them to watch and enjoy,” Quiring said.
Ethel Hollihan, who, with her husband, has been involved in promoting mules and donkeys even before the creation of Alberta Donkey and Mule Club, said it was both to entertain and educate people about the behaviour of mules and donkeys.
”What people mistake as stubbornness is their sense of self-preservation,” explained Quiring.
“Because they protect not only themselves, but their riders, too.”
Quiring says unlike horses, which can run fast and escape from a problem area, donkeys, with their desert ancestry, have an instinct to analyze the situation and if it is necessary to fight to ensure their survival; and mules, having received this particular trait from their donkey side, act in the same manner when they feel threatened in any way.
“Therefore, if there is anything wrong, a donkey will shut down and defend itself in the face of danger,” she said.
“Mules, with their instincts, will look around before they run off. They are actually a safer equine to be with for young and older riders,” Quiring went on.
“As compared to horses, they are tougher, they are sure-footed. They are not going to run over a cliff like a horse might do when it is afraid.”
And Quiring even ventured to say that “they (mules) are actually thinking animals and they are more intelligent than their owners and horse people don’t like that.”
“They are more dog-like in nature and they have quite a personality, once they trust you, they are friends for life,” she concluded.