Mule and donkey owners and riders showed off their riding and handling skills at the Tees Longears Days Aug. 18 and 19.
For members of the Alberta Mule and Donkey Club (AMDC) there was also some fun games in the mix. Chairman Ross Shandro said it is a way for club members to see each other. “It’s geared more for family entertainment and for club members…this is our summer get together.”
The main purpose of the show is to give competitors a chance to try out their skills, while not having to worry about winning or losing.
“Tees is not a competitive show, it’s a welcoming show,” explained Shandro.
His hope is participants will gain some experience from Longears Days as they can enter other equine shows as well. If a show is sanctioned by the Alberta Equestrian Foundation, then riders can enter mules.
Despite a reputation of being stubborn and willful, Shandro feels mules are smarter than horses, but they need the right trainer.
“A good mule is better than a good horse,” Shandro attributes the saying to Teddy Holden who used to work with mules.
“I didn’t know what that meant,” said Shandro, until he had a mule with a shoulder injury and was unable to work with it for three years. As soon as the mule was better, Shandro proceeded to train him again and he was surprised at how quick it came back.
“The retention on a mule is superior to that of a horse. That’s me talking after owning a mule for 27 years,” he stated.
He did admit that a mule can also learn the wrong way quickly; he feels they need an experienced trainer to work with mules. “It’s about how you work with them.”
Another quality attributed to mules is their loyalty to their owners, explained Marlene Quiring of the AMDC.
“Their nature is to me a little more doglike, they’re quite loyal,” she explained.
Their tendency is to have more self-preservation, which she feels is one of the reasons they have a reputation of being stubborn. “Training is not different (than horses), but mules are more intense.”
The weekend featured the Alberta Mounted Potato Throwers, where competitors had to grab a potato from one end of the field and bring it to a pylon on the other end as fast as possible.
Other challenges for competitors were western or English pleasure, barrel racing, pleasure driving and a drill team demonstration.