To some people donkeys and mules are stubborn and untrainable but to others they are smarter and hardier than horses.
The 24th annual Tees Longears Days was held to give lovers of the animals a chance to have some fun and also learn a thing or two about showing their animals. Attendees could tell they were in for a fun day as some participants had shirts that stated, “Mules, the original hybrid.”
Despite the lighthearted atmosphere, Russ Shandro, president of the Alberta Donkey and Mule Club has been working with his board to educate club members on how to work with the animals and “to educate the people in the husbandry” of donkeys and mules.
The last two years the club has hosted more education seminars than before because its members have requested them. Their plan appears to be working, some members have been competing at horse shows.
“We’re meeting the requirements of the active membership,” said Shandro.
“Now they’re getting into a higher level where they’re competing against horses,” he added.
Members are doing so well they had some cancellations from participants as they were heading to horse shows over the weekend. Shandro is not worried about the club though, he sees this next step as a strong selling point for them. “We want to see more people get to a higher level of competition.”
Now the board is looking at other classes for members.
“We’re re-tooling now to have a selection of education,” he said.
He is seeing mules getting more into show jumping and driving competitions and the board is responding with a trick training class in October. “For donkeys and mules, yes, you have to approach training differently.”
A well behaved mule is a sign the animal was trained well and Shandro enjoys seeing growth in that area. The five-member board oversees the concerns of 60 members and he is also pleased to have younger riders. Eight teenagers are learning the ropes of mules while they also learn their horse riding skills.
“It’s neat to see them participate with their horses and they’ve picked up mules too,” he said.
Membership ages range from 11 to 79 years old and Shandro’s goal is to continue on with plans past president, Bob Leggette set out.
Next year is the 25th anniversary of the club and Longears Days and organizers are already working on bringing musical acts to weekend.