What’s the most striking difference between the new mule, Jolene, and her horse herdmates?
- Not how she moves.
- Not how she looks.
- It’s how she eats an apple.
When you give Jolene a chunk of apple, she will:
- Smell it
- Take it in her mouth
- Hold it in her mouth while looking at you
- Only then, after a long moment, she will start chewing it.
And so it is. My every intention gets vetted and scrutinized by this guarded, new addition. As expected, my skills are being put to the test as I work on helping Jolene become a more confident, more trusting, and more trail-worthy partner.
These past weeks have been dedicated strictly to ground work. Even leading her can be an exercise in patience and consistency.
Pressure and Release?
Better call it light pressure and immediate release.
From previous experience and a few false starts (see above), Jolene knows bolting can get her away from whatever’s bothering her.
My task, in these early days, is to teach her that bolting means more work and will be less comfortable than just hanging out with me. Round pen work has been effective in getting her to understand I can make her move as well as give her relief.
She moves to a trot easily. No whips or sticks necessary, just pressure with my eyes, arms, and body position. She stops quickly when I relax and stop directing her. She’ll let me approach and give her a rub. But she doesn’t follow me around like our other horses will.