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MULE CROSSING: An Historical Lady Muleskinner 2017

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By Meredith Hodges

Mules have led me on the journey of a lifetime! My first introduction to mules and donkeys was in 1973 at my mother’s Windy Valley Mule Ranch in Healdsburg, California, where we raised and trained hundreds of mules and donkeys for a variety of uses across America. Many of them we sold to George Chamberlain and they subsequently went to work in the Grand Canyon. At first, I was truly afraid of these animals after hearing all the old myths, but as soon as I met my first mule, I was certain they had to be wrong. Apart from being stronger, tougher and more durable animals, they were also personable, affectionate and quite humorous! Although at that time they were primarily used for packing and driving, their incredible intelligence and conformation led me to believe that they could be trained to become amazing equine athletes! After all, with the addition of the jack’s strength and intelligence, they are always better overall than the horse out of which they were bred.

In 1979, I witnessed my first Bishop Mule Days Sierra Nevada packer’s rendezvous. That was where my career in training mules and donkeys in every recreational equine event began. I was “ass-tonished” at the impeccable way these knowledgeable men and women handled their mules, wagons, packs and equipment with such grace and dignity…and not without a proper measure of good humor! I caught a very bad case of “Mule Fever” and began my own pursuit with Longears in ALL forms of equine athletics. Bishop Mule Days grew from the weekend packer’s rendezvous into the weeklong show over Memorial Day weekend that it is today, adding new classes each year to accommodate the accomplishments of a lot of Longears-lovers like myself along the way. Little did I know, the friendships I started then were to last a lifetime!

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