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The Importance of Helmets When Riding A Mule

mule ranch

Guest Post by Steve Edwards

It’s Not a Matter of If…

Falling off a mule or getting bucked off is only a matter of time. So, when you fall, you need to be protected. Mending a broken arm or leg is tough but it’s done all the time. Mending a head injury, not so easy.

Statistics show that riding is the leading sport with cases of traumatic brain injuries in adults. That means more cases of brain injuries among adult riders are reported than among adult hockey and football players! If true for adults who have more experience riding, what do you think it means for children? For goodness’ sake, put a helmet on your kids. And with these statistics, put one on yourself too.

Don’t Rely on a Stable Animal

Plenty of mules have been trained well. They follow your command and seem like the gentlest creatures on earth. But they are still animals with a strong sense of fright and flight. When they get spooked, they will buck, rear, or kick. Notice I said when they get spooked. It’s not a question of ‘if’.

Let me tell you about a heck of a wreck I had recently! My normal mule over at the Andrada Ranch refused to be caught. But this older gray mule came over to me. So, I got him tacked up, and he was listening to me well, doing a great job. My dog, Jess, runs by the mule on the left. The mule jumps up in the air and kicks hard with his left rear foot. Thank God he didn’t get Jess.

Although I stayed on the mule, I felt like I was broken in two, like someone had hit me with a 2x4. The pain was incredible, and I hadn’t even fallen off the mule!

I continued working that day, and we moved 150 head of cows down the mountain to the arena. That same day, two guys were riding colts, and both of those colts blew up, too.

The next day I caught Rocky, and we caught another 50 head of cows. When we got back, I was still not feeling good. Afterward, I realized I was black and blue. When I called my doctor, he told me I was done. I couldn’t ride anymore for a while.

A Wreck Can Happen to Anybody

So, let’s think about what happened. That was a 20 plus-year-old mule, a seasoned mule. He’s been all over the mountains. Yet a dog startled him and he blew. Then you have two seasoned riders, good riders who had been riding those colts for six months, yet those colts blew.

There was another wreck that day. One of the mules, Dan, is unflappable. Yet a young man dropped a rein. When he bent over to get the reign, the movement startled Dan, and he ran. The young man was able to get him stopped, but not before skinning his face against a tree.

Look folks, Fluffy can hurt you real easy and real bad. I am a seasoned rider and I have had 32 broken bones and two replaced hips. Accidents can and will happen. People get hurt. 

Don’t let your children get a head injury because they don’t want to wear a helmet. Make them put the helmet on or don’t let them ride.

Final Thoughts on Riding with Helmets

I encourage you to get your children riding mules and donkeys. They are great animals and can teach your children great life lessons. But remember, your mule or donkey is not a pet like your dog. The mule will blow up - it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the animal will get spooked.

I encourage you, parents, to wear a helmet, too. Set a good example for your children by wearing a helmet and following good habits around these animals. Pay attention to the mule’s body language and respond appropriately. When you show the proper way to work with these animals, your children will do the same.

I’m Here to Help

It is my pleasure to help new and experienced mule owners find comfort and safety when riding. If you have any problems with your mule or donkey, send me an email, including photos and videos, and I will help you find a solution. Also visit my website, muleranch.com, for lots of free information to help make your time in the saddle more productive and less stressful. Happy Trails!

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