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Mule Days in Westmoreland, Tennessee

Updated on August 7, 2017

A Wonderful Week of Mules

It was sunny and the early fall temperatures were in the 70's during the Westmoreland Mule Day Celebration. It's now in its the third year at the Expo Center in Westmoreland Tennessee, which isn't bad for a town with a population under 3000.

The idea behind it is to increase awareness about mules, and I did learn a lot and had fun over the weekend.

You may know mules are a hybrid of a male donkey and a female horse, but there's so much more. Because the main physical characteristics of the mule will come from the horse mother, they are bred for many different sizes and colors.

On Saturday, there was a parade through the historic city square in Westmoreland. This picture doesn't do justice to these super-sized Draft mules (especially if you are barely five feet tall!) Most men's eyes are even with these creature's back, and there's still a whole mule head above that! These mules can have a Mammoth Jack donkey dad and a Clydesdale or Belgian-sized mom, meaning "baby" may grow up to be a 5'6" (from the neck down) Draft mule, weighing in at about 1,300 pounds. When you are standing beside them it's very clear they are the largest and heaviest mule breed.

There were single and double mule wagons and single riders showing off a variety of mules. The first thing I learned this week was the wide variety of size and coloring of mules. I'd certainly never seen pure white mules - this week I saw four - one of them a miniature, all very beautiful.

(I took all the pictures shown in this lens except the Barrel Race).

Daily Wagon Train Through the Back Roads

There was a Wagon Train in the mornings, setting out around 8:30, setting off down winding country roads, returning around 4 p.m. Each day the wagons and single-riders logged around 20-25 miles, ending with about 88 miles total.

This is a picture of the mules being hitched up, called a "double hitch".

Santa Claus and the Molokai Mules
Santa Claus and the Molokai Mules

Worried Santa Claus will not be able to find his island in a bad storm, a boy comes up with a plan to get Santa's attention as he flies over. Beautifully told and illustrated by no fewer than 25 two- page watercolor on canvas illustrations.

 

Kid's Activities

There were a lot of activities for the kids, such a stick horse-race. There were rubber inflatable castles to bounce around in

There were a lot of learning opportunities for kids, although many of them probably knew more than I did. I learned the way to tell the difference between a mule and a donkey was to look at the tail. Mules will always have a horse-like tail even though it will always just hang, and not carried high the way some horses do.

Cracker's Mule
Cracker's Mule

One day Cracker and Papa go to a livestock auction and Papa lets him buy a small mule. The mule turns out to be blind and Cracker suffers ridicule while caring for the animal he comes to love. Throughout the adventures and dangers of summer he teaches the mule to respond to his voice and together they learn to plow.

 

Four Year Old Boy on a Three Year Old Mini Mule - Growing Up and Learning Together

Four Year Old Boy on a Three Year Old Mini Mule -   Growing Up and Learning Together
Four Year Old Boy on a Three Year Old Mini Mule - Growing Up and Learning Together

The Mule Whisperer

Most of us have heard of the movie, "The Horse Whisperer", or of Cesar Millan," the Dog Whisperer", but Steve Edwards of Queen Valley, Arizona is known as "the Mule Whisperer". Many of the people I talked to there were very excited he was there and planned on attending his clinic to give advice for dealing with "troublesome" mules and donkeys, which usually includes the owner who is missing cues or communication clues the mule is giving out. As much as I'm interested in animal communciation, I don't have a mule or know anyone who does, so I didn't spend the extra money. Maybe if he comes back next year ... I know I will definitely be coming back.

These mules looked like they were standing around having their own conversation.

Mule in the Mail
Mule in the Mail

A toy mule longs for a home but undergoes some fearful adventures before that wish becomes reality.

 

Famous Mules

Ruth - "Gunsmoke" - belonged to Festus

Blue - "The Waltons"

Gus - from the 1976 Disney movie "Gus"

Francis - from the 7 movies about a talking mule

Taz - A Champion racing mule (So good, he's been cloned - twice).

Gaited Mules

I kept hearing the terms gaited mules and western mules for class events. I finally learned that a gaited mule have mothers that were Tennessee Walking Horse, Foxtrotter and others. It's even desirable for the donkey father to have a smooth step to produce the best gaited mules.. Unlike the large heavy draft mule, the value of these mules is in the smoothness of their gait, which makes them good trail mules, less bouncing about on the backside is more comfortable for the rider on long trails. So a gaited mule has a smooth step besides a walk and also not a trot. There are several types of gaits the Judge called out, including to stop and reverse direction, and for the each rider to choose his favorite (or his mule's) best gait. While I was very impressed how graceful and light on their feet these mules were, I'm not skilled enough to really see the differences in the types of gaits.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone to explain what made a Western Mule, a Western Mule - but I'm still hoping to do some follow-up calls and find out.

Mule people are determined to prove that anything a good horse can do, a good mule can do better.

What Do (Would) You Prefer? A Mule or a Horse?


"I have been on many a mountain in the Western U.S. where a horse which is not as sure footed as a mule would have not be as safe. So for me I will take the mule which will take me places safely that a horse might not go."

bofirebear 4 years ago


"COUNTRYLUTHIER AKA MIssissippi Mule Man goes with mule every single time. I learned a lot as a kid and have appreciated these hard workers every since.I'm a bit envious since I cannot attend the week long festivities down in TN. I'll just add that to my bucket list. Many thanks for sharing such a great lens! Previously blessed. I will be back to visit."

E L Seaton 4 years ago from Virginia


Miniature Mules

They're Stronger Than They Look

Saturday was also the Mini Mules and donkey show with over 100 entrants. The Mini Mules can't be taller than 40 inches from their neck's base to the ground and the Mini Donkeys can't be more than 36 inches. They competed in a variety of events involving obstacle courses, jumping courses, pleasure driving, and pulling a log through an obstacle course. It's very impressive watching the Mini-Mules jump fences from a standing still position with no forward momentum like a jumping horse. I also found out people like mules for hunting racoons because they are more sure footed and easily jump fences.

More Events

There was Barrel Racing for the gaited, faster mules and a Mule Pull for the drafts.

Another popular competition was the Driving Class on Saturday afternoon.

For the small entry fee of just $5.00 drivers had the chance to participate in:

1. Lady Drivers 2 Mule Hitch

2. Draft Horse 2 Hitch

3. Skill driving 2 Mules Open- Driving Skills & Teamwork to be

Judged

4. 2 Mule hitch Show Wagon

Photo provided courtesy of the American Donkey and Mule Society. (c) 2004

A Whole Lot Going On

Inside the Expo building, vendors had set up a Flea Market; outside, near the the mule barn, was the mouthwatering aromas of cooking food for sale, kettle corn and flavored pork rinds were a popular choice. There were also several trailers selling saddle tack and Mule magazines. There were also mules for sale.

For musical entertainment, Friday's bands featured 50's and 60's country music favorites and country rock.

Saturday featured Gospel music entertainment inside the expo building and later that night, "The World's Largest Barn Dance",

Cowboy Church finished it all off on Sunday.

Although I think they were really hoping I'd brought some extra food, I talked to and petted a few friendly mules who approached me in their pens. This guy had wanted to be petted and stuck his head between the bars so I could reach him. But as I walked over to another pen, he streeeetched up his neck and flung his head over the gate. I'm short, and had to point the camera up to quickly get this shot. On my way back out, he got a bit more attention before I left.

I had a great time, the people were friendly and loved to have the opportunity to tell stories about their mules. I learned a lot. I'd always thought mules were just plough animals. Next year when I return, I will understand and enjoy even more.

If you see a Mule Day Celebration anywhere near you, take the family, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

What do you think of mules? - Comments?

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    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 3 years ago

      I've never met one I didn't like.

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 3 years ago

      Never count a mule short! Mules are a different kind of animal all together. Mules have gotten a bad rap for years because people have not really taken the time to learn or be around them. If given a choice, the mule will far outweigh the horse for any given task. Just ask Festus! Anyway, it sounds as though you had a learning experience and an enjoyable weekend in TN. Appreciate you sharing this delightful lens about a misunderstood animal. Thank You for stopping by my Grilled-n-Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burgers lens and giving it a "thumbs up". I really appreciate it. Hope you enjoy the portobello recipe. Bon Appetit!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 4 years ago from State of Confussion

      When I saw this lens the only thing I thought about was Francis. Thanks for more than I was expecting.

    • bofirebear profile image

      bofirebear 4 years ago

      Great lens on my buddies the friendly mules.

    • theallin1writer profile image

      theallin1writer 4 years ago

      If ever I had a mule I would name her Buttercup. I have no idea why :)

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      It looks like a fun time in Westmoreland.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 4 years ago

      Great tribute to mules who are often overlooked

    • Mark Shearman profile image

      Mark Shearman 4 years ago from Alicante Spain

      Great lens, thank you for sharing.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      I always loved the "Francis the Mule" movies, and learned a lot about them here.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      I like mules. So thank you for publishing this. Wish you the best.