July 26, 2004
If I Were to Design a Mule
by Lisa Fergason,
Equines by Design
The great thing about mules and breeding for mules, is that there are so many different types - draft mules, pony mules, appaloosa mules, and so on. Yet they're all still a longear that we love! So if you're trying to breed for a mule to fit your special preferences and needs, you might as well "design" the mule just the way you want it.
In fact, we named our farm "Equines by Design" to reflect the unique breeding program we use here to raise good mules that were "designed" for our use - trail riding, showing, Dressage, and with the looks, body type (tall with good bone) and color (the good solid colors plus some great buckskins and loud paints and appaloosas). We are happy to be able to enjoy unique hybrid animals in as many different “breed” types as those that are found in the horse world.
Here are some ideas based on 25 years of raising our own mules and observing other peoples' breeding programs that you might want to consider if you want to raise a mule that is just right for you.
I've written several articles about breeding for good mules before, so some of this is repetitive but needs to be said for those who may not have access to previous articles. Disposition is #1 for me. You can have the prettiest mule in the world with world-class conformation, but if it is not good-minded what can you do with it? It's not easy to work with, and not very trainable. So I want a sweet sensible mare for the mule’s momma. And for the Jack, he better be friendly without being aggressive toward people, and have some manners and common sense.
1. Disposition - here are my other considerations in designing the perfect mule. I would choose the jack and mare based on the following in order of importance!
Starting with the mare, she will have the biggest influence on the "breed type" or "performance qualifications" that your mule will get. If you want a draft mule, breed to a draft mare. If you want an endurance mule, then an Arabian mare would be your best bet. But you can get a little bit more specific than that.
If you want a good mule to work cows and rope off of, you will choose a mare (probably a Quarter Horse type) that is sturdy (good boned) but has some agility and speed.
If you want a mule that will win halter classes, you will choose a halter quality mare. If you want a winning Western Pleasure mule, you will get the nicest moving mare you can find - flat and built to travel with hindquarters underneath herself. For a good Hunter/Jumper/Dressage mule, I would use an Appendix Quarter Horse mare, a Thoroughbred or a Draft/Thoroughbred cross that will give me some size and some athleticism.
No matter what type or breed of mare you choose, she should have sound conformation, a good eye, neat throatlatch, neck of adequate length set in well on the chest, straight legs, a short back and a good hip.
As for choosing the sire of your mule, again, the Jack has to have a good disposition and the best possible conformation. The biggest conformation faults I see in jacks are that they are too coarse, their necks are too short and set too straight up, they have long weak backs, they are narrow in the chest and hindquarters and sickle-hocked. I'd try to find a jack that did not have these weaknesses.
In general, for a 15hh+ sized saddle or work animal, I prefer a mammoth jack as the sire. If I were breeding for speed events, endurance racing or wanted a smaller mule with a little "fire", I would go with a large standard jack.
I would like to be able to look at offspring of the mare, and in particular mules that have been sired by the jack. It is important to me that the mule take most of its traits from the horse parent, and I prefer that the donkey parent's genes not be dominant. In other words, mules sired by this jack should tend to have the mare’s characteristics - conformation, size and color.
And finally, color. "A good mule is never a bad color." But we all have our preferences. So here's what I've found in our own breeding program, and learned from visiting with a lot of other professionals who breed for mules.
Black jacks can produce blacks, browns, bays, buckskins and the loud spotted Appaloosas and Paints. Red jacks will usually sire a red mule, a dark red dun, a roan or a sorrel paint. I like a gray jack. They usually produce the color of the mare. Paint jacks may sire paint mules, and just as often produce solid blacks or browns. Often they will also sire white mules, or white mules with light roan coloring.
James and Lisa, owners of Equines by Design, have been involved in raising, training and showing many great mules since 1978. They can't keep them all, so some are for sale. They have shown mules to World and National Champion titles, in events ranging from Showmanship to Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Roping and Dressage. Their mules are started with gentle natural horsemanship techniques learned from riding with Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman and Peter Campbell.
Their mules are raised right, receive a good training foundation and haven't been hurt. They don't come with "baggage". James and Lisa try to expose them to as much as possible, including cattle, roping, hauling them to shows and trail rides.
Posted by Guest Contributor at July 26, 2004 10:02 AM
HI! i'm a new jack owner. been around mules quite a bit, want to raise a few paint mules. i operate a riding stable, so i have several quiet, gentle, tolerant mares (mostly grade,quarter horse type). i bought a standard, spotted jack, 3yrs, 48 inches. he is wonderful. i covered a gruella mare, and grey speckled mare. what are my chances for color? also, i weigh 130, so a large mule is not extremely important. both mares are about 15h, and around 1000+lbs. what am i looking at for mule size? thanks, kathy
Posted by: kathy massey at March 9, 2005 10:50 AM
I have a 15hh Quarter Horse mare that I've gotten horse foals out of, and now I've got "mule fever" and would like to get a mule baby. The mare is 22, though, and her last foal was 5 years ago. There is a jack down the road that is a sweet heart and the owner said I can breed to him in exchange for helping to break him. The only thing is, he's a shorty! He's only 37 1/2 inches tall! If we did get them bred ( ?? ), what type of mule would we end up with?
Posted by: Alyce at March 23, 2006 11:43 AM