Me and my mule had a few problems when it came time to lead him around on a lead line. I like a nice polite, well behaved animal when I have to lead it around for whatever reason. Animals can be a huge joy or a huge pain in the butt and what makes the difference is manners. I can spend the whole day around a well behaved animal but can’t get away from an annoying one fast enough. Animals like people are not born knowing, so we have to teach them.
Here is how I taught my mule Charlie how to walk on the lead line and stand with manners.
Step 1. No chain over the nose and hold the lead line loose with a droop in it. Two or three feet from the clip. Make sure to use a 12 foot lead line with a leather popper at the end.
Step 2. Teach your mule to take three or four steps back while you are facing him. Try and stand up straight with a bit of authority, not to aggressive but not like a tired person looking for a chair. Hold the lead line with a droop about three feet from the clip and look at the mule and give the command “back” and give the lead line a little tug tug. At first your mule is not going to have a clue what you are asking him to do. I give my mule plenty of time to figure things out in his mind before I increase the Pressure. so after doing the little tug tug a few times, I will increase the pressure by lifting both arms, palms open and facing the mule and give a little back, back, back motion. Remember we don’t want to scare him off so he turns to leave, so be gentle but direct. Practice that until you get it, and from then on every time you have your mule on the lead line make him back a few steps. I love to say “back ” every time while I back Charlie because Mules and horses learn a few verbal commands and back is at the top of my list.
Step 3. Always, always, always turn and ask you mule to stand square. Standing square is standing with the two front feet even and the two back feet even. This pays off big time down the road. When people talk about “building a good foundation” this lead Line stuff is what they are talking about.
Step 4. Mapping out a two or three mile safe walking loop keeps things relaxed and enjoyable. Walking is super healthy for us too.
Stand on the left side of your mule and keep a droop In The lead line. In your right hand hold the lead line two or three feet from the clip. Hold the extra slack in the right hand also. In your left hand you are going to have about three feet of rope with the leather popper or a knot on the end to twirl like an airplane propeller.
(Your going to have to walk and chew gum for this next part ?)
Now just start walking and if your mule tries to pass you the twirling lead line will bop him in the nose, again it takes time for him to figure things out in his brain so don’t expect perfection. Charlie got bopped a LOT before he decided it is more enjoyable to walk next to me than to get bopped. I did about two lessons a week. They are all different so give them a chance to get it.