Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Magical Southern Mule Adventure!

By Guest Blogger: Judy Reynolds, Oregon

Thanks to Shannon, I just experienced a Magical Southern Mule Adventure that I will never forget! We have been emailing for a year or so, about mules, Shannon has given me some good tips about mule behavior and training – I have a nine year old Molly mule named Ruby. We got introduced, via email because Shannon now works for Dr. Mansmann, whom I used to work for when his practice was in California.
I had to fly from Oregon to Nashville for a radio interview for the book I wrote ( and Shannon invited me to join her for a mule adventure – turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

My flight came in around 10pm at Raleigh Airport—but the luggage decided to hold back, so we had to stick around until nearly midnight to retrieve it before heading to Shannon’s little farm. Up with the birds the next morning to load up Shannon’s two wonderful mules, Sadie and Seven, for the five hour dive to Tryon, NC, in an area called the Foothills because it is hilly and at the foot of the Smokey Mountains. There sweet Holly and kindly Bruce hosted us as their guests for two days of trail riding.

Tryon is true horse country. With a population of just 1300, it has 250 miles of private trails. These trails are open only to residents and their guests. They are for horse travel only. During the two days, we covered quite a bit of territory. We crossed creeks and sat by waterfalls. We rode high ridges with pine trees and rust red soil. We rode past huge, historic mansions with vast, rolling green pastures and picture perfect scenes of equines at play. Our mules traversed deep forests (including a stand of bamboo!), rode past cross country jumps, saw the backside of a big horse show and met only three other riders during two days.

Our first day we set out from Holly and Bruce’s place, down a big hill and through a creek, then up into the woods. Shannon’s mule Sadie was my first ride. She’s a lady, a kindly packer who would make anyone feel comfortable on a mule. She knew her job and was polite as can be—although she’s a big girl with an appetite and just couldn’t resist grabbing at a passing leaf or grass clump from time to time! Her trot was like riding in a Cadillac, though her canter is such a rolling event that you need to ride it in the two-point position. At the end of that ride, Shannon put me on Seven, her big dressage mule. He rounded up so nicely I could tell right away this was a very well trained character who had all the bells and whistles if you took a bit of time to find them.

The next day, Libby Johnson of Tryon (who writes a newsletter about the community) joined us for her first mule ride ever (on Sadie). Shannon rode one of Holly’s mules, Holly rode another of her own, Bob the trail master (a neighbor and friend) was on his spunky Tennessee Walking Horse and I got to ride Seven. He was as much a gentleman as Sadie was a lady and didn’t make one false move during the entire nine hour ride. Yes, you heard that right…nine hours in the saddle we were, getting off occasionally to walk helped relieve some stiffness. Libby was an absolute trooper about the extending ride time, as were all the mules. Shannon rode through a buck, all the more impressive for it being on the steep side of a hill, her mule got punched with a sharp stick.

Kudos to Bob and Holly for not getting us lost…we barely crossed the same path twice…and my deepest thanks to Shannon, Sadie and Seven for this incredible mule adventure! Mules are more than just sure footed—they are really fun!

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