Mules, not riders, set pace at competition

Mule owners consider the animals' temperament more a matter of intelligence than stubbornness.

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Russ Anderson and Gina Deschamps, from Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, drive a mule team toward the Dayton Fairgrounds to participate in the first annual Mule Mania event this weekend.

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Surveying the scene at the Dayton Fairgrounds, Elly Bageant, 2, keeps a serious face while waiting to ride out on a mule named Izzy. Bageant attended the first Mule Mania event in Dayton over the weekend with her family.

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Suited up for a performance, Bunny sports a cardplayer's mark on her bridle while being ridden by owner Bill Hatfield, from Yacolt, Washi., at the first annual Mule Mania event in Dayton Saturday.

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Frances Hathaway, from Corvallis, Ore., greets a donkey while holding on to her mule Rachel before the Grand Entry Saturday afternoon during the first annual Mule Mania event at the Dayton Fairgrounds.

DAYTON - More than 100 mules and their owners took part in a variety of competitions and demonstration Thursday through Saturday at the first Mule Mania.

For those who were expecting to see something like barrel racing, team penning or rodeo events at the fair, mule competitions don't have the same temperament as other equine competitions.

"A mule does everything because he wants to. A horses does it out of repetition and fear, because you are the dominant one," Mule Mania promoter Barney Chambers said.

What that meant was that often the competitions turned out to be rather funny, as riders tried to convince their mules to jump a two-foot hurdle or traverse in and out of poles, with the mules often winning in their choice of direction.

"The really well-trained ones will really get the idea. They will do what you want them to do," Chambers said.

It was obvious at Friday's mule games that not all the donkey-horse crosses were well trained.

But don't call them stubborn, said event coordinator Bobbi Chambers.

"They (people in general) just think they are stubborn old pack mules because that is what Hollywood has made them out to be," Chambers said.

Watching the reluctant long-eared equines, it became obvious why Hollywood developed such a stereotype.

"They will do anything in the world. You just can't force them to do something they are not comfortable with," Barney Chambers said.

In spite of their reliance on reasoning, not to be confused with stubbornness, Chambers pointed out that mules were instrumental in settling the West.

Their ability to work longer, work harder and eat less than a horse has been known and valued as far back as ancient Sumaria.

As for being strong-willed, it only added to the fun, as riders and their mules competed.

Though sometimes it looked as if the riders were competing against their own mules.

"Mule people don't take any of this serious, they really don't," Barney Chambers said.

As for being stubborn, mule owners consider it more of a matter of intelligence.

"They are just thinking. They just think their way through ... The big thing is they will never get their rider in trouble because they won't ever get in trouble," Chambers said.

The fourth and final day of Mule Mania takes place today in Dayton and begins at 7 a.m. with Cowboy Church, followed by mule and donkey performances and competitions and a high points award presentation at 4:30 p.m.

All events are free to the public and held at the fairgrounds.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.


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