The old cowboy stories of using a belle mare to keep your herd gathered are definitely true when working with the majority of the mules. As seen on numerous trips into the Yellowstone Park and the surrounding mountains, Jake turns all the mules loose to graze and pickets one gray (belle) mare in the middle of the grassy meadow. After all have eaten and it is time to saddle up, Jake treks down to the belle mare, unties her and begins his return back to camp.
Just like the ole Pied Piper, the mules begin following the mare to camp. They come out from behind trees, from over hills and up from the creek. A general parade returns the mules to camp, where they are caught and saddled for their next journey into the Wyoming Wilderness.
You can fight leading a horse for days...they may pull back daily. You could take a mule that has never been used in the hills, tie the mule in a pack string and take off. The mule might have a problem knowing which side of the tree the animal in front of him went on, but by the third time of getting his head pulled off...that mule will not get caught on the wrong side of a tree after that. Our mules don't pull back in a pack string, in fact they very seldom tighten their lead rope. They know their job and they are a real pleasure to work with.
What is our choice of mule type....We have used draft cross mules and quarter horse cross mules. The draft cross Belgian mule has very good temperament and is easy going. We have found that they are less agile and some of the ones we used bowed their tendons. The quarter horse mules did not bow any tendons, and very seldom needed veterinary assistance, so we continue to use the quarter horse cross mule.
A mule with a bad habit ....When you have a mule with a bad habit, it might not change. If they are smart enough to have a quirk around you, you might be able to keep him from doing it , but a lot of times the mule will do it with the next owner. There are mules with problems ...I just know that is the way they are...just like people...and I use them accordingly. I can use the mules enough to get them gentler or friendlier, but once they have a bad habit....it takes a lot to get them out of their habit and keep them that way. Mules are just like kids, when you let them get away with something....they will remember...and they will try you again and again. It's a sport for them. By the time they've done something three times...it's a habit.