ALHFAM 2016: School of the Mule

Enjoy the guest post below by School of the Mule participant Cody Joliff. Also look for videos of the workshop on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #ALHFAM16. The videos will also be up on soon.


School of the Mule at ALHFAM 2016 was a fun learning experience. We had attended other equine classes and workshops in the past that mostly focused on harness and driving of draft horses but not the entire care of the animal. School of the Mule was very extensive with great instructors. Melvin Wheat is a volunteer at Rural Life Museum and an avid hostler or mule driver. His assistant was Claud Brock who has lots of experience with equine as well.


The day started off with preparing the mules for work. Gus and Fred got their mane and tails trimmed. The mane serves no purpose and get caught in the collar and the headstall and can irritate the animal when working. Then we floated the teeth. As mules eat, they grind down the inside of their teeth and the outside edge becomes razor sharp from the calcium deposits. We checked their teeth then ground them down to where they were flat and could grind up their food. Next the hooves were cleaned and trimmed. Next we harnessed and drove the mules both ground driving and driving a farm wagon around the grounds.

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School of the Mule gave participants a real understanding of how mules operate and how to care for them. Personally I really enjoy the classes even when I worked at a site that will never have mules. Almost all of us interpret a time period when horses or mules are the basic power for transportation so everyone should be familiar. I found I could better interpret how harness, plows and wagons worked after attending the classes. When touring people through the museum and historic site I could explain vividly what the experience is like. You can’t understand from just reading a book or diary. I hope if you’re not familiar with historic use mules you’ll take a workshop in the future.

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3 thoughts on “ALHFAM 2016: School of the Mule”

  1. Thanks for posting – and to the picture taker! you and who? Would love to include these in the Proceedings of the 2016 meeting, so if inclined, let me know. Then this will be a part of the permanent record of ALHFAM 2016.

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