As a trainer myself, I love to read articles about mule/horse training. Often, in the same magazine even, I will read conflicting information from different trainers' articles. One may say "never grain your mule" while another says "give your mule a little grain or treat". Or the old shoeing/barefoot debate. Some trainers insist on britchen, some suggest cruppers. There are at least a hundred ways, it seems, to get your critter to stand for mounting, or to turn on the haunches, or even to stop while riding. How to sort through it all?
I think this conflicting information is great. At first it may seem confusing. Especially if you only have one equine to practice on. I suppose it could confuse your critter, too. But, if you are having a problem all this conflicting information can be handy. If your mule doesn't want to stand for you to mount, for example, you can try each method out to see which way your mule understands best to learn from. Then, when he paws at the trailer, someone else's' advice may work best to stop that behavior.
Each mule and horse has his/her own personality. Each can learn the same skills, but not necessarily by the same methods. Often times, the clinicians we all read about will have their own 'signature' method. We'll learn from one fellow how to do things his way, while another says it always works if you do it their way. As we read, we realize they are not telling us the same thing. That doesn't mean that either way is better, or that either way is wrong. It is up to us to figure out how our own equine prefers to learn. It may be with a clicker, or the learning tree, or the round pen. It just might be a little bit of everything.
Striving to be a better horseman/muleskinner means sifting through all of the conflicting information out there and applying what works for your equine. It means learning to communicate with your critter on an individual basis. Always keep in mind, that what worked for Bessy may be completely ignored by Flame, who wants to learn differently. So, instead of getting confused when Tom says "you must train my way" and Tina says " my way is the only way your horse will learn", just take it all in. Try a little of 'this' for 'that' or 'that' for 'this'. When your mule or horse doesn't seem to want to learn something, try changing how you ask. Go ahead and mix and match, a little from this trainers' methods and a little from somebody else's'. It all works sometimes. Nothing works all the time.
And then there is the gear. "This saddle will fit all mules"--no. It may fit many, but nothing will work for all. Not when there are so many different body types out there. There is no one wonder bit that will make your horse a dream to ride. You can choose leather or biothane, wool pads or synthetic. Once again, you must sift through this conflicting information about what tack is best for your mule or horse. You may find the answer easily depending on your equine's job ( are you roping, jumping, cutting, playing polo or trail riding?) You may search long and hard for a saddle that fits your critter well for the job it will do. Or for a bridle setup that will be comfortable and effective. With all the choices and all the information available, it's a good idea to keep an open mind and find what works best for your mule or horse. And remember, if you have more than one equine, what works for Sassy may not suit George.
So, hears to reading the next ten training articles that say ten different things, and to looking at all of those different tack ads! We can certainly learn something from each of them and be entertained to boot!