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Mule With Envy

The mule in my lifeI've been turning out the other horses that belong to Pippi's owners this week. They're traveling, so I signed up to turn out Couch and Blondie a few of the days so they could have some exercise vs. being in their stalls.

Pippi, the mule I sponsor, noticed immediately that she was not the first to receive my attentions. She immediately changed her behavior. She watched with big eyes and interest as I led the others to the paddocks where they could romp.

Leading her and saddling was suddenly not as easy as a dream after she watched me attend to the others first. Her latest kick (not literally, though I still have a slight hoof-shaped discoloration) has been she won't walk to where she gets saddled and bridled, so I've gotten real creative about the minimum structure I need to tie her up to. Blade of grass anyone? No. Too damn smart.

Since April, Pippi has been my girlhood dream of having a horse...come true. She's also been 1300 lbs. of whatever behavior she puts her mind to. All my skills, cumulative years around horses (with not one second left to spare), and luck have been put to the test dealing with her smarter, stronger, "far more willful than a horse" mule ways. To boot, in May and June she was in heat, which really made her hard to deal with. You can't do much with a working creature that won't abide by your requests to "go left," or "go right" and who is generally in a mood to be extremely difficult.

Ms. Pippi Longstockings, mule, threatening expression

But there has been a ton of improvement. We're cantering well, getting smoother in transitions between flat walk (her special fast walk inherited in her genes from her mother who was a Tennessee Walker) and trot. She's doing much less frequent running headlong into the gate, giving small bucks and other assorted naughties with the intent to intimidate (or have me go flying over her head, her most likely objective). We're getting ready to start working on jumping too- which is really exciting (haven't done that since college)!

Besides being a fantastic metaphor for other areas of my life, I realize now that Piperoo does love me. It's like being a parent and for some reason, your teenage kids who haven't said much to you all week suddenly decide it's okay to say (or show, in the case of mule children) "I love you." I could tell she didn't want me to leave. She wanted me to stay and rub the large veins inside her ears. When you rub her ears, she places her whole head right into your arms. It is the sweetest gesture of love and surrender I've ever seen from an equine.

It's okay to be envious--and to change your tack when something new happens (my uncle who is Pun King was just in town- sorry!) in the day-to-day, but it's also most important to say "I love you" once in a while. Better to take the risk and put it out there, even if words are too inadequate or too precise. There are a multitude of ways to say or show it. Take it from a mule.

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