4-H’ers learn all about mules

Record Observer - - News - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — Mem­bers of the Dream Rid­ers 4-H Club of Queen Anne’s County re­cently vis­ited the farm of Garon and Donna Stutz­man in Cen­tre­ville to learn about a less ex­posed equine — the mule. Of the three eques­trian 4-H clubs in Queen Anne’s County, all have fo­cused on horses as their project an­i­mals of in­ter­est. There are many dif­fer­ent breeds of horses, most with par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­ties they per­form: Thor­ough­breds, Ap­paloosas, Quar­ter horses, Warm­bloods, Paints, Haflingers, to men­tion just a few. That doesn’t in­clude the va­ri­ety of ponies that are also mem­bers of the equine fam­ily.

Mules are cre­ated by breed­ing a don­key with a horse. Some­thing most peo­ple don’t know (un­less you own a mule), mules can­not pro­duce off­spring. There can be male and fe­male mules, but they are es­sen­tially ster­ile. They can­not re­pro­duce. Again, the only way to get a mule is to breed a don­key and horse to­gether. Their foal will be a mule.

Garon Stutz­man moved to Cen­tre­ville about 20 years ago from Mid­dle­burg, Va. He is a re­tired sub-sur­face util­ity en­gi­neer with a passion for mules. His passion was ev­i­dent as he spent about 15 min­utes talk­ing to the 4-H mem­bers about the his­tory of mules and their dif­fer­ences with horses.

“Mules are very sen­si­tive, and ver y in­tel­li­gent,” Stutz­man said. “A mule has ex­tra­or­di­nary senses. It can sense real danger, and if you’re rid­ing one, it will refuse to take you into what it per­ceives as a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.”

He told a story about a friend who was on a trail ride, and the mule he was rid­ing re­fused to jump a tree that had fallen and was lay­ing across the ground. That was very un­usual, as this mule was ac­com­plished in jump­ing. Af­ter dis­mount­ing, the friend dis­cov­ered a rat­tlesnake hid­den from view un­der the fallen tree. The mule sensed danger. Once the snake was re­moved, the mule jumped the log.

“A mule has a sense of preser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion,” said Stutz­man.

In the 1990s, Stutz­man and two friends, Mered­ith Hodges of Colorado and Lloyd Ha­ley of Arkansas, be­came the first eques­tri­ans to ever ride plea­sure rid­ing mules in an in­au­gu­ral pa­rade — it was for Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. In his home Stutz­man proudly dis­plays a paint­ing of that day with he and his friends mounted on their mules while dressed in fox hunt­ing eques­trian at­tire on the lawn of the U.S Capi­tol in down­town Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Stutz­man said, “The mule is the only an­i­mal of­fi­cially buried in Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery. It was buried there to honor the long his­tory of mules used in mil­i­tary ser­vice.”

Garon and Donna Stutz­man then took the 4-H’ers out­side to their barn. Garon hooked up two of his mules to a wagon and took all of the 4-H’ers on a tour of his farm in his wagon, pulled along by the mules. Donna later al­lowed sev­eral of the 4-H’ers to ride her dres­sage-trained mule as she walked along­side to as­sure safety.

Dream Rid­ers 4-H Club Pres­i­dent Grace Park said, “The Stutz­mans were so kind to have in­vited us to their farm and pro­vid­ing so much in­for­ma­tion and ac­tiv­i­ties with their mules. It was very in­ter­est­ing.”

On their din­ning room ta­ble, the Stutz­mans had nu­mer­ous books all about mules, in­clud­ing one about the Bo­rax 20-Mule Team, fa­mous for its cross­ings of Death Val­ley in Cal­i­for­nia.

Garon an­nounced, “They’re com­ing here to our farm next Jan­uary (2017) be­fore they will per­form, pulling their wagon in the next pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ral pa­rade in late Jan­uary.”

The Bo­rax mule team will stay and train at the Stutz­mans’ farm be­fore their ap­pear­ance.

Garon said, “I want to ar­range for the pub­lic to come here to watch the mules train be­fore the pa­rade.”

Lo­gis­tics to make that pos­si­ble have not yet been worked out. How­ever, when that hap­pens, it will be pub­lished in the news­pa­pers for peo­ple to make ar­range­ments for their visit.

The Stutz­mans also did a free clinic and demon­stra­tion about mules at the state 4-H Horse Jam­boree at the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Park in July, which 88 young peo­ple from 12 coun­ties around the state at­tended. QA 4-H ed­u­ca­tor Chris­tine John­ston re­marked, “That clinic was amazing!”

PHO­TOS BY DOUG BISHOP

Mem­bers of the Dream Rid­ers 4-H Club and friends are pic­tured in­side the barn of Garon and Donna Stutz­man of Cen­tre­ville with one of the Stutz­man mules. Pic­tured, from the left, Chase Van­der­hoff, Sophia Kolobow, Levi Marx be­ing held by Maken­zie Miller, “Jenny” the mule, Rachel Grabowski, Mae Har­ring­ton, Grace Park, Leah Van­der­hoff, Skyler Po­draza, Wil­low Po­draza, and Brooke Love­less. The 4-H’ers learned about the dif­fer­ences be­tween mules and horses dur­ing a re­cent clinic held there.

“A wagon load of fun!” From the left, Garon Stutz­man of Cen­tre­ville points the di­rec­tion he wanted 4-H leader Karen Marx to go as he pro­vided a wagon guided tour of his farm pulled by his duo team of mules. He pro­vided an ed­u­ca­tional clinic teach­ing mem­bers of the Dream Rid­ers 4-H Club about the his­tory and uses of mules. Garon and his wife, Donna, have a passion for this breed of the equine fam­ily.

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