Mules en­gage and delight the crowd

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - AN­NETTE BEARD abeard@nwadg.com

With names like “You’re a Daisy if You Do,” “Ra­gin’ Ros­ter,” “Comet,” “Clover,” “Bulls Eye,” “Mighty Mouse” and “Radar,” and col­ors rang­ing from white to dun to sor­rel and black, the mules — both jen­nies and johns — short and tall, stood still for the hal­ter judg­ing, ran through poles with minc­ing steps, length­ened their strides as they raced for the finish in the bar­rel races and aimed for the sky as they jumped over a cur­tain some­times higher than their eyes and of­ten higher than their with­ers.

The 29th an­nual Pea Ridge Mule Jump had more than 3,500 peo­ple in at­ten­dance with mules from three states — Arkansas, Mis­souri and Ok­la­homa — com­pet­ing with their mules. Many have been at­tend­ing and com­pet­ing for decades.

The mules, and their han­dlers, dis­played vary­ing tem­per­a­ments from the pranc­ing Radar to the calm Dan.

“Dan’s been a long­time fa­vorite of the Pea Ridge Mule Jump,” an­nouncer Kent Mor­ris said. “Ole Radar gets ex­cited and feeds off the crowd. Ole Dan could care less what any of you say or do. He’s go­ing to be Dan. He’s go­ing to walk up there, look at it and he’s go­ing to do that right there” he said as Dan calmly cleared 60 inches.

This year’s win­ner, Sadie, from Ozark, Mo., won last year, too. She cleared 63 inches, higher than her with­ers, a height over which she was not able to see without rais­ing her head.

The pro jump, with a prize of $1,250, an en­graved leather hal­ter, a Mon­tana Sil­ver­smith belt buckle and a rosette … sec­ond place re­ceived $550, a tro­phy and a rosette, and third place re­ceived $200, a tro­phy and a rosette.

In all mule classes, ex­cept the pro jump prizes, each first place win­ner re­ceived $30 and a rosette, sec­ond place re­ceived $20 and a rosette, and third place re­ceive $10 and a rosette.

The Negel Hall Me­mo­rial High Point awards are pre­sented to the top point achiever in each of three classes — youth, adult and se­nior. Each win­ner re­ceived

$500, a Mon­tana Sil­ver­smith belt buckle and a rosette.

The pro jump, the high­light of the event, be­gan mid-af­ter­noon after all other events had been com­pleted. It be­gan with seven mules, from the short Bax­ter, who was com­pet­ing in his fi­nal mule jump, to the tall, 30-yearold Radar, the mules ex­hib­ited their per­son­al­i­ties as they took their turns.

The cur­tain was ini­tially set at 45 inches and each cleared, again and again un­til Bax­ter re­fused to jump over 52 inches. Then, Mav­er­ick, a tall sor­rell mule quit at 59 inches.

Lit­tle, by lit­tle, inch by inch, the cur­tain was raised — from 45 to the even­tual high mark of 63 inches. Mules, and their heights cleared were Sadie, 63” owned by Les Clancy of Ozark, Mo.; Radar, 62” owned by Mike Call of Hen­ley, Mo.; Dan, 61” owned by J.R. Fletcher of Jacket, Mo.; Mav­er­ick, 59” owned by Fletcher; Miss Kitty, 58” owned by Cyndi Nel­son, Cameron, Mo.; Luke, 58” owned by Clancy; and Bax­ter, 52,” owned by by Jerry Nel­son of Cameron, Mo.

This year, there were 41 mules and 31 han­dlers and rid­ers, many of whom were re­lated to one another. One long­time com­peti­tor, Joe Sams, de­pended on his daugh­ter, Becki Sams, and grand­daugh­ter, Maranda Stites, to show his mules as he re­cently had surgery.

The judge, Allen McBur­nett, a 2003 grad­u­ate of Pea Ridge High School and a 2006 grad­u­ate of Heart­land Horse Shoe­ing School in La­mar, Mo., is a ferrier.

“I grew up with horses. I’m in the horse busi­ness and have been rodeo­ing my en­tire life,” he said. McBur­nett and his wife, Lind­say, have a 4-month old daugh­ter, Hadley. He is the son of Doyle McBur­nett and Deb­bie Street of Pea Ridge.

How does he judge? “Con­for­ma­tion, that’s my em­pha­sis,” he said, ex­plain­ing that he looks at how straight the legs are, how the body fits the legs, how the neck comes out of the back, how the tail is set. “Stuff like that is go­ing to influence me.”

McBur­nett said mules are be­ing bred bet­ter than in years past when farm­ers would take “any old don­key and breed it to Grandpa’s mare.”

“We’re now be­ing a lit­tle more se­lec­tive,” he said.

TIMES pho­to­graph by An­nette Beard

Mule judge Allen McBur­nett, left, mea­sures the height of the raised cur­tain as Don and Harold Shock­ley of Pow­ell, Mo., as­sist dur­ing the 29th an­nual Pea Ridge Mule Jump.

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