Mules engage and delight the crowd
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.
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.