Competition gives owners, animals experience
TEES, Alta. — There weren’t many mules and donkeys at this year’s Tees Long Ears Days.
That’s because mules have become so popular that owners haul their animals to the paying competitions.
“Once they get experienced, they enter competitive shows,” said Russ Shandro, president of the Alberta Donkey and Mule club.
He said the 24th annual Tees Long Ears Days is a mixture of fun, camaraderie and experience for beginners.
“The better mules are at paying competitions. This one doesn’t pay nothing,” said Shandro. “This is an introduction to mules. ”
The Tees event features showmanship classes, but most of the classes are designed to be fun and give mules and riders a weekend of experience.
Events include potato races, log pulling obstacle courses and coon jumping.
Coon jumping originated with American hunters who rode their mules chasing raccoons. When they got to a fence, riders would crawl off their mules and crawl over the fence while the mules would leap over the fence from a standstill.
Across Alberta, mules are competing in barrel racing, team roping and jumping at the prestigious Spruce Meadows show jumping venue, said Shandro, who has won team roping competitions and mountain horse competitions with his mule.
Shandro bought his first mule in 1986 for $1,800, which was thought to be an astronomical price to pay for a mule at the time.
“We just hit it off,” Shandro said about Red Mulroney.
The pair chased cattle, team roped and raced at the Bruce Stampede. More importantly, it taught other riders the beauty of riding a mule.
“The mule taught numerous beginners,” said Shandro.
However, many people are also buying mules to use as pack animals or for riding on Alberta’s network of mountain trails.
“Alberta is the hotbed for mules in Canada,” he said.
Shandro said the Alberta Donkey and Mule Association organizes demonstrations across the province to promote the animals.
“As a club, we take pride in going to demonstrations.”
He also hopes the growing interest in donkeys and mules will entice people back to Tees next year for the show’s 25th anniversary celebrations