Now that we’re having somewhat cooler weather I’m trying to get back into the habit of going for walks in the evening. Our two dogs, HOSS and Sassy (SassyfrASS) usually go with me. I’m sure we ALL need the exercise, both mentally and physically! So that I don’t have to mess with leashes I usually walk the “Back 40” instead of going out on the road. We only have just over 40 acres total, so this back area is probably only a smidge over 30 acres, but the “Back 40” is what it’s always been called – the wild acreage out beyond the barn.
Not counting the recent weeks of Millie’s recovery (see previous posts about her Mast Cell Tumor removal surgery), I’ve let the mules out in the “Back 40” to browse this summer. The pasture is large, but is not cross-fenced. The recent drought and the mules have really put a strain on the poor pasture, which is just native grasses. We’ve had some rain recently, so with Millie being mostly healed I’ve turned them out again. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement on the pasture by spring.
So the mules were out in the “Back 40” and just as the dogs and I were heading across the pasture I noticed them come into their corral. As I went out the gate I called to them, telling them to “Come ‘round” as I continued going on my way. Millie quickly came around and joined us on the main trail. Dancer was a little more hesitant about the whole thing, but didn’t want to be left behind! As I made it to the first turn she came up at a quick trot to join us, too. So there we were, a merry train, two mutts, two mules and myself.
I wasn’t sure how long the mules might keep walking with us, but their curiosity must have got the better of them as they kept following us right on through the brush and briars. I should have had on long pants, instead of Capri, or at least long socks! More than once I had to stop to removed a strand of spiny Green Briar from my flesh… Yeah, my “walks” more often than not become “hikes”. On and on I walked, ducking under low hanging branches, stepping over exposed roots, winding my way along the perimeter fence.
With the heat of summer, and my crazy schedule of late, I cannot honestly recall the last time I went on a really good, long walk-about. I could really see the “mowing” work the mules have been doing. It had become quite over-grown back there, so in some ways their manicure work has been helpful. Still, I can’t help but morn the wild flowers that would usually be blooming back there, even this late in the year. The Chin Oak has really made a pest of itself in a few areas of the truck path, and unfortunately the girls don’t seem to have much of a taste for it. Not, at least, when there are so many good grasses and forbs back there!
When I came back to where the main trail goes from the barn to the stock tank Dancer seemed to make a decision NOT to continue to the right, with myself and the canines. She quickened her pace, kicked her hooves in the air a bit, and turned left (back towards the barn) when I turned right (to continue on to the stock tank). Millie wasn’t sure which of us to follow, so she stayed at the crossroads for a while. I lost sight of them both as I continued on, past the stock tank, and on out to the farthest west corner of the property, where we once had a pig trap set up.
I had just passed the spot where the trap once stood, when I heard one of the mules, presumably Millie, call out to me. Sometimes their bray is very distinct and I can tell exactly which one it is just by the sound and other times they sound exactly the same! This sounded like Millie, but I couldn’t be sure. Apparently at least one of them had decided to continue walking with us after all, but we had gotten too far ahead and were out of sight. I answered the call with my own, as I turned around and headed back that direction. Just as the dogs and I crossed the dry streambed Millie came into view with Dancer coming around the curve behind her at a rather fast clip. So they BOTH had followed us all the way out to the farthest corner and so now we all turned back towards the main trail and headed towards the barn and home.
I know that it’s about a mile, round trip, up the main trail from the barn, out to farthest corner and back. However, with looping out and around the perimeter our walk was surely over one mile and most likely closer to two. Not too much for our first go at it in months! I’ve been saying that I want to start doing some “ground work” with Millie, in preparation for the two of us learning to DRIVE together… This was certainly an unconventional way to go about it! Still, it will help us to improve our connection and start to get us in better condition, too, perhaps. Training isn’t just about getting better with our commands and responses, but also about conditioning mine and the mule’s bodies to be more fit for the hard WORK of driving. Hmmm… So now I’m wondering they will walk with me, on their own accord, again tomorrow evening!