Rudy and His Ginger Snaps

IMG_0313Rudy is a smallish, copper-coated mule who lives at the barn where I board my Buzzy (horse). But Rudy isn’t just any mule. Until two years ago, Rudy quivered in fear at the thought of a human coming anywhere near him. The story goes that he was once owned by Amish and that something went very wrong. I can only imagine. I decided to make him my personal project.

It’s been a slow-boat-with-no-wind with Rudy, and after two years of coaxing and patience, he will now come to the gait when I appear. In fact, he runs, braying all the way, knowing he will get a treat. And he does – get a treat.

Many years ago I discovered that horses go berserk over Ginger Snaps. (So do I for that matter.) And Rudy really goes berserk over them. He has become a veritable Ginger Snap monster, and though he still doesn’t deign to be touched, he will tolerate my brief strokes of his lip while the cookies pass from hand (mine) to mouth (his).

In conjunction with this, Rudy has adopted an interesting habit. After he’s had a few Ginger snaps, he pauses and seems to enter an altered state of consciousness where his tongue protrudes slightly and saliva dribbles from it. We have decided that he goes into a state of euphoria where he sucks away at the remaining flavor in his mouth left from the Ginger Snaps. He is at this point, satisfied, though certainly a willing participant if another cookie (or two, or three) is offered.

So alas, box of Ginger Snaps in hand, perhaps Rudy and I can progress to taking an in-hand romp through the fields – next year? I better get some stock in Nabisco.

A Little Mule Named Rudy

RudyYesterday was shots day at the barn. Spring shots – the yearly standards including rabies,  flu and a few others. Our barn “Mom” (owner) gets the list together of who wants what, and when the vet arrives, we have our equines polished and preened such as we did with our kids when we took them to the pediatrician for their yearly physicals.

Our barn is home to a ‘feral’ mule; correction: a mule who was previously owned by an Amish farmer and while he was there, something happened that filled his little life with terror.

This boy, Rudy, has an exceptionally soft and gentle eye, except for when he is startled by something or when one of the minis in his paddock pick on him, and then soft brown turns to white flash. I fell in love with his as soon as I set eyes on him, but it is just in the last year that I made him my personal project. Our barn Mom welcomes my efforts, and helps me from time to time, but mostly she lets me do my thing. With Rudy, it’s not about technique, it’s about patience, body language, softness and consistency.

A year ago, Rudy would not come to take a treat and if I moved,  even slowly, he bolted in fear. Now: he takes treats – he has become a HUGE fan of ginger snaps – from my hand. He is incredibly gentle, just brushes his lips against my hand, now with happy anticipation and a level of confidence we never thought we’d see.

Yesterday Rudy needed to get his shots, too. In the past, the vet had to tranquilize him just to do so. Not yesterday. Barn Mom got him into a narrow but open pen. I held his head and while the vet did her thing, I whispered sweet nothings into his big mule ears and plied him with ginger snaps. And then, I touched him! I petted him, and he welcomed it – probably the first human touch, besides shots, that he’s had since that Amish farmer did whatever he did to a beautiful little mule with  warm, soft eyes, and a muzzle as soft and gentle as they come.