“That 49-inches-tall mule stood flatfooted and jumped over a 62-inches-high horizontal bar.”
Baxter is one of the highest jumping mules in the country proving his ability during EquiFest of Kansas in Salina.
Jerry and Cyndi Nelson of Crooked Creek Mule Company at Cameron, Missouri, demonstrated the sport of mule jumping at EquiFest.
Most important to the presentation were the jumping mules with Nelson family members assisting as Cyndi visited with the audience.
“We have 17 mules at home with diverse abilities, but we are best known for our jumping mules,” Cyndi said.
A mule is a cross between a female horse and a male donkey or “jack.” The donkey part of their bloodline gives them unique muscular characteristics that enable them to do a standing high jump.
“A female mule is called a molly and a male is a john. Both are sterile and will not reproduce,” Cyndi said. “Mule jumping originally began when raccoon hunters taught their mules to jump fences on hunts.
“Hunters dismounted their mules and placed a blanket on the fence,” Cyndi explained “Standing on the opposite side, hunters urged their mule to jump from a standstill. That avoided a long walk to the nearest gate.
“It was not long before people were trying to see whose mule jumped the highest,” she added.
Like all jumping contests, there are rules. “A mule stands in front of a canvas curtain placed on a horizontal bar and jumps from a standstill,” Cyndi said. “Mules must come to a complete stop for one second in a box before attempting a jump.”
Typically about 10-feet-by-10-feet, box dimensions depend on the size of the mule,less than 51 inches and over 51 inches. Each mule is allowed two attempts to clear the jump. The handler cannot touch the animal but will typically encourage their mule over the bar with voice commands. After a successful round, the height is raised.
Crooked Creek Mule Company presents mule jumping demonstrations at a half dozen or more events annually throughout the Midwest.
“We also especially enjoy going to the mule jumping contests,” Cyndi admitted. “We have 10 jumping competitions already on our calendar this year.”
Their jumping mules are among the best in the country. “Baxter is out of a Welsh mare and a Standard Jack. He is 49-inches tall and can jump 62-inches. Baxter is a 16-time Missouri State Jumping Champion in his height division,” Cyndi verified.
Miss Kitty is out of a Quarter Horse mare and a Standard Jack. “She stands 51½-inches-tall and specializes in freestyle jumping,” Cyndi said. “Miss Kitty runs to the jump instead of standing flatfooted before jumping.”
The molly mule can jump over a 72-inches tall obstacle. “Miss Kitty has earned freestyle jumping championships in a half-dozen states including Texas’ Fort Worth Livestock show,” Cyndi commented.
One of their mules has been recognized as the biggest mule ever showing at the Missouri State Fair. It stands 74-inches-tall and weighs 2,175 pounds.
Crooked Creek Mule Company is not in the business of raising mules. “We have a number of associates with top producing mares and jacks from which we acquire some mules,” Cyndi said.
Actually, their mules come from variety of sources. “You never know when an opportunity will come up to buy a mule,” Cyndi said. “We have rescued mules from several places and even bought some out of kill pens.”
Mules are started training for jumping at about three-and-half-years. “We go slow starting by walking over a log and then keep increasing height of the jump” Cyndi said. “It takes six to eight months to train a jumping mule. We have to find out if the mule has the ability and wants to jump.
“Some mules just weren’t made to be jumpers,” she admitted. “But they all have a useful purpose.”
Mules are broke to ride and drive either single or double. “We participate in several trail rides annually and some of our mules do well in halter show competitions,” Cyndi said.
“We have several vehicles that the mules can pull single or as a team,” she continued. They own buckboards and box wagons, but dispersed their carriages.
“We did offer mule carriage rides for several years in Cameron, but no longer do that,” Cyndi said. “Our mules aren’t called into doing farm work or pulling contests, but they could sure do it.
“If a mule doesn’t fit our operations, it is marketed to another owner. We are very particular who we sell our mules to,” she declared.
Now jumping mules are not to be confused with diving mules performing at a number of Midwest rodeos years ago. “We really don’t know much about that,” Cyndi admitted. “I heard the mules could dive about 30 feet into a water tank. Our mules don’t dive, but they jump and do lots of other good deeds,” Cyndi said.
While husband Jerry is an over-the-road trucker, Cyndi’s full time profession is Crooked Creek Mule Company. “We all really enjoy working with mules and their congenial unique personalities when you get to know them,” she concluded.