Mule Versatility at the Illinois Horse Fair

equine industry goal setting women owned Mar 31, 2024
mounted archery at the Illinois Horse Fair

The Illinois Horse Fair was held in Springfield, IL March 2-4, 2018!  Amongst all the excitement from vendors, clinicians, and spectators, a huge draw was to the breed show.  The breed show showcased around twenty different acts from sidesaddle, Appaloosas, trick riders, American Saddlebreds, Mustangs, pony wagons, Frisians; I may be a little partial, but my favorite of course were the mules! 

Myself from Mora, Missouri along with Kathy Tyre from Marshall, Missouri represented mules from all over in four different disciplines:  obstacles, dressage, reining, and mounted archery.  JoJo, a 9-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter mule, and Gato, a 13-year-old American Quarter Horse mule, stole the show. 

In our first demonstration, we used obstacle props to showcase the calmness and willingness of the mules.  Rope gates, weave poles, Wonder Woman jump, cavalettis, and a 4-foot stuffed fish were used.  At the end of the obstacle demonstration, JoJo’s bridle was removed, and he was cantered to the crowd and performed a few spins, which was an audience pleaser.  Just to set the atmosphere, the Illinois Horse Fair had us choose music for each demonstration; we could not think of a better song than “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. 

In our second act, we classed it up a bit with North American Western Dressage (NAWD) Ranch Horse patterns and reining.  Without the host really knowing how advanced JoJo and I were, on day one the demonstration included an accomplished English dressage practitioner riding an Andalusian against JoJo and I in a mock competition.  On the second and third day, the mules regrouped, JoJo and I bowed out and Kathy Tyre and Gato battled the Andalusian in a series of advanced maneuvers including cantering a small circle, flying lead changes, and rollbacks.  It was then a Ferrari vs a Corvette instead of a Ferrari vs an Explorer.   JoJo and I are back to the books and preparing for the 2019 showdown.

The third demonstration filled almost every seat in the building:  Mounted Archery!  Mounted Archery requires you to let go of the reins at a canter and hit targets with arrows shot from a Korean Recurve Bow!  The demonstrations were three days long with each of our acts each day.  I was fortunate to land  a bullseye each day of the mounted archery demonstrations!  With our official Mounted Archery chapter, Country Tough Mounted Archers, I hope to bring an entire team in 2019! 

I had countless comments about how it was unknown that people rode mules, because they had only thought mules were pack animals.  Other comments included not knowing that mules could canter and thinking that all mules are stubborn and not obedient.  Roughly half of the visitors that came to our stalls did not know the difference between a mule and a donkey.  Every time JoJo and Gato let out a loud bray people would flock to us in droves to see what kind of creature made that noise.  There was a huge amount of curiosity and wonder towards the mules and we are beyond ecstatic to return in 2019! 


Written by Brandy Von Holten 

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