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I have a very reliable mule and would love to take my daughter with me on trail rides. What are your thoughts about her riding with me? Thank you. Robyn

Dear Robyn,
Thank you for your request for advice about carrying your child on your mule with you. I'm afraid you don't want to hear what I have to say about it, because I strongly caution you about doing that at all. Even the most trustworthy equine can stumble or spook in the right (or wrong) circumstances, causing the rider(s) to lose their balance and take a fall. Your child is at greater risk with you on the mule with her because you could fall on her, causing her grievous injury or death.

I have personally been a witness to an incident where a very trusty trail horse spooked and spun, causing the father having to literally throw his toddler to a near-by person, who was, luckily, on foot and caught him. Shortly afterward the man fell and was stepped on by the horse, injuring him so that he could not remount on the horse. Fortunately, the baby was alright, but the man was not able to take care of him, comfort him or get him back to the trailer without assistance.

Most very young children love to be on the back of a moving animal. It is understandable that you would want to share your love of riding with your child. A much safer way to let her enjoy it would be to lead her with at least one, and preferably two, side walkers to balance her. She could be given reins attached to the halter, which would make it even more fun for her. I strongly suggest that she be properly fitted with an ASTM-SEI approved riding helmet to protect her head.

It is a good parent that seeks advice about how to better manager situations that involve their children. It is my hope that you and your daughter have many enjoyable years enjoying time with your mule!

Polly Haselton Barger
Program Director