One time I had the experience of hiking with a burro, pretty much a mule or donkey, in New Mexico! I was at a scout-related hiking area called Philmont Scout Ranch. The burro was extremely stubborn and sometimes it was difficult to get it moving. I was just wondering if anyone had similar experiences with a burro/mule/donkey...
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Donkeys and burros are the same. A mule is a cross between a burro and a horse.
I've only ridden a mule once on a 23 mile trip into the Sequoias. I was a youngster and with a group. We used an outfitter to supply us and everyone got a horse except for me. I was kind of bummed out by that until one of the guides told me that mule was the best ride of the bunch, and that turned out to be so. He was like riding a Cadillac.
I own two burros and burros have a longstanding reputation as being stubborn, but that's not actually the case. The truth is they're very smart and they have a strong will. If they think you're asking them to do something stupid they won't do it, but if you work with them and show them how, they'll get it quick enough.
Equine that are used like those you met run into all kinds of people who don't have a clue and they're not above taking advantage of that. They also know when they've got someone who has a clue, and will be less likely to give them much guff.
I've ridden more than a few horses like that. I've been on a few that will try and grind you up against a tree when they're passing by. A hard steady pull on those reins away from the tree a few times and they'll quit. I've twisted the ears of a few who didn't get it right off but they understood that well enough.
A big difference to consider between horses and burros/mules is that a horse won't respond to treats. They think all food should be free and available all the time. Burros, on the other hand, will do backflips, hoof stands, and even your homework for a few good snacks. If you'd have offered that donkey a few treats he'd likely have taken a fast shine to you and been good.
Personally, I'd take a mule or a burro over a horse any day. My wife, on the other hand, is a bit of an equine snob and considers them to be 2nd class.
I grew up with work stock, horses, mules, donkeys. What he says is true. One little donkey we had threw me bad (I was breaking him because he was too small for my dad). Dad had me give him an apple, and he followed me around like a puppy.
Also, horses will astound my wife by following me around. I explain that I don't know how they do it, but they follow because they are convinced I have sugar cubes in my pocket. Sure enough, I'm explaining this to my wife and this wonderful old mare is in fact searching my pockets.
Remember that one of the famous civil war generals rode a mule because it was more comfortable for his old bones, and I can confirm that from experience.
Bill is also correct that both donkeys and mules will tend to think things thru more than horses, and can be strong willed. But he is also correct that, like horses, they can sense your experience level, and I swear they laugh when they confound a newbie.
I grew up working a team of horses mostly, and worked cutting ponies one summer, but I have a lot of respect for the strength, good sense, easy ride and loyalty of mules (and except for the ride, of donkeys. The advantage of donkeys is that they are incredibly sure footed and strong for their size and food needs, and seem somehow very good at avoiding snakes.
Loc: Santa Cruz CA, Sierra Hiker
I find with mules it is easier "to ask" instead of "tell." If you try and force them they get quite opinionated....but if you make a suggestion lightly they are much more inclined to say "why not" and do what you want. Food is great or any way that you can get their curiousity up about what you are doing.
Horses are the same except they can be intimidated into doing stuff easier. I don't like to use that feature about horses as prey animals, and I work consistently at being as light as I can with my horses and they offer me much more. I really don't need reins to ride anymore as a result. And just yesterday my horse was standing 10 ft away from me and I climbed on a fence and called her to me and she sidepassed over to me at the fence and got herself in just the right into position for me to hop on. My friends were pretty blown away...:)