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Delight as US rule change means all systems go for showjumping mules

Mules will be able to compete in affiliated jumping classes in the US thanks to a rule change — to the delight of a rider who has been campaigning for this for months.

H&H reported in July that Katie Wetteland, who lives in Colorado, was petitioning the US Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) to allow mules to compete alongside horses and ponies.

Katie had bought Mjolnir The Longear — named after Thor’s hammer as a nod to her Norwegian heritage but also as her countrymen pronounce it “mule near” — who was the result of an unplanned liaison between a racing mare and a donkey stallion.

She backed him and found he loved jumping, as she did, but USJHA rules did not allow him to compete, so she has spent the past 18 months lobbying the USHJA, garnering support for her plans and educating others on mules.

During its annual meeting on 15 December, the USHJA board of directors approved a rule change allowing mules to compete in jumper divisions.

“It’s surreal,” Katie told H&H. “I’ve got no words to describe my enthusiasm.”

Katie said she had already told Mjolnir.“He’s disappointed because it means there will be more people at shows admiring him!” she said.

“People are enamoured of him; they try to pet him and love on him and he just sits there with his ears pinned and a ‘you can’t touch me’ face. So he might not be happy to be petted by more people — but he loves the jumping, absolutely adores it.”

Katie rode Mjolnir in a local show last week, at which the organiser had lent her some Western tack as he wanted to see the mule compete in a Western pleasure class.

“He won both the hunter hack classes, but you could say we couldn’t have done worse in the Western class; he was looking around like ‘where are the jumps?’” Katie said.

The rule comes in next year, which suits Katie as Mjolnir has not yet turned five and so has not done a huge amount.But she is glad her hard work has paid off, and that she can start planning Mjolnir’s competition future.

“There have been a lot of emails back and forth,” she said. “I also garnered support from people from events we’d been at; their horses had never seen a mule before but behaved beautifully around him, and they gave statements.

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“I wouldn’t have got anywhere without education either; it became obvious to me that people didn’t know what mules were or were capable of and how similar they are to horses, so I made a 30-slide presentation that made it clear, which I think got me further than all the negotiation.”

Katie said she “can’t wait” to get competing, and is also delighted that other mule owners will have the same chance.

“I’ve shared the news in a few mule groups and people are very excited,” she said.“They’ve been doing it all at home but now they can go to shows; this is going to open up to a whole new section of the community the sport we all care about so much.”

H&H has contacted the USHJA for comment.

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