Those familiar with the equestrian discipline of dressage
, might imagine it as populated exclusively by stuck up riders and spoiled, excessively shiny overbred horses. A few mule trainers beg to differ.
Developing out of military movements
and aristocratic pageants of equine grace, dressage is now recognized by non-equestrians through exposure to the Andalusian Lipizzaner Stallions
or in the Olympics. Performances can include remarkable equine dancing (previously
), and competition generally takes place in accordance with strict rules. These rules govern everything from the movements to be performed
, the locations in the arena
at which they must take place, permissible attire
for horse and rider, and so forth (pdf)
However despite the upper crust reputation of dressage and in contrast to other competitive equestrian disciplines, dressage's US governing bodies - the United States Dressage Federation and the United States Equestrian Federation - permit performance of dressage with a mule
. A mule is a cross-breed of two species: horse, carrying 64 chromosomes and donkey, with 62. Technically, a male donkey and a female horse produce a mule
, whereas a male horse and female donkey produce a hinny
. Often considered a fairly ungainly animal, inferior to the horse, mules have some
. The dressage mules are starting to get noticed.
Rider and trainer Audrey Goldsmith and her mule named 'Heart B Porter Creek' perform against the traditional warmblood and thoroughbred breeds typically used in dressage. As the apparent mule ambassador in the dressage world, Goldsmith feels the pressure: If she doesn’t ride well, people may discount the potential of all mules.
(Title quote from Robert G. Ingersoll