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About Mules - circa 1937

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Training young mules

Young mules are naturally timid and easily startled, but they are, as a rule, docile and easily broken in, if treated with great kindness and patience. Rough treatment of any kind must be avoided as likely to prove fatal to successful training. Men must be carefully selected to break remount mules.

Saddling must be done at first with great caution, the saddle being placed gently on the mule's back and moved about freely so as to accustom him to the feel of it before putting on the girths. In girthing up care must be taken not to draw the girths so tight as to cause any uneasiness to the mule, who will them be walked about and allowed to get used to the saddle before the other harness is added. With the crupper, especially great patience must be exercised, as it is likely at first to upset a timid animal.

A mule should be thoroughly accustomed to walking about with the saddle and harness before his is tried under a load. It is as well to start training a mule to carry loads by using two bags of sand or earth, weighing 80 lb. each, and, when he walks about with these quietly, the training can be completed by substituting other loads. A young mule should always be allowed to become familiar with the sight of a load before this is tried on the saddle.

Mules should not carry a load on a steep hill until five years old and at first the load should be a light one and only carried for a short distance; it should be gradually increased up to the full weight, which the mule will be required to carry.

Finally, young mules must be trained to jump small ditches and similar obstacles without hesitation and, at the end of the training; this should be done with a load on. In leaping a mule, the rein must always be left loose and a whip should not be used.

Box Load

Horse and mule loads

Top loads: are chiefly found in standardised equipment, such as mountain artillery. In transport work, they are rarely used. They are difficult to keep steady, although they have the advantage of being able to pass along very narrow places.

Side load: are most usual, between 18 and 36 inches long.

  • Blankets - 32 blankets, fold in three across their length and roll in four bundles of seven. Put the remaining four blankets in the middle on top, so reducing bulk and making the waterproof cover sit smoothly. Weight 70 lb. a side, 20 lb. on top (including allowance for moisture).
  • Hand and rifle grenades - load, six boxes two a side with the rings at the top edge and two on top to steady the load; weight, 56 lb. a side and 56 lb. on top. Alternatively, three boxes a side.
  • Camp kettles - load, ten camp kettles, and 50 lb. of wood. Fit the camp kettles inside one another and tie them together by the handles, having four lids in front and on in rear. The wood, place across the top in a sack, will help to steady the load. Weight 45 lb. a side, 50 lb. on top.
  • Short: loads of less than 18 inches long - so short that the baggage ropes in the ordinary way might slip off; this applies specially to hard smooth loads.
  • Preserved meat boxes - load, three boxes, one each side, one across the top. Weight 56 lb. a side, 56 lb. on top.
  • Upright: this method is used for sacks and bundles, which are better carried upright between the hooks of the saddle.
  • Oats - load two sacks. Form grooves for the rope in the sack. Weight 82 lb. a side.

Side and Top Loads

Long loads: from 3 feet to 6 feet long. If loaded in the ordinary way, the mule would not have room to turn his head and would be galled on the hips. A loading board is lashed firmly to the saddle on either side to carry the load further out. Loads are put on high up the boards, tilted up at the front about five feet and with the ends padded with sacking.

  • Corrugated iron - load, ten sheets of flexible corrugated iron (6 feet long). Bend the sheets over once longways and tie in bundles of five. Weight 60 lb. a side.
  • Screw pickets - load, eight pickets, four a side. Weight 76 lb. a side.
  • Tents, C.S.L., complete - load one a side. Tent poles should be packed so that the pointed ends and greater part of their length are behind the saddle. Weight 83 lb. 8 oz. a side.

Cacolets - these are iron-framed adjustable chairs, intended for the conveyance of sick and wounded by pack transport. A pair of cacolets weighs 56 lb. They are interchangeable, i.e. they can be used either on the near or off side of the saddle by a simple transposition of the back strap and footrest.


Mule Pack Transport
General rules.

  • Organisation - A base depot for the collection and reception of mules and drives, and the fitting of saddlery and equipment, will also be necessary.
  • Drivers are normally required on the basis of one for each mule.
  • The driver and his mule should not be separated unless it is unavoidable; drivers should be organised in pairs, the pairs always working together for all duties. When native drivers are employed, each driver may be allotted two mules.
  • The load of a mule should be taken as 160 lb.
  • March discipline Mule pack transport can traverse practically any type of country (except heavy bush and swamp). Careful reconnaissance of the route is, however, necessary.
  • As a general rule, it is preferable to move mules at a steady pace, with few halts, than to attempt to hurry them.
  • Halts - a short halt to adjust loads should be made half an hour after starting. If the mules graze, care must be taken that they do not work their saddles forward in doing so.
  • Ascents and descents - until the drivers gain experience, a short halt should be ordered to tighten breast pieces for ascents and breeching and cruppers for descents.
Distances are measured from the croup of one animal to the nose of the animal immediately behind it. Normal distances are: -
Between sections in close column 30 yards
Between sections in column of route 20 yards
Between rear animal of one driver and lead animal of the next 8 feet
Between lead animals: -  
Horses and mules 4 feet
Camels 8 feet


Loads and Paces of Animal Transport

Loads Lb
Pack mules and ponies 160
Camels, heavy 350
Camels, light 250
Cart with two animals on hill roads 640
Cart with two animals in plains 800
Cart with two bullocks on hill roads 800
Cart with two bullocks in plains 960
Pack elephant 1200
Wagon with team of four mules 3000
Wagon and span of 16 oxen 5000

These loads are exclusive of the weight of unexpected rations and of gear.

Pace Mph
Bullocks, draught 2
Bullock, pack 2
Camels 2
Pack and draught mules and ponies 3 ½
Elephant 3

These paces need to be modified in hill country and over bad roads; they are rates of marching of unescorted convoys.

(Extracts from the Manual of Horsemastership, Equitation, and Animal Transport 1937 - Published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office: London.)


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