The Tired Ass Ranch
Carriage Driving on the Tired Ass Ranch in Southern Alberta
Terry Aris fromTired Ass Ranch raises and trains mules in Southern Alberta.
It all started one innocent spring day on the Tired Ass Ranch many years ago. Friends of ours needed a small horse. Babs was getting older and could not climb on a full sized horse any more. There was a sale in Montana, did we want to go? Us, go to a horse sale….never say no to that. We left the Tired Ass Ranch our Canadian ranch located along the Cowboy Trail and headed for Montana.
We pulled into the sales yard and lo and behold, tied all around the corrals were mules, mules of all shapes, colors and sizes. In due course, Babs found a handsome little white mule that she wanted to take home. Now, being as Babs and Frank had to bring their trailer down anyway, and there would be a little extra room in it, there might be an opportunity for us to get a mule. So with a little more enthusiasm I started looking for a mule to put on the Tired Ass Ranch. I found a nice clean line yearling molly mule that I took a fancy too. My wife Sue admired a sturdy john mule that was even matched for color. What could we do. A pair of mules were headed home to the Tired Ass Ranch to what would rapidly become the Tired Ass Ranch noted for raising and training mules.
Mules are on the Tired Ass Ranch – Training begins
I got these mules home, got to know them, named them after Sue’s grandparents that immigrated with mules from Missouri in 1903. Our new mules Francis and Ophia were a great addition to the herd on the Tired Ass Ranch. They needed training and I knew training had to strart with them pretty soon, but in this training I was charting new territory – I had trained quite a few horses, but mules, well you all know the stories! . When we first bought the pair of mules the old ranchhand on the place had told me I would get along fine if I remembered I could tell a horse what to do but I would have to ask a mule. I started working with these fine mules and it wasn’t long before I had a few training questions, well I had a lot of training questions about mules. We heard about a fellow, Hugh Trace, in town that had a really neat old mule, so I gave him a call. Hugh said that he wasn’t in the breaking business anymore, being that he was over 80, but because he had a soft spot for mules he would maybe think about coming out to take a look. WELL, the next day he was out there before I came home from work, ready to start training these mules. The rest is history. He helped me get those mules driving and in training the mules to ride and drive in more ways than I can remember, giving the Tired Ass Ranch a good start in training a great bunch of mules.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time round pen training and training a good many mules to ride and pack. Training went into a lot of teams of mules for farm work and going into the mountains. I’ve instructed a lot of clinics for riders and teamsters all over Western Canada working with mules. In the past few years I have been going to Combined Driving Events, and I must say, turning a few heads there. A 4 up team of mules is not a common site in the Combined Driving World particularly when they are taking home some prizes.
Mules and horses have taken us so many places. I have gone down hundreds of hours on mountain trails with a pack string of mules along behind, sat behind many a team of mules as we mowed hay, hauled bales, or just took people for rides. We’ve raised some great foals, met some amazing people, did some real mule trading and seen many a dream come true when the right mule goes to the right rider or driver.
Now as I get more and more involved in the world of combined driving I’m getting to a whole new level of understanding and mastery in training mules for CDE. I spend a good many hours behind singles, pairs, and teams, training them for events. Last year I had a great time driving a single with my young partner Renaud, then hooking a pair for part of the event, then hooking 4 for another part of the event. This definitely keeps you busy training, both before the events, and during but what great fun it is.
A few years ago, we got a call from the Maieda transportation system in Hong Kong looking for mules to help them on a project building a cable car line from the airport to a Buddha shrine up on a mountain nearby. It seems they were using helicopters for the major material transfer, but wanted mules for both hauling incidentals and of course for the environmental aspects as this system ran through a precious national park. The Tired Ass Ranch was proud to send 6 Canadian mules over to what became a year long project with the mules carrying as much as 33 tonnes a month up and down the mountain. I had the opportunity and privilege to go over for 3 weeks to give handlers and mules an orientation into all the things that were happening including modifying pack equipment to suit job requirements and helping the mules transition from wide open spaces to stables and vet checks.
This year I am starting a youngster that is a perfect match for my pair of Norweigen Fjords and I will have a unicorn hitch of those 3 mules, Renaud will be driving Dolly the mule, then I will drive a single that I am starting now. Renaud’s Dad, David will be one very busy man as groom at these events.
As you can see, we do it all with mules here at the Tired Ass Ranch. We have riding mules, packing mules, drive them single, pairs, unicorn and teams of 4. We compete in combined driving events, as well as Western style horse shows. In addition our mules are used for farm chores right here on the Tired Ass Ranch. We also believe in equal opportunity, the same mules that are all shined up and prancing around the dressage ring at a combined driving event, may be hauling hay when they get home. 30 years of training experience leads me to beleive that the more these animals get exposed to, the better it is.
We have so much fun with our animals that we found a way to share our experiences and our enjoyment with similar minded folks that would like a real Canadian Rocky Mountian western experience.
We invite you and your friends and family to spend a day with us behind a good team, take a drive in the hills on the Tired Ass Ranch, or venture further into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, enjoy a day with the mules then have a picnic around the campfire. Spend the day working with the teams, maybe do a little driving yourself, and generally just have fun.
You may be a little more serious about driving in competions. In that case we have some well trained teams that you can come to the Tired Ass Ranch and drive for a few days on some Combined Driving Facilities, then enter in an Alberta competition and see how you perform.
If you prefer to experience part of our Canadian History , where the land was opened up with horses, you can come to the Tired Ass Ranch and help out with some farm chores. We’ll take you to a local working Heritage Museum where you can tour the pioneer machinery, and maybe take up a set a lines behind a team and experince some the tasks that our Western pioneers did to open up this great country. In spring season you may be plowing, cultivating, harrowing, or seeding the land. Later in the summer you could be mowing, raking, baling, hauling or stacking hay. In the fall, what about harvesting, stooking or threshing grain? It is all a matter of timing.
For more great stories of our experiences over the years, and more information on what we have to offer, please check out our Mule Tales and visit our store. Hope to see you soon, Coffee’s on.