Eliminating traditional bits
How do you talk to a mule?
We know we don’t speak the same language, so, as with horses, we use physical communication to help them understand what we need them to do. A muleteer can communicate with his mule through reins and a bit (a piece of metal resting on the gums in a gap between the mules teeth). This is a very sensitive area, so it is easy to make yourself understood. Equally, it is easy to cause a lot of pain.
Bits that have been produced locally can be poorly made, with rough edges. When they break they are often fixed with wire. These bits can cause raw open wounds in the mule’s mouth, many of which can go unseen as they are under the tongue.
The mule will be in constant pain, which can also cause her to struggle to eat. If the mule can’t eat, she loses condition and gets weaker. The injuries can be even worse if the muleteer is rough handed or inexperienced.
Providing head collars
Bitting injuries are preventable and the solutions simple. We have been distributing head collars for the mules. Our aim is to reduce the amount of time that the mule has to wear a bit. The mule can wear just the head collar when she is being led.
The muleteers have been receiving training in using the head collars and the feedback is good so far, with over 100 mules now working in head collars!
When the mule does need to wear a bit, our friends at SPANA Maroc have been issuing well made bits that are a copy of the type used by the British army for their mules. They look tough but they are gentle in the mule’s mouth. These are available freely for muleteers working in the Toubkal National Park.