New Jersey 16 year old Mule ridden in typical western bridle with grazing bit and as old American Saddlery Saddle in pasture/trails by adult beginner

Question: Because my mount is a very low withered mule on downhill rides my saddle goes forward and I find myself sitting directly on her shoulder blades/withers.  I want to
attach either a crupper or breeching to her saddle to prevent it from moving forward.  I am having a ring attached to the saddle skirting to attach to. 

Can you give me any information on how to adjust either/both of them?  And when would one be preferred over the other one or are they the same? 

Thanks!  Lisa

From Panelist Liz

Hi Lisa,

A crupper would be my choice in this case and are used on mules a lot just for this reason. I always use them on the Peruvians I train here. A crupper will keep your saddle from sliding forward.

You will first want to get your mule used to the feel of having something under the underside of the tail dock. I first will stand close to the side of my mount (never directly behind) and do some massage work on the tail dock top and bottom getting them used to
being touched there. I also get them use to having the tail moved around and lifted so they can get ready for having the crupper put in place. I will also take my palm first and lay it under the tail and hold it till they relax and then will take one finger and curl it around the underside of the tail dock as the crupper would lay until they get used to this and are relaxed. 

This can take many sessions. I then take my crupper and put Vaseline on the inside of the crupper that will be in contact with the tail so it will not rub or pinch the tender skin in that area. I will place it many times with out attaching it to the saddle till they are comfortable with it. I do not ride or ask them to move with it this way . This is all still being done from the ground. Once they are used to this I will attach it to the saddle and be sure there is no tail hair that is caught or bent up in the crupper, it should all lay smooth . The adjustment should not be so tight that it is pulling the tail up but and not so loose that the saddle will slide forward once you are on. It should sit just on the underside of the tail dock so the tail can still be held in a normal fashion. I will then either just do some longeing, line or free
so they can get used to the feel of the pressure that it gives while in motion. If all goes well then get on . I do all theses step because for some animals this can be a very hard thing to accept and can take some time. Better to find out and deal with any reactions slowly and
from the ground first. 


From Panelist Laura

A crupper fits around the tail where it attaches to the body of the horse.  Breeching consists of a set of straps with the horizontal strap usually sitting just below the biggest part of the horse's rump (below the tail - above the hocks).  For riding, I think that cruppers are more commonly used with mules than breeching.  The crupper depends on the tail to stop the load (you & your saddle) from sliding forward while the breeching distributes the 
load more evenly over the back end of the horse.  Breeching is used if there is a heavier load involved (such as a very heavy person or a heavily loaded pack saddle).  Breeching usually is adjusted loose enough to get a couple of fingers inbetween the horse & the strap without a load pulling on it.  

The crupper is brought up snugly against the base of the tail taking care to use your finger to pull out any little tail hairs that get caught between the crupper and the tail (you can imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have little hairs constantly being pulled on here...).  Put your saddle where you want it to stay and then adjust the strap going back to the tail piece of the crupper so that it is snug without much play in it.  If it is too loose, it 
will drop down on the tail and catch little hairs up which may cause your mule to buck.  

When you attach your crupper, be sure to stand at the side of the mule's hind end (so you don't get kicked) and be slow & gentle about raising his tail to put on the crupper.  Work him from the ground the first few times he wears this so you don't get hurt if he should buck at the new thing on his tail.  Start out on low downhill slopes at first so he can get used to the pull on his tail before you do any steep descents.


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