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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mules & more on display this week

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Carol Dale of Huston, Mo. is silhouetted as she puts her mule Boots through a workout in the practice ring outside Calsonic Arena on the Celebration grounds.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis) [Order this photo]
Stubborn as a mule?

It may be a well-known saying, but trainer Anita Gravener doesn't think it's a true description.

"I don't think they're stubborn," said Gravener, a quarter horse trainer by trade who started training mules last year as a favor to a friend. "They're actually very smart."


They can be eager to please when trained and encouraged correctly, but they do resist being intimidated, which may account for their reputation.

Steve Gravener holds Betty, while Anita Gravener holds Kate. Anita Gravener enjoyed training Kate, who is owned by Buddy Pope, so much that the Graveners bought Betty for themselves. "They're good-sized, for mules," said Steve. Mules come in a variety of colorings and markings.
(T-G Photo by John I. Carney)
"You can train them," said Gravener, "but you can't force them to do something .... Once you've made it clear what you want from them, they're very happy to please you."

In 2011, when Buddy Pope asked Gravener to train his mule Kate, she agreed -- and discovered that her quarter horse training techniques worked just fine. Like quarter horse shows, mule shows feature a wide variety of events and activities, requiring the animals to be versatile.

Anita Gravener discovered that she liked working with mules, and when Pope went to take his back she decided it "would be a big loss in my barn." She and her husband Steve bought a mule of their own. They now have both their own mule and Pope's in their barn on Harrison Road.

Stepping stars

The Graveners are looking forward to this weekend's 21st Annual Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show, which runs Thursday through Saturday on the Celebration grounds, and said the public would enjoy seeing the mules put through their paces in a variety of events, from show classes to obstacle and barrel-racing classes.

"It's just a crowd-pleaser," said Anita.

One highlight is a costume class. At previous shows, one mule was decorated like a NASCAR vehicle, while another mule and rider both came dressed as cloggers.

The Graveners like the fact that, while the competition in the ring is serious, the atmosphere outside the ring is laid-back and social, welcoming for trainers and the public alike.

"You can walk up to somebody who's washing his mule and they'll talk to you for an hour," said Steve.

Friendly, fun

Dr. David Dale with his mule Harley stir up some dust and get in a workout out of the heat as they use the cover of the practice ring on the Celebration grounds.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis)
You can even get a mule-drawn wagon ride through the show grounds.

"We did that," said Anita.

The Graveners said they'd love to see more of the community enjoy the variety of different equine breeds which compete on the Celebration grounds over the course of a year. Some shows are more interested in spectator participation than others, but the Graveners said the Mule and Donkey Show is a great chance for the community to have a good time.

"It's right in town," said Anita. "It's at a great facility."

The mule show draws participants from across the country. The Graveners moved to Tennessee from New York, and even when they were in the Empire State they knew mule owners who came to Shelbyville for the show.


Gravener has been training quarter horses and riders for more than 20 years, earning a variety of awards on the American Quarter Horse Association circuit. She was a state champion, placed top 10 at the AQHA World Show and at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, where she had a reserve champion and a Congress Champion. Her personal stallion has three AQHA Superior titles including all-around.

Gravener Quarter Horses can be reached at 619-0241 or http://gravenerquarterhorses.com. For more information about this weekend's show, call 684-5915 or go to http://twhnc.com.

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