The Ottumwa Courier

August 26, 2013

Dispelling the popular myths

Courier correspondent

---- — BLOOMFIELD — Mules and donkeys are known for the stereotype of being stubborn, dumb and unattractive. The members of the Iowa Donkey and Mule Society would beg to differ.

On Saturday and Sunday, the best of the best were shown, judged and awarded. The Iowa Donkey and Mule show is the high point of every competition in the Midwest. Winning here is a big deal.

The 32nd Annual State Show and Futurity had 73 show classes ranging from Barrels and Hurdles to Donkey Western Pleasure. The donkeys and mules are prized animals. Many have trainers and special care is taken to make them look their best.

Members of the Iowa Donkey and Mule Society are polite and welcoming. They are also happy to educate you concerning the prevailing myths of their beloved animals.

The mule is a hybrid cross between a male donkey and a female horse, and this cross exhibits the best traits from each parent. The mule inherits from the donkey strength, intelligence and patience and his equine beauty, speed and athletic ability from the horse.

Donkeys are in fact a highly intelligent animal despite popular misconception. They can live for more than 50 years, and they have an astonishing memory. Although they can be stubborn, it's more of a self-preservation tactic than an attitude.

The Iowa Donkey and Mule Society is like a big family, and they share in the same things any family goes through. Last year's show was dedicated in memory to Bird and Sheila Ellison of Moravia, who died tragically in a house fire in March 2012. The Ellisons were avid members and well liked by all. This weekend banners were on display with pictures of the Ellisons doing what they loved best — showing their prized mules with good friends.

Terry Bates was there with his wife, Glynda, from Rock Point Farm in Bloomfield, Mo., and two of his prize-winning donkeys. Bates won Grand Champion on Saturday with his Jenny named Dolly. He's won every year he's competed in except for two.

“I raise pretty donkeys,” Bates said with a big smile. “I've been to California and Texas for shows, and you won't find prettier mules and donkeys anywhere else other than right here in Bloomfield at the State Show. If you win here, it means something.”

If you observe these animals closely, you will notice they are very calm and intelligent. Their names often bare their pride and beauty, such as Clyde's Brass Ring, Ka's Smokin' Joe and Hawleywood's Covergirl. Hawleywood's Covergirl is a stage name. Her pet name is Peaches, and she is a beautiful bay roan mule. She is owned by Marena Riggin from Abilene, Kan. Riggin has been doing shows for 12 years.

“My husband woke me up one morning and said I've got your birthday present. She was the one I really wanted. We sent Peaches immediately to a trainer to get her started. She's a bit of a princess,” Riggin said.

On Saturday, they had an auction of donated items. Sunday morning was Cowboy Church. One member said it was a casual thing and all you needed was jeans and a cowboy hat. The awards went out this past weekend for the best in the Midwest, and although not everyone wins Grand Champion, participants still ride off into the sunset, happy to be a part of it all.