In addition to earning bragging rights for competing in the greatest mule show on earth, contestants in the Bishop Mule Days Celebration get to compete for some of the best trophy saddles in the business, supplied by expert saddle designer and equine lover Terry Wagner of Three Bells Mules.
During this year’s Mule Days competition, three of these beautiful saddles will be awarded. The saddles will go to the world champion hi-point mule, hi-point amateur, and western performance mule.
Terry and his wife Sandy have both spent their entire lives raising, riding and working with horses and mules. Over the past several years, Terry said they have exclusively owned mules, which they use to drive cattle through the rugged terrain of eastern Arizona. Wagner has become an expert at helping solve just about any kind of saddle issue a rider may have, drawing from his vast experience.
A lifetime spent working with mules has taught Terry a thing or two about what makes the perfect saddle. He explained that a mule saddle is built on a different type of tree than saddles traditionally made for horses, however the fit of a saddle is unique to each individual equine. He said he has seen plenty of mule saddles perfectly fit a horse and vice versa.
However when it comes to constructing saddles for mules, Terry said it is vitally important to consider the raised spine that so many mules, and sometimes horses have. The raised spine creates a slight ridge above the mule’s back where the saddle sits. Terry designs his saddles with an opening down the center of the skirt to make the saddle fit more comfortably for the mule. This open construction is uncommon among saddle makers, he said, and many of the spinal injuries and problems seen in mules have nothing to do with the mule and everything to do with saddles that are built with closed lacing along the spine.
“It doesn’t matter how much padding you put on there, it won’t fix it,” he said.
Mules aren’t the only ones who love Three Bells Mules saddles. With a wide selection of seat and padding options, these saddles are sure to be a new best friend for every rider’s hind end.
By Kristina Blüm Justice