Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 10, 2018 – Four years ago, Laura Hermanson caused quite a bit of buzz at the 2014 US Dressage Finals when she qualified the first mule to ever compete at the finals. Her molly mule Heart B Dyna was the talk of the Kentucky Horse Park and her adoration has helped pave the way to inspire mule owners to consider the possibility that their mounts could be successful on a national stage.
It has been a whirlwind four years since then, with the production of a professional documentary called “Dyna Does Dressage,” which showcases their journey and the newly sparked interest of mules in the dressage industry. The documentary is scheduled to premiere on Nov. 20 and was pre-screened in the film festival at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon.
“Making the movie was really a lot of fun,” Hermanson said. “I think there is a lot of misconception about dressage being elitist. It’s really not, and people are receptive. For us, over the last eight years, I’ve been showing mules, the dressage community has been really welcoming.”
“Unfortunately, Dyna actually got injured and was rehabbed from an injury, but then got bit on the hind end by a rattlesnake,” Hermanson said. “She stepped back on the rattlesnake, but she’s currently recovering. We are battling with some possible nerve damage from it, but we are keeping hopeful.”
While Dyna is on her road to recovery, Hermanson has been busy training other mules she thinks have a proclivity for dressage. Gaining fans wherever she goes with her unique mounts, Hermanson has returned to the US Dressage Finals this year with Behold The Desert, a 14-year-old mule owned by Troy and Carol Ray-Delfino of Bakersfield, California. The pair is returning for their second year as they competed in the Training Level Open Championships in 2016. On Friday, they stretched their legs in a First Level warm-up class earning 65 percent before they trot down centerline in the First Level Freestyle Open Championship later this weekend.
Ray-Delfino owned Behold The Desert, affectionately known as Beasley, for a few years prior to Hermanson getting the ride on him. Together, they successfully showcased his talents in English pleasure, western pleasure, and showmanship at large mule shows, once being named the Reserve All-Around English Performance Mule at Mule Days in California. A truly well-rounded athlete, Beasley even spent time reining and jumping competitively.
“I started out riding a miniature mule when I was four, and we’ve just gone full circle here,” said his owner, Ray-Delfino. “We had been going to Mule Days in California, and I sat in the stands at that show and said ‘I have to get one!’ That was ten years ago. I probably spent over 200 hours looking for a nice mule and Beasley was it. He’s out of a quarter horse mare that’s only 14.2 and bred by Candace Shauger.”
“We are in California, but then Laura moved to Texas two years ago,” she continued. “It was a big decision to send him with her because we love him, but he’s just too talented not to go with her. I love that Laura treats him like her own. That’s very important to me because he means the world to us. We want to let him shine because mules are such incredible animals.”
Since Hermanson began training and showing mule, she has been pleasantly surprised by how warm and welcoming the dressage community has been to them. Not only has it allowed her to develop her mules and have them exposed to bigger venues like the Kentucky Horse Park, but it has also opened dialogue with other riders who may be interested in giving sport mules a chance.
“Adventures of mules in dressage are exciting because it is still kind of new,” Hermanson explained. “We discover with each one of them that there’s no limit to what they can do. It’s been fun playing with that. They’re challenging, smart, and require fairness at all times. You cannot force a mule to do anything, but I find them extremely willing as long as they’ve learned to trust you.
“The thing that’s changed since Dyna is how many more mules there are out there,” Hermanson continued. “There’s another mule in our region that competes now, and even at this show. Being here four years ago, it was such a novelty, then two years ago coming with Beasley it still was. Now, back two years later with Beasley again, I have people come up to me saying, ‘I have a mule I started doing dressage with.’ It’s growing and it’s becoming more popular.”