- Where Barn Banter Goes Global
Please support

A Mule Moment, by Ann Firestone

Published: 1/15/2014
View comments
Editor’s Note:

Is barn time therapeutic?
The answer for most of us is a resounding Yes.
And yet, winter's tough. It can be a time of struggle for many as we deal with cold, darkness, weather- and financial-related challenges.

The burdens are heavy; horses often lighten our emotional load.
Read about Barn Time and Animal Compassion.

Ann Firestone runs Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue in New Hampshire. Recently, she endured serious injury, the death of her mother, and an unavoidably hectic, exhausting schedule. 

Photo at right: Ann with SYA mascot, Merlin.

The injury forced Firestone to rest, flat on her back, for a month. She was finally able to venture out to the barn a few weeks ago to visit with a newly rescued mule named Sage.

Ann writes:

Sage came in over a week ago. When she was delivered, I was told she is very shy and wouldn’t come up to you. Helpers Annie and Kenny found this to be true.
Neither of them had been able to touch her yet.

When I went to see her for the first time, she did not want me close, so I just stood there and talked to her for a few minutes.
I gave her my "This is Now. That was Then" speech. I tossed an apple on the ground for her and left.

She let me touch her yesterday but was pretty tentative. I didn't push it, just scratched her withers and told her she was loved.

Today, I went down with the shedding blade. I just stood and talked to her for a few minutes, then reached out, and she didn't move, just flinched a little. I started brushing her and talking to her.
I took her by the halter and looked her in the eyes and told he she was safe now, she didn’t have to worry anymore. She lowered her head and sighed. She let a huge breath out as if she had been holding her breath for a very long time.

I just started crying, crying for all the poor animals who won't be safe, for the loss of my mom, for all the pent-up stuff I've been holding on to, from being down so long, for the fact that this mule is safe now and that she trusts me.


I just hugged her neck and cried and cried and she just stood there with her head low, leaning into me ever so slightly.
My crying jag was interrupted. But that was fine.


Interactions like this are so powerful and meaningful to me. Being injured had gotten me quite depressed and wondering why I do this rescue stuff.

Sage helped me remember. She helped me put everything back into perspective.


Ann Firestone lost the battle to rescue Sage in mid-January, 2014.

She writes:

She was pulled from the slaughter truck and came here with wounds on her fetlocks. It was difficult for her to get up from a down position. Our vet thought arthritis, but also possibly some muscle issues. She was scheduled for x-rays and a more in depth work up.

She would be on her feet all day, but sleep on the ground on top of a pile of manure, which I left as I thought it was warm and it provided traction. She did have access to a large overhang and a stall, but wouldn't go in. In my experience, most mules do not like to be stalled, but this one was open all the time.

Yesterday when my husband looked out at first light she was down on her side. We could see where she had been struggling to stand. We just couldn't get her up and the more she tried, and man, did she try, the weaker she became. She may have been suffering from Compartment Syndrome.

I don't think the prognosis would have been good. It was quite apparent yesterday morning that we had to let her go. 

Thank you again, Maddy, for your kind thoughts. This is a tough one.

View Reader Comments:

add your comment
1/16/2014 Lyndsey Lewis
Awww thanks Ann. Great to remember it's very much a two way street.
1/16/2014 Lynne Wolfe
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, and for the work that you do. It brings a tear to my eye for sure!
1/16/2014 Amber
What a beautiful story. I know we've all been there before and being able to share our sorrow with God's creatures is a true blessing.

"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses" - Elizabeth Taylor