Achieving the goal of American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford’s 100 Miles for Hope challenge was easy for Trish Carlisle.
“It’s all on my mule, Bella,” Carlisle says, adding that she has ridden a mule about 15 miles a day since 2005. “I ride all over Arizona. I lead therapy horse rides for veterans and their spouses. We just get out for a day and relax so they can get away from their stresses and responsibilities.”
Knowing that her registration went to support The American Legion’s Veterans & Children Foundation (V&CF) was an added bonus.
“It was just a good thing to do to help the veterans and families,” said Carlisle, a member of American Legion Post 94 in Sun City, Ariz., who is also the department chaplain.
The commander’s 100 miles campaign runs through Veterans Day. There is still time to register to support the Legion’s V&CF and finish the 100 miles, by walking, running, cycling, riding a motorcycle — or even a mule.
In fact, Oxford encouraged American Legion Family members to help reach 5,000 participants by Veterans Day. Sign up at Emblem Sales to get your tech shirt, support veterans and military families, and be on your way to 100 miles.
The mule rides are also soothing for Carlisle, who served in the Army Signal Corps.
“They are very calming,” she said. “We get out there in the forest and ride a lot of the trails. It’s relaxing to take a nice leisurely ride. We see all kinds of wildlife. Turkeys, a fawn, a baby elk, rabbits. We’ve seen mountain lions. In the springtime, we see all the beautiful flowers that are out.”
Carlisle lives in Wittmann, about 35 miles northwest of Phoenix, and goes to Prescott for many of her rides. She had ridden horses for much of her life until her husband suffered back problems and could no longer ride a horse. A mule rides a lot different than a horse and is much easier to ride, she explains.
“The mule moves like a piston, up and down, which makes it easier on your back,” said Carlisle, who husband rides Rosie. “One reason is that a mule can see all four of its feet, while a horse can only see its front two. A mule will not spook like a horse will.”
A mule can run about as fast as a horse but can navigate steeper and more challenging terrain.
“They like long hikes. They enjoy getting out and riding. I’ve seen mules do everything a horse can do.”
When a mule sees a predator like a mountain lion or cougar, they are usually off in the distance. “A mule is more alert to its surroundings than a horse is. If your mule suddenly stops, you can look between its ears, you will see the danger.”
Mules can recognize other dangers, too. Carlisle tells the story of a friend who was riding a mule one day when it came to the edge of water and stopped, refusing to take another step. An accompanying rider on a horse, went ahead and immediately ended up in quicksand.
“If some of their group did not have ropes with them, they would have never gotten that horse out of there,” she says. “I’ve experienced the same thing when riding down by Tombstone. They sense quicksand and will not go in it. ”