Handlers get three minutes to make their mule jump under strict rules in the 25th annual Pea Ridge Mule Jump. The competition entertained an audience of about 3,000 but for one handler, this event is therapy for him.
Billy Jiffries, 13, is autistic. His mom Cindy Nelson said working with his mule has helped Billy with his social skills.
“He was like in a shell before we got Missy and after we got her, he gets out there and he does poles and barrels,” Nelson said.
Missy is Billy’s mule. She’s a rescue. Nelson said Missy would have died if they hadn’t picked her up. Both Missy and Billy are making a difference in each others lives.
“He loves the mules and him and Missy are just a match,” Nelson said.
The 13-year old said he loves the sport and hopes others maintain the tradition.
“It’s just very interesting and we have fun with it,” Billy said.
The 25th annual Pea Ridge Mule Jump took six months to organize, according to Nathan See, chairman. He said it wouldn’t have been possible without the board or the volunteers.
“It’s just kind of like a mule rodeo, it’s what it is,” See said.
According to the website rules, the mule has two tries to clear the barrier without knocking it down. Trainers can not touch the mule, they can hold the reins and tug them. The handler must get the mule to jump by word commands. If an owner is caught mistreating a mule, he is disqualified.
Some mules are stubborn and nothing will make them budge.
“You can see football any day you want, NASCAR any day you want to on TV, but you can’t see this every day,” See said.
This unique event also had a miniature celebrity. Her name is Lady Killer, she’s a micro-mini donkey who also competed. She belongs to Billy’s family. His mom Cindy said the Pea Ridge Mule Jump means a lot to her family, especially Billy.
“If you have down syndrome any type of disability equine therapy is the way to go,” Nelson said.
Nelson and her current husband got engaged in the Pea Ridge Mule Jump last year. The family also owns another rescue mule. His name is Diesel.