Alan A Day’s Work - Why Mules Rule


If you see a blur of white spots and long ears flying over a jump, that’s Alan. A 2008 john mule born out of a leopard Appaloosa mare, by a donkey jack.

“Alan A Day’s Work” has taken the equine world by storm. You name the jumping discipline, he’s done it, but not without having to fight for his right to compete. Through hard work and dedication to mule advocacy, Alan has gone to show that mules are just as capable as horses over fences.

Whitney Barnard, based in Lexington, KY, had been thinking about taking on a new project when she attended a fundraising trail obstacle event with her horse at the time. At this event, she met a woman who knew of a group of mules that were being re-homed. Having broken ponies on the side in the past, she was curious to see how different it’d be to break a mule, so she went to meet them. Amongst the group, she noticed Alan. Standing at 13.3 hands and sporting a stunning, bay blanket Appaloosa coat, this then 4-year-old stuck out to her. Barely halter-broken and unable to be moved in-hand, Whitney chose him based on his conformation alone. After getting him home, Whitney put Alan in the field as she pondered what approach to take next.

Training a mule was a first for Whitney, having had no experience with mules before. This made every stage a learning process for both of them, from breaking him to being caught, to being led, and eventually to being ridden. Whitney claims that Alan wasn’t easy to break, nor was he hard; he was just different. Alan made Whitney slow down, as she came to realize that he remembered more than horses did, internalizing the bad things with the good things. The typical mule stubbornness seemed to stem from self-preservation. If anything didn’t go as planned, Alan would be more wary of doing it again. Because of this, any progress made had to be Alan’s idea; however, once he realized it was a partnership between the two of them, he was more willing to do what was asked. The trajectory for improvement moved a lot slower than normal, but it made each step forward so much more rewarding.

One day, as Whitney was teaching lessons while sitting on Alan, she got the idea to try something. Asking for the canter, she pointed him at a jump, and he cantered right over it with square knees. It was at that moment that she knew that she had to keep him as a personal mount, and see if she could nurture this talent. As they grew confident as a jumping pair, she wanted to bring him to a show, more to see where her training with Alan stood off-property, rather than focusing on winning. They had been able to compete locally in Alabama, but when Whitney moved to Kentucky, the local Hunter Jumper shows wouldn’t let Alan compete, because he was a mule. The local Eventing community; however, had no such restriction. After gaining some experience in all three Eventing phases, the USHJA finally ruled to allow mules in Jumper classes in 2022, so she made the switch to the discipline that they are currently showing in. Having competed successfully in so many different disciplines, there was still one discipline left on Alan’s list to try: Hunters.

With the rule allowing mules in the Jumpers finally passed, Whitney began campaigning a secondary rule to allow mules to compete in Hunter competitions. In September of 2023, USHJA passed this new Hunter ruling, and is now waiting for USEF to vote on the matter in June of 2024. If passed, mules will be able to compete in recognized Hunter shows starting in 2025. When met with opposition on allowing mules to compete, Whitney states that, “mules are already at the Hunter/ Jumper shows for the Jumper classes, so it’d be no different of an environment, entering into the Hunter classes.” She wants people to know that, with the rule change to allow mules, there is no expectation to be judged differently. Mules are just as capable of doing the same things as horses, and they will be judged as such. “Allowing mules in the Jumpers and Hunters opens the door for more participation and inclusion, giving opportunity to those who might not have had it before,” Whitney believes. She hopes that Alan can show just how versatile a mule can be in the jumping disciplines.

After Alan began gaining a following for his jumping feats, Whitney received an email that every equine owner dreams about. The Breyer Horses model company had heard about Alan, and was asking if she was available for a meeting. After they spoke, Whitney was told that Alan had been chosen to be made into a Limited Edition BreyerFest 2024 portrait model, representing the year’s theme of “Against All Odds.” Not only that, but they were also given the opportunity to attend BreyerFest 2024, as an ambassador.

As for what’s in store for Alan after his adventure at Breyerfest, and hopeful career in the Hunter ring, Whitney said that she is most excited to teach lessons on him. Their journey together has been in hopes to erase the stigma surrounding mules, and there’s no better way than to share the love firsthand than with the next generation of riders.

If you are interested in following Alan’s journey, you can follow Alan on Instagram, @muleatahorseshow. He will also be attending BreyerFest 2024, July 12th-14th, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, where his Limited Edition Breyer model will be available for purchase.





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