COLUMBIA — Mike Call led his trotting mule up to the jump, yelling "get it up, get it up!" in encouragement. He stopped the mule, a 24-year-old appaloosa named Radar, and shouted some more while Radar pranced in place.
Call yelled and threw up his hands as Radar soared over the obstacle with ease, earning them first place in the jumping competition for mules over 56 inches tall at the Boone County Fair mule show Saturday evening.
The mule show involved multiple events for mules of different heights and genders, such as miniatures, males and females under 56 inches, and males and females over 56 inches. Besides jumping, mules and their trainers competed in events including halter, in which mules were lead and instructed to stand for the judge, and pole bending, in which the mules ran around poles in a pattern.
A mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. They were introduced into Missouri in 1820s and became the official state animal in 1995. Missouri was the primary mule producer for decades, according to the Missouri Secretary of State's website.
Jumping mules was a tradition started by coon hunting, Call said. Hunters rode mules while hunting, but they dismounted when they got to a fence and draped the saddle cloth across to signal the mule to jump over. Now, a green cloth is put over a jump during competition for the same reason. Call said the mules are trained only to jump fences with the cloth over them, so that they will not jump out of their pasture.
Showing mules was a hobby Call, of Henley, Missouri, inherited from his father. His father bought Radar when he was a 2-year-old mule. When Call's dad retired at the age of 85, he asked Call to continue working with Radar.
"He's part of the family," Call said of Radar. He gave the mule a pat on the shoulder and a tight hug after every jump.
Of 21 competitions Radar has entered at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, he has won at least 16, Call said. This was his third year in a row winning the jumping event at the Boone County Fair. Radar's best jump ever was 74 inches, 11 inches taller than he is.
Call said that he isn't planning to retire Radar soon, but when he does, the last show will be at the Missouri State Fair.
Supervising editor is Joe Guszkowski.