Dear American Mule Museum,
I have been a fan of the mule for many years now. Now that my beloved Betty the mule is gone, I have a desire to share her wonderful story with you. Enclosed is just part of our story prepared for your consideration and possible inclusion at your museum.
If you are interested in more, I would be happy; to write more of her story, send pictures, prepare some video footage of our act on the circus and possibly also send her harness and props to your museum.
I look forward to hearing from you,
The American Mule Museum
“The mule is often perceived and misunderstood as being stubborn, but more often than not, is simply smarter than the mule handler.”
Betty the Mule
Love at first sight
Mules helped build America is an understatement. These sure-footed, calm and keen-witted animals were preferred over horses to carry packs up into rugged territory, skid boxes along chaotic shipping wharfs, pull wagons as part of large teams, drag a slip-scoop for an excavator and as riding animals assisting mankind for centuries. The true versatility of the mule was especially obvious when they were trained to entertain in the circus.
During the winter of 1987, Dave Knoderer acquired “Betty,” the 12-hand jet-black mule as a baby. Pleased with her pretty head, pleasant disposition and animated trot, Dave began training her to perform at liberty, or completely loose – without restraints – in a circus ring. He also introduced her to the tricks of the ménage; lay-down, sit-up, bow, waltz, etc. for the sake of developing a comedy act. In her he found a willing animal easily enrolled and together they developed their own version of – the animal appears to defy the trainer – a comedy routine.
From 1988 until 1990, as the wintertime student of John Herriott; liberty horseman, circus personality and trainer of all kinds of animals in Sarasota, Florida, Dave prepared his animals for circus performing. During those enlightening sessions, Dave rode “Souveran” the American Saddlebred while John rode “American Jubilee” his American Saddlebred. In addition to developing leg extensions, lateral movements and trick poses with their horses, John provided Dave with an understanding of how to start the hind-leg walk with Betty the Mule.
During their nine-year career Betty and Dave - Gold-Dust and the Old Cuss - performed across American and Canada, in shrine circus performances, on traveling big top shows, as a rodeo attraction and at special events at nursing homes and educational assembly programs during a time when performing animals were falling from grace. Betty was always willing and attentive in the presence of others and especially kind to the children who adored her.
Taking advantage of one last opportunity to perform for fourteen weeks in the summer of 1996, Dave performed two circus acts twice a day; “Souveran” the Haute E’cole or high school dancing Saddlebred horse, and “Betty” the liberty, ménage, trick and comedy mule at the tourist attraction called the Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, Indiana.
During her career as “Gold Dust and the Old Cuss” Betty delighted audiences across all of North America. Then she retired as a beloved member of the family. Betty lived to the age of 34.
Be Good, Be Well,
and Ride Safe
Dave "Letterfly" Knoderer