There are many instances where a mule is better suited for a particular job than a horse; but most have to do with riding in the backcountry or packing and pulling heavy loads. A mule, due to his anatomical features discussed in the last blog, is more hardy when it comes to packing weight. This makes them an ideal choice for use as pack animals, for pulling farming equipment, and for pulling wagons.
A mule is less like likely to come down with an ailment caused by either insects, poor feed, or stress. Of course, we should never purposely subject our animals to things that will cause them harm (such as poor quality feed), but there are times when it is unavoidable if you are hundreds of miles into backcountry or desert.
Mules are also very sure-footed because of their small, narrow, but very strong hooves, making them perfect for packing and riding in rocky mountain terrain. Take a look at this link to see incredible videos of mules climbing rocks: https://youtu.be/ZizkPQevAbw A mule has a tendency to watch where every footstep falls, and also tends to place his hind feet in exactly the same place as his front when he walks, making him an ideal choice for traveling in rocky country.
Mules are also highly intelligent. It is this intelligence that, unfortunately, makes most people unable to work with them successfully. However, if you choose to learn from a successful mule trainer, you just might find yourself liking mule training even better than horse training! Especially in mountain country, many (though certainly not all) mules are able to think through sketchy situations so as not to get injured or killed, making them very reliable and safe to ride in an area where a horse would be more likely to panic and get hurt.
One final thing that must be said: Neither a mule nor a horse will learn much from a poorly skilled trainer. Plenty of horses do just as well in the mountains as most mules (though a mule will, by nature, be much more handy when it comes to rock crawling and cliff jumping). And plenty of mules do just as well in the arena as most horses. The difference is really in the training, the breeding of each individual animal, and the goal you have in mind.
If you aim to become a world-class cutter or reiner, stick with the proven, world class bloodlines that only a horse (typically a quarter horse or at least paint horse) can offer due to a hundred years of purposeful breeding. (Although, there are plenty of decent cutting and reining mules- but I'm talking about being the best in the world.)
If you aim to become a world-class top hand with packing and steep mountain country, stick with the proven, world-class bloodlines that only a mule can offer.
If you just want to ride around the trails and have fun with it on weekends or in the summer, then you will find that either a horse or a mule will likely serve you quite well- it's only dependant upon your particular tastes. It's not until you're at least a fairly skilled rider or trainer that you will really be able to form an honest, unprejudiced opinion on whether you prefer to work with a mule or a horse in any certain instance.
To learn more about mules from a true mule trainer, click here: https://tsmules.com/