By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– Bishop Mule Days have been going on every Memorial Day weekend for over 50 years. The event runs from Tuesday through Sunday as the largest mule show in the United States. This year former Ridgecrest resident Kaylee Becker won World Champion Performance Mule and World Champion Gymkhana Mule in the 14-17 age group with ‘Whoa Now.”
These are first-place events that are earned by winning several classes (categories) under the main category. For example, she and her mule rode Western Rail, Western Pattern, Trail, and English for the World Champion Performance. She scored the most points by participating in 13 classes.
Considered second place in her age group, she won Reserve World Champion Teamster with “Mandy & Sandy.” Kaylee and Whoa Now won Working Western Mule in the Mule Days Parade.
Her proud grandmother Candee Coffee, Owner/Senior Trainer at C and C Training Stables tells us, “She was born and raised here. She started riding when she was two. I created my own little mini-me. When she was living here, she was out here almost every day. She moved to Bakersfield three years ago when she was in eighth grade.”
In Bakersfield, Kaylee joined Future Farmers of America. Coffee tells us, “She’s been to the State and National Conferences and won tons of awards.” She’s raised and bred pigs, rabbits, goats, and lambs. This year she will raise a turkey. Grandma says proudly, “She’s a pretty well-rounded kid .” She adds that Kaylee is a 4.0 GPA student.
Kaylee tells us, “I’ve been riding since I was two, but I just started riding Whoa Now about four years ago. I’m in my junior year, so I am figuring out what I want to do after school. I want to keep riding, and I want to show more.” Coffee adds that Kaylee will be back for the Desert Empire Fair in October.
“A mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse,” explains Coffee. “So it can be a cross between a horse and a donkey too, but the most common is you breed a jack (male donkey) to a mare, and you get a mule. They do everything from Dressage to Western Pleasure, Jumping, Trail, Toping, Working Cow Mule, and Driving. They do everything. And they do something that’s solely for the mules called Coon Jumping.” As Coffee describes it, mules can jump from a standstill. For competition, they jump a bar and keep raising it in increments. “In the old days, when they were trekking across the country, they would have their Pack Mule. When they would come across a fence, they couldn’t cut it. So they would just lay a blanket over the fence in the middle, and the mule would jump over.
“I love horses, but mules are much more durable. They don’t forget, they don’t get mad, and they are very smart.” For example, “You go to the Grand Canyon, and they use mules because they’re surefooted, and most of the time, you’re not going to have a mule that’s going to crash. They’re going to take care of themselves. So if you’re sitting on their back, they’re going to take care of you. So whereas a horse, sometimes they lose their mind, and you’re going to go down with them.”
When asked what horses and mules mean to Kaylee, she replies, “It has always been something I’ve done for fun, even though I compete. It’s a way to relax. And it can get stressful, but they always bring you joy and happiness.”