That same noble mule The News & Observer photographed for a State Fair story recently beat out a bunch of horses in a national contest for four-hoofed steeds.
Rocky, an Appaloosa mule, won at a regional competition of the Search for America’s Ultimate Horse Idol held in Raleigh in August. He went on to take home the national title at Oct. 27 finals in Richmond, Va. — where fans rooted with T-shirts and signs that read “Rock On, Rocky!”
Trainer James Lamm, 62, of Rolesville confesses he was a little nervous at first about entering his mule in a horse competition: “I didn’t know how they would feel about a mule winning.”
Rocky was up against horses trained in dressage, a form of formal riding, or high jumps. But the trick mule charmed the judges and about a thousand spectators as he went through his paces bridleless with Lamm on his back.
“Rocky was the odds-on crowd-pleaser favorite,” said contest organizer Wayne Williams.
The mule hopped onto a pedestal, rolled a barrel with his nose, balanced himself on a see-saw and cantered into the back of a pickup truck.
Lamm began training Rocky, 6, when the mule was about a year old. Now, Rocky can do more than 50 tricks. Some tricks, such as yawning on command, took Rocky as long as six months to learn.
Lamm would rub the mule, almost putting him to sleep. Then, when Rocky yawned, Lamm would reward him with a tasty treat.
“He’s not circus quality — he doesn’t jump through flames,” Lamm said. Nevertheless, Lamm said, “He’s a genius.”
On Sunday, Rocky made an appearance at Alex Tant’s 10th birthday party in Rolesville.
As usual, Rocky ended the show by lying down and letting Lamm’s Australian shepherd, Mandy, jump on his back.
“He’s a show-off,” Lamm said. “His purpose in life is tricks.”
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