The benefit of a mule over a horse is the fact that a mule will stop when it tires, while a horse will work itself to death. A wise farmer knew that for the momentary inconvenience of a stubborn mule that refused to work further, he got an automatic protection on his investment. No mule is going to work until it expires.
A mule is not a beautiful animal. It is big like a horse, but not graceful, and donkey-like without being cute. But what a mule does have is an uncompromising respect for its physical limits. In spite of its strength and hardiness, it balks at an overload. It does not care how mad you get, or what you think of its character. If it is more than the mule can do, it won’t do it.
The horse, on the other hand, noble animal that it is, takes its cue from what its owner wants. If the job is to keep working no matter what, it will. Horses will work or race until they drop, just because they can. The horse will ignore its exhaustion in order to keep up with the herd (or owner.) By the time a horse knows it has done too much, it can be too late.
This characteristic of horses is one reason why little girls on the cusp of puberty fall so deeply in love with these beautiful, bighearted animals. Little girls are probably intuiting something they have in common with the sensitive horse: grace and power used unstintingly in the service of other people. Young females feel a kinship with a being that gives up its wild freedom in order to belong to and care for others. You don’t hear much about girls falling in love with mules, but maybe we ought to push this.
Instead of encouraging little girls to focus on flowing manes and tails, we could tell them to use their strengths on their own behalf. Freed from the great distraction of being so beautiful, mules have learned to pay attention to their insides. Women can too.