What did everyone get up to on the weekend? I had quite an interesting one.
I was at home with my parents, being molly-coddled by my Mum, who insisted on applying witch hazel to my bruises and strains, and painkillers at every opportunity. Turns out she had an ulterior motive – I had to move plant pots and look after her friend’s horses.
On Saturday afternoon I had a bit of downtime so went to visit a friend, who lives on the side of a Welsh mountain in a small holding. The views are stunning, and we walked the dogs around the Punch Bowl before going to see the equines.
We have a story here. When I was drifting around having left school with no direction or ambition, I was introduced to this lady who had two ponies on the verge of laminitis. One was rescue so couldn’t be ridden, but the other one was quite capable of doing some work.
So I went there three times a week and lunged, schooled in the field, and hacked this pony. It was a massive learning curve for me; being asked for advice, having minimal facilities, having to source and fit tack, instruct someone on how to lunge and give basic riding lessons. I really enjoyed this new found responsibility and have always kept in touch with this lady.
Anyway, since I stopped riding the pony my friend has acquired a young donkey. He’s now three years old and ready to start his working life. Not that his working life will be particularly arduous, but his mind needs occupying.
He is now leading well, stands to be groomed and have his feet picked out, and has had the bridle put on a few times.
My job on Saturday was to check the bridle and make sure it was comfortable and well fitting.
It’s strange, fitting tack on a donkey. I mean, the basic premise is the same, but a donkey has huge ears to fit under a headpiece, a deep jaw, wide forehead, and a tiny mouth. But with a bit of tweaking the bridle fitted nicely, and he looked very smart!
Can donkeys get canker? The farrier visited last week and thought it was canker, but as he didn’t know if donkeys can get canker he wanted to ask some farrier friends and return to treat the hooves, which don’t seem to hurt him. A photo is below, please feel free to tell me about donkey foot care.
Another thing we looked at, were the donkey’s teeth. I was looking for wolf teeth, but instead found the tip of his corner incisor (the last incisor to grow) just breaking through the gum. Which can lead us to a whole new topic about teething!
Next time I go home it will be interesting to see how this donkey is getting on with his education. Again, if any donkey enthusiasts have any hints on long reining donkeys, or tips to train donkeys then please let me know!
I had my knowledge tested last weekend by an old friend. I’ve always helped her with her two ponies, but recently she’s acquired a young donkey.
I don’t know much about donkeys except that they are stubborn and a lot of horses are frightened of them.
So these were her problems and the solutions we came up with.
1. Whenever my friend lead her donkey he would stop and plant his feet, seeming to grow roots as she could not get him to shift.
I suggested that instead of getting into a tug of war situation my friend enlisted the help of one of her teenage sons to walk behind with a plastic bag attached to a lunge whip. When the donkey stopped and dug his heels in my friend should ask him to walk on while her son waved the plastic bag behind him. When the donkey walked forwards, the bag monster could drop back and the reward was the disappearance of the monster, but it was ready to assist when the brakes went on.
My friend trialled this the next day with success, so will continue this routine. She had been leading the three equids together so that she didn’t get stuck with a stubborn donkey. Now she can lead the donkey in separately and work on him without the ponies being present.
2. The donkey has no idea about personal space, and continuously pushes against his handler, wedges himself between the handler and ponies, and barges into people.
My friend needs to start putting the donkey firmly back in his box. When he gets too close she needs to calmly clarify her personal space, this may be by throwing her arms wide and discouraging him from coming any closer, pushing him back when he edged closer, and telling him off verbally. It’s important to be consistent though as donkeys are quick to fall back into rude habits. I think handling him separately to the ponies will allow her to focus more on his stable manners and he doesn’t have the ponies to distract him. She can reward him with a pat, grooming session as he loves that, or the odd ginger nut that he adores. Hopefully spending extra time with him will remind him of his manners and get him into a good routine and good habits.
3. When the three are turned out the donkey barges against the ponies, pushing them out the way and biting their necks. Even the grumpy chestnut mare walks away, letting the donkey walk all over her.
This donkey is only two years old and the two ponies are in their early twenties, so it could be that the donkey wants to play. Not having grown up in a donkey herd he won’t have developed vital herd social skills so throws his weight around and thinks he’s the boss. Handling him separately, and quietly and consistently confirming her authority over him, my friend will stop the donkey being top dog. She could try to stimulate the donkey in the field. She uses paradise paddocks but I suggested maybe putting an old football in the field for the donkey to play with, or putting large branches or logs around the field for him to explore and chew on – I believe donkeys are like goats in that way. Then I also suggested doing a bit more work with the donkey. Yes, he’s too young to lunge or physically work hard, but taking him for walks will mentally stimulate him and possibly doing ground work with poles and cones will give him something to think about. My final suggestion if all else fails was to send him to a donkey herd for the summer so he learnt some donkey manners, and then my friend can take over in the autumn and re-establish her expectations of him.
So far the donkey is learning to stay out of my friends personal space, and she is doing more on the ground with him to build onto longer walks and play sessions. But if anyone has any other donkey related tips we’d be more than grateful!