Welcome to my blog - a diary about living with donkeys, notes about care, my training sessions and the absolute pleasure of donkey companionship.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Training at liberty vs training with a halter

Lately, I have been working with Ringo unhaltered.  He is way more comfortable this way - in a halter, he tends to balk.  So as a way of building his trust and confidence, I have trained him to target my outstretched fist and now we are working on having him walk beside me, keeping a respectable space between us.

The pros of working like this are:  he doesn't balk, i.e. toss his head around; or yawn (a typical sign of stress that he has displayed); he doesn't plant his feet and refuse to move;

but the cons are: it's harder for me to correct him without having any "tools" i.e. a lead rope to correct with.  Alexandra Kurland has taught us how to use the lead to create what she calls a "t'ai chi wall."

This is extremely useful to both stop the animal from barging ahead of you and also to keep him from crowding into you.  The lead rope actually creates the illusion of a "wall" when you slide your far hand softly down the rope and up to the snap under the animal's chin and your near hand back to the animal's wither,
creating a line (or wall) between you and the donkey.

Ringo prefers that I walk on his left side and tries to put me there if move over to his right.  This is common but something we need to practice.  He is terrific at stopping! As soon as he hears either "ho" or a click, that guy can stop on a dime!  But when we are walking, if he feels that I haven't rewarded him soon enough , he will speed up and cut in front of me, demanding a treat.  He's trying to call the shots here and this is not so good.

With a goal of being able to take him out on the roads, it's time to move him back into a halter and lead rope
and work with the t'ai chi wall.

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