I just came in from doing a session, first with Dorica, then added Siog (while Deenah had some "extra" hay.) Dorica is often jealous at first when Siog joins us and can be really pushy but settles down when I use a high rate of reinforcement. This builds her confidence to where she realizes she won't be left out.
We are working with me in the middle and using body language to cue them to walk, trot, back, stand on a mat, head down and turn corners, i.e. when I turn, they turn. I am wanting to develop a flow to Alexandra Kurland's six foundation lessons, as in yoga, where one pose moves into another.
So, using my hand as a target, (Targeting) they walk beside me over to mats (Stand on a Mat.) I ask them to lower their heads (Head Down) and then to stand quietly (Grown-ups Are Talking.) Targeting again to walk off, then whoa and back up (Backing.) There are infinite variations to mixing this up (Loopy Training) and it can be worked slowly or quickly, once they've got it. It's fun to teach them to match your pace and to trot on cue.
You can build duration into all the steps and you can shape positioning, although I find this way too hard working with two donkeys at the same time - one on one is better.
The foundation lesson that I have missed is Ears Forward. I find that the donkeys concentrate so hard when they are working, that their ears are back. Not pinned-back- grumpy, but "back" nonetheless!
And I confess to not having spent much time on training Ears Forward.
Important to remember my own body language as all of the above is taught in silence. I don't want to muddy the waters with sound just yet. I have put some behaviours on cue (like "mat") but it's lovely to work quietly I find.
So I want my body to be fluid and dancerly - moving gracefully, gesturing confidently and pivoting into feeding position with flow, so that I can feed where I want their heads to be. And my own head position is important too, as I often catch myself bending towards them and not standing straight.
Alex always has us working together with another person before taking what we've learned out to the animals. This is so helpful as you can practice your own moves and not confuse your animals in the process. If someone else isn't available, a chair or doorknob works well too! Attach the end of a lead rope and practice your rope handling skills.
I am doing all of the above "at liberty" i.e. no halters and leads but actually I should do both as it's easier to control positioning when your donkey has a lead rope attached.
Short, consistent lessons with time in between to process the information, leads to wonderful, fun training sessions and real progress. Soon the minis and I will be ready for video!