I've been enjoying spending some renewed time with the donkeys, post exhibition, teaching, etc.
Today, Siog and I went bush-whacking (we used to do a lot of this!) It begins with putting on her halter, leading her to the end of the driveway and asking her which way she wants to head ... up the road (steep climb) or down the road?
She chooses and today we went UP! But eventually, we head off on a deer trail to see where it takes us -
often through lots of blow down and difficult terrain which we manage to navigate. Siog is just great on a trail - she's intrepid and really enjoys the challenge.
Clicker training is a wonderful tool too - if we get stuck, or she is overly ambitious (i.e. running downhill) or decides that the grass in the ditch is just too yummy - I have a lot of ways to use clicker training to refocus, to encourage and to "allow!" Here's an example of the latter:
Donkeys (and horses) LOVE to eat grass, right? And we're always trying to get them NOT to, right?
Okay, try this: shorten your lead rope so that if the donkey drops her head, she cannot reach the ground.
But you're not using any pressure, the lead is still slack, you're not pulling. Walk her over to some yummy grass and ask her to stand and wait. Have both your hands holding the lead rope, (which is folded up) at your belly.
Once the donkey has relaxed (you can feel this!) then say "OKAY!" in an excited enthusiastic voice and allow her to drop her head and eat for, say, three bites. Then say "LIFT" and gently coax her head back into a standing position. Give her a cue for "Walk On" and leave. Repeat this on the other side of the road and pretty soon, your donkey will get the idea that you will actually allow some grazing. This is the positive reinforcement you are giving her for standing nicely - she gets a few bites! It's amazing! She'll stop pulling you to the ditches and actually anticipate (with delight) the game.
HUGE thank you to Sola Wolff of equinerevelation.com for teaching me this invaluable lesson!
Other updates: the farrier was here today and confirmed that Rose DID have an abscess in her right hind hoof last week! He found the track but it had completely drained. I was really surprised as she was weight bearing after just a day or so - I had thought it was probably just a bruise. Moral of this story ... catch it quick! Don't wait if you detect even the smallest-seeming problem! Apparently the soaking and poultice I did for Rose helped to resolve this quickly!