I'm so happy and pleased to report that I am back to daily walks with a donkey. For a while there, we were all becoming a bit slovenly ... well, they were, I was just plain busy with other things!
But now a donkey walk has become part of the routine again. If it's a short walk, I might even manage to take one donkey out early in the day and a different one in the evening. I love these long days - there's even some light in the sky at 10:30 PM! I hate to think that we are approaching the summer solstice and will slowly see that daylight shrink ... but that's later. For NOW, we have lots of it to enjoy.
Yesterday Dorrie and I went to the mailbox. We're expecting a package of hoof boots! The road crew has resurfaced all the side roads here and they are just horrible to walk on ... grit and sharp stones and dust - UGH! I was so concerned about digging gravel out of the white line and frog areas, that I sprung for some hoof boots, at least to get us to the pavement or trail head.
No package yet, so we tootled up the road a bit and went to investigate an old decaying cement sculpture that had once scared the heck out of Dorrie. This time she was okay with it, though clearly not too impressed. I love how Dorrie has this wonderful connection to me while we are out walking. This is something we have been working on and she really gets it - as though there is a thread between us, she walks with a lovely soft neck turned slightly in my direction ... not always but mostly.
Later in the evening, I took Heather up a lovely trail nearby. It's a good climb to start with, leveling off to a beautiful woodland trail and then steeply downhill back to our road. There's a fallen tree across the path, quite high for a little donkey. Heather has jumped it before but last night she really didn't feel like it so we bushwacked our way around. Did I take a camera? No!
I used to think I had to "make" a donkey do stuff - now I
listen to their needs and if it's not an emergency or an issue of safety, I will usually honor
their wishes. After all, what I want with my animals is a partnership
not a dictatorship.
Heather was really great about walking down the very steep hill. She matched my pace and listened to my request for "slowwww!" A donkey running downhill with you on the end of the lead rope can quickly
gain a lot of speed and leave you in the dust. Plus you don't want them to think that every time you come to a hill, they get to run!
What to do about grazing at this time of year? Well, that's something we've been working on too. I do allow some grazing but under controlled circumstances! Generally I try to walk somewhat in the middle of the road and not too close to the grass along the edge (I don't really want them to eat that tall, dusty roadside grass anyway) but here's how I teach them about grazing: (have I posted about this before?)
1. Shorten the lead rope (but still leave some slack) so that if the donkey drops her head she can't reach the ground.
2. Walk over to some grass and ask the donkey to stand and wait (teach the cues for this separately.)
3. When you feel your donkey is relaxed (no tension in her neck, no pulling) say "OKAY!" in an excited, enthusiastic voice and allow the donkey to graze for 3 or 4 bites.
4. Ask her to "LIFT" her head (teach the cue for this separately.) and
5. Walk on.
I find that the donkeys quickly understand that they will be allowed to graze a bit and so they are quite happy to oblige. I incorporate clicker training by clicking once just before I say "Okay!" The grass is their reward. But if you are not a clicker trainer, this still is a great method! And remember, don't pull or yank on the lead rope ever - an "ask" is better than a "tell" which is why practice is so important.