why drive donkeys?
WHY DRIVE DONKEYS?
by Kristi Kingma
firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://teamdonk.org
There are horses... Lots of fancy horses from drafts to minis and everything in between. That varied assortment extends into the world of mules. With so many choices out there why would anyone in their right mind choose a donkey to drive? Everyone knows they are unreasonable and hard to work with... Well first off my friend donkeys are not for everyone and if you decide you are to be owned by one and you like it, you'll never go back to those ear-challenged ones. Donkeys have a different perspective than a horse has on any given topic so one must readjust their training methods in order to become successful. It tends to make one believe in the adage that a donkey is trained the way a horse should be!
Maybe one should explore the reasons for having donkeys in the first place. There is the guard animal factor. Donkeys do not appreciate having their domains invaded whether it is coyotes, deer, wild turkeys or tame kittens, it's just not in their nature to share. When you have donkeys, you pretty much only have donkeys inside the fence line, the rest of the world remains outside that boundary.
Maybe it's because donkeys are so darn people friendly, they absolutely adore children and have an amazing tolerance for the disabled. They crave personal one on one attention and have a tremendous desire to please. Donkeys add a quiet touch of escapism to my world. They put me into a state of mind where peace and quiet reigns. When I am with them suddenly everything becomes “in the now” and I just surrender to their sight, sounds, smells and terrific company. When we discuss private issues what is said in the pasture stays in the pasture! Sometimes we just hang out together, they huddle around just so we can commune with each other and life becomes good again. Why do you think gold prospectors of the 1800’s chose a burro to accompany them?
With such high IQ's these animals are easily trained when one has the patience to go at their pace and show them exactly what needs done without boring them to death. They love to get out and explore the world once they have built up their personal self confidence in the job at hand and have formed a trusting bond with their person. It's that trust that makes them so good to tolerate parade happenings or drive through crowds of slow moving people. They just don't seem to get overly excited by their surroundings when they know you will guide them safely thru any situation. Driving is in their DNA today just as it has always been
I drive donkeys to keep them trim and in great condition and it does not hurt my figure either. All that harnessing and unharnessing and moving the vehicles about is great exercise. Ground driving is more fun than just going for a walk, its way more challenging with a donkey ahead of you. All that ground work pays off in huge dividends whether it is riding or driving, it all starts with simple walks and adding commands. Driving gives one the incentive to wake up an hour or two early and head down the road before the sun warms everything up. Even drinking one less cup of coffee is not such a bad idea, it could tend to make one healthier if you're not careful.
I also drive because of the harness and the equipment. Learning what works best for the team and what this 58 year old woman can hitch "all by herself" has been a huge accomplishment. Driving my team to a two wheeled cart means I can go off road trekking just about anywhere I want once the crops are off the fields. That makes it fun for all to get away from the dusty gravel roads and into the fields where we are able to drive in and out different places. We have looked over the edge of deep canyons sometimes with a creek running thru the bottom and cattle quietly grazing. There is always a chance we'll spot a herd of elk still in their beds or deer running nearby. Donkeys never miss a chance to watch wildlife, just be aware of what those radar ears are telling you and you'll enjoy the wildlife as much as they do.
Taking out the decorated buckboard for a parade is a real thrill. For guests the four wheeled rubber tired vehicle is perfect. Hitching to the country gig for pleasure driving truly exhibits how much class a handsome mammoth donkey has. There's always farm equipment that needs hitched to; a harrow, a plow, a sled to stack wood on, it’s a whole world of to-dos with the donkey boys out there. Tandem, unicorn, four abreast and four up hitches are just another piece of the puzzle yet to be solved by the Teamdonk boys. Following our 2011 blog will let you know if we manage to get these hitches accomplished.
Why do I drive donkeys rather than ride? I actually do both but driving thrills me to the point of producing a huge sense of personal satisfaction. More importantly driving is the most relaxing activity I do! When I am behind the team my heart soars with the eagles, it sings with the songbirds perched on the electrical wires. It’s crazy fun watching the hawks play their game of perching on the telephone pole just ahead until we almost arrive and then soaring off to the next one, never letting the boys catch up. It gives me a true sense of the changing seasons as I watch the tender green fall wheat poking out of mother earth and eventually maturing into majestic golden rods ready for harvest. You notice the little things when driving.
There is always an opportunity to stop and chat with the neighbors or take a passenger along for a great visit and a lasting memory. I dream of driving season when winter is raging or the spring rains are falling, knowing that for a brief span of time every year I will be out there waving to people who courteously pass by. I imagine they are wishing it was them riding along enjoying a fantastic looking pair of longears. Yes, it is me out there driving a team of mammoth donkeys in North Central Idaho on the spectacular Camas Prairie and moving at a slower pace of life even if just for a brief moment in time.
Someone once told me that driving is a journey with our partners. There is no destination, no ending point only our dreams, visions and hopes to help us move down the road to a true partnership. Driving Teamdonk has become a journey, not a destination.
Luc, Galahad… walk on boys, it's driving time!
hardy zantke on driving donkeys
Hardy Zantke on Driving Donkeys
by Elizabeth Moore
Hardy Zantke learned to drive horses as a youngster with draft-teams at his grandfather’s drayage company in East Germany. He later had a formal riding education in the West German army. After immigrating to the U.S. with his wife Jutta and settling in Torrance, CA they became one of the top competitors in Combined Driving in the USA in the 80's and 90's with their pairs of 17 hand bay Holsteiner geldings. They competed regularly throughout the entire U.S. and Canada and were first alternate of the U.S. team at the 1993 World Pair Driving Championship. They brought up two pairs from importing them as three year olds to being longlisted with the USET. They also competed with a four-in-hand and reached the USET List of Developing Drivers with the team. They retired from active competition in 2005.
Hardy is a retired transportation executive. He is a licensed FEI International Driving Judge as well as FEI Para Equestrian Driving International Judge and actively judges here and abroad. He is an Honorary Director of the American Driving Society and serves on various committees of USEF and ADS. He has served as Chef d'Equipe since 1996 for thirteen U.S. Teams which brought home five medals. Hardy writes for various driving magazines and his articles are published in Australia, Germany, Italy, Canada and the USA. He received the ADS Presidents Award for his contributions to driving.
Hardy Zantke’s articles included in Eeebray are written for "Carriage Horses" and the training and driving style of carriage horses in contrast to the training and driving style of draft horses. Hardy admits to have only very limited knowledge of donkeys, but his articles are none the less very helpful to anyone driving multiple donkeys. His articles would mainly be applicable if the donkey driver strives to drive "carriage horse" style, rather than "draft horse style".
The main and fundamental difference is that carriage horses are driven "on the bit" mostly at the trot along the principles of ridden dressage, thus are expected to carry themselves and to bend in turns, whereas draft horses are not driven "on the bit", work a lot on voice commands, do not need to bend and originally worked mainly at the walk.
Hardy believes that most donkeys probably would be more comfortable being driven draft horse style. Hardy suggests that his articles be read and understood accordingly with thus only limited use for donkey drivers. Nevertheless, he believes that some of the ideas expressed in them might still be beneficial.
It is this author’s opinion that there are numerous donkey trainers/drivers who do believe that donkeys can be driven “on the bit” and drive/train their donkeys striving for “carriage horse” type of driving.
Much discussion can be had about the two driving styles and we appreciate Hardy’s contribution to the Eeebray website & welcome continuing discussion about the two styles.
driving pairs 101
Driving Pairs 101
For people who drive pairs, tandems, unicorns
and other multiples, or who would like to learn.
This article was written for Carriage Horses and not donkeys specifically, but much of the information can be very helpful for driving donkeys.
Reprinted from the Driving Pairs website
So you want to start driving a pair, huh? And you think you can do it on your own? You know the saying: Green & green makes black and blue? So save your hide, your animals and your equipment and get some pair driving instructions from a qualified teacher, ok?
But I know, there are always some who need to do it on their own, and since we can’t change that, then let me at least offer a few, perhaps helpful hints from between my blinders. Since this is the Pairs List I will only mention pair specific items here, as I assume that you’ll have single driving experience and know how to handle driving horses and how to drive single. If you don’t, then get that experience first.
If you can’t get your hands on a reliable pair, then start out with two reliable single horses (or ponies) which you can drive safely single with trust and confidence. If you don’t have two of those, there is really no point for you considering driving whatever you have in a pair. So get to that point first. (Note: experienced pair drivers don’t need that, they can start a young horse with a schoolmaster in the pair, but this is not written for them!)
Then make sure the two singles get along with each other. They don’t need to be the greatest buddies, but they should tolerate each other without kicking or biting. Get them used to each other including bumping into each other. You can do that by riding them together with a partner, but close together. Or you can ground drive them with a partner, each ground driving one with single reins and ground driving them close to each other. All at the walk is fine. Riding, you can trot as well, or even canter, but make sure, we don’t have any kicking at each other at the canter. So if you canter together, start them further apart before coming closer together. All this is good preparation to make sure they tolerate each other working closely together, which they will need to do next to the pole, in a pair.
Next get a set of pair reins and a good book explaining the function of pair reins. There are good explanations available, so I don’t need to do that here. I recommend "The Art of Driving by Max Pape" or "The Principles of Driving by the German National Equestrian Federation". Both are available through the ADS (www.americandrivingsociety.org). If you study "The Art of Driving" then you are in royal company, because this is what Prince Philip used to learn to drive as stated in his newest book. They didn‘t even have an English version then. He did it from the German version! So if he could do that, you surely can study the English version now.
As a very quick version of the pair rein function: You need to know four basic items:
Horses too close together and/or heads turned towards each other: You need to lengthen the coupling reins = coupling rein buckles need to go one or more holes forward.
(Note: Heads turned together mostly is not due to too short coupling reins, but due to wrong pair driving - which you will learn in Driving 102 below. But coupling reins also need to be the proper length.)
Horses too far apart and/or heads turned away from each other: The opposite from above: You need to shorten the coupling reins = coupling rein buckles need to go one or more holes backwards.
One horse more eager than the other, or having a shorter neck than the other: He needs to be taken back by bringing the coupling rein buckle on his back FORWARD (which shortens his draft rein!) and the coupling rein buckle on the back of his partner BACKWARDS (which shortens his coupling rein).
Important! On all the above adjustments, you always must adjust BOTH coupling buckles by the SAME number of holes (provided you started out even on both reins). Never change only one, as then the horses can’t move straight.
Do more reading in the driving books.
Next step: You can ground drive the two horses now at the walk using the pair reins. Also use a connecting strap (or rope) between the two collars, but don’t tie them together too closely. You just want this as some help that they don’t get too far apart when starting out uneven. Have a helper on each head to help them start out together and then walk them around the ring.
When all went well then, as the next step, you can hitch them to the pair carriage. If the carriage has an evener, make sure to set that fixed, or tie it so that it will be fixed. We do not want to start horses with an evener as they will start out uneven and the evener will not help, but only add to the problem.
Have helpers again at the heads to start them out even. If they do start uneven - and they will - trust you - do NOT hold them back in trying to correct that, but do drive FORWARD and it will work itself out.
Note: The beginners’ mistake is to hold them back to try again to start out even. That is wrong. Here is why: You ask them to go forward. One was quicker than the other to follow your command. Mrs. Eager did it right away, and Mr. Slowpoke is still thinking about it. The cure is to top Mr. Slowpoke with your whip and get him going. If you were to hold them back now, Mrs. Eager would be punished for going forward and would get totally confused. “Why are you holding me back now? Didn’t you just ask us to go forward? But that’s not enough.” Since Mrs. Eager is following your commands she would now stop again, when you hold back, just at about the very moment that Mr. Slowpoke got the idea to go forward. So you get that bad see-saw effect, which all beginner pair drivers have when they hitch their horses the first time, It only gets worse if you hold back. So the answer is, as always in driving: FORWARD and it will work itself out. Mr. Slowpoke will finally wake up and follow Mrs. Eager, as he is dragged along, or as you hopefully helped him waking up with your whip. Note: Not with your voice, as that would only upset Mrs. Eager more. Second note: Drive with blinders, as with open bridles your whip coming would also upset Mrs. Eager more. The above is also the explanation, why you don’t want an evener at this stage of the game. Mrs. Eager goes forward first, and at moment she does, Mr. Slowpoke, just thinking about starting as well, gets hit in the chest by his collar as his traces are coming tight through the evener, which he might take as a signal to stop instead of going forward. So Mr. Slowpoke could get confused getting different messages. You said to go, but when he wanted to go, the slap on his chest said to stop. Without the evener, or with the evener tied up (or inactivated), this problem won’t occur.
So once you start going FORWARD, great! You got it. Drive at the walk for a while, straight as much as you can and get after the lazier one of the two, as each pair has lazy one. Be careful when you have to make turns and don’t turn too sharp as the inside horse will rub his hind leg against the pole and might think of kicking if that pole hits him too much. So make careful wide turns and watch that inside horse’s hind leg.
When all goes well at the walk and is calm, you can also carefully try it at a calm trot. Bring them back to the walk for the turns, unless the turns are real wide.
Halt, unhitch and put them away and congratulate yourself on the first successful pair drive. Have a beer (wine is acceptable too) and join the ranks of the pair drivers.
Happy pair driving.
driving pairs 102
Driving Pairs 102
For people who drive pairs, tandems, unicorns
and other multiples, or who would like to learn.
This article was written for Carriage Horses and not donkeys specifically, but much of the information can be very helpful for driving donkeys.
Reprinted from the Driving Pairs website
I hope you enjoyed your first pair drive. Horses are herd animals, they like it much better in a pair, as I hope you will too. Now comes the next lesson and this will give you and your horses a distinct advantage over single driving. What follows now is something that a single driver can’t do! But you need to stay with me through the end of the lesson to get full use of it.
Most of us know that one of our goals in proper driving - at least for those of us who drive carriage horses, but it doesn’t hurt for draft horses either - is that the horses are going straight on a straight line and are bending properly in the turns. I will show you how the pair carriage helps us to teach our horses bending. And this lesson is VERY important for the beginning pair driver! Unfortunately most of them do not know this and the result of their lack of this knowledge is that their pairs are not going straight, are hanging off the pole and are going badly counterbent through the turns. Let’s be honest, we all know that: Most lower-level pairs are going as I just described. Lengthening the coupling reins won’t help. Switching the horses won’t help. Nothing will, except proper pair driving! And the longer you wait to learn this lesson, the worse it will get! So do pay attention and do follow this advice!
First you must drive your horses STRAIGHT on a straight line down the road. You must be able to use your whip on the outside of your horses, if they do not go straight, in order to straighten them. You don’t need to beat them, but they must tolerate the whip as an aid. You must have them calm enough to be able to do that at the walk.
If both heads are turned to the inside, as it is with many beginners’ pairs, and your coupling reins are long enough, then you must use the whip on the outside of both horses to get them straight.
If both heads are turned to one side as you drive down the road, that means that the horse on the side, to which side both heads are turned, is the more eager one, e.g. both heads turned to the left, means the left horse is doing more of the pulling, so you must get after the right horse to get them straight! Use the whip on his outside. That will bring him forward AND help him to go straight.
How do I know that the right horse in the example above is the lazy one? Stay with me now, this is important! Take a close look at the pair carriage and try it out yourself with a parked carriage on a flat surface. Stand in front of the carriage on the left side and pull it forward with your hand just on the left edge of the splinterbar. See what happens? The pole will go to the right, e.g. when you pull it forward just on the left edge of the splinterbar it will not travel straight, instead it will travel to the right. The same happens when the left horse is more eager, only most of us don’t even notice it, but adjust automatically for it. How do we adjust? Well, if the pole gets pulled to the right and the carriage travels to the right, we don’t want to go off the road to the right. Since we know how to steer, we automatically pull a little more on the left rein, and so the horses follow our command, and take their heads to the left while pulling the polehead a little to the left to counter the tendency that it had to go to the right, where it was pulled by having the left horse more eager!
So to correct this crooked travel, you must go after the right horse. Of course all the same is true similarly if the right horse is the more eager one and both heads are turned to the right. When the right horse pulls more, then the pole wants to go to the left. Then you automatically take up more on the right rein in order not to go off the road to the left and then you have both heads pulled a little to the right. So then the cure is to go more after the left horse.
Once you fully understood the above and learned to drive the horses STRAIGHT, with their heads straight and calmly at the walk, then comes the time to teach them bending using the same principle we just learned.
Now you go into a large arena, like a 40 x 80 meter dressage arena and you start driving large figure 8’s, calmly and at the walk. Drive the figure 8 with two 40 meter circles getting straight over X in the middle. If you do not have that much room, it is also ok to first drive one circle to one side, then change on the diagonal through the middle and then drive a circle to the other side. The important thing is that you alternate and drive one large circle to one side followed by another large circle to the other side. As you drive your large circle, DRIVE ONLY THE INSIDE HORSE! Make the inside horse pull the carriage! Let the outside horse rest and just go along. Concentrate all your efforts only on the inside horse! Make him go forward, use the whip on his side. That will make him go forward and it will assist him with the bending. But more importantly, driving the inside horse forward will make the pole wanting to go to the outside, just as explained above when driving down the straight road! Now we have the inside horse pulling the carriage, so the pole wants to go to the outside, the carriage wants to make the circle even larger, e.g. run out of the circle! That gives you the chance to take up a little on the inside rein (keep some contact on the outside rein as well, but take slightly more on the inside rein), and voila, with that you get the head of the inside horse pointing a little into the turn, and bingo, there is your bending! Never mind the outside horse. Leave him alone. His head will point by itself to the inside of the turn for him, that means toward the polehead. It is the inside horse that you need to get bent and prevent from going counterbent and over the shoulder! So NEVER EVER allow him to go counterbent, not in the circle, and not on the road NEVER! Use your whip on his side if he tries to counterbend. YOU MUST enforce that! But you get him best trained to that, by LARGE circles. Don’t try to force him into smaller circles. Keep it large, and keep it calm. It will come!
And you only do one circle with him, then you change directions, so now the poor guy, whom you have been after the entire circle, has time off and can relax and even hang back a little if he likes to. No problem, we can work on the hanging back later in a future lesson. For now the bending is MUCH more important. Now, turn all your attention to his partner, who now is the inside horse on your next circle. So each horse only has to give you one circle when he is on the inside, and then has time off for the next circle when he is on the outside, since you change directions after each circle.
This is perfect interval training. Usually one horse is better than the other. So this helps you too. You only have to get the more difficult horse through one circle and then you can all relax again, as you change directions and can enjoy the easier horse.
Once all three of you mastered this lesson at the walk with large circles and the inside horse bending, then you can do the same at the trot, but keep it nice and easy and relaxed and LARGE circles! I think this is probably one of the most important lessons in pair driving! You can do large figure 8’s for hours with your horses or ponies. So as explained above, this is something where the carriage with a pair helps you with the bending something that it does not do for a single, where the horse pulls from the center.
Not only does this teach your horses proper bending, it has many side benefits. Interval training is one which I mentioned already. It is much easier for each horse to have to work and concentrate on just one circle and then have the next circle time off, mentally and physically. That makes happier horses.
The next benefit is that each horse has to lengthen stride a little when he is on the outside to come along and to shorten stride a bit when he is on the inside. You don’t have to do anything to it. They learn that by themselves in the large figure 8. So they learn lengthening and shortening their strides by themselves, and then horses are like people: They like to be in stride. Just as you and I like to be in stride if we take a walk together at the beach or through the woods and carry on a conversation. It works much better of we are in stride - provided we are halfway similar in our strides to start out with - otherwise we won’t make a good pair - at least not for walking in stride together :-).
So then the horses learn by themselves how to adjust their strides to be in stride with each other, and all the spectators oooh and aaah when your pair goes across the diagonal and is in perfect stride with each other! They learned that by the figure 8s that you drove for many hours with them.
When you hitch them next time, switch them, so both are not getting one sided, and work the same program again!
Once it works well on large circles at the walk and at the trot, then, and only then, can you start working on making the circles smaller and the turns smaller. But again, never allow them to go counterbent. Proper training is love and consistency!
If you apply the above lesson, you will be way ahead of most beginners, as your pair will not go counterbent through each turn and each corner in the dressage ring, which is the most common fault of beginning pair drivers. And if that mistake is not corrected early on, it will get worse and worse and after a while will become almost uncorrectable with the pair, as by then they will have learned to go counterbent through each corner. Yours won’t be one of those!
Once you are all good at this and always have your proper bend in the turns, then and only then can you start thinking of making the outside horse also go forward a bit to keep up with the inside horse and not hang back, and then one day, you can even get the outside horse to pull you through a sharp turn very quickly when you want to make a quick, tight turn in a hazard. But for a beginning pair that is not bending properly yet, trying to do that is the sure way to permanent counterbending. So don’t do it! Resist the temptation. I know it’s hard. Instead, drive your large figure 8s and teach them to bend. Your reward will be a well bending, good pair which with proper bending can do good dressage and cones, and hazard even faster one day.
driving pairs 103
Driving Pairs 103
For people who drive pairs, tandems, unicorns
and other multiples, or who would like to learn.
This article was written for Carriage Horses and not donkeys specifically, but much of the information can be very helpful for driving donkeys.
Reprinted from the Driving Pairs website
In my Article Pairs 101 I wrote briefly about the four basic rein adjustments. Let me explain a bit more the adjustment No 3 that I mentioned there, the necessary adjustments for the pair with one eager and one lazy horse.
We have in almost every pair one horse that is more eager than the other. Almost no pair has both working completely even. It’s called "a willing pair", one is eager to work, and the other is eager to let ‘em :-).
We need to take the eager one back a hole in the reins, which means at the same time that the lazy one is let out one hole in the reins. Here is how that works.
Let's assume our left horse is the lazy one and our right horse is the eager one. Now let's take the eager one back one hole in the reins. That means on our LEFT rein, we move the coupling rein buckle BACK one hole - which shortens the coupling rein which goes from the LEFT draft rein over to the right horse by one hole - and since the end of the reins aren't fixed in our hands, it also means that the draft rein to the left horse now got longer by one hole. So now we adjusted the LEFT rein for BOTH horses with this, left rein of right horse got shorter and left rein of left horse got longer.
Since we don't want to drive crooked, we now must do a similar adjustment on the RIGHT rein, only there we must do it in the OPPOSITE direction, e.g. the right rein buckle must move FORWARD one hole. That has the effect of lengthening the coupling rein which crosses over to the left horse, and by the same token, of shortening the draft rein to the right horse.
So with that we now adjusted the RIGHT rein of BOTH horses accordingly. NOW the left (lazy) horse has one hole longer reins on both sides of his mouth, and with that has more room to step out a little more (which we still need to encourage with our whip that he does, but now we gave him the room for it), and our eager right horse has his reins one hole shorter on both sides of his mouth, so we keep him back in our hand more.
Our beginners in pair drivers: Please take your time to read this again until you clearly understanding it. This is one of the fundamentals in pair driving. It is better explained with drawings, etc. in many good books, like "The Principles of Driving by the German National Equestrian Federation" or "Max Pape: The Art of Driving". It is VERY important to always adjust the coupling reins on BOTH reins, never only one, as otherwise you would get your horses crooked.
As I explained briefly in Pair Driving 101 we have three different kinds of adjustments. The above is one of those three.
Happy pair driving.
driving pairs 104
Driving Pairs 104
For people who drive pairs, tandems, unicorns
and other multiples, or who would like to learn.
This article was written for Carriage Horses and not donkeys specifically, but much of the information can be very helpful for driving donkeys.
Reprinted from the Driving Pairs website
More On Rein Adjustment
I hope you had time to read and think through Pair Driving 103 on Pair Rein Adjustment. Now let me add one more item as that is often misunderstood, even by VERY experienecd pair drivers.
Some people think that by shortening or lengthening just one of the reins at the bit, they can influence only one horse and not the other. That's wrong. Think about it!
If you shorten a rein on one horse, it ALWAYS has the same effect as lengthening the rein on the other horse, regardless WHERE you do the change. If one is shorter it also means the other is longer, no matter if you shortened it at the coupling rein buckle, or at the bit. Just the same as when a tailor would shorten one of my pants legs by an inch. Then one would look shorter and the other would look longer, and it doesn't matter, if he took out the inch at the bottom, or at the knee, and unless I would wear my pants always at the very same spot around my waist, you couldn't tell if one pants leg would have been shortened or the other would have been lengthened.
The same is the case with our pair reins since the ends which we hold in our hands are flexible, and are not riveted to the dash board. So since shortening one ALWAYS has the same effect as lengthening the other, that means, you can NEVER just influence ONE horse by shortening or lengthening the reins at the bit or at the coupling rein buckle, you ALWAYS influence BOTH horses! And that is the reason we change rein length ONLY at the coupling rein buckle, and not at the bit, as to most of us it is more clear that we influence BOTH when we change at the coupling rein buckle, and we easily forget this principle when we start changing rein length at the bit. And THAT is the reason that you should NOT lengthen or shorten just ONE rein, but always do it on BOTH reins, as when one horse is crooked, and you try to change that by changing just one rein on him, you are now punishing the other horse by also pulling his bit crooked into his mouth.
So if one horses travels crooked, you CANNOT correct that by rein adjustments - provided your reins were not crooked to start out with. You can only correct that by working on getting the crooked horse straight with other means, with whip aids, with switching him, under saddle, driving him single, working him in longlines, etc, plus working the figure eights as described in Pair Driving 102.
I can hope that I could explain this properly this time, as quite often I have failed when I tried to explain it to some very experienced pair drivers, who wouldn't believe me and are still changing rein lengths at the bit and are still thinking that with doing so they can influence only one horse and not the other. The fault when I couldn't convince them, always was not in the above truth, but always only in my failure to explain it properly.
Safety When Driving Your Longears
As published by the British Donkey Society Driving Division
1.Maintain concentration at all times, try to anticipate anything which might frighten your animal.
2.Watch your animal’s ears at all times. They will tell you what he is thinking.
3.Try to distract your animal’s attention with your voice BEFORE he has time to take fright.
4.When driving a green or nervous animal, have an active passenger who is prepared to jump out and give assistance from the ground if required.
5.Make sure that your vehicle and harness is sound and in good condition, paying particular attention to hames straps, reins and traces.
6.Carry the whip at all times, as in order to avert an accident it may be needed very quickly. Adhere to the correct procedure for putting to and taking out of the vehicle AND NEVER, EVER REMOVE THE BRIDLE BEFORE TAKING THE ANIMAL OUT OF THE VEHICLE!
A donkey or mule, loose, hitched, with no bridle can ruin your vehicle, do great damage, kill or permanently injure itself, kill other animals and KILL AND INJURE PEOPLE! (Also be aware that some show grounds may ask you to be removed if you are leading an animal-hitched or put to. It is against some show rules to lead a hitched animal-they state that a driver must be in the cart on any hitched animal moving on the show grounds!)
If you wish to pass someone, do so with care, not too close, and at a reasonable pace. If the other animal appears frightened of “hots up” draw back immediately. We have observed people, especially in the show ring, using the whip in such a manner as to frighten another person’s animal. This should never be done. It is very dangerous.
If anyone has an accident, pull up at once. Give clear signals to those behind when turning or stopping.
1.NEVER let your attention wander.
2.NEVER pass anyone suddenly and at high speed either on the road or in the show ring.
3.NEVER bring an animal which is completely inexperienced to a large show or rally.
4.NEVER drive with a rein held separately in each hand as it is impossible to shorten them in an emergency.
5.NEVER leave an animal unattended or insecurely haltered.
6.NEVER TAKE THE BRIDLE OFF BEFORE TAKING THE ANIMAL OUT OF THE VEHICLE!
7.NEVER allow animals to canter or gallop in harness. Despite the fact that galloping is required in certain competitions, only the most skilled whips and well trained animals should do so, and never in company.
8.Drivers should never dismount before the passengers do.
(No one will think any less of you if you ask for assistance in holding an animal’s head before entering a class, or if you must make tack or equipment adjustments. Never be offended by anyone offering to help you-they are most likely thinking of YOUR safety at that moment!)
teaching team driving skills part 1
Training OK Sir Galahad to Drive Part One
by Kristi Kingma
I’m not a trainer; I don’t profess to be one. With that said and close to 500 hours of donkey driving under my belt I was ready to start one of my own and had the perfect opportunity with OK Sir Galahad, a four year old gelding. It is an ongoing wonderful experience and I am lucky in many ways to have three delightful helpers Erin, Robert and Don and of course my husband Jim who I could not have done this without.
These are basically the training steps put into place to teach Galahad to drive. It is written in such a way you could follow along in your own training. I would highly recommend you go beyond my words and get additional help from trainers, other drivers, books and videos.
For these first sessions I used a sturdy halter and a chain and a 12 foot cotton lead rope. Do not coil this rope where it could trap your hand; always wear gloves and a helmet.
Start every session with food. Something they like and is a treat. I feed a beet pulp mixture in a bucket that hangs on a fence at training time or a canvas Calvary style nosebag with a mixture of small hay pellets and grain for something to munch on while I brush and harness. This gives them something to look forward to, they know they are going to be worked but the treat makes it worth while. Make this your regular routine and start everything you do with them on this program.
End your sessions using a hoof pick and some quality tie up time extending the amount of time each day to teach patience. We would incorporate a short trailer loading practice or trail course session before turning him loose always ending on a positive note.
Step one The Basics: Your donkey must be well schooled in ground manners before embarking on more serious training. Teaching them to halter, lead, pick up feet, turn on the forefront and hind on cue and to back is a must. Now it is time to begin taking your donkey for walks.
Here you will teach the number one most important word…. WHOA… drag it out whoooooaaaaaa making it a very long, a deep soothing word. Remember the only time you ever use this word is when you want all four feet to quit moving. Never say the word unless you want all forward motion to cease immediately and only at that time do you dare to utter “the W word”.
Easy is another word I like to drag out … to slow my animals down as in “Eee-zzzzz-yyy Walk either starting out or coming down from a trot Eee-zzzzz-yyy Trot” is used for a slow jog trot. “Trot On” is my extension command and is voiced in a crisp slightly higher more energized tone. Other words introduced during ground drive schooling included walk-on, back, gee and haw for turning. Always say your donkeys name first and give the command word, always! So it sounds like, “Galahad Gee Over” a cue I would use for a fanning maneuver where I would want him to cross over on the front turning to the right.
I do want to go one step further in this discussion and that is training yourself and picking your words. I have inserted my favorite description of this topic, *“The voice of the driver: The main characteristics of the voice are pitch (high or low inflexion), intensity (faint or loud) and resonance (the individual tone of each voice). By choosing the appropriate pitch, intensity and resonance, a wide range of commands becomes available to the driver. These commands can be adapted to suit the perceptive faculties of each horse in the tandem. Of course, to avoid confusing the horse the vocal command must always be exactly the same for the same horse in the same circumstances.”*1
A driveway, an arena or pasture area will be great places to start with your daily walks. Venture out into the neighborhood; haul to an area that is quiet or walk in the woods. Where ever you plan to drive is a must to walk. This is your time to build a bond with this animal, all donkeys even pasture pets should get some quality one on one walking time with you.
Note: If you must use a stud chain on your lead rope to stay in control, do it! Ninety percent of the time our chain is loose and is never needed but it is there if we need to remind the donkey who is in charge for a brief moment. Remember the reward is a quick release when they give to you. The worst thing that can happen is your donkey getting away from you and racing home scared or for you to forget the quick release. Start small and build slowly on your walks, stay within your comfort zone and expand. I also like a long cotton lead rope, and gloves are an absolute must. If you have a trail course set up introduce that slowly into your routine as you gain confidence keep your walks fresh with something different every time. During our walk sessions we incorporated trotting in hand along a fence line which was a great learning tool, later we added trotting in harness with a driver and a handler at the head.
Once this is going well it is time for Part B of Step One and that is to harness your donkey and proceed with walks. It will take him or her time to get use to the sounds, smells and the feel of wearing a striped down harness while walking. This includes an open bridle, with no blinders, and a bit even though you are still working your lead rope off the halter. I start off with a snaffle bit that hangs a bit low in the mouth so they learn to pick it up and pack it.
Step Two as you are walking slowly drop back behind the front shoulder and then back to the hip. Once they find you are no longer in your normal place your donkey may stop and turn back to look for you or try to bolt ahead. If he tries to run off let him circle around you, the reason behind the long lead rope. As long as you have control of the head and the direction of the feet they most likely will not escape. Just let them circle as long as they like, you can even encourage this until they want to stop and be with you. The key to this step is once they settle down and start breathing normally is to start walking again first near the head and then begin to quietly drop back towards the hip. Something that works well is to use a fence line on the donkey’s side while dropping back. Always end your sessions on a good note, hugs, atta boys and I add a few treats.
Part B of Step Two is to attach your lines; I prefer to run them thru the collar rings, then the shaft holders and directly back to my hands. The lines can be attached to the sides of the halter if you have a helper and are working in an enclosed area as you cannot let your donkey get away from you. Later you will want to attach them to the bit. Your helper will take over for you on the lead rope and you will start to man the lines. At first you are going to simply let your donkey get accustomed to you walking behind and some simple turns using gee and haw, this probably will make him/her a little nervous especially once you add a bridle with blinders. Don’t forget the whoa training here. You want your donkey to stop as soon as you say whoa and before you have to apply bit pressure. You can drive towards a fence or wall and say Whoa just before reaching your natural stopping barrier, after several sessions of this move away from the barrier and see how he does.
I have had little success with donkeys and snaffle bits. We seem to do better in a straight bar bit. Galahad had no respect for the basic Mylar snaffle so I put him into a Kimberwick snaffle which he tried to avoid by raising his head but seem to have more respect. The bit that worked best for him was a Mullen mouth butterfly driving bit with the lines ran through a lower ring on the collar and through the shaft holders. Experiment!
This is where I introduced the driving whip, after he was accustomed to the bridle with the blinders, and still tied to the hitching rail or in the round pen. It’s a simple introduction of touching the donkey all over while at his side then later from the back of him touching the shoulders for future turns and rump rubs with lots of atta boys while you are standing next to him. I only use my driving whip on the days I use the bridle with the blinders. I just want him to become accustomed to being touched not completely desensitized to the whip so I don’t spent much time on this component.
While your donkey is tied or in a small pen, introduce him to the PVC poles. He must be okay with them touching his body, legs, head, across his back and under his belly before you go further, this will take some time and several short sessions. I do want him to be okay with the big white poles touching him as someday he will be flag racing and the poles and barrels must be familiar to him. I began packing smaller poles with me in the open pasture working my way up to the larger ones when he were used to getting a treat. If he wanted the treat Galahad had to put up with the white poles. Later we moved into a small pen with him at liberty and progressed into dragging the poles past him until he understood the poles meant treats were forthcoming.
My donkey had a Part C to Step Two as I had an experienced donkey to hitch him into a team set up where I could ground drive them together. Having a partner made it easier for Galahad and was invaluable later on. During these sessions we incorporated serpentines, circles, and figure-eights so that Galahad would learn that when he was on the inside making him the pivot he must slow down and when he was on the outside he needed to step up his pace.
Here we are going to switch gears a little bit and go into the actual lessons I used to train Galahad to drive.
To practice holding your lines make up a Rein Board, mine was patterned after this one so I could drive and watch TV at the same time.
Practice using your driving whip and make sure it is long enough to touch your donkey’s shoulder from the cart. At any time you feel you have gone as far as you are comfortable there certainly is no shame in getting professional help. Stay within your comfort zone, always wear a helmet, gloves and be safe!
*1 Driving a Tandem by Paul Doliveux page 30 Published by J.A. Allen London
Other great reads include Breaking and Training the Driving Horse Doris Ganton
Videos I recommend include Mules and Donkeys A Logical Approach to Longears Tape #3 Preparing for Performance: Driving Meredith Hodges
Other books in my driving library include
Donkey Driving by Vivian and Richard Ellis and Joy Claxton
A Teamster’s View More and Different by Steve Bowers
Training Workhorses Training Teamsters by L.R. Miller
teaching team driving skills part 2
Galahad’s Driving Training Part Two
by Kristi Kingma
It is time to step up Galahad’s training and move to a pen with a full time helper.
For the beginning arena work, I used my driving harness without the traces and an open bridle. Now we will use the cart, the pole traverse (for training as a single) and cones to practice driving around. A light weight dragging tire for your helper and a heavy tire for the donkey with a single tree or for the team a double tree evener and some extra chain or ropes are needed.
If you are building a pole traverse it shouldn’t be any shorter than 10 foot long. The tips should be 22” apart and the crossbar 48”, from the end of the poles to the crossbar it should be 6 ft 3 in. You will need two screw in eyes to attach the traces to your traverse. Two inch PVC poles are what I used.
Before this part of Galahad’s training he had been ground driven in fields and down the road with a helper at his side as a single and with Luc in a team. Before I began this part of his training I had introduced a PVC pole touching him all over and the sound of it dragging on the ground outside his pen. This was a good introduction for using poles as a traverse later on. I did the basically the same thing with the tire by dragging it near him while he was in the pen and tied up. These are some pre-desensitizing things you can do ahead of time.
Luc was onsite to help with Galahad’s training. He was saddled and harnessed to help introduce Galahad to ponying both from back of the cart and while Luc was being ridden. This was done to get Galahad more familiar with driving and to prepare him for team driving with Luc.
I have completely discontinued using a stud chain on the lead rope. I am still placing the bridle over the halter. For this lesson I used an open bridle later repeating the same lesson with blinders. This part of the training was conducted on a large flat area. I like the security of an arena or a large pen but it is not necessary for the first several lessons as long as you have a helper and he is going well. Ground driving with all of your training items scattered around, like an obstacle course. You are going to be working on cornering, serpentines driving thru the cones or buckets, large and small circles both directions. Here you will begin to refine whoa training with halts increasing to longer times. It is best to work on stopping durations towards the end of your workout not at the beginning when your donkey is fresh.
Start every session with a feeding. I use a mixture of beet pulp, grain, vitamin/minerals, dry molasses and wheat bran. I also use a small low protein pellet with grain and vitamins in a Calvary style feed bag. Brush your animal; check the hooves for rocks, and before harnessing.
To ground drive your donkey correctly you need to be positioned just off the flank and out of kicking range, not directly behind. Go ahead and drive him down the fence line, make some nice big corners and some large circles down the straight stretches. Remember you need to stay to the inside of the arena, keeping the donkey to the outside near the fence, with your helper in the normal leading position. Decrease the size of your circles as he gets better. You will do circles around the cart, your pole setup, in and out of the serpentine course going both directions and even over and through ground poles.
I used the pole traverse in my obstacle driving course.
I teach the donkey to back while I am ground driving directly behind him. Just one controlled step backwards at a time is all you will need. Use a gentle see saw on the lines not a steady pull and ask him to back. Your assistant will be able to help here with tugs on the lead rope. Then move off to the side to continue ground driving.
To practice and refine the halt you will want to stop often and stand quietly 10 to 20 seconds to begin with. If he wants to go give the walk on command and drive him on, making it your idea and not his. When halting say whoa and let him come into your hands without pulling back on the lines, staying out of his mouth. Here is where your helper may have to remind him with a short lead rope pulls. When you are at a halt relax the lines to release contact with his mouth. Praise him with every stop take up light contact, say his name and give the walk on command. Stop each time in a different place for longer durations. You know he’s stopping well when he stops on the voice command alone consistently.
Drive with the kind of contact you would use when holding hands. A little more security is needed on occasions; compare it to walking a child across a busy street. If you think about these analogies they make excellent sense.
If you feel you need some extra control this is a good place to add draw reins or just more time ground driving. As soon as you are comfortable and your donkey is relaxed let your helper drop back to his hip and finally away from you and your donkey. Place your helper in front of you a hundred yards and drive the donkey to him. My helper was used as a center pivot and we drove large to small circles around him.
Keep these sessions short, a thirty minute timetable worked well to start with. We found a 30 minute program with a rest break then coming back to do something else for thirty minutes worked well for his four year old mind.
Since we will be using harness traces soon before we unharnessed him we added them back on the harness. Feed them into the belly band and run them thru lazy straps and secure the chains with carabineers. Before you start or end each session rub the traces on both flanks, gaskins, down the hocks and lower legs. Rattle the chains until it is no longer a big deal to him.
Training your donkey to become accustomed to the hobbles is highly recommended. Most donkeys, once they figure out they are not going anywhere, become fine being hobbled. Hobbles will become your emergency brake when driving in the open and you need to stop to make an adjustment. You can do this anytime during your training. I use a soft rope hobble that twists around the cannon above the fetlock. Use the hobbles while you are harnessing and unharnessing or hitching to the items you will be pulling.
Each time you hitch and unhitch check all four feet for rocks. It’s a habit that needs to become part of your driving routine.
First Lesson Review: Always feed your donkey a treat while you are brushing and harnessing, this way he knows he is going to go to work but the feed gives him a reward.
This is where I introduce a soft hobble that wraps around his legs after I have checked hooves for rocks.
Start off ground driving using your helper near his head. Slowly have your helper quietly move back towards you. At this point you are doing the driving and the helper is there for an emergency only.
Keep your sessions short and if you don’t have time to complete all these tasks keep practicing until you are comfortable. Each lesson may take several practices.
LESSON ONE RESULTS: My helper and I spent 30 minutes ground driving without blinders, introducing the serpentine through the cones and doing some circles, both will take more practice sessions to get him working smoothly.
I saddled Luc and we ponied Galahad up the road and into the hills for half an hour. This was Galahad’s first ponying ever and I think it was very good for him.
We then ground drove Galahad another half an hour in the driving bridle with blinders. This time it was up the lane to the road and away from Luc. He was fine going up the road but was pulling on me just a little coming down the hill to Luc.
It was a long session for him but we broke it up with some rest breaks and he took it extremely well. He ground drove the best he has ever driven and is ready to have weight applied to the traces, which we added to the harness.
Repeat each session then add something new when you are ready. Each practice drive you need to extend the stopping time by about 30 seconds. See if you can get a one minute whoa, then two minutes working up to a five minute stop.
While you are ground driving find an object to focus on. Without looking at your donkey and looking only at that object drive your donkey to and around it both directions. Drive thru the serpentine, thru two PVC poles parallel to each other on the ground about five feet apart or over the traverse, around trees, 55 gallon drums whatever you can find to make it interesting.
Once you are going well have the helper pull the tire away from where you are leading the donkey. As he relaxes you should be able to drive him behind the helper pulling the tire, then by his side and finally out in front. Have the helper pull the tire towards you and pass you giving you plenty of room until you can do this closer. I only do this for about five to ten minutes as just an introduction. As soon as he relaxes I quit with the tire. Pick it up in your next session with more duration coming a little closer each time.
Add a six foot lead rope to each of the trace chains to give you room to pull on them. This session will be a leading exercise. With your helper leading, take the rope that is connected to the trace and walk behind. Add a little pressure for just a few seconds, then release and repeat. If your helper cannot keep the donkey moving, you will need aid of a driving whip. Keep your donkey moving straight working up to 20 feet without releasing pressure on the traces. This teaches the donkey to pull without balking. Keep this first session short not to exceed 5 minutes. As your donkey becomes more comfortable swing the traces from side to side and drop them down around his legs and ground drive. Add pressure after a halt as he will need to learn to be able to start moving with pressure on the traces.
Lesson Two Review:
Review lesson one with blinders.
Practice longer whoas.
Focus driving straight towards an object, in circles, figure 8’s, and serpentine not looking at your donkey, this will teach you to drive by feel.
With the traces on the harness desensitize by sound and feel then while leading slowly adding short spurts of weight, increasing the duration of weight and finally start walking with weight on the traces from a stand still.. Keep the donkey moving and straight. Swing the traces from side to side and drop around the hooves.
Have your helper pull the tire, while you lead your donkey.
LESSON TWO RESULTS:
Harnessed Galahad and started ground driving with the helper near his head. Made some equipment adjustments and drove for about 10 minutes until he settled into the routine. My helper tied the lead rope to the hames and walked off in front of us and stopped, and then I drove Galahad to him. This progressed into the helper becoming a pivot point and we practiced driving circles around him. Drove Galahad into one of the large pens and had the helper leave. Took a little practice but soon Galahad was driving without any helper assistance. We then brought in the tire and drug it all around him. There was no reaction with the tire dragging it close to his side, in front and behind him on each side. He was pretty calm. Took the tire out of the pen and attached two lead ropes to the traces. My helper led Galahad as I pulled on the traces. That went well. Ended the one hour session without blinders driving figure 8’s in the pen. After a rest Galahad was ponied behind the cart up a gravel road. Again no problem, he really seemed to enjoy this adventure with Luc.
Start with the open bridle for this work out. I like to start each session with something new where he can see it before adding the blinders.
Add pressure to the traces.
Continue with dragging the tire getting it closer to him all the time.
Before you unharness take one of the PVC poles you are using as ground poles and slide it into the shaft holder. You could do a short walk with your helper holding the PVC pipe in the shaft holder on each side. While your helper leads your donkey hold the PVC pole straight and back towards the flank. You can move the poles around so they come back and touch the flank. Do this on both sides as an introduction to the shafts.
Lesson Three Review
Use the blinders.
Continue dragging the tire next to him.
This time add the PVC pole to the shaft holders.
LESSON THREE RESULTS:
This session was done without a helper so it became a review plus fine tuning all previous lessons. I worked him on the serpentine thru cones getting lighter and lighter, doing figure 8’s and small circles. We went to the roadway and working on longer durations of stopping. The other thing I was able to do on the road was drag the tire on the gravel next to his hind hooves while I led him, once he understood he was fine. It was an extremely successful day. Galahad showed me he is ready to drag a tire and start on poles.
LESSON THREE SECOND PRACTICE SESSION:
Galahad did not progress the next day. We basically repeated lesson three and added in some of the next lesson components.
I changed some of our routine. First off I left Luc in his pen and only brought out Galahad to harness and work. It was a little upsetting to him but not bad, he jumped around a little while harnessing. When we left the trailer in harness he was a guy on a mission. Moving out big time, I was glad to have a helper at his head!
We worked with him in a large pen; this was Galahad's first time in this enclosure.
While stopping for a break Galahad's radar went off. This is the first time I had seen it happen. I glanced up on the hillside, probably a half mile away and on the ridgeline was seven head of cow elk running. They ran along the ridge then dropped out of sight into a canyon, then they popped back up on top and one by one jumped the fence line.
By now Galahad was pretty freaked out. We went back to dragging the tire this time behind him then we took a long break as he was still looking for the elk. I brought out a PVC pole and worked with him a little on that dragging it behind him. I had him pull me as I leaned against the traces. Then we brought out the single tree. I walked around him making noise and decided today was not the day to hitch to the tire. He helped me pick up the cones and we had a nice relaxing ground drive back to unharness. He was pretty jumpy and nervous most of the day so it wasn't the time to push him any further.
I felt like we had an excellent session with some relaxing breaks. We quit on a good note and that is really important.
LESSON THREE THIRD PRACTICE SESSION:
Remember this is the first donkey I have ever trained to drive which gives me flexibility to change things around and that is exactly what happened. The goal to train Galahad to begin his driving career as a single changed to driving him in a team with Luc for his first few driving months where he would be more secure.
Today we hitched the boys up as a pair and within 45 minutes of ground driving they were going through the cones, large to small circles, stopping and working well.
Lesson Four is a repeat of the first three using blinders full time now. Tire dragging was stepped up until it was not bothering the team, even dragging it behind them on gravel. We tied baling twine on to the traces for added length. This way they were long enough to hook to a team double tree evener that the tire will attached to, soft cotton rope would have been better to use. This became a leading exercise in a pen with the aid of two helpers. The only thing they drug to start with was the single tree. Once comfortable with the sound of a metal double tree evener bouncing over, catching and dragging rocks were we able to attached to the heavy tire to the evener.
We started off on a long straight stretch with the helper at the head, making all corners wide to begin with. Keep the tire dragging session short maybe just several laps each direction of the pen. As in the first phases of ground work have your helpers slowly drop back as things are going well.
Lesson Four Review
Repeat the first lessons with blinders in large pen.
Hook the single or double tree to the traces and ground drive. When Galahad is fine with that add the tire and drive on.
LESSON FOUR RESULTS
This actually went better than I expected. We had no problems with legs getting tangled in the ropes used to extend the traces and the chains were against the back legs on every turn. It was very loud with the metal evener banging against the rocks in the arena. It went well enough we felt a second lesson was really not needed.
Lesson Five continues to be a repeat the first three sessions in blinders and moving to the arena getting more proficient with pulling the tire. Serpentine with the tire lots of stopping. The pole traverse, log dragging, a sled with the tire on it, plastic barrels and other objects would be good practice making different sounds and feel.
In this lesson we added “Haw Over & Gee Over”. To teach this drive forward asking for a 45 degree turn on the haunches. Continue to go forward before you lose the momentum so he does not stall out on you. Practice until your 45 degree turn becomes slower and progresses into a 90 degree corner.
Lesson Five Review
Having your donkey pull different objects until he is comfortable with lots of noise banging, clanging as loud as you can make it is excellent. As long as he is relaxed and comfortable you are ready to proceed. Introduce your haw over and gee over commands until you are getting a 90 degree turn.
When you are ready to harness do a ground drive session to make sure everything is progressing well. When you are hitching a team you will need someone in the vehicle in control of the lines while a second person hitches.
Your driving area needs to continue in a confined area and away from traffic until as your youngster gains confidence. Slowly build his driving skills not giving him more than he can handle, go slow and short distances as you build confidence and the necessary muscles in your youngster.
In this lesson if you are going to hitch as a single to a cart you will be getting ready for hooking up to the pole traverse. Do this the same way as you accustomed him to pulling objects. Since we are not going to be hooking him as a single right now we will be training differently. When we are ready to drive Galahad as a single we will go back to these lessons using the traverse but for now we have taken a different fork in the road.
THE FIRST HITCH
It took 45 minutes of team ground driving with Luc in order to settle Galahad enough to hitch the team together on the cart. We ground drove down the main road for an introduction to traffic and anything that might worry him.
They were hitched to a cart with a pole and started off with my helper by Galahad’s head as in all previous introductions, I was in the cart. As soon as it looked like everything was going well my helper rode in the cart with me. We only drove 30 minutes for this first time hitch. It went excellent; Galahad was calm with Luc by his side.
Our second hitch was a repeat of the first adding in a short road trip. My helper was there him walking at his side to help Galahad adjust to light traffic and passing anything that might frighten him and feeling the pull of the britchin as we went down hill. Use your helpers as much as you can on those first driving sessions. Getting a new team to work together will take a lot of down the road time, using the aid of the driving whip to push the slower donkey forward.
Do your ground work using a helper. Read your donkey and don’t hitch until you know he is solid in his ground training and above all if you need professional help find a trainer or driving mentor.
We spent 10 training days on this section of Galahad’s education. For us this time table worked amazingly well. We added in something new each time with a review of past
lessons. This was the sequence we used and it certainly worked well for OK Sir Galahad.
Train your driving donkey to stand quietly once you are in the driving vehicle. In other words I do not like to climb in and immediately take off. This gives you time to look everything over and get ready to drive. I always start off and end my sessions in a walk giving the muscles time to warm up and cool down. My drives involve a lot of stopping to give them rest breaks and make sure you are in control.
When ready to push ahead into a trot ease into it slowly and just go a few steps the first few times and back down to a walk. Extend your trotting sessions with a rest break each time.
The first part of this program was based on Doris Ganton’s book, Breaking and Training the Driving Horse with my own thoughts and findings added. For detailed information I highly recommend this book and the two hour video.
teaching team driving skills part 3
Teaching Team Driving Skills Part 3
by Kristi Kingma
Training a donkey to drive in a team has been an exciting adventure that has opened up interesting job skill opportunities, will add this one to my resume. Trained one very easy donkey to drive! Along with having super wonderful helpers, Robert and Erin, I learned a lot from a magnificent conversation with a long time teamster who offered some excellent advice that I would like to pass on. After all who better to help than someone who was born into a family with generations of skilled driving backgrounds that include donkeys and mules?
His advice was to teach your team to drive correctly from the beginning. The reasoning is; as we all know donkeys are smarter that a 5th grader, a horse or a mule. So if your donkey has something bad happen when out driving and he goes into panic mode he will revert back to his earlier teachings. If you are going down the road and the lines are floppin’ in the breeze and you are just herding them by simply letting them move forward on their own, Sweetie, some day this will come back to bite ya! If you are driving them on the bit, the traces are tight and you are keeping them side by side and in control, should a bad situation happen they will revert back to this initial training. This is common sense having brought single driving donkeys back from a run away, it seems they do settle quickly and it could possibly have something to do with established habits right from the start. This did help when the team had a minor under control bout with a slight run away that lasted maybe 30 feet, they were easy to bring back to a whoa.
My advisor wanted to make sure I was working on stopping them together. Call out their names and give the whoaaaa command, I like to give them a couple of steps to respond to my voice before asking with the lines in the beginning. Let them come into your hands and draw back with light steady pressure. When they stop release some of the pressure but maintain light contact. The same as you would in show driving. If you have one who starts to back up at the stop call out his name and give the “Step-Up” command if he continues to back lightly tap with the whip to drive him forward and then stop again. At times I have used only the whip so as not to confuse the other one with my voice. The standing still does take practice. In my case it turned out to be the long time driving animal that wanted to back at the stop and not the youngster. I’m a believer in making them stop on level ground, letting them catch their breath and not moving forward until I give the command. This is especially important at any road junction or at the hitching rail when you need them to relax as you enter the vehicle and get ready to drive. I always ask them to be quiet and not move away from the rail for several minutes while I look everything over one last time before heading out to drive. Once they are stopping well go to the next step and without using your voice ask only with line pressure. They need to learn to respond both ways.
To teach them the back up ask for one step at a time. If you have one who wants to back crooked tap him with the whip on the outside to move his hip back over, this should line him out straight. In the beginning I ask them to back together. If this is not happening I will start with my best backer and ask him to back first with a single line. Then I will work with the one who wants to wing out to the side and ask him to get straight then back. A slight incline is a good place to help teach them to back. Eventually you will want them backing together in unison smoothly. Another tip is to tie a line between them from their hip spiders; you’ll need a helper to adjust the harness if it gets pulled off to one side. Once they are backing well together you will be able to give the command using both lines.
I start teaching them to fan both directions and to dock early into the training. Each is taught with just a few steps at a time, slow and easy, from there you can build until you have a solid 180 degree fan, that’s 90 degrees to the right and 90 degrees to the left. To go one step further teach them a 360* fan keeping the inside back wheel motionless.
**NOTE**Remember in any turning situation you have an active line, the line in the direction that you are turning and a supporting line that keeps them in balance.
You’ll always have one who is more forward than the other one. By watching the traces, the eveners and the neck yoke it is easy to tell who is ahead or behind. Do not try to hold the one back that really likes to get out and move. Instead drive the slower one forward and teach him to stay caught up. There are line adjustments to help your team but in the beginning I prefer to push the slower one ahead so no line adjustments will ever be needed.
I like to teach the trot after the team is comfortable at the walk. Start off slowly asking for just a few steps at a time and then increase it as they relax. Our first trots were pretty ugly. Galahad’s head was up; he was hanging back and not pulling in the traces. So we would slow to a walk, try it again for a few more steps building on their progress. Once he became more comfortable we increased the distance. It takes time to teach this, it won’t happen overnight. Once they start trotting well together then it is time to work on speed control. By softening my voice and giving the EASY TROT command and letting them start off together I would get a smoother slower jog. To put them into a working trot from a walk sharpen your voice call out their names and give the TROT command. I want them to know what the vehicle sounds and feels like in a trot and lope. That way if there is ever an out of control run away the vehicle chasing them should not be something they have yet to experience. Take it slow and build into a nice comfortable slow jog and then into a ground eating working trot then work on transitions back and forth.
I found the more I drove them the easier it was for them to get into step with each other. When they were out of step I would know immediately as it gave me a rougher ride in the two wheeled cart. Stopping and restarting them several times until they were in step and then praising them seemed to help them while smoothing out my ride.
HARNESS: Our first drives involved tweaking the harness each time. The harness should fit like a comfortable piece of clothing. On a draft set up make sure your breast strap is set so it will move forward and not hang up on the collar which also means to keep the girth strap loose enough for the breast collar to pass thru on contact and then revert back to a relaxed position. Make sure both breast straps move forward the same amount of distance on each animal to engage the britchin which is your braking system.
Another measurement that really helped me was to have the quarter straps hanging the same distance from the belly on both animals.
I had a major problem with the lines. At first I knew my inside lines were not making contact. When I measured them the inside draft line was12 inches longer than the outside continuous line. I adjusted them down to four inches and found the donkeys were too close together and biting each others faces. The next hole on the coupling buckle gave me a six inch difference. The team lined out straight and the inside draft lines came into contact with the bit.
VEHICLE: The Pacific Carriage Show Cart was set up for leather slotted tugs or traces, where as the Robert’s Cross Country Trail Buggy was not. Therefore it made sense to adjust the single trees on the evener of the buggy to match the cart. Otherwise I would be changing to chain traces every time I wanted to use the buggy which was not an appealing thought. To change the single trees on the evener, weld cut chain links to each side of the single tree, cover with spray paint and you are set up for the leather slotted traces.
Get out your tape measure as one half of the length of the evener should match the length of the neck yoke, this measurement also affects your inside draft line.
The sequence to hitch is first attach the neck yoke with the snaps pointing towards each other, then hook the inside trace before the outside one on each animal. To unhitch take the inside trace off first before removing the outside, then undo the neck yoke. Another safety feature is to have all your snaps facing towards the collar so nothing can catch and hang up on a snap trapping an animal.
This message comes from my personal experience while teaching RMS Lippyluver Luc and OK Sir Galahad to work together as a team; from the internet, driving books and the great advice I have received. I still believe the best way to accomplish driving training comes from the assistance of a professional trainer or a driving mentor. There are many driving books and magazines on the market for reference material. Don’t forget the internet chat groups. If you need an answer quickly there are some wonderful experts in cyber space who are willing to share their experience. All you need to do is pose a question and decide which answer works for you. Starting with an older team can also teach you with a lot less stress, so look at some semi retired teams to get you started. One more bit of advice is to drive with a groom, for horse pairs, trainers will tell you that you need 500 hours of driving time with a beginning team before you go it alone. That advice my friend is from the expertise voice of experience.
What ever you do be safe and always have a great drive.
firestorm in nevada, jan 2012
NEVADA FIRE STORM
by Linda Eisele
Editor’s note: Linda Eisele wrote this post to the Mammoth Donkey Yahoo Group on January 22, 2012, only days after the fire storm in Reno, Nevada, which burned 29 homes, forcing 10000 to evacuate & claiming one death. Linda generously agreed to share it with Eeebray viewers.
We had 80mph sustained winds when a huge fire started near our home. We spent the night in a parking lot, having evacuated in the dark with the power off. Friends lost homes. Horses, cattle and animals were all over the place loose. It was horrible. We could not get Pumpkin, my mammoth donkey, loaded even with the others in the trailer. Police said we had to leave. I was going to walk Pumpkin out but the fire was coming too fast.
To all my donkey friends, first off I want to say thank you so very much for your prayers, thoughts, and posts of concern. I would have posted sooner but the power has been off and on since many power lines had been burned that lead up to our home. Repairs have been made and I am catching up on e-mails.
As I type this my heart is so heavy with the thoughts of the animals, one fatality and 29 homes that were lost in the fire. The area is one with many horse properties.The fire moved so fast that one elderly lady who was warned, looked out, and without seeing anything, stayed and lost her life. Our son went to help neighbors further down the hill from us and the smoke was so bad and visibility so limited, he had to turn and leave.
Many horses, cattle, and sheep were turned loose. The horses that did die, were those that no one got to in order to turn loose and were caught in their runs when the flames beared down on them.
Today my husband and I bought a whole bunch of tubs that we can throw stuff into and put in the truck should this ever happen again. I was able to back up everything from my computer on to a little hard drive that last night.
As we went to visit friends in the burned areas, we were amazed at which homes burned and which didn't. One home almost all brick with a clay roof burned to the ground...why? Fireman said there were juniper shrubs up against the house that caught on fire and the flames went up to the wood eves under the roof and from there it was gone in minutes.
An older man who always threw his fire place ashes outside in the winter never thought with the drought and dry conditions and high winds that this was the perfect set up for a fire storm. This was the cause of the fire. We have a specially made tin can we put our ashes in and add water before depositing them in the trash or on the ground.
I have since learned a few tips from people how to get an extra animal in a horse trailer and someone suggested that we might have tried tying Pumpkin (the donkey we had to leave behind) to the trailer and slowly driving out. Also, always have a hay bag already filled and rotate hay every 6 months along with water containers already filled. Add tags with phone numbers on animals’ halters in case they have to be turned loose.
The very worst part was when we had to pull away, Pumpkin knew she was being left (we turned her loose in a big pasture area). She let out such a sad crying type bray that it just broke my heart. Our animals were so good in the trailer and truck during the night in a parking lot. We had our 150 lb Great Dane in the back seat drooling down our necks.
Funny what things you leave and what you take. Jewelry, nope, but my saddle for sure. Having halters with name tags with phone numbers on them is helpful. Many animals ended up at the Reno Livestock Center and when trying to pair up animals with owners, it is easier if the animals have identification on them.
I am not a writer but if someone can learn from what happened here and from what my husband and I went thru, it would be great. Believe me, I will find a quick gadget for lining up the goose neck trailer and ball because when you’re panicking, you can't line it up for life of you.
One should have a change of clothes. We had to go to a diner to eat looking like we were tarred and feathered in mud and manure. We did get some strange looks.
All is well now and the animals are glad to be back in their home. There are a couple of inches of snow on the ground and more moisture on the way. There is still the smell of smoke lingering in the air. We have said our prayers of thanks and have come away with lessons learned.
Thank you all so much for thinking of us and we hope that none of you have to go thru what we did, but always be prepared.
Linda and Pumpkin
tex taylor - selecting the performance donkey
AROUND OUR HOUSE - SELECTING THE PERFORMANCE DONKEY
Tex Taylor, Annie Ruth Taylor
This article was published as a 3 part series in the April, May, and June 2002 issues of Mules and More Magazine.
It is our understanding that the donkey section of the Mules and More Magazine is intended as a forum to share donkey happenings, ideas and experiences. This article and perhaps others to follow published under the lead in “around our house” is just that. They will share observations, experiences, prejudices, opinions, and probably some erroneous information on a variety of donkey subjects. They may or may not be of value to others, but they are the criteria that shape the breeding, training and exhibiting of large performance donkeys at Bramoth Farm today.
Tomorrow it may be totally different.
Please note for the sake of writing and reading simplicity we will incorrectly refer to mammoth asses as mammoth donkeys or just large donkeys.
At our farm we envision two goals. The first is to maintain a nucleus of the big old style draft type mammoth Jackstock. The second is to breed for mammoth performance donkeys suitable to today’s recreational donkey interests. Although there is some crossbreeding of these animals they represent two separate herds. Notice there is no mention of producing sires for today’s saddle mule enthusiasts. We feel that currently requires a different type animal. Certainly, many of our jacks will be good potential mule sires, but we envision all of them will have a place as good working geldings, even those from the draft jennets.
The first item to share should probably be our definition of a performance donkey. Around our house the term performance donkey translates into show donkey. They may never leave the farm nor enter a show, but they are expected to have those qualities and skills that will allow them to enter any major donkey and mule show with expectations of being competitive. The show ring is where we will measure our progress. This focuses on harness and saddle classes, not necessarily halter classes. There are breeders whose goal is to produce the ultimate conformation animal. We have chosen not to try to produce both at the same time. If they do their job well and we do our job well, can you imagine what crossing the two strains might produce in a few years.
We are focusing our efforts on breeding for animals to compete in pleasure driving, obstacle driving, snigging, trail, western pleasure, donkeymanship and reined working donkey. A donkey competent in these classes can easily handle classes like reinsmanship, gambler’s choice, ranch riding, game classes and with a little work speed events. Although we have had some success in them, we try to minimize our participation in timed events.
A large mammoth donkey capable of competing in the previously listed events would undoubtedly make an acceptable mount for English and dressage classes.
Today’s performance donkey should be able to walk, trot, lope and perform at some speed beyond a lope. Transitions from one gait to another should be made smoothly and over a short distance. Transitions of gait should be made in response to the rider’s command and not unilaterally decided upon by the donkey. The performance donkey should side pass and comfortably do hindquarter and forehand turns. It should work obstacles in harness and under saddle and it should back freely on minimal rein pressure. The ability to do flying lead changes, sliding stops and spins must be present. These skills will soon be requirements for success.
Now, before we leave the topic of required skills, let’s address one other issue. We cannot count the times people have told us “I don’t want or I don’t need a show donkey, I just want to trail or pleasure ride or pleasure drive”. Granted, many people’s needs or wants can well be served by a “walk trot donkey”, but is it not, perhaps, more important to have many of these performance skills in the trail and pleasure animal than in the competitive show animal? If we ride an animal that won’t side pass, won’t back, won’t stop and stand or refuses obstacles, we would prefer to be in the show ring and not in the woods or along a busy roadway. In the show ring, these inadequacies prevent the winning of a ribbon. What could be the consequences on the outside?
Most of us have or will start our performance donkey association, not by selecting a donkey for performance, but by electing to performance train a donkeys) that we already have. It may be one we raised, was given to us, we rescued it or we bought it because of those big soft eyes. We love the donkey and wanted) to expand the enjoyment of our time spent with it. We may or may not be limited in the level to which the donkey can master performance training. We really don’t care. In theses cases, we don’t need to worry about selecting a performance donkey, we direct our efforts more to selecting a trainer or improving our own training skills.
As you read this article keep in mind that at Bramoth farm we are trying to raise better performance donkeys. We raise most of the animals we train. Usually if we train animals that are not raised on the farm they are of a similar bloodline. Our selection process starts the day the foal is born. Our animals are not trained because we love them; they are trained because we think they will make good performance animals. We learn to love those that train well. We hope those that don’t train well will become loved by others.
This is intended to be about selection and not about training, but there are some training issues that are pertinent to selection. Like people, not all donkeys learn at the same rate, nor do they respond maximally to the same techniques. Neither do they always have the ability to excel in events of our selection. It is expected that a good trainer can, with a little time, read the donkey’s personality and adjust their methods to provide maximum progress by the donkey. How many of us are really that good? In actuality, qualified, experienced donkey trainers that accept outside animals are pretty rare. If you are selecting an animal to be trained, let your trainer aid in the selection. Whether doing it yourself or employing a trainer the best results will be attained by insuring the best possible match of donkey personality to trainer methods. Bad match-ups often produce poor results and neither party may be at fault.
There is a plethora of trainers, training clinics, videos on training, well meaning friends and self-declared experts available to the donkey owner. Those qualified and seriously addressing donkeys are limited in number. We all draw from mule and horse techniques as we develop our individual approaches to donkey training. In the final formulation we must adapt or adopt techniques that apply to donkeys. These techniques must fit our personality, we must believe in them, and they must be effective using the time we have available to apply them. Otherwise the donkeys potential will not be achieved.
Now we will address some of the specific characteristics and qualities we look for in our performance donkeys. These are not necessarily in the order of importance.
Color One’s first reaction would be that color is purely a personal preference issue. That is not necessarily the case with big donkeys. Unlike the horse where most bloodlines and breeds are represented by a multiple number of colors, mammoth jackstock has been bred for color in many settings. The overall gene pool is very small. It is not uncommon for the color of the donkey to be very indicative of temperament, movement and trainability. Many people do select their donkeys by color, around our house we do too, but for a different reason. We use it as a forecaster of trainability. In our hands using our techniques, the blacks train easier than the reds. We have some spotteds coming on and look forward to seeing where they fit.
Size We like for our performance donkeys to be between 58" and 62". We often drive smaller animals, but if you see us riding one 57' or less and you like what you see, check with us. If it doesn’t belong to someone else, it is for sale. Just because we like the bigger donkeys, doesn’t mean we feel they all should be big. For ridding the real issue should be to match the size of the rider to the size of the donkey. The two should present a pleasing balanced appearance. Suitability of rider to mount is or should be part of the judging criteria. Small donkeys need to be ridden by small people. The exception to this is that we cannot always find small trainers to prepare the small donkey for its show career with a small rider.
A lot has been said and written about the donkey’s ability to carry heavy loads. In many developing countries they carry heavy loads that represent 40-50-100% of their body weight. They often carry these loads for long distances and many hours. They can do that. However, it has its price. The average life expectancy (for the donkey) in many of the countries is less than half that for donkeys in the United States. There are also many work related injuries. Further note should be made that these heavy loads are usually carried at a walk. Sometimes at a trot, but rarely at a lope. They do not hold the lope, hand gallop, change leads, side pass or do precise pivots under these loads. When our rider and tack weight gets to 25-30% of the animals body weight, we probably need to give serious consideration to how long we ride. Much above that and we probably should not ride.
Adding to the concern about weight is balance. How many of us are good enough rider’s to keep our weight appropriately centered for the animal’s best comfort and performance when we are on an undersized animal. Couple this with the fact that a saddle for a large person is unlikely to fit a small animal. It is difficult enough to fit a large person’s saddle to a large donkey.
The final point relative to size might be better suited to a discussion of conformation. That is bone. Experience with our donkeys and observations of others suggests that the performance donkey needs a little more bone than is preferred for a saddle mule sire. It appears that the lighter boned animals may have more lameness problems and may have a shorter working career.
Since the donkey often has more upright digits and smaller feet it is not unexpected that they would be less tolerant of concussion than would a horse of equal size.
Conformation No one questions that form leads to function or dysfunction. We would all like to have perfect conformation in our animals, but no one has reached that point yet. Few, if any, people would disagree that in general the standard donkeys and smaller mammoths are better conformed than the larger donkeys. The miniatures, as a group are probably well ahead of the standards.
Do we know what correct conformation for the performance donkey really is? In horse breeds, correct conformation seems to vary as specialized breed use is reached. I believe we are beginning to see and will continue to see desirable variations in conformation as we widen the scope of our uses of donkeys and mules. Certainly there are some conformation faults that are universally bad.
If we look at the big picture for performance animals and accept that the perfect animal is not yet available, what are the critical issues. Just how serious is a little sickle hocked, a little cow hocked, legs a little close together or toe out conformation. How much is too much? Which of these conditions are truly the most likely to contribute to unsoundness? Which are the most likely to be passed on to offspring? How many of these conditions are truly genetic faults and not the results of inadequate or improper foot care and nutrition? I think most people would be shocked at how often our so-called conformation faults are the results of environmental influences, or at least their degree of severity was influenced by them.
Just to muddy the water a little, consider this. We know that the angles of the pelvic bones of donkeys are different from horses. There are some early observations that as we widen the rear legs and round the rump of big donkeys we may be predisposing them to degenerative arthritis of the hips. What will be the price for molding our impressions of correctness on the donkey?
We believe there are a lot of people that talk about conformation and know what, to them, is correct conformation. We believe there are very few people who know how to interpret the variations. We do not include ourselves in that knowledgeable group. We aren’t sure what the boundaries of tolerance for conformational traits are, and what traits are appropriately changed as we redefine the uses to which the animals are subjected. However, that should be no surprise as our combined experience with performance use of donkeys is only a little over 35 years.
The bright spot in all this is that there seems to be a steady increase in people wanting donkeys for all phases of performance. If during the next 10-20 years we observe well we should be able to gather facts that will clarify just where each conformational feature fits.
In the meantime, around our house, we will pick the best conformation we can find on a big, good moving trainable donkey, and be very happy if each successive generation is just a little bit better.
What about pretty? No doubt the perfect conformationed animal would be a beauty. We think many people confuse the two. Pretty is desirable, but ugly does not necessarily interfere with function. Many of the qualities we hear people really get serious about has little if anything to do with the animal’s ability to function. Look at our human athletes. The outstanding performers are not always the ones most pleasing to the eye. We sort of like ugly if it is blue. Ugly that is always last out of the arena is not to pretty.
Gender: for most people jennets or geldings are preferred for obvious reasons. We started showing when Ethel was 10 years old. Most of our training was directed toward preparing animals for her to show. Jacks were not an option. Since we are a breeding farm, we felt that to put some proven performance animals in the breeding herd would be of long-range value. This further focused our training on jennets. We have trained some jacks and some geldings. We have not taken this to the same level we have taken the jennets nor have we extensively competed with the males. It is our impression that the jennets are the easiest to train. That is not to say that the jacks or geldings might not learn faster, it is just that it is easier and quicker to get the jennets really dependably broke.
The Jacks and geldings do appear to be able to condition faster and work longer at more difficult tasks.
Some jennets pose a problem for training and exhibiting during estrus. In our experience the better trained they are the less of a problem this becomes. It should be kept in mind that a significant percentage of geldings will show some degree of jack like behavior regardless of when they were castrated.
Around our house we will probably always prefer jennets, but not by much.
Age Our preference is to start them as two year olds. We don’t imprint our foals and in fact they are handled very little until serious training is begun. The best ones are usually those that are started as yearlings or two years old. They are taught ground work and driving until at least three years of age. At age three we start doing those things that they know how to do on the ground from the saddle. Delaying groundwork until the animal is three years old and riding when they are ready also works well. Sometimes the riding isn’t done until they are four years old.
We have started some older animals. They were in the 6-9 year range. They do okay but seem to be a little harder or slower to train and don’t seem to ever be quiet as good as an animal of similar ability started younger.
Movement The most important thing about movement is that the performance donkey must have some. Long before we address how a donkey moves we want to know if it moves. What does it take to get it to move? Does it seem to enjoy moving or does it move only when all other options have been exhausted? If startled, does it depart at a trot, a lope or not at all? The best performance candidates like to trot and lope. They do it with minimal stimulation and usually go somewhere when they start.
We can summarize what we look for in quality of movement by saying we want donkeys that move as much like Western performance horses as we can get.
Attitude and Trainability These two traits are so intertwined that we won’t try to separate them. They are sometimes separated by the donkey. Movement could almost be covered in this same area. Breeding and bloodlines have a major impact on all three traits, but that topic will be left for another day.
As mentioned, nearly all the animals we train are animals we raise. We raise them more like cattle. They are caught for vaccinations, foot trimming, deworming and other required procedures. Otherwise they are left alone until training is begun. This is primarily a time deficiency thing. Our daily observations of these growing animals is focused on identifying those individuals showing qualities we feel would allow them to perform at or near the level demonstrated by national level competitive performance donkeys. We look for animals that have acceptable eye appeal and exceptional awareness of their surroundings. We want animals that react to subtle changes in their surroundings.
If at feeding time, we throw an empty bucket into the air and yell real loudly when it hits the ground; we want the first donkey to reach the back of the pasture. The one that left at a lope or a run. In our experience, those that just stand around like a stump, will react the same way to training ques. We don’t want to train a pet, we pet what is trained. We want the animal that prefers the lope to the trot and the trot to the walk.
Our training program requires the animal to learn with few repetitions. They must have the ability to practice multiple skills during the same session. We want animals that rarely if ever just sets his or her head and tries to bull their way to or from something.
Response to Training Our final criteria for selecting a performance donkey is their response to training. We have started or trained enough performance donkeys that we feel we can, in a relatively short time, form an accurate opinion as to whether or not a given animal will make what we want in the training program we use.
Each animal is given a three-day or three-lesson evaluation. They are worked in a square pen, a round pen and a large open area. Their response to the early steps in ground control, round pen work and trail obstacles is observed. Special attention is given to their willingness to demonstrate forward motion and their quality of movement. An assessment of the speed with which they learn is made. They are then placed in one of the following categories.
1. Animals that have the potential to become nationally competitive performance donkeys in our training program.
2. Animals that have the potential to become nationally competitive donkeys, but will probably require a major modification of our training program.
3. Animals that we don’t feel have the ability to become nationally competitive donkeys, but may excel in some events.
4. Animals whose potential for performance does not justify our time investment.
Since we raise most of what we train, we usually identify the category C and D animals without ever having to test them. When considering the category B and C animals a primary question is; “Do we have the time to modify our program for this animal or would he or she be better off under a different trainer?”
Let us reiterate what we think are some important issues from these three articles. Our ideas and methods are always changing. We have very specific and narrow expectations for the donkeys we train. We aim to select donkeys mentally and physically suited to our training program. Currently we don’t have the time nor the inclination to modify our methods to suit other donkeys that might be even better than the ones we select. Although we have worked successfully with donkeys of all sizes, we are discussing only the larger group.
Our goal was to stimulate others to share their views and experiences with the readership. There are some things that are always wrong and perhaps a few that are always right, but in general different people reach the same goal by different methods. Sometimes it is almost shocking how different. However, if we look a little closer it may be just as shocking how much alike these different methods are.
trailer loading tips
Loading Tips for Donkey Owners
email@example.com ; www.donkeydriving.co.uk
I have outlined below a well-tried and tested method for loading your donkey into a trailer that forms several steps. The detailed description follows the photos. I hope it will be of help to you.
Below Steps One to Four: As the donkey steps forward straighten your elbow so that you direct it up the ramp.
Below - Step Five: When a donkey stops half way up the ramp DO NOTHING. This is the donkey's thinking time. If you try to push it up now it will back out.
Below Step Six: If it stands for a considerable time, start again, from your position on the ramp. If it refuses to move on the ramp, push it backwards to the bottom of the ramp and start again.
When a donkey refuses to enter a trailer it is best to take your time to build its confidence. Train the donkey at home before you try to go to a show. If you are at home there is plenty of time. It is best not put yourself under pressure; this is all part of the relationship building process. You would not expect a donkey to drive or ride well without giving it time to learn. Asking a donkey to go into an enclosed space that moves is far more psychologically demanding.
In my experience it is best not to ask lots of friends to gather behind the donkey to force it in. When a donkey gets frightened it tends to freeze, refusing to move when requested. If smacked and cajoled at this stage it will generally jump to avoid the trailer, either forwards over the ramp, or backwards straight into your well meaning friends. Rather it is best to work upon the following with just one calm assistant:
The First Day.
1) Walk your donkey to the foot of the ramp. Stand on the left hand side of your donkey as usual, then turn to face its shoulder.
2) Hold the leading rope in your left hand, the remainder coming across your front to be held in your right hand.
3) Stretch your left hand out to the side, directing your donkey towards the trailer. If it does not move spin the remainder of the rope that is in your right hand in a circle near the donkey's flank.
4) As the donkey steps forward straighten your elbow so that you direct it up the ramp.
5) If it starts to walk up the ramp you may let go of the rope with one hand to allow the donkey to continue forwards, then STAND STILL. It should be in the shape of a skipping rope, yet not touching the ground. When it stops half way up the ramp DO NOTHING. This is the donkey's thinking time. If you try to push it up now it will back out. If you leave it alone it will most probably walk on in.
6) If it stands for a considerable time, start again (number one above), from your position on the ramp.
If it moves sideways off the ramp, or goes backwards, ALLOW IT TO, then start all over again from number one.
If it refuses to move on the ramp, push it backwards to the bottom of the ramp and start again.
7) When the donkey moves up the ramp and half way into the trailer simply pass the end of the leading rope from your right hand to your left AND WAIT. No clicking or pushing please, it is checking out the inside, give it time.
If it backs out push it backwards further then start again. ( from number one above.)
If it walks all the way in DO NOTHING - simply wait until it turns around to come out, or, in the case of a trailer with a partition, it backs out. It is extremely important to allow the donkey to learn how to come out, without feeling it has got itself trapped.
8) Play around with steps 1-8 as though you were schooling your donkey. Do not be too particular. Once it has been in and out a few times you may find it chooses to stand in there to get some peace. Leave it for a while, then go into the trailer and lead it out. You have finished today.
The Next Occasion.
9) Start by completing one to eight above taking as much time as your donkey needs.
10) Once the donkey has chosen to stay in the trailer for 60 seconds, either facing forwards or towards you, follow it into the trailer. Repeat this step a few times, to start with it may go to leave the trailer when you get in, simply agree and lead it down the ramp. Repeat steps nine and ten.
11) Once it can stand in with you ask your assistant to close the ramp for a few seconds at a time. Gradually increase the time to a minute or two.
12) When the ramp is shut, ask your friend to pass a feed to you and stand next to your donkey stroking it whilst it eats.
13) Lower the ramp and allow your donkey to walk you out. If it rushes out, allow it enough rope to do so. DO NOT TRY TO STOP IT, this is how people can get injured, because the harder you pull the faster they go. Simply acquire a longer rope and once the donkey is out, turn it. Then repeat steps 1-8 until it walks out calmly.
14) If the donkey persists in rushing down the ramp in a dangerous manner, simply turn its rump to the ramp before it is opened, and ask it to back out. To do this you face your donkey's nose, place one hand either side of its headcollar and lean your stomach (in the case of a standard donkey) against its face, and walk forward. Or, you can place your right hand on its chest or nose and push there. If at first it refuses to back up, wait and ask again. Do not allow it to turn around, remember you want a slow exit. The donkey will become impatient before you will; once it learns it can only leave backwards, it will start to move that way. (Make sure you have side gates if your ramp is very steep, otherwise it should not matter if your donkey steps off the ramp sideways accidentally the first few times.)
The Final Steps.
15) Once your donkey has loaded introduce a short drive of a hundred yards or so in between shutting the ramp (step 11) and feeding (step12). Make sure you have stopped before you offer the feed. This will associate movement with the approach of something pleasurable.
16) Keep the first few journeys short and sweet.
17) Never drive above 45 miles per hour. (Once a friend was amazed by this suggestion. An hour later they turned their trailer over on the motorway with a horse inside it. Miraculously no one was physically harmed, although there was much psychological damage suffered by the horse, and owner.)
Many people have tried the following ideas, and all have learnt that they can lead to disaster:
1) It is unwise to take a long rope and thread it through the tying ring in the trailer in an attempt to lever the donkey in.' A donkey is far too strong and fast. As it backs up your hand will be taken to the ring and trapped. You will most probably lose a finger. I have seen this happen!
2) Do not approach the rear of the donkey with jumping poles, breeching straps or brooms in an attempt to frighten, drag, or push it in.' The whole idea is to gain its confidence and obedience. You can only do this if you speak clearly to its mind. A panicking donkey backing into a person with a jumping pole is potentially very dangerous.
3) Do not stand in the middle of the trailer space if you want the donkey to enter it, stand to one side. If you fill the space with your body you are not saying, 'Look it is safe in here!' you are saying, 'I need all the space!'
4) A huge temptation is placed upon people to slam up the ramp the minute the donkey is inside. Do not do it! I have seen people in such a hurry they have trapped ropes, fingers, or even the donkeys' foot in the process. It is a terrifying experience for the animal, and potentially dangerous for the person who has accompanied it in. On one occasion I was once in a trailer with a donkey when this happened to me. Not only did a lunge line get caught in the door, but also the donkey leapt up in the air and landed right next to me for comfort. If this had been a larger donkey or a horse I would have sustained a serious injury.
A) If there is a front ramp it can sometimes help to open it up to allow light through. If you are asking your donkey in, rather than forcing it, it will not barge through at great speed. If it asks to go straight out the front simply ask it to half-halt, then walk out with it. Once you have gained its trust it will stand in the trailer happily when both ramps are down or up. If you have a donkey that will definitely barge through, as it has had previous fears, just open the top door above the ramp and work upon the stages 1) to 8) above.
B) If the donkey really refuses to move practise leading it into other confined spaces ; small stables, alleyways between buildings. Generally improve your relationship so you can lead him/her around. Follow another donkey into these situations to make it more forward thinking. Then approach the trailer and ask again, perhaps following another donkey that will definitely load.
Happy loading, Debbie Street.
poker run: a fun fundraiser
Poker Run: A Fun Fundraiser
By Lee Fuermann
What a wonderful way to do a fundraiser! A group of people getting together to enjoy their favorite past time, riding/driving their equines, AND raising money for a worthy cause! The Brazos Valley Equestrian Trailriders (BVETR) and Peach Creek Equestrian Center teamed up October 29, 2011 to put on a Poker Run ride/drive to raise money for the Bluebonnet Horse Rescue of Navasota, TX. In keeping with the spirit/time of the year, there was also a costume competition. The ride/drive was open to riders or drivers and to any breed of equine. Walter and I took our 2 donkeys - Franchi, a miniature donkey, and Whisper, an oversized miniature donkey -and drove. As it turned out, Franchi and Whisper were the only longears that participated. Unfortunately, we did not dress in costumes as we were not even sure we would be able to go due to our work schedule. However, several participants did dress up. Even though we were not dressed in costumes, we still got a lot of "how cute", "that looks like fun", and "aren't they adorable" comments.
The day of the ride as just beautiful - a prettier day could not have been custom ordered. After the brutally HOT temperatures and severe DROUGHT Texas has experienced, our fall has been gorgeous (although still no rain to speak of). There were 2 courses - one for drivers and one for riders. We had 4 driving turnouts and about 25 riders. There was also a trail pattern set up in the arena that you could do after lunch, which was a "bring your own brown bag". It was not a "driving friendly" course, so we could not give it a try, but since we drove about 6 miles, we were not really too worried about it.
For a club or organization that is looking for a fundraiser, a Poker Run might be just the event you are looking for. You only need a place to ride/drive that has room so folks are not on top of each other; enough playing cards for everyone, and someone who knows how to play poker so you can determine the winning hand. If you want to jackpot the run, have everyone put their anty up BEFORE they go on the run and see their cards. You can either have them win the whole pot, or split the pot where part goes to the winning hand and the other part goes to the charity/organization.
Once you have a place picked out, you just need to plan out the course. Picture #4 - Lee and Whisper on the trail heading back On our Poker Run, the drivers drove to a specified spot on the trail and we picked out a sealed envelope from a basket. The riders took a separate route and got cards. Peach Creek Equestrian Center is a 3000 acre ranch/boarding facility, so we had a LOT of space to have this event. We went about 6 miles to a beautiful lake to get our sealed envelope. We then returned to the starting point and turned in our envelopes. The envelope was then opened to see if we won a prize or not (we did not). We have also been on Poker Runs where you had to follow a clue sheet to find the cards. You can also hand out "coupons" that can be redeemed for cards depending on the set up and how many participants you have.
There are truly several ways to set this type of event up and all are fun! Determining your entry cost is usually based on what the costs are for putting on the Poker Run and how much you are trying to raise. We paid $25.00/person for our run. So, why not plan a Poker Run for your next equine activity? We certainly had a great time - we got to enjoy driving our donkeys on a beautiful ranch that made money for a very worthy equine rescue that is in desperate need. It doesn't get any better than that!!
measuring your donkey's heart rate
Evaluating learning theory in donkeys (Equus asinus) while measuring heart rate variability and behavior when teaching donkeys to work to a cart
A.K. McLean, C.H. Heleski, M.T. Yokoyama, and W. Wang
Department of Animal Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 3
CANR Statistical Consulting Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing
Corresponding Author- Amy McLean: firstname.lastname@example.org
The donkey (Equus asinus) makes many valuable contributions to human society yet very little published research exists about donkeys, especially with regards to their behavior and how they learn. There are an estimated 44.3 million donkeys worldwide and 95% of them are kept for work in developing countries. This study attempts to make a fundamental step towards enhancing our knowledge of donkey training and psychology.
Ten donkeys were divided into two treatments: Halter Training Method (HTM, Group A), and Traditional Stick Method (TSM, Group B) for the first 10 days.
The stick method is often used to guide donkeys when pulling a cart and is commonly used throughout Africa. After day 10 all donkeys were moved to HTM for safety reasons; i.e. TSM donkeys were prone to bolting.
Five behavioral assessment tests were administered on days 1, 10, 11, and 18. Heart rate was monitored on days 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15, and 18. There were no differences in behavior parameters assessed in either group of donkeys before day 11.
For heart rate variability (HRV) there were no differences among treatments for all measurements before day 11; mean heart rate (HR) (p = 0.22), log standard deviation from beat to beat interval (SDSSR) (p = 0.13), log low frequency (LF) (p = 0.22), log high frequency (HF) (p = 0.21) and log square root of mean standard deviation from beat to beat interval (rMSSD) (p = 0.21) among treatment groups. There were no differences in HRV parameters for donkeys remaining in HTM when comparing before and after day 11 HRV responses.
A significant difference was found when comparing donkeys in HTM vs. TSM for all testing days, when measuring rMSSD (HTM = 101.3, TSM = 72.3, p = 0.01) and HF (HTM = 4411.9, TSM = 2627.2, p = 0.02). Driving performance for each treatment group was evaluated on days 10 and 18 with a standardized driving test. There was no difference in time (p = 0.57) or driving scores (p = 0.17) between groups.
The study suggests that few differences were found among treatments; HRV might be related to the donkeys’ inherent temperament; and donkeys can be trained to pull a cart in a short amount of time without resorting to harsh methods.
This study suggests that naïve donkeys can be trained in a short period of time (less than 30 days) with proper application of learning theory to pull a cart while using only a halter and driving lines. This study has the potential for application in developing countries when teaching and training donkeys, donkey owners, and para-professionals alternative methods for training donkeys to pull carts that require less harshness than many traditional methods. Methods from this study have already been incorporated into a project in Mali, West Africa during the summer of 2009.
the trouble with donkey hooves, by master farrier Andrew bowe
"The Trouble With Donkey Hooves" is a very informative article that compares donkey hooves to horses.
Andrew Bowe is a career master farrier who specializes in the barefoot rehabilitation of horses that are either suffering from chronic lameness or are simply not performing as well as they should be. He works in conjunction with veterinarians and equine body therapists.
With many years of experience (with both traditional shoeing and barefooting), he is often called to help with those horses that are a challenge to return to soundness or even to transition from shod to barefoot performance.
Andrew also spends a large amount of his time educating both owner trimmers and aspiring professional trimmers. He is one of the lecturers for the Diploma of Equine Podiotherapy which commenced in early 2008.
Nowadays, Andrew is spending an increasing amount of time providing advice to people who send Email photos of problem hooves. To meet the ever increasing demand of enquiries from around the country and even abroad, he is setting up an online technical consultancy service. There will now be a fee for consultancy and this will enable him to allocate sufficient time to provide effective and adequate consultations.
Australia is a big country, but if your horse is having hoof related issues, we may be able to help from a distance with an Email consultation.
What about that name?The Barefoot Blacksmith ® is quite a contradictory tag, but it represents the new and the old with equine hoofcare. I have seen, studied and experienced ‘both sides of the anvil’. Even though my business is right at the cutting edge of equine bare-hoof-care science, I am fortunate to have a long term background in traditional farriery. I didn’t just turn up at the stables yesterday!
Experience only comes with high mileage.
I started learning the farriery trade in the 1980’s while I was also studying applied science. After graduating (B.App.Sc), I set up a farrier business in Central Victoria and have been “down under” horses ever since.
Right from the outset, it was more than just a job and I continued to study (and apply science!); searching for better ways to balance equine legs and feet and solve lameness problems. After shoeing about 20,000 horses (and probably trimming a similar number) I thought I knew a bit about horse’s feet. But then along came barefooting!
What sparked my change of direction?Why would a career master farrier with a successful business take such a sharp turn away from tradition; from the comfort zone of mainstream hoofcare ? Not only am I questioning a thousand years of solid tradition, but at the same time risking being ostracised by my contemporaries and the establishment? (too long in the sun maybe !)
Like many other farriers, I was on a quest to find a cure for navicular syndrome (a debilitating lameness that affects many performance horses and traditionally was considered incurable – see navicular page for more details). A cure for ‘navicular’ was the farriers’ holy grail.
A couple of my clients with American connections had been hearing about the successes that pioneers of barefooting were having with rehabbing of chronic lameness in general and navicular in particular and they ‘insisted’ that I look into it.
Being a cynical old farrier, I reluctantly agreed (thinking to myself “yeah right, there’s no way you can ride a sound horse without shoes, let alone a lame one!”) and I began to ‘barefoot’ some horses with navicular problems. Well, the results were nothing short of amazing with virtually every ‘navicular’ horse returning to usable soundness! This is even more incredible if you consider that my own barefooting skills at that stage were still in nappies!
Heartened by these navicular successes, I started applying barefoot principles to other horses with chronic lameness within my existing clientele as well as all the sound working horses at Mayfield – fine tuning my skills and trimming parameters as I went (there were several of us embarking on the barefoot journey in Australia together and we needed to develop trimming parameters that suited Australian conditions).
Fortunately, this expansion of barefooting coincided with the release of viable hoof boots onto the market (in particular the Easyboot Epic ™), which meant that a horse could have its shoes removed today, then be ‘booted up’ and ridden tomorrow. (Hoof boots are sometimes needed to protect the hooves during the transition and conditioning phase.) Suddenly barefoot riding became an easily accessible option for many horse riders. That’s about when the phone started ringing its head off and hasn’t stopped since!
This journey down the barefoot track remains a humbling one. Horses are teaching us new things every day. We have learnt much, but there is still far to go.