I am new to donkey ownership but in my normal obsessive way that makes me want to know everything there is to know about any subject near to my heart, I have done extensive research on donkeys in the past weeks. I have also spent a great deal of time observing my donkey Emma (who I got specifically to be a companion for my horse). Your post exactly mirrors concerns that have been growing in my mind for a week or two now. Emma has done wonders for my horse Tessa, but I have been wondering if Tessa is enough for Emma.
I have given this a great deal of thought and I do have some opinions I would like to share both as they relate to my situation personally and in general. I live in upstate NY and at present I have just one horse and one donkey. I rely on pasture to feed my horses throughout the summer months. I think that my situation is exactly the scenario that you are expressing concerns for in this discussion. My thoughts regarding my personal situation are these:
- Emma is very much better off with me than she was in her previous home. Her acquisition was as much a rescue effort as a desire to find a good companion for my horse.
- She was born in NY just a 1/2 hour from here and has been raised on grass pasture. Donkeys may be desert animal but they are very adaptable.
- She was underweight when she got here but has put on weight since then and is now in ideal condition. I am very aware of the weight management issues associated with donkeys and I am prepared to take whatever management steps necessary to ensure her good health.
- I do think that Emma would be happier with another donkey to play with and I may just find one. However, I do not think she is unhappy and I do think she could do well here. The concern about leaving her alone when I ride is one of my biggest concerns also. I have already decided that Emma is just going to have to learn to trail ride with me and we have already begun leading lessons with Emma attached to my horse rather than me. The exercise will be the best thing to ensure she does well on a grass pasture.
As for donkeys living in climates and conditions they weren't designed for there is this to consider: Yes, donkeys are desert animals however, the deserts we have cannot accommodate the number of donkeys that there are in the world. Texas is a perfect example of this. Donkeys are being abandoned all over the state because the land cannot support them during the drought they are having. I believe that Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue has taken in over 500 abandoned donkeys this summer alone. Donkey are very adaptable which is proven by their abundance and ability to thrive in nearly every county.
It seems to me that the question is not whether horses and donkeys should live together nor what climate they are in, rather the questions are these:
- What does a donkey need so that it can thrive in any climate?
- How do we educate people so that the donkey's needs are met?
- How do we encourage more people to give donkeys a good home?
As for donkeys and horses living together, it seems to me that there could be an untapped market for donkeys if more horse people learned about the benefits to their horses that come from having donkeys around them. From what I have seen, horses are happier and far more relaxed with a donkey around than without. If more horse people knew about this, more donkeys would have good lives.
These are just my opinions and observations. I hope they are useful to this discussion. KM