Fortunately, donkeys are proving, once again, to be much more sensible and Emma and Ramsey have adapted far better than any horse I have ever known. Ramsey, in particular, has been amazingly accepting of the necessary confinement, much more so that I would ever have imagined given his age. Emma gets a bit more frustrated, but she is still being remarkably good about it.
I try to make sure that tehy get to spend several hours each day outside as long as the weather permits and Emma gets to roam around the property as long as she respects the boundaries. Since she doesn't want to get too far away from Ramsey, this works well and gives her some much needed freedom and exercise....
The single most useful device I have found for alleviating confinement stress however, is a small-mesh hay net. I have always loathed hay nets as they have traditionally been dangerous, suicide enablers in my opinion. The small-mesh nets are a bit different though, mainly because they are, well, small-mesh. The old fashioned kind were just the right size for a horse to stick a foot through and I was initially very wary of even trying these newer versions with Emma and Ramsey, especially since Ramsey's feet are so tiny and he loves to chew on ropes. However, Riding Buddy has been using them with her horses for a couple of years now with great results and after the success I have had with my slow feeder boxes, I decided to give it a try.
I have been amazed at the results. Keep in mind that I always feed grass hay free choice and my animals have access to hay 24 hours a day so the net is not extending their feed time. The net seems to provide the constant, slow nibbling and browsing that donkeys are designed for and they enjoy it. I was astonished to find that after a few days of introduction, both Emma and Ramsey (especially Ramsey) prefer the net over the loose hay. It is the exact same feed from the same bale of hay and they still have free choice access to loose hay, however the hay net is almost always close to empty in the morning while the loose hay remains untouched.
I have noticed several other things since I started using the net about two weeks ago:
- Both Emma and Ramsey are more relaxed.
- They chew on the barn boards less.
- They have NOT chewed on the net. They might if it were empty, but as long as there is even a tiny bit of hay inside, even Ramsey does not chew on it or play with it.
- They are both less mouthy. As most donkey owners know, donkeys like to pick things up, bite things and they will often grab at clothing. I discourage this last as it can be dangerous to the wearer of said clothing. Since using the net, they have not done this even once.
- They seldom play with their toys in the barn anymore...
- I have had a complete reversal on my thoughts about hay nets (the small-mesh ones, I still think the old fashioned kind are a good way to kill a horse).
- The slow nibbling clearly fills a need I had not even been aware of.
- The nets and slow-feeder boxes are not only a good way to decrease feed consumption, they also make my animals happier. Riding Buddy has had similar results.
- I would still prefer that they could eat off the ground as they are intended, it is healthier. There are nets that are designed for this and I may try them once Ramsey is older and his feet are bigger.
- This would be a very good way to help prevent sand colic in areas where that is a problem, especially if the net was hung over a rubber mat.
- The net has been a God-send in alleviating stall-stress.
- My donkeys are happier then they were.