Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Seven Sons

Today is Tanner's 9th birthday along with his 6 litter-mates, ALL boys. I've got a nice fresh marrow bone from our own grass-fed beef  waiting for him in the freezer.  Tanner is, of course, the pick of the litter but his brothers turned out OK as well.  My best friend and I got puppies from the same litter and we both greatly enjoyed watching them grow up together.   He still sees his brother Scout at least four days a week as Tanner spends his time over at my friend's place when I am off earning our keep. 

Scout may not quite measure up to Tanner's perfection (at least in my totally unbiased and humble opinion) but he does OK too.

Happy Birthday!
Tanner, Scout, Gyp, Dru, Moss, Pip & Beck

Rain, rain go away....

It's been wet here this fall, very wet.  We have had nearly 35 inches of rain over what we normally get.  To put that into donkey perspective, 35 inches is just shy of  Emma's 40 inches.  If I was to somehow convince her to go into a swimming pool filled with 3 feet of water, about the only thing we would see of her would be her ears.  Good thing she has long ears.

Yesterday was the worst sort of weather for animals.  It rained hard all night and throughout the day while the temperature dropped steadily until the rain turned to wet, heavy snow in the late afternoon.  The temps continued to drop down into the 20's.  Horses and donkeys generally handle freezing temps with no trouble but not when they are already soaking wet.  

We are all just trying to stay dry however we can.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't fence me in

So far, I have only found one thing that Emma really doesn't like and that's being shut in a stall.  The first day here, I had planned on locking her in one of the stalls until she had a chance to get acclimated a little and I could introduce her to the electric fence.   I don't have normal doors in my stalls, finding that a piece of chain across the opening works just fine for the little time my horses are in their stalls.  I knew this wouldn't work for a small donkey who had never been in a barn before or even worn a halter.  Still, I got Emma in the stall and used my trusty cordless drill to put a few boards across the doorway.  I went up about five feet and figured that ought to be enough to hold a donkey less than 40 inches tall.  Wrong!

A friend had come up to see the new donkey and we were standing there admiring her when she did a standing leap over my hastily built wall.  I had heard that donkeys were good jumpers but really...a 3 1/2 foot tall donkey neatly jumping a five foot wall???  Time for some rapid rethinking of the donkey containment issue.

Emma wound up spending her first 3 days here locked in my round pen, which luckily, has 7 foot walls.  Not even the super donkey could leap over these. 
Fortunately, Emma has absolute respect for the electric fence.  In fact, I have even had some success with a dummy wire in the barn.  Much to Emma's dismay.

"Let me out!!!!" 
 "There just has to be a way through this..."
 "Ohhhh, a consolation prize"
"Maybe I'll survive"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Come play with me, NOW!

Since hiding your gloves didn't work, I'll have to take more drastic measures.  

 You are going to come out and play even if I have to drag you along....

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Amazing Thing

I have always been fascinated by animal behavior.  When I built a house a couple of years ago, I made sure to position it so that all the main windows look out over my pasture and barn so I can horse watch as much as I want.   Adding a donkey to my farm has added a whole new and delightful element to my equine behavioral studies.

The view from my living room window

Lately, the interaction between Emma and Tessa has become even more interesting.   first noticed Emma actually thinking about trying to nurse off of Tessa.  Tess wasn't thrilled with this idea but did not get overly upset either, she just gently said no and that was that.  I put this down to Emma's age (14 months) and missing her mom.  However, I think that like most things it is more complicated than that because now I see that Tessa is acting very much like Emma is her daughter not just her friend.  Tessa has become quite protective of Emma.

A few weeks ago there were some dogs roaming around in the pasture.  These dogs have been a minor annoyance since I bought the property.  They have never caused any harm but I can see them thinking about chasing the horses.  Tessa has seen these dogs before and has always just ignored them.  However the last time they showed up, Tessa took action and chased them out of the field away from Emma.  Good riddance to them!

Yesterday, a group of us went out for a trail ride and on the way home we passed by the lower field where Tessa and Emma are staying at the moment.  I was a little concerned about this as I didn't want Tessa getting overly excited but there was no other way around.  Tessa and Emma were intrigued of course but, I could see that Tessa felt threatened by all these new horses.  Rather than get excited and want to play as she would have a few months ago she led Emma up the hill and back to the barn as far away as they could go. Good riddance to us as well!

This afternoon, I witnessed an amazing thing.  I had been gone most of the day visiting with friends and when I came home it was pouring rain (again!!).  I wanted to make sure that the girls had plenty of hay in the barn so they would not feel like they had to be out in this miserable weather.  Smart equines that they are, they were waiting for me in the barn.  I threw some hay in the manger and then watched an incredible thing happen.  Tessa went to the manger and very carefully pulled out a flake of hay and very deliberately brought it over and put it on the floor in front of Emma.  She then very gently, fluffed the hay up with her foot and reached over and nuzzled Emma on the shoulder making a little wuffling noise that you would normally hear only from a mare with a newborn foal.  Emma reached up and returned the gesture with her own little noise then bent down and started eating the hay, Tessa turned back to the manger and started chewing on her own hay. 

I have had horses for 30 years and have seen them do amazing things but I have never watched a scene like this this one.  The thoughtful deliberation of Tessa's actions alone are astonishing.  I will leave it you you to ponder the implications of all of this.  I know I have to go think about it some more.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A new strategy

If I hide these things in the manger will you stop messing about with those blocks of wood and come play with me?

But Emma, I need to get this firewood stacked! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Building an obstacle course

OK Tess, I have this one.  You bring the big one along....

A walk in the woods with Tanner

Every day, Tanner and I go for a walk in the woods.  Yesterday I actually remembered to take the camera with me...


 Every trail leads back to here...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy hoof trimmings

Trimming the horse's feet may seem like a routine and dull endeavour but I am hopeful that our successful hoof trimming this afternoon is an indication that Tessa is improving.  I have not been able to trim her hind feet for several months now because of her injuries.  Fortunately, her hind feet are about as perfect as horse hooves ever get and need very little in the way of trimming anyway but they do need the occasional buffing.  Today, I was able to trim both of them for the first time since I found out that her spine was damaged.  I choose to believe this means that she is recovering. 

Emma also got her very little, tiny, donkey feet trimmed as well.  She had never had her feet or legs touched before coming here.  While her feet were in no way overgrown like those of her poor parents, they were long and just beginning to curl up at the toe and under at the heel. The only thing that kept them from being far worse is that she just isn't old enough to have developed serious problems.  Since I first had to teach her to let me handle them and since I am very slow at farrier work, it has taken a bit to get them where they need to be. 
I think they are starting to look pretty good.  I am going to have a professional come out in a couple of weeks to make sure that I am doing things right.  I have never worked with donkey feet before.  They are soooo tiny!

Pack Train

I am trying to be optimistic about Tessa's future as a riding horse, hoping that she is on her way to a full recovery.  This would pose a minor obstacle however...what to do with Emma while Tessa and I are out blazing the trails?  The answer is simple, Emma just has to come with us of course.  The exercise is just what a donkey needs.  To that happy end, I have been trying to teach Emma to pony off of Tessa.  All without actually riding Tessa. 

Tess is not sure she likes this game, "Not this again, Ma!"
"Yes, Tess.  Just try to think of it as physical therapy, just a little walk down the driveway"

Emma's not sure she sees the point either

Still, we made some progress...
Maybe I need to find a pack saddle and some gold panning equipment and head west!  Donkeys are desert animals after all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A donkey discussion

This post was a reply I made to the following discussion question, there are a lot of interesting points here...

My reply...

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


When I brought Emma home I was totally ignorant about the true nature of donkeys.  I just assumed (always a stupid thing to do) she would be a lot like a small horse.  What I have found instead is that she is a lot more like my border collie then a horse.  One of the most notable similarities is her love of toys.  Emma likes to play with things, all sorts of things, if she can reach it it is fair game.  This is where the trouble starts.  As soon as I recognized her wish to play, I stared giving her toys.  Unfortunately, the things that make good toys for donkeys also make good toys for dogs.

Tanner loves his toys.  He plays with them all the time, he keeps track of exactly where they are at all times.  He guards them jealously.  He can spend hours hiding and relocating his treasures and if I happen to accidentally unearth one he will spend more hours digging up and re-hiding his other treasures to keep them safe.  He does not like seeing the donkey with a toy, any toy, and he has taken to patrolling the barn every morning so that he can gather everything up and get them safely out of Emma's reach.  Every afternoon, before I go to work I have to make my own circuit to gather Emma's toys (if I can find them) and put them back in the barn so she will have something to play with while I am gone.  Both Emma and tanner think that I should spend all of my time with them.  Unfortunately, both the donkey and the dog are not thrilled with the others company and would much prefer to have me all to themselves.  It isn't always easy being loved.

Mine, ALL mine!! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Learning to Listen

My dog Tanner, is a 9 year old Border Collie whom I have had since a puppy.  He is smart, fun, energetic, very expressive, and did I mention smart.  Nearly everyone who meets him says some variation of “if only he could talk...”.  I always reply to this by telling them that Tanner’s wish is for people to learn how to listen.  He has a lot to say.   When I am working with my animals, I constantly remind myself to try to hear and see what they are telling me.  It isn’t always easy. 

Tessa is a 3 year old Spotted Saddle Horse who was started under saddle this spring.  Right from the start she was an exceptional saddle horse and to be honest, this surprised me a little.  I bought Tessa last Fall and while I thought she was a nice enough filly she always seemed kind of nervous and worried about things.  She was seldom still and especially in the barn, she was always moving…holding one foot in the air, bobbing her head up and down, pacing.  So, I was surprised when she turned out to be a totally unflappable, steady, and fun riding horse.  Out on the trails, she is the closest thing to bomb-proof I have ever ridden.  Unusual in any horse and remarkable for a 3 year old.

It wasn’t until the other horses were gone from here and Emma took their place that I realized the truth of things.  Tessa had been under more stress from the other horses than I had ever realized and all of that went away with Emma.  Tessa is now the calm, quiet, relaxed horse that I saw under saddle in the barn and everywhere else.   She plays with Emma, dozes contentedly in the barn and is happy.   

Tessa was trying to tell me all of this but I just couldn’t see it.  Listening takes a lot of practice and an open mind.  Sorry Tess, I’ll try to do better from now on. 

Hey Ma, you obviously need help with that camera

Getting in on a good thing

Tessa has been watching me playing with Emma on the bridge.  She decided to get in on the fun...

 I wonder how many feet will fit on one little sled?

Who's Training Who

This is something I posted for my Facebook friends but wanted to share here as well...
Since I have had Emma (3 weeks now) she has learned how to lead, pick up her
feet and come to me when I call her. I have a little (3x4') wooden sled/bridge
that I use to teach my horses to walk over bridges and pull sleds. Yesterday I
played a little "game" with Emma to teach her to walk over the "bridge". I
stood on one side of it and called her to me, when she went around it I moved to
keep it between us. After about 2 minutes of this ring-around-the-roses game
she stepped onto the bridge, got a big hug and a treat and then walked over
whenever I asked.

Fast-forward to this afternoon...I am trying to get a carpentry project finished
and I am working just outside of the pasture fence. Emma, of course, wants me
to be INSIDE the fence with her where I belong. With some effort I manage to
resist her charms and get to work. After a little while I hear a little tapping
noise and I turn around to see Emma standing on the bridge, very gently tapping
her foot on it to get my attention. As soon as I looked at her she stopped
tapping and whuffled at me saying "see Ma, I am on the bridge, where's my
treat?" It certainly worked as I couldn't resist going in and giving her a big
hug and telling her what a wonderful smart donkey she is. Who is training who I

Emma's Family

Sometime things just work out.  I had been reading and greatly enjoying Fenway Barthalomule's blog over at and I sort of had longears on my mind when I decided to find a small companion for Tessa.  I turned to craigslist and right at the top of the page was an ad that read "Friendly female donkey $200" and only a half hour away.  Hmmm, that could work.  I couldn't get over to see her till the following week and thought for sure she would be sold by then but when I called the guy back he still had her.  I called a couple of friends who both wanted to go see her and off we went.  This is where things get a little strange, of course. 

I really must have had donkeys on the brain because the night before I had dreamed of going to see some of them, four of them to be exact.  In my dream, there was a brown, a grey donkey and a little donkey named Emma.  They all had terribly overgrown feet and they all wanted to come home with me.

Well, my friends, our dogs and I all trouped over to see the donkey for sale and I knew I was sunk before I even got out of the car.  Standing in a small field were four donkeys; a brown jack, a grey jenny, her baby from last year, this years baby and, you guessed it, their feet were horribly overgrown.  Weird huh?

I knew right away that I was going to bring the little yearling home with me but I also knew I had to do something about the feet on the older jack and jenny.  After talking with the owner for a while I realized that he genuinely had no idea about hoof care for donkeys.  It took some cautious maneuvering but I finally got him to agree that I would buy the yearling (Emma) for $100 and I would bring my farrier over to work on the other donkeys feet.  I would have paid him his full price and then some to get those feet worked on but I thought it was important to get him to take some ownership.  This photo was taken on the day that my farrier and I went over and got them trimmed.   We have also set up appointments for the farrier to go back.  I feel the owner will keep up with it now he knows what needs to be done.  I think I have a buyer for the baby when he is old enough to be weaned.  Sometimes, dreams really do come true.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Never Too Old To Learn New Things

As a lifelong horse owner, I never paid much attention to donkeys.  I guess I just assumed they were just like horses only too small to ride and with those funny, long ears.  Cute, but what would I do with one?  This summer though, my wonderful, new, young horse (Tessa) was badly injured by another horse (Sprinkle).  Sprinkle was having problems with her endocrine system.  This wreaked havoc with her hormones, causing extreme aggression towards other mares.  These two horses had lived together peacefully for over a year so Tessa and I were both caught completely by surprise.  The end result was that poor Tessa wound up with 3 fractured vertebrae.

My vet and I tried everything we could think of to get Sprinkle's hormone problems straightened out and I think we helped but I never was able to put these two horses back together.  Sprinkle belongs to a friend of mine and I finally decided that she just couldn't live here anymore (a whole separate story).  She has gone to a new home with an older mare (my old retired mare Suki) who is so dominant that Sprinkle doesn't dare attack her.  However, this left Tessa all alone.

Enter the donkey, Emma!

It is still uncertain if Tessa will ever be rideable again but I wanted to give her the best chance at healing and I just wasn't ready to find another horse.  I decided that I would find a cheap, harmless companion for her till spring when I would reassess everything and make a new plan.  I figured that I could find a good home for the donkey if I didn't need her anymore and in the meantime Tessa would be happy and safe.  Well, the happy and safe part worked out just fine but no way is Emma ever leaving here! 

I have learned in the last weeks that donkeys are very definitely not just like horses.  They could actually be even better.  Who knew?!