Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Blanket Test

"Does my donkey need a blanket?"

This is probably the number one question that I see pop up on Facebook and donkey related conversations, especially with this onset of frigid temperatures.  The answer I have come up with is: maybe.

As Emma and Ramsey have demonstrated for us this year, a baby donkey less than 4 years old will very likely benefit from a blanket if you are in a very cold, windy climate.  A healthy adult donkey in good condition with plenty of roughage to keep the internal fires burning will probably be just fine.

A few signs of a cold donkey are a tightly clamped tail, hunched back, grumpiness and unwillingness to be touched.  Those things are all rather subjective though so it can still be hard to tell.  Fortunately, there is a very simple test that will tell you right off if your particular donkey really, truly needs a blanket (this works for horses too).  All you really need to do is go ask your donkey, here's how:
  • Step 1: Go out and put a blanket on your donkey (if you haven't got a proper blanket, an old quilt will do for the moment) and watch him very carefully.
  • Step 2: If the animal begins to shiver within a few minutes, than he needs a blanket.
  • Step 3: If there is no shivering within ten minutes, than he will continue to be fine (and safer) running around naked.
  • If your donkey had been rather grumpy and irritable and cheers up with a blanket on, but does not shiver, than he will likely appreciate having a blanket.  He will get along OK without it if you are opposed to blankets, but he might like one.
The reason this works is that if the animal is really, truly cold, then their shiver mechanism will be triggered as they begin to warm up with the blanket on. They will shiver for a few minutes just at the beginning as they start to get warmer and then quit once they are warm, which is why you have to watch closely, this is a transient thing that usually will only last a few minutes.

The second most frequently asked question is: where can I get a blanket for my donkey and which one should I buy?

After trying on a number of blankets, the one that I find works best for my donkeys is the medium weight Rhino Pony Wug (that really is how they spell it) with a high neck.  Ramsey is modeling his new Wug....

He most definitely wanted a blanket.  He was really rather grumpy in the cold, which is highly unlike him, and when I put a blanket on him, he shivered hard for several minutes until he warmed up.  He is much happier snuggled into his Wug.  Emma, on the other hand, did not show signs of being cold this year and wanted no part of blankets.

If the Rhino is too expensive or you can't find one, look for something with a high neck.  I have found that a lot of blankets do not fit my donkeys well, especially around the shoulders.  Below is the blanket Emma wore last year.  It fit well, but you can see that it puts a lot of pressure on her chest and withers.  It rubbed quite a bit by the end of the season.  It never made her sore, it worked and it was half the price, but I worried about it pinching the nerves in her shoulders and would go with another's Rhino if I had to.

As for where to buy a blanket for a donkey, I have had good luck finding small sizes in two places:

Just For Ponies

Dover Saddlery

The Rhino blankets are not cheap, the one Ramsey is wearing sells for $180 unless you can find a good sale.  They do hold up well though.  I rather wish Rhino was paying me to say all this, but alas, this is all just my opinion on a question I get asked quite frequently.

There is one other one-time-only buying opportunity...You can buy this Rhino Wug that my two have both outgrown....

It is a size 51, is three years old and still in excellent condition.  The only damage it has is that one of the little metal rings that attatches the butt strap is gone.  I have contrapted a repair that works just fine, but the little ring is missing.

If anyone is interested or in dire need, get in touch....aerissana@gmail dot com


  1. Ramsey looks really cute in his blanket. I never knew that method of checking if a blanket is needed, so thank you.

    I have a collection of rings from old blankets that I use to repair new ones but I have also found them at the hardware store. Not sure what the hardware store thinks that they are for but that's okay. :)

  2. I don't have a donkey, but I sure have been impressed with Schneider Saddlery blankets. They have all manner of neck styles. Adjustable shoulders. Reasonable prices. All the "Dura Tech" soft goods I've bought from them have been superb. Thanks for the "shiver test". My horses obviously appreciate blankets when the temp drops below 30 and the wind howls!

  3. Interesting. I may have to do the wug test on a couple of my little guys this week.

  4. Again you intrigue me with your compliant animals. I would love to put a blanket on Wilson, but I am sure he would have a pig-fit. I may try it with the goats, but I am afraid what will happen when I turn my back. I think I need to work into these things slowly. Your donkey look so warm and snugly.

  5. Your forgot to mention one thing.... they're stylish, too!

  6. And in my case, the other members of the herd love to see how quickly they can shred a blanket!
    Extremely useful information, very informative, thanks to much!

  7. Ahhh Ramsey just wanted to be stylin in plaid this winter! And he is! LOL He does look snug as a bug.