Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Two Good to be True

Qilin is two months old today and at least twice the size he was at birth.
(His Trojan-horse-mane cracks me up:)

He has definitely decided that Ben is his best buddy.

Although, there is more interest from other points on the donkey compass.

I've been introducing Qilin to all the things.  Halter training has been slow because it took me ages to find a halter that would fit him.  Foal halters were too small, weanling was too big...I finally found one on clearance at TSC because it didn't fit any of the horse babies:)  I had to tie a knot in the crown piece to make it work, but that is OK, he has room to grow (which is a very good thing because does know how to grow!)

Qilin is already fine with ATV's, tractors, plastic bags, pool noodles, ropes, feed bags and whatever other random stuff I can find to casually drop into his environment for inspection.  This is how I like to train babies.  I don't make a big deal out of it, I just drop a monster in the middle of his space and go about my business.  I am not trying to desensitize him to all the world, rather, I am letting him learn how to learn and desensitize himself.  Right now, everything is new, whether it is a dandelion or a chainsaw and he is developing the patterns that will establish how he reacts to new stimuli.  The patterns set now will be with him for his whole life.  If they consist of curiosity, inquisitive inspection followed by calm acceptance, he will be set for life.

Doing things this way puts the learning process in his hooves instead of my hands.  In this way, he figures out how to deal with any new situation because new stuff is just a part his everyday life.  Babies raised this way grow up to be the kind of easy-going good citizens that everyone wants.

I am also a firm believer in using whatever training "tools" come my way.  Flies, for instance, can be a handy training aid.  A fly bites his leg, I reach down and scratch the itch for him and just like that, he loves having his legs and feet handled.  Same goes for the rest of him.  I handle every part of Qilin every day.  Again, in a matter of fact way that scratches an itch or gives a massage.  In a few years, when I have to clean Qilin's sheath, it will be no big thing.  This is how I raised Ramsey and it helped save his life when he needed surgery and months of intensive after care. 

I find that Qilin definitely thinks more like a donkey than a horse, but he has the energy and athleticism of a horse.  Mules = best of both.  He is very wary at first, but give him a bit of time to think about things, see and feel that he is safe and the lesson is learned.  Repeating the same thing over and over once he has it, just annoys him.  Try to rush him and he will err on the side of caution every time.  Better to just stand back, let him figure it out and then move on.  Actually, he is just like Connor in how he responds to potentially scary stuff.  The more I try to convince Connor that something is safe, the more wary and suspicious he gets.  The fastest way to lose Connor's trust is to try to get him "over" a fear.  Qilin is just like that - maybe he is part Border Collie?

Training Qilin is simultaneously slower and faster than training a horse foal.  I have to go much slower with making requests of him, but once he decides to go along, the lesson is learned.  It also does have to be a decision on his part.  He is very much like a donkey in that.  Ask nicely until he decides to play along and he'll do whatever you want, try to push him into it and you have already lost.

Like most babies, EVERYTHING goes in the mouth.  Some of this is exploring and some is because his teeth itch.  The life of a mule baby...play hard, think hard, sleep hard.


  1. Oh goodness. This almost makes me want a baby equine. I said almost.... I love him. He's beautiful. Sounds like understanding the donkey and the horse make a huge difference in teaching him.

  2. Other points on the donkey compass...except Ramsey, who looks thoroughly Not Interested ;-D.

  3. I have been lurking and loving every post. I'm a horse person who wishes she could have long ears in my life. I adore Ben, and now that he's proven to be such a good uncle, I love him even more. Thanks for sharing your animals.

  4. I love your training approach. This is how everyone should do it.

  5. Having never had donkeys or mules, I find all this fascinating!

  6. I always enjoy the "full" story on your blog posts but also appreciate the IGram pictures in between posts. All your animals look great. Tell FB her cows are beautiful. Your venting was appropriate and informative in yesterday's blog.

  7. delrene from Carlsbad, CaJuly 23, 2019 at 8:11 PM

    He is so cute. The last photo. Did he scratch his face? Looks like some hair missing. I LOVE HIS MOHAWK!

  8. Interesting observations as always Kris! And, as always, I think you are right on!

  9. You are doing such wonderful things with Qilin!

  10. I always learn so very much every time that I read your blog. I had no idea, really, that training a mule baby would be any different than a donkey or foal... Thank you for the time that you take to share with all of us city folk.

  11. Sounds like you are having fun training him the right way:)