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Each year, I try to pick the hottest week in July to do the equine’s yearly baths. The mules and horses have shed out their winter coats, except for a strip of hair on the mules’ bellies, and the donkeys are getting closer to being completely shed out. This makes a difference when you are trying to get them dry after their baths. They all begin to grow their winter coats in September.
Their natural hair coats will insulate them from the heat and cold and will protect them from insects, so I do not advise clipping them unless you are showing. Even then, it is not advisable to clip the hair inside of the ears! I bath as many as four at a time and in smaller friendly groups like Wrangler and his “Lady Love,” Chasity! I am polite, considerate and respectful, so it is always an enjoyable experience for all! I begin with the introduction to the hose on their front legs.
Wrangler and Chasity enjoy their yearly baths to get off the dirt that has built up during the year. I offer a drink to their lips and afterwards move to their foreheads, being careful not to get water in their eyes or ears. I spray the water gently into their mouths and we “water pick” the teeth! Playful antics like this teach them to always remain calm and keep things safe between us. This keeps interest to a maximum and intimidation to a minimum.
When they are approached in this manner, Chasity and Wrangler can enjoy the cool water on a hot day! Chasity knows I am being careful and doesn’t pull away, then takes a sip from the hose.
I reward Chasity with crimped oats from my fanny pack for being such a good girl. Then I rinse off the oats that were stuck to her whiskers as she gazes at the other equines in the pens nearby who are anxiously awaiting their turns.
Her attention returns to me and I work my way up her forehead to her forelock and ears. I make sure the spray is light and doesn’t sting so she will keep her ears laid back for the rinsing. I would hate to get water in Chasity’s ears, but if by accident I do, I just back off and allow her to shake her head to get the water out before I resume.
We use Tres Semme (Breakage Defense) shampoo and Aussie 3X Conditioner on the manes and tails only, and just water on their bodies to keep their hair coats from drying out. In the case of Chasity’s white legs, I will use the shampoo and conditioner there, too. The result is a healthy and shiny hair coat year round.
I spray the water over their bodies and then follow up with the serrated side of the shedding blade to scrape the dirt from their body. I keep going over each spot until the water runs clear. I pay special attention to the legs and any places that flies might have laid eggs. I will scrape these places with a stiff brush or with my fingernails and apply Neosporin to these spots, and any sores, after they are dry. I scrape off the excess water with the smooth side of the shedding blade. Then Chasity and Wrangler are put on the hot walker to dry.
When Wrangler and Chasity are dry, I sprinkle Johnson’s Baby oil in the manes and tails and spray for flies with Farnam Tri-Tech 14. The baby oil will keep them from chewing on each other’s manes and tails. Those who have sensitive skin around their eyes will receive fly masks. Chasity and Wrangler do not need them. When entering or leaving an area, we ALWAYS execute gates exactly the same way! That way, there is no confusion and chaos that could result in resistant behaviors.
Chasity and all my equines always know exactly what is expected and know exactly what they need to do.
Chasity will be rewarded with her favorite crimped oats for her cooperative behavior. Good manners, and being polite and respectful are paramount to getting your equine’s full cooperation! Even if Chasity does go right out into her pen and roll afterwards, she always seems to enjoy having clean, healthy skin and hair. And, most of all, she enjoys her time with me and looks forward to the next time!
Due to the colder and more inclement weather here in Colorado, Chasity has been off her exercise program for about three months. It was time to get back to work! No matter how long it has been between lessons, when you have a specific routine, the equines seem to comply easily because they know what to expect, beginning with going to their regular work station to be groomed and tacked up. In order to keep upper respiratory disease at bay, eye infections and ear problems to a minimum, it is advisable to clean these areas with a damp towel regularly. Be polite and wipe the towel in the direction that the hair lays and clean the nostrils with a circular motion. This repetition will prevent them from getting head shy.
Chasity still thinks the vacuum cleaner is questionable, but she tolerates it now. Not only does it pull the dirt from the skin for healthy hair growth, it also promotes circulation better than massage and does a better job at softening her “fat roll.” I used massage in the beginning when Chasity first came here with her enlarged crest (photo below on the right).
It had become somewhat enlarged again about three weeks ago, but after two sessions with the vacuum cleaner, it has decreased substantially already.
Another valuable therapeutic grooming tool is this simple human, multi-bristled hairbrush. It is not only VERY helpful during shedding, but also works to further stimulate the hair coat and promote better circulation, as well as efficiently removing dirt from the skin. I have found it to be more helpful for healthy hair than any equine grooming tools. The long, thick hair coats of winter and spring stay soft and healthy when I use this hair brush over the entire body. I only clip bridle paths when the weather gets warmer and I leave body clipping for showing. The only other grooming tools I use are a shedding blade to remove mud and a dandy brush to finish the coat. They can have balding spots from rubbing during the shedding season and may even get sores, but I just treat those with Neosporin and they recede quickly. A healthy hair coat will insulate your equine from the heat and cold and protect them from insects better than any artificial products or practices.
Equines do like feeling clean all over and really do appreciate your efforts at keeping them this way…although, they don’t necessarily show it when the first thing they do after a good grooming is to go for a good roll in the dirt!!! Still, they do seem to realize that you care and will show their appreciation in a multitude of other ways…like being happy to leave their companions to go with YOU and stand quietly during grooming, tacking and hoof care!
Feeding is a very important consideration for healthy hooves as are regular trims when needed, usually every 8-10 weeks. For donkeys, it can even be longer between trims when they wear their hooves in good balance. Chasity had hoof issues when she first arrived, but is now sporting healthy balanced feet! Remember that Longears will be more upright and have more heel than horses and ponies…and donkeys will typically be more upright and have more heel than mules.
Fitting saddles can be tricky. Make sure the saddle makes even contact behind the withers and over the back with relief from pressure over the spine. Many saddles sit too high and cause centralized and uneven pressure across the back. Pressure points are easily identified after a workout. The back will be sweaty, but the pressure points will be dry.
Place the saddle in the center of the back, behind the shoulder blade, the girth falling 4” behind the forearm where the skin is thicker and body begins to swell. I have successfully used cruppers with the buckles set away from the tail to hold it in place. The crupper is adjusted with just enough tension so the tail will still be able to rest comfortably.
I am using the neck sweat on Chasity for lunging to promote a decrease in the crest. When bridling, I press my thumb on the bars of her mouth to get it open and protect her ears with my hands as I pull the crown piece to the poll. This promotes trust and keeps any equine from getting ear shy.
On an English saddle there is a small d-ring that I use to tie up the reins.
Then it is off to the Round Pen. I always stay in sync with their front legs when we walk and execute the gates EXACTLY the same way EVERY TIME! All movements are predictable, never abrupt. They comply due to trust.
I adjust Chasity’s postural restraint, the “Elbow Pull,” and then remind her to give to the tension to get the release with a reward of oats for flexing at the poll. Wrangler, “Mr. Curiosity” watches intently…they do learn from each other!
Chasity’s overall posture has changed dramatically as has her movement. She uses her body much more efficiently.
Chasity has strong hind quarter engagement with an uphill balance to promote enthusiasm, endurance and stamina.
A reward is always in order for a job well done. Her forward stretch has improved greatly in one short year.
The lateral stretches are also much improved. After five rotations of walk, then trot, then reverse and repeat the other direction, 3 sets with a 3 minute break in between, then stop. Done once a week is adequate to maintain conditioning.
I hold the halter crown strap in my hand and protect her ears as I remove Chasity’s bridle. Then I slip the bridle onto my left arm, bring the noseband over her nose with my left hand and fasten the halter to the strap in my right hand. This ensures that I can keep hold of her should she try to pull away. Last, I fasten the tie strap from the hitch rail.
I always unfasten the girth on the left, then tie up the girth on the right, slide the saddle back, loosen the crupper from the tail and take off the saddle on the right side. This gets the equine used to being handled from BOTH sides. I always rinse the bits and wipe any dirt from the bridles and saddles before putting them away…saves work in the long run!
I remove Chasity’s neck sweat to see how much sweat is underneath…encouraging! We are definitely making progress!
To end, we do a few more stretches in each direction. These are improving immensely, too!
Then it’s walking IN SYNC back to the barn for turnout in the larger dry lot. They enter the stall, ladies first, and then they both turn around to allow me to remove their halters and to enjoy their last reward. I keep all my donkeys off grass most of the time. I find that they stay healthier and do not run the risk of getting obese that way. They do have large dry lots for turnout on pea gravel every day and a couple of acres of dirt pen for really stretching their legs every other day. They do get some grass when we go for walks, but do not seem to miss it most of the time. They are too busy playing and resting with each other…and looking forward to our next lesson TOGETHER!
When Chasity first arrived, we needed to keep her in quarantine, away from the other animals for a minimum of two weeks. Over the past 41 years, we altered our facility to an all-steel facility. Reduced maintenance costs enabled us to proceed converting from wood and wire to steel until we completed the process. This has greatly reduced the overall maintenance costs for the entire ranch, enabling us to purchase steel panels for the barn runs. It was easy to quarantine Chasity safely and still allow her company (at a distance, of course!) and an introduction to her future stable mate, Wrangler. About every five years, we do have to spray paint the panels to keep them looking new, but this is a small price to pay for a happy donkey!
Once out of quarantine, Chasity and Wrangler were stabled next to each other. All of our runs are bedded with four inches of pea gravel. This promotes good drainage and keeps things from getting muddy. This, in turn, provides a hard surface for good hoof health and will not chip their feet because of its rounded shape. Each of our donkeys is given a soccer ball for play in the smaller areas. The ground surface is also soft and comfortable enough for them to lie down without causing shoe boils or sores. They learn to come by calling them to the end of the runs and rewarding with oats.
The mini donkeys’ pens are the same way, as is the road around the sandy dressage arena where they can also be turned out in the larger dirt area when it is not in use. They really enjoy a good roll in the sand.
Donkeys are desert animals and can easily become obese when exposed to green pastures. I only take my donkeys out to pasture to play with me.
My 60’ x 180’ indoor arena is lined with steel panels. I have a 45’ Round Pen at one end with obstacles inside the side gates around the south end. The enclosed area makes for good obstacle training with minimal distractions. Round Pen work and turnout in the open area during bad weather is completely safe and NON-DESTRUCTIVE!
At first, Chasity would not come to me at the stall door, but after being chased once into the stall to be haltered, she soon gave in easily. I always halter in exactly the same way, in the same place. They love routine.
The oats reward assures that she will repeat the behavior. After only one lesson, she now comes to me every time to be haltered. For clean, dry stalls, we bore a 2’ wide x 4’ deep hole in the center, fill it with 1 ½” rock, cover it with four inches of pea gravel and put rubber mats on top. The pea gravel is held in with 2” x 6” boards bordered by angle iron.
Since we had no animals in the north stalls, we took down the panels and made a large turnout area bedded in four inches of pea gravel for Wrangler and Chasity. It was plenty large enough to romp and play…and not get muddy!
When I am out and about the barn, I reinforce Wrangler and Chasity’s will, as well as all the others, to come to me for their oats reward. We keep bulk rock, pea gravel and structural fill in bays behind the indoor arena.
When the equines are in turnout, we replenish the pea gravel as needed with the Skidsteer.
Wrangler and Chasity, our miniature donkeys Augie & Spuds, miniature mule Francis and miniature horse Mirage also have alternate access to a very large 2 ½ acre dirt pen…Large Standard donkeys one day, miniatures the next.
When it is dry, they can take turns on alternate days in the larger area to stretch their legs and buck to their hearts desire. They do not seem to miss being in the pasture with this kind of management and they really do stay very healthy. We have no incidence of colic, founder, abscesses, skin irritations, rashes or obesity.
Chasity and Wrangler enjoy working with each other nearby and seem to learn things a lot quicker with a lot less resistance. It also affords me the ability to work more animals in less time. It’s a win-win situation. It doesn’t mean they won’t work by themselves. They will do that as well when they get to work with and without each other. This consistent routine with minimal variety greatly reduces anxiety and bad behaviors. The “Elbow Pull” is convenient for tying one while the other is working. There is no need to fuss with halters and lead ropes. I tie Wrangler while Chasity waits her turn patiently. It is a passive way to teach them to stand quietly when tied.
Today we will be going to the outdoor arena for riding in the Hourglass Pattern, but I opt to do some warm-up in the Round Pen first because I do not want to ask Chasity to trot in the Hourglass Pattern just yet. It is better to get her exercise done first, so we can then work on fine tuning her response to the aids: hands, seat and legs. Trotting will come later when she is consistent in her good posture, ultra-light in the bridle, moving off my legs easily and is following my seat.
Wrangler is tied outside the arena just as he has been tied outside the Round Pen. Chasity comes through the gate, stands squarely and receives her reward with no abrupt changes to the routine.
Chasity stands quietly as I mount, settle gently onto her back and politely receives her reward. She is enjoying being in a larger space, but is not anxious to walk off. She will do so only when I ask.
Chasity’s rein back is greatly improved and she is offering more steps upon request each time. She will only step one step at a time as I ask for them, and will also stop when I relax my seat and loosen the reins. I maintain a light connection to her mouth and I give the cue to move forward with my calves wrapped lightly around her belly. I maintain this contact with my legs and just nudge her on each side through the turns while I give a slight squeeze/ release with my little finger in the direction of travel.
Chasity enjoys the feeling of “being hugged” by my legs with only gentle nudges from each side that push her into the direction of travel, and a nudge from both sides at once should she lose energy.
Most of the time, my legs lightly hug her sides and allow her the freedom to move while they simply support the even balance through the straight lines in the pattern. As we turn, the inside leg will move forward to the girth to keep her erect while the outside leg is back further and supports the bend to the arc of the turns.
When Chasity is balanced in self-carriage, the “Elbow Pull” remains loose, she is light in the bridle and sensitive to my seat and legs. Wrangler watches her with intense interest! He knows he will soon have a turn!
Keeping lessons short, slow and accurate will enhance Chasity’s ability to learn. We track once around the Hourglass Pattern with circles at the cones, then cross the diagonal and do the same in the opposite direction.
In the beginning, I do not use the ground rails as I did for leading exercises. It is more important for Chasity to focus on balancing my newly added, shifting weight before asking her to shift her own body weight and mine over any obstacles. I want her secure in her own balance with me aboard before we do any obstacles.
Chasity is learning to execute an energetic, forward working walk in complete postural balance. She makes a smooth turn, maintains her forward energy and tracks up the centerline of the pattern.
Chasity comes to a nice, balanced halt, waits patiently for a few seconds and then reins back easily upon request.
I dismount, loosen her girth and release the “Elbow Pull.” Chasity remains attentive and then stretches her neck and spine before we exit the arena. It was a relaxing and comfortable workout for us both. Maybe next time, we will be able to add the trot…if she offers it! We want to keep things controlled and accurate so she builds up the core elements in her body symmetrically. This is vital to good health and optimum performance!
After extensive work in the Round Pen getting Chasity and Wrangler light in the bridle, we are finally ready to graduate to the Hourglass Pattern in the open arena. They enjoy working together, so I just take them both together and tie one outside the working area while I work with the other. We only do these lessons weekly, but they seem to practice good posture on their own during turnout in between lessons. Their play and rest patterns are changing and their posture is improving dramatically. They can now support my weight efficiently in the saddle, so it is now time to hone their skills in a more open setting where we can work more freely. They could trot while sustaining their good postural balance in the Round Pen without my added weight, but that is a pretty restricted place to introduce the trot with my weight in the saddle. So I will tie up Wrangler with his “Elbow Pull” while I work with Chasity.
As always, she leads easily, politely negotiates the gate and stands quietly while I adjust her “Elbow Pull” and adjust her equipment. I will tighten the girth a bit more for lunging to hold the saddle in place. I always tighten the girth a little at a time and not all at once for her comfort. She appreciates my consideration.
In preparation for riding, I will lunge Chasity first. When I ride her, I want her sufficiently warmed up and responsive to perfecting our communication skills. The five rotations at walk, then trot in each direction is sufficient exercise with some speed as she is now well-balanced while performing these tasks. The faster gaits under saddle will come later.
Chasity executes a very nice reverse and immediately slows to the walk, maintaining her good posture. When they are in a good equine posture, the entire length of the spine is stretched, causing space and elasticity between the vertebrae.
If the equine is perpetually allowed to carry their head too high, the vertebrae can become stuck and calcified too close together and over time can cause a condition called “Kissing Spine” that keeps the spine rigid and inflexible.
After a sufficient warm up with the addition of a bit of canter while tracking to the right, Chasity is ready to be ridden in the Hourglass Pattern. She obediently comes out the gate and turns to me for her reward.
I politely mount, settle onto her back softly and offer her reward as I did in the Tack Barn and then in the Round Pen. She stands absolutely still.
Then we do a rein back before moving forward into the Hourglass Pattern. Contrary to popular belief, this “pattern training” will allow Chasity to concentrate on the details of tracking forward, bending and staying light in the bridle.
The arcs and turns in the Hourglass Pattern allow Chasity’s internal pendulum to swing from side to side and come to rest at dead center when she finally halts. She maintains straight lines and bends to the arcs through her rib cage.
When an equine is perpetually schooled on the rail or in too many circles in one direction and then another, this radical movement does not allow the internal pendulum to become centered and balanced.
There is an optical illusion that takes place when riding the rail that “pushes” the balance continuously to one side. Straight lines become difficult and bending will be stiff at best.
This swaying in the Hourglass Pattern from one arc to another keeps the internal pendulum moving freely from side to side while the equine moves freely forward. It produces fluid motion and relaxation in the equine.
All of this keeps the animal responsive, light in the bridle and facilitates good postural movement that results in squared halts and straight rein backs. They enjoy their work because it FEELS good!
Chasity stands still while I fish in my pocket for her final reward for a job well done! Her balance is solid!
We then go back to the Round Pen area to retrieve Wrangler from his “spectator seat!” Wrangler and Chasity have been taught exactly and consistently the same way, so they are quite maneuverable and willing to do as I ask. I have not experienced a “balky” donkey or mule in years!
In the many years of the management and training of equines, I have learned how much the details really count! I learned about how much easier things can be when you are open minded and allow your education to grow. For instance, I learned how to train without the bit and bridle, but then learned that in doing so, I was not able to control postural development in the equine’s body. Thus, I invented my “Elbow Pull” as a response to Richard Shrake’s “Rhythm Collector.” I also found out that my “Elbow Pull” could be used in conjunction with the mild Eggbutt snaffle bit in a multitude of different ways, even for tying an animal. It is practically weightless and easily slips through the bit rings for optimum adjustment while the equine is in motion. It does need to be adjusted differently with horses, but the results are amazing as you can see with Chasity’s physical improvement.
Chasity’s huge cresty neck is practically gone now and the neck sweat has not been needed since she graduated to the Round Pen. This was because I have been repetitious in the way we execute ALL movements, even going through gates, in good equine posture! When we do this, Chasity uses ALL the muscles in her body to do these moves, and in this case, stretches across her spine to pull the Supraspinous ligament back into alignment while reducing the fatty tissues with efficient metabolic circulation. She is a lot more comfortable in her body, so standing quietly is no longer an issue.
Chasity has learned her verbal commands and responds promptly and quietly. Since donkeys do not freely exhibit as much energy as horses and mules, I only ask for five rotations at walk followed by five rotations at trot. As she is better able to keep her balance in good posture, the “Elbow Pull” remains loose, with very little tension throughout her whole workout.
Only now, instead of halting, resting and then changing direction, I do the whole exercise with a reverse in the middle for the change of direction. Her core is becoming more stable in her self-carriage. The muscles across her spine are becoming stronger and better able to support the weight of a rider.
She is relaxed, moves freely forward and most of the time halts four-square. Since she was a bit sticky with the reverse under saddle during her last lesson, I will add a step and ask for the reverse from the ground first.
Chasity understands what I mean and backs easily upon the command to “Back.” I then walk to the other end of the Round Pen and ask her to come to me with a verbal “Come,” also using hand signals. There is nothing more important than communicating clearly.
I politely ask Chasity to “Whoa,” with my hand put up like a “Stop” sign, and then mount her while she stands still. I pay special attention to lowering my seat slowly onto her back.
As I did in the Tack Barn when I first mounted her, I lean over to both sides and offer her reward of crimped oats for standing still, sit quietly in the saddle while she chews and then asked her to first rein back. I keep my contact VERY light, with an alternating squeeze/release from my little fingers on the reins, and a backward motion from my legs and seat.
When ready to go forward, I nudge her with my legs and then WAIT for her response. If she does not move right away, I nudge her again after waiting a few seconds. It will often take donkeys a little longer to THINK about what you are asking. It is far more productive to give them that time. Chasity walks off obediently and keeps her mind on her work as she passes Wrangler, waiting patiently for HIS turn!
I now add small circles randomly as we walk around the Round Pen. We pay special attention to staying erect and bending through the rib cage. I keep things slow, controlled and accurate.
We do “S” turns through the middle of the Round Pen to change direction. Speed can come later as the strength in good posture is developed and the connection to her bit remains light at all times.
I have discovered with this approach, there is hardly ever (if ever) any resistance or bad behaviors. Lessons go smoothly and safely for both of you. This is something I greatly appreciate with age!
Chasity maintains her good balance and cooperative attitude as we ride for about 15 minutes, practicing the circles, halts, “S” turns and reverses. Chasity comes to a “square” halt. I wait quietly for a few seconds.
Then I ask Chasity for a rein back and she compies easily…still light in the bridle. I dismount and tell her how pleased I am with her. I playfully massage her upper gums to illicit a smile! They like having their gums rubbed!
It was a very satifsfying workout for us both! Chasity follows me as we exit the Round Pen and get ready for Wrangler’s turn! Allowing one animal to wait while another is worked, makes it easier to do the training. They seem to get support from their “Friends.” Occasionally working them alone as they gain confidence lets them know that being with you can always be fun and that you will always return them to their friends. This approach allows you to deepen the relationship between you, so you become as good a friend to them as their equine companions. This greatly eliminates the incidence of your equine becoming herdbound.
Chasity has come a long way since the end of March. She has worked hard and is now enjoying true strength in a balanced and correct equine posture. Her health has greatly improved as has her mental attitude. She is happy to be working with her companion Wrangler and they both enjoy being able to share their lessons. Sometimes they are walked together to the Round Pen and sometimes they are taken separately. This promotes independence while preserving their friendships with each other. I do not believe in deliberately separating my equines from their equine friends as that will only create anxiety. I want them to know that I am also a friend that they would like to spend time with or without their other companions. Sometimes they are worked alone and sometimes they are worked together. Tying one outside the Round Pen while working the other teaches them to stand quietly while tied with purposeful patience. I leave nothing to chance, so I break everything down into doable steps to promote success. Chasity is mounted in the work station first and rewarded with crimped oats from her back. This routine will keep her attention when we finally go to the Round Pen as she is mounted.
Chasity executes the gate perfectly, stands quietly to have her “Elbow Pull” adjusted and is then sent on the rail to lunge in preparation for mounting. She is now keeping her “Elbow Pull” loose at all times. Her balance and good posture is exceptional now considering her imperfect conformational restrictions.
I slow Chasity to the walk before asking her to execute a nice balanced reverse and she complies easily. It is important in the beginning to keep things slow and accurate. Speed can come later with much better results.
Chasity will now walk on command and will not change her gait until she is asked. She fully understands the verbal commands. She has smooth, upward and downward transitions as she changes gaits. She promises to be a smooth ride!
I ask Chasity for a halt and offer her a reward for a job well done! She is patient and stands quietly as I mount.
As I did in the work station, I offer her a reward from both sides. When she has finished chewing her oats, I ask her for the rein back. I use an even squeeze/release on the reins with a bit more pressure on one side and then the other as each front leg comes back. Even one step is sufficient for now. Chasity will give more with each new lesson.
Chasity walks calmly forward and I sit quietly to allow her to balance my weight. She keeps her body erect and bends through her rib cage as she executes an “S” turn through the middle to change direction. It is important to execute these moves with the lightest pull from my little fingers on the reins to encourage Chasity to become ultra-light in the bridle.
Donkeys tend to “lean” on the bit, so doing this kind of work in the Round Pen is really important if you want your donkey to be light in the bridle and respond to the lightest pressure from your seat, fingers and legs.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on this. It will enhance all your donkey’s responses to your cues. Chasity executes a nice reverse and maintains her ideal balance at the walk afterwards. This is not easy for her to do with her hips being higher than her shoulders, but I am very pleased with her progress. She will only get better!
Chasity does a perfect halt, but is a bit reluctant to rein back. This move is difficult for her, so I will just take my time and accept what she has to offer. I know she is always honest in her attempts. One step is good, so I call it quits and reward her efforts.
Wrangler is outside the Round Pen waiting patiently for his “Lady Love” to complete her lesson. Then we all head back to the work station after our enjoyable time together! More lessons will promote more learning and more refined performance! We all look forward to our time together!
Chasity is in such good condition these days that I felt I could skip a week before engaging in her formal lessons again. She does get manual abdominal flexion exercises daily when she is fed. The beauty of postural core strength exercises is that they stay strong after the initial introductory work. It has been five months of this kind of exercise for Chasity, so if her workouts are only every other week, they are enough to sustain her strong core strength in good equine posture. The muscles, ligaments and tendons are now symmetrically strong around her skeletal frame. I decided to start in the Round Pen to allow her to move out before engaging in the more intense lunging and ground driving in the open arena again. Her posture and movement were impeccable!
The “Elbow Pull” is now staying loose most of the time. This means she is strong and balanced in good postural self-carriage. Her movement is confident and fluid. She executes the turns on the haunches perfectly upon command. The transformation in her whole body and strength has been exciting to witness! Her attitude has improved by leaps and bounds as her overall health improved. We are still treating the infection she has that seems to be systemic and in her glands. Our approach will be to continue a regimen of antibiotics, then when it is done, take her off of them until it appears to be trying to return. Then we will resume antibiotic treatment.
Chasity moves beautifully and stands stock still whenever we are working on her. This is a marked improvement from the “Nervous Nellie” that first arrived at the end of March this year.
After doing a bit of lunging, we are now going to review ground driving in the Round Pen before we go to the open arena for more practice. I want to get her light in the bridle now, so I begin with a rein back. Then we proceed forward at a relaxed pace.
Chasity does a very nice “S” turn through the middle for a change of direction. I try to keep my contact with her bit as light as possible, giving her cues with no more than vibrating little fingers.
Chasity is responding well to the drive lines and is getting lighter in the bridle. She halts and rein backs easily upon command to receive her reward for a job well done!
After lunging Chasity and Wrangler individually in the Round Pen, we are now headed for the dressage arena where they will each get their turn at lunging on the lunge line and ground driving. They both lead easily alone, or together, and walk in sync with me upon request. Sometimes Wrangler gets a bit distracted.
Chasity is always on alert, but does not tend to be silly about things. She remembers her lessons well and is always happy to please. I start her with the lunge line shortened and this time she does not pull at all, but stays on the circle with her intermittent squeeze/release cues from my little finger as her outside front leg comes forward and into suspension.
As she circles, I slowly let out the lunge line. I will not ask her to trot until she offers to so so. I don’t want to force speed and sacrifice precision. She is now stopping consistently in a goos balance.
After re-tying the lunge line to the bit ring on the other side, I reverse Chasity, ask her to go the other way and she complies nicely. Again, I start with a short line and let it out gradually.
At the end of several rotations, I ask her to “Whoa,” stretch down and then stand still while I roll up the lunge line and prepare to put on the drive lines. My Ranch Manager, Chad, is ready to assist with the ground driving this time after her bolting in the previous lesson when I ground drove her by myself.
I do not want Chasity to think she can run off every time we get into the open arena, so I will set her up to be successful right from the beginning with the assistant this time. She can run and play with Wrangler in turnout later. She does not seem to mind at all and is all business about her ground driving. She completed the Hourglass Pattern in one direction, crossed the diagonal and did it in the other direction and then did a very nice halt and rein back to end the lesson.
Chasity stood quietly while I removed the drive lines and rolled them up. Then we went to retrieve Wrangler from his place along the fence. After Chasity’s turn, Wrangler got his turn at lunging on the lunge line and ground driving. Then we all headed to the gate together.
When you are consistent in the way you do things with every animal, it is easy to lead, lunge and negotiate obstacles with multiple animals because they all know what to expect and there are no abrupt changes to the routine to cause adverse behaviors. Training can be fun for EVERYONE!
After having a week off, Chasity returned to her lessons happy, refreshed and ready to go to work. I decided to go back to the Hourglass Pattern and do more leading exercises followed by lunging on the lunge line and ground driving in the open arena. She had two weeks of lessons in the Round Pen and I was curious to see how she would do on the single line, and then the drive lines, with lots of space around her. This can often be a whole new challenge! She seemed very relaxed as she fell into the familiar leading pattern.
As we negotiated the Hourglass Pattern, she easily matched me step for step, even over the ground rails. I asked her for a downward stretch and she was completely cooperative with that as well. The exercises she has been doing for the past four months have really changed her body shape and her strength. The thick crest on her neck is greatly reduced and is no longer hard, but soft and pliable to the touch. It won’t be long before it is completely gone. She is moving symmetrically, is much more agile and is in great athletic condition!
She was in good posture and stepped over the dressage arena fence gracefully without losing her balance at all as we went to retrieve the lunge line. She then stepped over it again as we re-entered the arena to begin lunging on the lunge line.
I started her on a short line to give her clear directions about what Iwanted. I made sure to give a short squeeze/ release on the lunge line each time her outside leg came forward into suspension like I had during Round Pen lessons. This caused her outside front leg to come toward me and keep her on the arc of the circle around me without getting into a pulling match. Pulling this way would not interfere with her balance and cause her to bolt.
As she circled, with each rotation, I let out the line a little bit more. I continued with the squeeze/release cue in sync with the outside front leg coming into suspension. Then before she got bored, I asked her to “Whoa.”
I gave Chasity her oats reward and waited for her to finish chewing before I retied the lunge line so we could go in the opposite direction. I tied the lunge line to the snaffle bit on the side I pull from and then left enough excess to go under her chin and snap to the ring on the other side. This keeps the bit from sliding through her mouth.
Again, I started her on a short line and let it out as she was compliant and stayed on the circle around me, always giving the squeeze/release cues in sync with that outside front leg. The I asked for a “Whoa” and a stretch down for her reward.
Chasity waited patiently as I put on the drive lines, always sporting a relaxed and happy face! We began ground driving at a pretty good clip. She was enjoying the open space! I stayed in sync with her back legs, but I was having to take very big steps to keep up with her!
Then as sometimes happens…she bolted. I knew she wasn’t really scared. She just felt GOOD! So rather than engage in a pulling match, I just let go. She took off, first at a very fast trot, then a lope….
…and finally she went into a full-fledged gallop! She stayed strong in her new-found good equine posture throughout! She galloped to the fence and made a nice 90-degree angle turn into a trot tracking right! She was clearly enjoying herself while I just waited on the sidelines for this moment to pass.
It was clear to me that she needed to just run and have a good time for a little bit. I watched as she traveled around the perimeter of the dressage arena. I was impressed with her improved way of going. She carried her head a bit high and was not as flexed at the poll as I would have liked, but what more could I have expected considering the short time she had been worked in the “Elbow Pull.” Enhanced grace would come later!
I was impressed with her form as she jumped over the dressage arena fence! As she executed THAT move, there was more flexion over her entire top line. This was a great improvement to the sway back she had when she first got here! She evntually slowed down and began to make her way toward me.
Since she had obviously decided to go back to work, I walked toward her and gave her a reward for returning to me!
I gathered the drive lines and instead of walking behind her, I kept them short and walked beside her for more control. I did not want another runaway! She did give a half-hearted pull, but when she discovered that I had more control, she decided to comply as I concurrently led/ground drove her back into the Hourglass Pattern
I proceeded this way over the ground rails and then toward the next corner cone. As I did, I gradually made my way more toward the hind qaurters while making sure I still had her attention. She was a little strong in the bridle, but did as I asked. We did have to circle the cone to keep this control.
As she came around the cone, she got more tractable and straightened out so I could ground drive her from her hip. We were definitely making progress!
We turned around the next cone and headed back toward the ground rails in the center of the Hourglass Pattern. At the point where we would nromally halt and square up when leading, when ground driving, we halt and normally do a rein back instead. This time, however, I would be content with the halt. I made a mental note that next time, I would use an assistant at her head with a lead rope to help her to be totally successful in the ground driving before we went solo again. I would hate to perpetuate any bad habits. One occurence like this is acceptable, but to allow it to continue would be a major mistake! Longears learn EXACTLY what you teach them!
Donkeys love it when you keep things easy, fresh and interesting! Chasity has been doing so well with her lessons with Wrangler lately that I thought we could change things up a bit and add a LITTLE excitement to their routine by adding the mini donkeys, Augie and Spuds! If this is to be a safe endeavor, I will have to break things down into small introductory steps and make frequent evaluations as to what is safe to do and what might not be safe. I want them all to enjoy this time together with me! Seeing the mini donkeys in the Tack barn work station, Chasity is getting already started with a smile on her face!
First, I lunged Chasity by herself to see how she would respond in her “Elbow Pull” and to see whether she would maintain her good postural balance during this lesson. She did lovely at an energized and forward working walk! I was very pleased.
Chasity then bucked up her working trot and although she raised her head just a bit, she kept the “Elbow Pull” loose almost all the time…she is truly improving rapidly!
Next, I ground drove her and again, she did everything just right and maintained her good posture and balance…through the reverses and in both directions!
Chasity’s contact with my hands was steady and light, and she easily did her “S” turns through the middle of the Round Pen gracefully and accurately.
Chasity did a square halt and did the rein back much more easily that she had in prior lessons. She is making marked improvement every week! Yes, we only do these lessons once a week for about 20-30 minutes to get these amazing results!
Chasity and Wrangler always enjoy lunging together, but sometimes he will get a bit slow and cause her to raise her head behind him and put more tension on the “Elbow Pull” than she would do if he was not there. Wrangler spotted Augie and Spuds tied outside and did not want Chasity anywhere near them! That was when I made the decision that now would not be the right time to lunge FOUR donkeys together!
Instead, I tied Wrangler outside and introduced Chasity to Augie and Spuds…they liked each other, so I began lunging them all together! Chasity loved it!
The donkeys, large and small, tracked left and then did a perfect halt…all three of them! As they stood stock still, I rewarded them each one for a job well done!
Chasity surprised me by doing a perfect reverse and then walked behind Augie and Spuds to show them the new direction. Then they too, reversed and followed her obediently! I had to chuckle…who’s in charge here?! Wrangler just hid his face behind the post outside of the Round Pen, hoping no one would notice how left out he felt! Even though Wrangler was a bit miffed, they all had a very good time! At least he was not completely left out! Friends really LIKE to work together!
Chasity is eager to go to the Round Pen and continue her lessons. Being polite, considerate, respectful and consistent in one’s approach will create a happy and willing partner. Most resistant behaviors arise from anxiety in the animal as a result of an unpredictable approach. Equines love the company of their own kind during training whenever possible. It gives them confidence, and a more experienced animal can show them how things are done with a compliant attitude. Breaking training down into very small steps assures that your equine will NEVER be over-faced with any tasks. It is paramount that you train your equine how to lunge on a lunge line for the first few times in the Round Pen.
Lunging in the “Elbow Pull” is critical to helping Chasity maintain her good posture and balance throughout her workout. It allows full range of motion, but will prevent any hollowing of the back and neck, and give her something to lean on when she has weak moments and cannot sustain her own good posture and self-carriage for a few strides at a time. Consistent work in the “Elbow Pull” will actually change the equine’s habitual way of moving. Chasity is becoming more and more comfortable in her new and more correct equine posture! This is most evident when she is at rest with equal weight placed over all four feet underneath her body. This is true whether at work or in turnout.
Chasity is now holding her own self-carriage in good posture for more and more strides during each new lesson. It takes a lot of time to stretch and rebuild the elements that support the skeletal frame such that the body becomes strong and movement becomes more flexible and habitual.
At walk and trot, Chasity and Wrangler maintain an erect body carriage and bend through their rib cages to the arc of the Round Pen circle. Wrangler can be a bit lazy and will carry his head too low, so I add the bridle reins to prevent him from becoming a “peanut roller!” Chasity carries her head higher, so she won’t need them.
After being warmed up with her familiar lunging of five rotations in each direction, I add the lunge line. I always keep it loose, dragging on the ground. Then I give an occasional “squeeze-release” as the outside front foot comes forward. This is her cue to stay on the circle later in the open arena and not pull on the lunge line.
My end goal is always to keep Chasity as light in the bridle as possible to get the desired response. Using all this gear in the beginning allows me to do minimal pulling on the lines and later the reins. The animal is in control of the adjustment of the tension. They learn quickly what I am asking with the lightest cue from my fingers.
Chasity is now comfortable and relaxed, knows what my cues mean. With the slightest pressure on the lines, she executes a lovely reverse and continues on in a really nice posture.
Being cognizant of how you do certain moves, like going through gates, will assure that the equine responds at all times with very SLIGHT pressure on the reins or lines, or even on the lead rope…no more BOLTING! You will never need to PULL on a lunge line again in any open areas. Loss of balance is the number one reason for resistance and bad behaviors. Building this precise foundation will carry through to Chasity’s under saddle work. Building core strength that symmetrically supports the skeletal frame makes everything you want to do a lot easier for your equine. When he is strong, balanced and comfortable in his body, he is better ABLE to be a willing and compliant companion!
Chasity continues to improve. We have cut the size of her obese, cresty neck by 70%. Her back is finally elevated. The spinal and abdominal muscles are much better conditioned and support her good posture. She has come a long way. She is submissive to the “Elbow Pull” and ready to begin her combination exercises in Lunging and Ground Driving. Chasity is happy that she gets to do these exercises with her “boyfriend,” Wrangler! He is her inspiration. They are so funny together!
Chasity executes the gate perfectly and then stops to pose for a picture with me. Then we adjust her “Elbow Pull” and make sure she flexes at the poll to submit. This self-correcting restraint will provide resistance if she tries to carry her head too high which would result in hollowing her neck and back, and thus, compromising her good equine posture.
Once everything is adjusted on Chasity and Wrangler, we pose for a picture. Then they both go obediently to the rail and begin work at the walk. I have added the reins to Wrangler’s bridle to keep him from carrying his head too low. That is not an issue with Chasity. It is not usually a problem with with Wrangler either, but it is in the nineties today and very hot. Wrangler gets very lazy in the heat!
They are both stepping out nicely and exhibiting a pretty fair “working walk.” After five rotations at the walk, I ask for the trot. They are both stepping well underneath their centers of gravity and Chasity is submitting to the pressure from the “Elbow Pull.” This means she is in better equine posture with improving self-carriage.
After five rotations at the trot, I ask them for a halt and they are prompt in their response. They are rewarded and then proceed forward and after one rotation, I ask them to reverse. It is the best reverse yet!
I am so proud of Chasity! She is really holding her good posture nicely for prolonged periods of time now, even at the trot!
Chasity is gaining a lot of core strength and power to her gaits. The halts are mostly square on the landing and do not need to be corrected. Chasity is finally learning to use her hindquarters properly and she is no longer getting locked up in the right hip joint. It is now adequately supported symmetrically by the core elements: muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue. Her joints operate correctly and will not wear irregularly.
After five rotations at walk and then trot in the opposite direction, Chasity was finally ready for her first Ground Driving lesson! When asked, she walked off nicely.
I had Ground Driven Wrangler first, so Chasity got to see what this was all about. She submitted softly to the lines and remained “on the bit” as we walked along. She turned easily when asked to do the “S” turn through the middle of the Round Pen.
But suddenly, we had a “Donkey Moment” when she abruptly bolted toward Wrangler! I let the lines slide through my hands, hoping she would slow down…but she didn’t! I dug my heels into the ground to try to stop her, holding the lines with just one hand so I wouldn’t lose my balance. Wrangler just dropped in behind her at the walk.
Chasity was at a fast trot around Wrangler when he decided to help me by leaning his body into the lines. This put more pressure on her bit and helped me to get her slowed down…Thanks, Wrangler!!!
Once she had slowed down, Wrangler moved away and allowed me to turn her into the rail and ask for a reverse to the right. Chasity calmed down immediately and decided to comply with my wishes… thankfully!
Chasity was still full of energy, but submitted to the pressure on the lines as I walked behind her in sync with her hind legs. I slowly crept back up the lines with my hands and got a bit closer to her hindquarters
Then I asked Chasity for the halt and a few steps of the reinback…not too many steps at first. I rewarded her efforts with a handful of crimped oats. Her first time on the drive lines had gone very well indeed… even WITH the “Donkey Moment!” It’s always good to keep your sense of humor when working with donkeys and be ready to be VERY patient! Donkeys need to process things THEIR WAY!
Wrangler is really beginning to enjoy his time working with me and helping with Chasity’s training! I think he is also happy to have someone he can be with in turnout after three years of being by himself… although a gelding, he’s just too rambunctious to be turned out with any of the others! They definitely form groups and it is wise to pay attention to the groups they choose…mid-aged mules together, minis together, older equines together and donkey families together. Wrangler LOVES his new friend, Chasity! They both truly enjoy the workouts we do together!
Chasity follows Wrangler around like a puppy dog! She is also very enamored with HIM! After adjusting his “Elbow Pull,” Wrangler and I watch the bicycles going by on the road. I find that it is beneficial when they see something, if you just stop waht you are doing and look at it, too. Then, there isn’t as much of a fuss.
Chasity watches as I ask Wrangler to flex at the poll with an offer of crimped oats. This reminds him about how to take the pressure off the “Elbow Pull” and keeps him relaxed. Then all three of us pose for a picture before getting to work! All my equines seem to know when it is “picture time” and they always perk their ears! They are all a bunch of “hams!”
“Well, are we going to do a proper reverse?” I ask Wrangler. He promptly turns into the fence and leads Chasity down the rail of the Round Pen at a walk.
Both donkeys are stepping well underneath their center of gravity and do five rotations at walk before I ask them to trot for five more rotations. Chasity is doing much better about submitting to the pressure of the “Elbow Pull” and is able to sustain her balanced posture and self-carriage for longer periods of time now.
Chasity doesn’t “lean” on the “Elbow Pull” nearly as much anymore. Both halt promptly upon command, they get rewarded, then proceed forward again and do a perfect reverse together.
Again, we do five rotations at walk and make sure they are in a regular rhythm, cadence and are submitting nicely to the “Elbow Pull” before I ask them to trot. Wrangler has really good balance and posture and is always happy to lead the way!
Now Wrangler is going to show Chasity what Ground Driving is all about. This will help them both to learn how to stay in good posture while rein cues are being given. The result will be an animal who is exceedingly light in the bridle when you finally ride them. Wrangler executes a very smooth change of direction with the “S” turn through the middle of the Round Pen. Chasity follows obediently behind her “boyfriend!”
We track left for a while in the same form, then do one more reverse and after one more rotation at the walk, we come to a halt. Then I ask Wrangler to execute a proper reinback which he does willingly with no resistence at all. I just make sure to pull and release with the corresponding line as he takes each step backwards. He is then PROMPTLY rewarded with his favorite crimped oats!
When you are consistent, polite, respectful, reward for good behaviors, make sure tack and equipment fits comfortably and always do things exactly the same way, your animal will come to know what to expect and there will be minimal resistant behaviors, if any, because they will know what to expect from you and will act accordingly. Your time together will always be fun for everyone!
It was a rainy day, so I decided to have Chasity and Wrangler’s workout take place in the indoor arena Round Pen. I had not planned to film this workout, but since the Round Pen was a lot further from the Tack Barn than my outdoor Round Pen, I decided to take my chances and try to lead Chasity and Wrangler together! I thought that would be film-worthy for sure. Those of you that have tried to lead ONE donkey around puddles in the road and other such “scary things” know that you cannot count on their compliance. All you can do is HOPE for it! As it turned out, Chasity and Wrangler were very good all the way to the Round Pen, but there were still surprises to come!
They both stood quietly while I unlatched the gate as they had done dozens of times before, then waited patiently as I opened it.
They executed the gate perfectly together. This is a testament to my belief that when these kinds of movements are consistently done exactly the same way, it eliminates confusion and promotes compliance. They happily received their rewards of crimped oats from my fanny pack.
I then tied Wrangler to the fence with the “Elbow Pull” where he would wait while I adjusted Chasity’s “Elbow Pull.” Chasity checked out the new work space.
First I adjusted Chasity’s “Elbow Pull” and then I adjusted Wrangler’s to keep them from raising their heads too high and inverting their neck and back.
They both walked casually with no pressure from the “Elbow Pull” at all. When asked to trot, Chasity was “up against” the “Elbow Pull” at first, but was still stepping well underneath her body and striking her hind feet directly under the center of balance.
It was after the reverse that I discovered that Chasity was in heat and Wrangler decided he would like to mount her! So, I deliberately and quietly took him from the Round Pen and tied him up outside the fence. Chasity resumed her workout alone. She did lovely at the walk and kept the “Elbow Pull” loose, even throughout the reverse!
When I finally asked for trot, she was hot to trot! Chasity was definitely improving her ability to maintain her self-carriage and good posture. When the “Elbow Pull” is properly adjusted, it will encourage each individual equine’s BEST posture. It should NOT force their head down.
When asked to “Whoa,” Chasity happily complied and then turned to me for her next command. I asked for the “Reverse” and she was prompt in her response.
Then Chasity resumed her calm forward motion at the working walk, maintaining a loose “Elbow Pull.”She has made marked improvement in just 4 short weeks of Round Pen work after 3 months of leading for core strength and balance in the “Hourglass Pattern.”
When I asked for trot, she showed me she was a bit tired and was back up against the “Elbow Pull,” but she was still tracking well underneath her body and holding an acceptable posture.
When my female equines are in heat, I lighten the pressure on them and quit when I see they are tiring. This keeps them from getting “grumpy” and helps them to maintain a happy attitude toward me and the training.
Chasity and I exited the Round Pen in perfect form and then went to get Wrangler. Building a good relationship with your equine makes EVERYTHING easier!
Wrangler was standing sideways to the fence, but moved over promptly upon command. I wanted him on my right. He was still mesmerized by Chasity in heat, but he was still a gentleman and complied with my wishes! I love it when they behave so well!
Chasity flirted with Wrangler and he reciprocated while I untied his “Elbow Pull” and released him. Then we all marched together to the Tack Barn where they were untacked, then returned to the barn yard for turnout and more intense flirtation! Love was in the air!
Chasity has made marked improvement in the past two weeks with her work in the Round Pen with Wrangler. They really enjoy working together and always give me their very best effort! Their bodies are really improving with the work even though their lessons are only once a week! Chasity’s infection is completely gone, her Lordosis (sway back) is no longer there and the fat on her neck crest has shrunk significantly. It will still take a very long time to get it down to where it should be. There is simply no quick way to do this that would still be healthy for her, but she has come a LONG WAY already!
Although Wrangler is still sporting some belly hair that makes his torso look thick, both donkeys are at optimum health and weight. It is June so they have not yet shed their coats completely. Still, their hair coats are healthy and soft due to their diet and weekly grooming. I use a plastic human multi-bristled hair brush with a sprinkle of Johnson’s Baby Oil in the manes and tails for hair protection and to keep them from chewing on each other’s manes and tails. The weekly grooming with the hairbrush aerates the coat and keeps the hair healthy. They can then shed all the dead hair and not just what is on top. It also prevents breakage and uneven growth. I never body clip unless they are showing and never do the insides of the ears. Their hair coats insulate them from the heat and cold, and protect them from insects when the hair is properly maintained. They will be fully shded by August and grow their winter hair in September.
Wrangler is taken to the Round Pen first and executes the gate perfectly! I always do gates exactly the same way and reward so all my equines know what to expect and can behave accordingly with no fuss.
I tie Wrangler with the “Elbow Pull” and then go to get Chasity. She also executes the gate perfectly while Wrangler waits patiently! When you do things in a way that they always know what to expect next, there is no anxiety and therefore, no need for a “Patience Pole” to teach them to stand quietly.
I then adjusted Chasity’s “Elbow Pull” such that she has plenty of slack to raise her head, but not enough to raise it so high that she inverts her neck and back. If she tires during the lesson, she can lean against it without sacrificing her good equine posture until she can regain self-carriage again. It will put pressure on the poll, bit rings, forearms and back when she leans on and will be taut (but not tight) and when she is in total self-carriage, it will remain loose. It is a similar concept as a ballet dancer using their balance bar.
We posed for a picture before I adjusted Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull.” I allow those who already have consistent self-carriage a lot more slack than I do those who are first starting out.
Wrangler is carrying his head and neck a bit low today, but I believe he is just stretching his back that probably got sore from his antics in the larger pen yesterday when he was first turned out with Chasity! Simply put, he played a bit too hard! Chasity is starting to carry her own good posture much better and is not leaning on the “Elbow Pull” as much as she did just two weeks ago!
They each took their turn and executed very nice reverses when asked…first Chasity and then Wrangler! People often have problems lunging their donkeys, but taking things slowly and in the right logical sequence seems to help a lot! I am also grateful that I have one senior donkey to help me teach the “newbie.” It saves a lot of running and encouragement with the whip. And, they enjoy working together a lot more than alone!
Chasity really has her good posture down nicely and is keeping the “Elbow Pull” loose during the five rotations at walk in each direction. This direction, she really got enthusiastically engaged at the trot and only slightly leaned on her “Elbow Pull.” I could have taken up the slack on Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull” for this trot rotation and he would have done better, but he wasn’t excessively bad so I opted no to do it.
I did one more extra lap at a good working walk and Chasity showed me her BEST posture! I am so pleased with her improvement and so is she!!! Wrangler waits patiently for his turn to go back to the work station in the Tack Barn. What great donkeys they are!
Chasity had no way of knowing that she was about to graduate from the Hourglass Pattern to the Round Pen today, nor did she really care! She knows that every experience with me is happy and rewarding! So, she was waiting patiently at the stall door for me to come get her after I had already gotten Wrangler, her beau, from his stall! She put on her “happy face” and proceeded to the Tack Barn with a spring in her step!!!
She was particularly happy to see Wrangler standing at the work station! I cleaned both of their eyes, ears and nostrils with no problem at all! They were both eager to find out what was coming next!
After her initial introduction to the “monster vac,” this time she did not even bat an eyelash! It was of no consequence to her anymore…she was BRAVE now! I rewarded her and marveled at how her neck was improving! The fat was disappearing and her neckline was becoming straighter. Hallelujah!
I asked Chasity to do her stretches first to the right and then to the left. Her response was becoming much more flexible and symmetrical on both sides.
The Courbette (on Chasity) and the Passier (on Wrangler) are two used All Purpose English saddles that I bought over 35 years ago, that fit all my mules and donkeys, and are in as good condition today as the day that I bought them! I centered them on their backs and adjusted the crupper to keep them in place!
I bridled them both and took Wrangler to the Round Pen first. Then I tied Chasity on the outside of the Round Pen and she watched while I lunged Wrangler.
Then it was her turn! I adjusted the “Elbow Pull” self-correcting restraint to the right tension and asked Chasity to flex at the poll. Then we began lunging. She leaned on the “Elbow Pull,” but it kept her from hollowing her back and neck while still allowing her to reach well underneath her body with her hind legs.
After five rotations in one direction, I stopped her and asked for a reverse. She hesitated, but eventually understood what I was asking of her and happily trotted off. She did make me work a bit to keep her going, but she was beginning to relieve a bit of the tension on the “Elbow Pull.”
Since things were going so well, I rewarded Chasity and flexed her neck again. I decided to allow Wrangler to help show her how it is done for five more rotations in each direction. That would be all I would need to do on a 85+ degree day with their shedding not quite completed. Wrangler was amazing! They had not been turned out together yet, so I thought he might be silly with her, but he was all business!
Of course, Wrangler did the reverse quickly and perfectly while Chasity took a little persuading. Wrangler just walked confidently and patiently, keeping his good posture with the “Elbow Pull” loose, while he waited for her to catch up. For two thirteen year olds, they were awesome!
Although Wrangler has been with me for three years, and Chasity for only three months, I find it amazing how quickly they happily come to their ideal equine posture. They exit their lessons renewed and refreshed!
Chasity fully enjoys her lessons these days and waits anxiously at the stall door! She knows when I count my blessings, I count my mules (and donkeys!) TWICE! Chasity has been working in the Hourglass Pattern and through obstacles for two months now. Her posture and core strength continue to improve with her weekly lessons. Now it is time to perfect each movement and make sure they are done correctly and in complete balance.
In addition to her weekly stretching exercises, we do abdominal flexion exercises with Chasity every day at feeding time. We ask her to tighten her abdominal muscles, raise her back and hold for sixty seconds. We do this by tickling her belly firmly at the midline underneath while she is eating from her feeder. This makes for marked improvement in her sway back (Lordosis).
We have had her left hind hip adjusted twice and she is now better able to swing through the hip joint and bring her foot underneath her center of balance with each stride. Instead of simply lowering her head and neck, she is now lowering her head and neck and arching across her entire spine. Her stiffness has greatly subsided.
At every halt in the Hourglass Pattern, we stop, square up, reward, arch the spine and reward again. Chasity really enjoys this exercise!
Her movement around the cones continues to progress with the small circles at each cone. She is much more flexible, stays upright and bends to the arc of the turn through her rib cage.
Because of the overweighted crest on her neck, she has more difficulty bedding to the right, so we do a neck stretch to the right, before transversing around the cone to the right. This simple pause allows her to rebalance and keep her upright balance while bending though her rib cage on the circle around the cone.
With the stiffness in her left hip gone, she can now reach underneath, lift her her body efficiently and reach upward and forward with her front legs, adding some increased suspension to her gait.
Both hind legs are now reaching well underneath her body and provide the support she needs for her athletic performance to be much more precise and executed correctly.
When her lesson was over, we decided to make a couple of visitations with her new friends, first with Billy Bad Ass, a 26-year-old mule and then with our 10-year-old mini donkeys, Augie and Spuds. When movements are consistently done the same way whether in the training pattern or just going from one place to another, when halts are always squared up and when good behavior is consistently rewarded, there is no anxiety. Standing still and waiting patiently become the norm and this makes for a mutually satisfying relationship between you and your equine!
Chasity is now regularly coming to her stall door and is always anxious to see what the next challenge will be. The one thing she HAS learned is that she will never be hurt by anyone here. Cleaning her ears was a necessary evil at first, but she now enjoys the gentle cleaning as I wipe the rag with the grain of the hair to get the dirt from her ears. And she loves having clean ears! We are ALWAYS consistent and stay with the routine about everything we do with all of our equines. They appreciate knowing what comes next. Ours is a NO ANXIETY zone, but that doesn’t mean we do not challenge them and set boundaries for good behavior. Chasity is about to be tested to the max with her next new challenge!
Chasity really enjoyed the brisk brushing with the multi-bristled human hair brush. It is the only brush that I have found the really expedites shedding and leaves the coat soft and shiny. It reaches deep in the coat and aerates the hair shafts. After the brushing, it is followed with either the shedding blade to remove the loosened hair laying on top, or….there is an introduction to the VACUUM CLEANER!!! Chasity was not too sure about this BIG BLUE THING that rolled!
We always take the introduction of new things slowly. I gently coaxed Chasity toward the vacuum cleaner. This was an approach that she recognized from her obstacle training and moved furtively toward me to receive her reward of crimped oats.
She watched the cameras while I went to plug it in. The loud sucking noise startled her! I acknowledged her concern and calmed her with a soothing voice.
But then it was time for the business of vacuuming HER! I use the cotton lead rope for control, but she is prevented from going backwards with the second hitch rail tie made of a stout braided nylon rope with bull snaps on each end. The last thing you want is for the rope to break! I talked to Chasity and ask her if she would rather calm down and step forward to receive her reward…she thought about it…I waited patiently…
…and she decided that was a pretty good idea! She tentatively accepted the vacuum on her forehead. This is a spot where they generally like to be vacuumed first.
I laughed as she made a plea for help from the camera people! Then I had to straighten out the hose and she was certain that big black coiled “snake” was going to get her!
She wasn’t exactly pleased, but she allowed me to begin to vacuum her neck…and then her shoulder. I kept a hand on her so she could feel my caring support.
It didn’t take long for her to calm down and allow me to vacuum the rest of her body. She discovered that it actually felt pretty good!
Then I looped the “BIG BLACK SNAKE” over the hitch rail to prepare to do the other side. She sat back on the rope again, but was easily coaxed forward again.
Things are always different from one side of an equine to the next. So, when I approached from the other side, she again sat back on the rope, but came forward again quickly to receive her reward.
I did her forehead again while she fixated her gaze to the camera people. When I got to her body, she was fixated on the BIG BLUE BOX, but not bothered at all by the suction, or the hose.
After I finished her right side, I knelt by the BIG BLUE BOX and asked her to come and investigate which Chasity did willingly. She had conquered the challenge of the MONSTER VAC!!!
When Chasity first arrived, her hooves were inordinately long in front with Borium shoes and her back feet were worn unevenly and at the wrong angles. Because her body was in such bad posture and her hooves so out of balance, we knew it would take quite a while and lots of frequent trims to get her hooves balanced and aligned properly. This would have to be done in conjunction with getting her body into good posture with the core strength to support that good equine posture. This would be Chasity’s challenges!
Chasity is now standing quietly and picking up her feet easily, but she still wasn’t sure about standing still without being tied up. A small challenge for her would be to learn to stand quietly in the alleyway of the barn while our farrier, Dean Geesen works on her instead of being at her work station in the Tack Barn. Because she stood still, she was rewarded with her favorite crimped oats. The misshapen hoof is beginning to rotate into a more balanced position, but we still have a lot of work ahead before the hoof will be correct.
Dean is a therapeutic corrective farrier that is familiar with Longears. This is a critical element in your Longears’ welfare. Longears have angles and hoof construction that is quite different from a horse and it takes a knowledgeable farrier to keep from doing them harm. Chasity feels the difference in the balance of her feet, however slight, and it affects her whole body!
Chasity’s hind feet appear as if they have been done like a farrier would do a horse. Her rear hooves are not as upright as they should be with insufficient heels. Dean leaves the heels, rasps the front feet and rolls the toes a bit to promote more proper action and healthy growth. As long as I have had donkeys, I have never had to put shoes on them. It is my experience that when they are in good postural balance in their body, they generally wear their feet evenly and vice versa. When fed properly, the hooves remain hard and balanced. They don’t even need to be trimmed all that often if they are not consistently standing on soft ground, or in mud. We use pea gravel in our runs and driveways. In the runs, we put about four inches down. It drains well, is hard enough to promote hard hooves, is rounded and does not chip the feet and is soft enough for the equines to lie down comfortably.
Chasity is tolerates yielding her back feet much better after having a chiropractic adjustment in her pelvis and hip joints yesterday. This is a dramatic beginning for her toward MUCH better balance and posture. She had to be a very sore and uncomfortable animal when she first arrived. She is now feeling some relief and is much more cooperative.
The front hoof on the opposite side reveals the compromised imbalance that she had when she came to us. However, the first trim put her on the road to recovery and her feet are beginning to grow in the correct direction. She has gained a lot more heel in the rear in the past eight weeks.
Chasity has learned to be sent into her stall and then to turn and square up for her reward! Her gait has improved substantially in the past two days with chiropractic work and another trim!
Although we were working on uneven ground in Chasity’s last lesson which made getting in sync very difficult, it was clear that it was time for a chiropractic adjustment of her skeletal system. Doing chiropractic adjustments can put the practitioner in very precarious positions, so it is wise to build trust with the animal before attempting to do these kinds of adjustments to their body. After more than a month of intensive care, Chasity has learned that we have her best interest at heart and is more than willing to cooperate with anything we want to do with her. Even though she is perfect about walking in sync, it is clear that her left hip is locked up, highly immobile and chiropractic adjustment is in now desperately needed!
Chasity walked out in the driveway so our equine chiropractor, Dave McClain, could assess her condition. She had better range of motion in the right hind leg than she did with the left. She was getting better in her spine, but her abdominal muscles still needed more work. Once the left hind leg and the rest of her body is put back in alignment, there will be more of an effect on the abdominal muscles at the walk in her lessons.
Dave agreed that the fallen crest could be straightened out, but it would take some time and serious therapy. Bailey showed Dave the progress in Chasity’s Diary that had been made already since she came to us on March 29th 2020. He was pleasantly surprised at the progress we had made considering we could not use his services during the COVID-19 shutdown. But before we could go any further successfully, we really needed to have her skeleton professionally aligned!
Dave carefully palpated both hip joints…
… and the pelvic area. She was exceptionally stiff and locked up on the left side! He rocked her pelvis to the right…
…and then rocked it to the left. Chasity yielded her hind leg and he adjusted the locked up hip joint! Chasity’s eyes lit up in pleasure immediately! It must have felt REALLY good!
Dave demonstrated to me how her hip joint was not only locked up, but completely misaligned and stuck at an upward angle. Chasity gladly leaned forward to aid in her spinal adjustment!
We then asked Chasity to engage her abdominal muscles, raise her back and then hold for sixty seconds. We will do this once per day, every day. Then it was time to adjust her neck, first on the left side…
…and then on the right side. She was stiff on that side, so I asked her to stretch her neck around my body.
Then Dave did a second adjustment on that side…it was much better! Dave watched her back up. There was marked improvement in her hind quarters and she was finally able to walk easily straight backwards. She had previously been very stiff through the back-through “L” obstacle during her workouts. She will no doubt do much better the next time!
We checked Chasity’s neck again and found that it, too, was much looser and not as hard and immobile as it was before the adjustments. As she left the Tack Barn, it was evident that she was moving much more freely and smiling to herself all the way back to the barn!