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I led Chasity from the stall and introduced her to her new work station. It was clear that there would be a lot of work ahead. Her neck crest was fallen to one side, but was not yet permanently broken, as far as I could tell. She had fat pockets across her body and her hooves were overgrown with shoes on the front feet. At least her feet could be balanced after removing her shoes and having her trimmed. For now, I would introduce Chasity to her new routine of grooming and exercise.
Since I wanted a clean place to set the crownpiece of the bridle without it getting tangled in her hair, I went ahead and clipped her bridle path. She was very good about having the clippers behind her ears.
I wasn’t thrilled to have to do the workout with her feet so unbalanced, but I knew the farrier would be here the very next day, so I opted to get started. I had my Ranch manager, Chad, clean her feet.
Then I proceeded to groom her with the multi-bristled human hairbrush and scrape with the shedding blade what I thought was dried milk from the insides of her hind legs.
I tacked her up in a light weight surcingle, Eggbutt snaffle bridle and a neck sweat to help keep the crested neck stabilized and encourage shrinkage during the workout. Then I added and adjusted my “Elbow Pull” self-correcting, postural restraint to support good equine posture during her workout.
Then it was time to go to the indoor arena where I had the Hourglass Pattern with ground rails set up for her therapy sessions. She hollowed her neck and back, and “trailered” her hindquarters behind when she walked. It was the same when she stood still with an inverted neck and back and camped out behind.
I began her postural therapy…leading her through the Hourglass Pattern in the “Elbow Pull” restraint to encourage her good posture. The neck sweat would begin to shrink the crest on her neck. She didn’t know exactly what was expected at first, but soon “got with the program” of walk and halt in designated places. She was asked to square up with equal weight over all four feet and then be rewarded for her effort. I waited each time for her to finish chewing her crimped oats before proceeding again along the track of the Hourglass Pattern.
As she walked, she submitted to the pressure from the “Elbow Pull” restraint which meant she was holding her own good posture when it was loose. She would lean against it when she could not hold that posture, but I encouraged her to relax and “give” to it each time we halted.
Chasity tracked once around one way and then once around the other way. She walked over the ground rails in the center of the pattern and stopped at strategic places between the cones to do square halts and stand still. I also stood still after dispensing her rewards so she would never feel rushed. She learned to stretch her back and engage her abs, and slowly began to improve even after only one session!
One of my ranch hands, Steve, said that he noticed her back and overall posture looked ever so slightly better when she was done, even after only one session! I think I see some very subtle improvement from the beginning to the end of the workout as well. It will take a long time to get her REALLY correct in her posture, but it is truly exciting when it begins to happen!
I went ahead and did Chasity’s therapy session in the Hourglass Pattern again. She did well in her workout and I noticed that her hair coat is already considerably softer. She had some difficulty squaring up, but it could be soreness from the previous workout. Standing squarely is unnatural for her and it will just take some time before it becomes comfortable. After having her hooves trimmed, she is moving a bit more balanced…not quite as awkwardly. Going forward, I will be doing her workouts at least once a week, but no more than every other day. Muscles need to be appropriately stressed during the workout, but not fatigued, a day of rest is needed in between to fully recover. I expect it will probably take six months before we have redistributed the fatty tissue and solidified her balance in good equine posture. I am fortunate to have such a nice indoor arena in which to work during inclement weather.
Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand, came to do a health check on Chasity the day after she arrived. She obviously needs a lot of core strength work, but it will improve her health and keep her occupied while she is in quarantine. Simple core strength leading lessons will have a dramatic effect on her overall health and welfare both physically and mentally. Wrangler looks on with interest as the vet surveys her condition.
He thought because of her enlarged, fallen crested neck and all the fatty deposits over her body that she may have foundered. But her feet were in pretty good shape…no stress rings from founder.
She did have Borium shoes on the front feet (maybe previously used for parades on asphalt?). They were inordinately grown out and her hooves behind were also a bit long in the heels. She was definitely out of balance.
When we looked at her udder, we noticed that she had possibly been nursing before she came to us. She had what looked like milk dripping from extended teats and dried fluid caked on the insides of her legs.
She has cataracts starting in her eyes which made her a bit head shy…
…but, her teeth had just been floated and they were good.
Her posture is terrible with substantial Lordosis (sway back) even though she is only 13 years old! She exhibits the posture of a jennet after several foals. Her fallen, crested neck will be another challenge. However, she is a very sweet and cooperative girl! She is obviously the victim of some negligence… intentional or not.
When Chasity begins her lessons, we will be employing a reward system of training called “Behavior Modification.” This is a more complex way of training than Clicker Training in that your voice is an important communication element that fully engages the animal’s attention and promotes a more intimate bond between you. She has already been exposed to this training process by asking her to come to be haltered, follow at my shoulder and to stand quietly for the veterinarian. It is the simple beginning to a lifetime of good manners.
When we train, we carry the crimped oats reward in a fanny pack around the waist. When the equine knows you have them, they don’t try to run off and are willing to follow you anywhere. Animals need to be rewarded for the good things they do with more than just a pat on the neck to insure that their good behaviors will be repeated. Food is the animal’s ultimate payment for doing a good job. You just need to learn what food is best to use and how to dispense rewards appropriately for the best results. For equines, the food is crimped (rolled, cracked, or steamed) oats. Contrary to popular belief, the equine that is rewarded with crimped oats is less likely to bite than one that does not get the practice of taking them gently from your hand. Your equine will always continue to work for a reward of crimped oats and the oats will give your equine the extra energy he needs during training. Carrots and other “treats” do not work the same way and will not yield the same results.
The most important thing when training your equine is to learn to dispense the crimped oats reward promptly and generously in the beginning, and only when your equine is complying. This will solidify the connection between you, insure that the positive behaviors will be repeated, and will begin to facilitate a strong, and mutually satisfying relationship. If your equine tries to pull away, just let go of the rope (if he is already haltered), call his name, reach in your fanny pack and offer the oats to coax him to return to you. Do not chase him! Be patient and do not try to progress through lessons too quickly as this is usually what causes disobedience.
It will take some time to strengthen Chasity’s core (the muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue that support the skeletal frame), get her into good equine posture so her joints work properly and obtain her trust, but I see no reason that it cannot be done…and I am pretty sure I can do it!
With the empty stall and run next to Wrangler, we now had space to consider getting him a new companion. I checked with a friend in Oklahoma and we found Chasity! What a lovely “Lady!” My friend said she was a really FORWARD moving jennet with a lot of independence and enthusiasm. We thought she would be the perfect companion for Wrangler!
Chasity was delivered on 3-30-20 and the introductions began while she was in quarantine in a space where she could see Wrangler, but they could not reach each other.
They played with excitement back and forth along the fence line for a bit!
Then Wrangler had to come to me and tell me and Chad all about what a beautiful girl he had found! He was SO EXCITED!!!
Then Wrangler returned to the fence where they ran back and forth together for quite some time!
They were clearly VERY interested in each other! Love was in bloom!
Chasity does have issues, but will be fed and maintained the same way we do with all of our equines. Many feeds can cause hypertension in Longears (and horses, too!) and an inability to focus for any length of time. Mules and donkeys require a lot less feed than horses because they are half donkey and donkeys are desert animals. Too much feed or the wrong kind of feed and you run the risk of skin irritations, abscesses, colic, or founder. The formula for our oats mix fed once a day with grass hay morning and evening is very simple and produces amazing results.
Depending on the individual, we feed the average sized equines (13 hands to 17 hands) 1-1/2 to 2 cups of oats mixed with 1 oz. of Sho Glo by Manna Pro and 1 oz. of Mazola corn oil. Draft animals (over 17 hands) get twice as much and the minis get 1/4 (small minis under 36 inches) to 1/2 (36 to 48 inches) cup. We monitor weight gain and loss by decreasing and increasing the their hay intake and turnout time. A maximum of 2 cups of oats for an average sized animal (usually during the winter) is all they need. We give them oats as rewards from a fanny pack around our waist during their lessons when they actually need the added energy. The oats must be broken open in some way (crimped, steamed, rolled, etc.) as equines cannot digest whole oats. A neglected animal with coarse hair will show a drastic difference in the hair coat within four days. This feed and exercise program together will make a dramatic change in the overall body shape within six months!
If you alter or modify this regimen with other products, you will not get the same results. I make sure the equines have free access to a trace mineral salt blocks (red block) for their mineral needs. We worm with Ivermectin paste wormer in January, March, May, July and September and break the cycle with Strongid in November. When regular worming is done, the Ivermectin will kill tape worm larva, so they cease to be a problem. We vaccinate in the spring and give boosters in the fall. Consult your veterinarian to know the types of vaccines you will need for your specific area. I never feed Longears (donkeys, or mules, or even my horses) any pre-mixed sweet feeds, or excessive alfalfa products. I feed pelleted Sho Glo because it is such a small amount and provides adequate daily nutrition. Feeding larger amounts of dehydrated feeds and supplements can increase the risk of choking. You cannot add enough water to prevent them from sucking fluid from the digestive tract. Equines, and particularly pregnant equines, should not be turned out on Fescue grass. Our pastures are brome and orchard grass which seems best, although Timothy and Coastal hay are okay for Longears if this grass mix is no available. Pregnant equines we feed grass hay only from six weeks before foaling to six weeks after foaling after which their oats mix can be resumed.
Chasity will be kept in quarantine with no direct interaction with the other equines for 30 days.
Then, she will be kept in a stall and run right next to Wrangler for evening feedings, overnight and for morning feedings for one week before they can go to turnout together in the same area. Feeding in a smaller, dry lot, or stall and run, and monitoring turnout has several benefits:
- Each animal can easily be checked daily for any injuries or anomalies. It promotes bonding.
- Each animal will not have to fight for his food, can sleep uninterrupted and be more calm and refreshed each day.
- You can do turnout at specific times for grazing during the day, and bring them back easily each night because they will know their oats are waiting for them. When you feed the oats mix in the evenings, it makes it easier to call them back from shortened pasture time in the spring (they have to work into extended pasture time slowly and over several weeks).
- You can monitor grazing intake so there will not be over-grazing. This minimizes the risk of colic, or founder (Longears should not be on pasture more than five hours a day, and only one hour a day for minis, starting with shorter periods of time in the spring).
- The smaller area affords you a confined space for beginning training, so there is no need to chase or be interrupted by other animals.
- Your animal will be more apt to come to you easily to be haltered after their morning feeding of grass hay for their lessons only when they know you have fanny pack full of oats for them. You should only need to call them from the gate and never play chase!
- ) Having this definite routine lets your animal know what to expect and discourages adverse behaviors. If you are inconsistent and break the routine, the results will not be the same.
Chasity is a bit suspicious, awkward and unsure of things now, but we have no doubt about her easy adaptation to our program that will increase her confidence, promote good health as her postural core strength evolves and solidify her new habitual way of moving and resting.