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Obstacles For Coordination 4 14 20 26

CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Obstacles for Coordination: 4-14-20

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4-14-20

After doing her Hourglass Pattern exercises, first one way and then the other, we opted to add some variety to the workout by adding some straight forward obstacles. In our indoor arena, I have an open space of 60’ X 120’ and a 45’ round pen at the end of the arena in another 60’ X 60’ fenced off space. Around the outside perimeter of the round pen in that area, I put my obstacles. I have found that there is less margin of error learning obstacles in a confined space to add coordination to their core strength in good equine posture. They can learn to pay more attention and to be more meticulous in their execution of the obstacles. This is a helpful way to begin with obstacles. The first obstacle for Chasity was the gate!

After going through the gate and standing stock still while I latched it, we proceeded to the bridge. I was pleasantly surprised when she allowed me to stop her with only her front feet on the bridge. This is generally a Stage Two move in my program since obstacles are used for coordination. Most equines are so uncoordinated that they just want to keep walking over and through the obstacles without stopping at first. Good for Chasity!

Chasity then carefully walked up onto the bridge with all four feet and halted on command! This was going much better than I had expected!

When I asked her to square up, she got a bit skewed to the side on the bridge, but she was nevertheless squared up, just not in line with the bridge. So I took it and rewarded her effort.We can do better the next time.

Then we got off the bridge and I squared her up again. Then…I introduced her to the tractor tire.

She looked at it…wasn’t afraid of it…walked around it…

…and looked at it again. She was clearly NOT going to put her foot in the middle of that tire! I decided to quit while we were ahead and try again next time. Because I didn’t push her, she consented to walking through the smaller tires…

…tentatively, but she did it! And then she walked around the barrels with no trouble at all!

Just having Chasity navigate these obstacles without being afraid of them was a major accomplishment. We then walked into the back-through “L” and I decided to make it a little bit tougher.

After walking through the “L” forward, I asked Chasity to back through where she had come.

She was a bit perplexed, but slowly backed between the rails, made the turn at the elbow, and went straight back from there with very little forcible encouragement.

Once at the end of the back-through “L,” we headed for the tarp. She followed me obediently, but was so silly…

When we got to the tarp, she wanted to walk EXACTLY where I walked! I guess she KNEW it was safe there! Too funny!

I gave her a reward because she really didn’t balk and we proceeded out of the obstacle area.

As we left, we executed the gate correctly and she was rewarded again. She stood quietly until I was ready to move.

Then we proceeded down the arena wall towards the exit gate and stopped to turn off the lights. She was a little surprised that the wall opened up, but stood still while I opened the door and turned off the lights.

Then I closed the door and we exited the arena. Adding obstacles and simple expectations to her regular work in the Hourglass Pattern made the experience more interesting and engaging to Chasity. When you add new things to their lessons, you shouldn’t feel like the equine has to do it right the first time. Just quit while you are ahead and your equine WILL do better the next time! There is no battle to remember!

Beginning by negotiating obstacles in larger areas makes for a larger margin for error. Too many things can go wrong and lead to an unpleasant chain of negative events that suck you and your equine into unnecessary altercations. There is plenty of time to do them in the more open spaces once they have learned how to negotiate them in the smaller spaces. I first school green animals during ground driving and under saddle in the small open area of my indoor arena (60’ X 120” – Standard Small Dressage Arena Size) before I take them into the larger outside arenas. This has resulted in a decrease of bolting and running. When you set up your training environment, it is always optimal to set up the equine for success!

The Hourglass Pattern For Good Posture9

CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: The Hourglass Pattern for Good Posture: 4-14-20

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4-14-20

The “Hourglass Pattern” is an amazing therapeutic approach to conditioning that I have used with all of my equines of varying ages, sizes and breeds. It builds a foundation of symmetrical strengthening at the core involving the ligaments, tendons muscles and soft tissue that support the skeletal frame and promotes even wear of the cartilage between bones in the joints. It can prevent arthritis as the animals age. This is vital to your equine athlete’s health. Chasity and I open the gate to her rebalancing and rehabilitation exercises in the “Hourglass Pattern.”

The red “X’s” in the pattern represent the points where you are to halt, square up, reward and wait. This process becomes helpful as your equine learns to navigate gates properly and learns to wait patiently through repetition and consistency in your behavior. Always go through gates exactly the same way so your equine knows what to expect. Abrupt actions lead to chaos.

We want to promote self-carriage, so we do not hold the lead rope in the right hand when leading from the left side where it can subtlety cause movement in the head and neck from side to side, adversely affecting their balance. Rather, we hold the lead rope in the left hand when leading from the left side and in the right hand when leading from the right side. We lead from the inside of the arcs in direction through the pattern. Always, say the animal’s name, give the command to “Walk On,” look where you are going, point in the direction of travel with your other hand and walk in sync with the equine’s front legs. This facilitates good posture for both of you!

When negotiating the “Hourglass Pattern,” there is an internal pendulum that swings back and forth and comes to center each time the animal halts and is squared up. If you were to work only along straight lines there is an optical illusion that takes place along the perimeter and makes the animal’s body lean to the inside of the track, and when halted, they cannot find the center of balance. Every time you halt, square up your equine and reward with the crimped oats that you keep in your fanny pack around your waist (other “treats” will not work the same way!). Then wait until they finish chewing so they can settle into their perfect balance unobstructed.

As they progess, they learn to bend to the arc of the turns through their rib cage, carry their body erect in good posture supported by stronger ab muscles that round the back upward as they learn to give to the “Elbow Pull” such that it remains loose. When it is tight, they are simply having difficulty holding their good posture and lean on the “Elbow Pull” much like a beginning ballet dancer must use the bar on the wall. Many people think that you do your equine a favor by not putting a bit in their mouth, but you cannot affect their posture without one. The animals that are not bitted and schooled in good posture can have all kinds of postural issues as they age. Chasity is falling in and out of good posture because she is only in Week Three of her training. As she improves, she will be able to keep the “Elbow Pull” loose for longer periods of time until it is always loose.

As this way of moving and standing becomes more habitual, so does their comfort in these positions. When they rest, they will stand 4-square instead of with splayed legs, or a hip dropped and a foot cocked. They are happy and deliberate in their movements and good posture continues to improve until this become their new habitual way of moving and resting. You will see marked changes in their play and rest patterns while in turnout.

Adding rails to the center of the pattern keeps them attentive, alert and teaches exact hoof placement (hoof-eye coordination). As their movement becomes more deliberate and balanced, their confidence is increased as is their trust in you for making them feel so comfortable in their own skin. They learn to wait for your command  before moving. They look forward to their time with you and will gladly leave the herd to be with you! No more herdbound behaviors!

We build this foundation through the “Hourglass Pattern” first during leading training,  then after obstacles and lunging training during Ground Driving, and finally Under Saddle. Each stage produces new challenges to the equine’s body and mind that add to their overall development in a logical, sequential and healthy way. Because of all these small steps, with gradual difficulty, it is easy and fun for both you and your equine to do. You are never over-faced with difficulty and you learn to appreciate the little victories along the way! Chasity was somewhat of a pushy, bully to start with, but she now waits patiently when I ask and navigates movement in much better posture, even after only three short weeks! More dramatic changes to Chasity’s body and mind are still to come! It’s not just about the end result. It’s all about the journey!

 

CHASITYS CHALLENGES 4 14 20 Grooming7

Chasity’s Challenges: Grooming Routine: 4-14-20

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4-14-20

Grooming is an important activity in your equine’s life and it need not be a struggle if it is done regularly. Chasity was not real sure of us, or what to expect when she first arrived, but she is gaining confidence and calmness with each grooming session that precedes her workouts. Right off, she is rewarded for going to her designated work station. This familiarity sets the stage for the tasks to come.

I begin with a wet towel to clean her eyes, then her nose and finally her ears. When cleaning the ears, I stroke upwards with the hair and try not to go against the way it grows. Most Longears enjoy having their ears rubbed anyway, but HOW you do it can make a huge difference in their willingness to comply.

Then I begin on her forehead and along her neck with a human, multi-bristled plastic hairbrush. If she had mud on her, I would have scraped that off with the shedding blade first. The human hairbrush is much more effective in getting deep into thick donkey and mule hair and will “aerate” the coat nicely where the shedding blade will only skim the top and often break the hair.

Chasity’s teats were as hard as a rock, but were draining a milky-looking substance. At first we thought she had just weaned a foal, but we found out later, that was not the case. At any rate, during grooming, I scraped the sticky drainage from her back legs. Then I discovered some crusty spots across her chest that resembled an old bot-hatching site that had not been addressed.

I used the shedding blade to scrape off the scabs and applied Neosporin to the area. Over several days now, the scabs are beginning to go away. Chasity enjoyed the scratching! They must have been itchy!

Chasity has an enlarged, crested neck and fatty deposits over her body that will need some attention. The crest has fallen over quite a bit, but I do think it is salvagable. It will just take the right kind of feed and exercise, and some time to correct.

On her withers, Chasity has some scarring where the saddles previously used on her were rubbing and turned the hair white. She is also sporting a bit of Lordosis (sway-backed) which should not be seen in an animal of her young age of 13 years. This will undoubtedly result in irregular movement when seeing how out of alignment her spine is with these issues. Equines are not designed to carry weight on top. Rather, their structure supports carrying their weight below the spine. This is why is is so important to pay attention to core exercises to strengthen the top line and abs to prepare to support the rider’s weight. Just because they are big animals doesn’t mean they can automatically carry our weight without undue stress on their bodies.

The crusty discharge on her legs is very sticky, so I sharpen my shedding blade before going after it. It is going to pull the hairs hard enough as it is. I want the shedding blade sharp so it will come off quickly and with as little pain as possible. Chasity appreciates my consideration for her!

Last, but certainly not least, I sprinkle Johnson’s Baby oil in her mane and tail. This protects the hair from drying out during inclement weather, will promote growth and keep other animals from chewing on it. Then I square Chasity up one more time in preparation for either tacking up or for leaving the work station. Although this all seems simple enough, keeping this routine weekly will keep things from getting out of hand and grooming will remain easy each time. A reward of crimped oats from the fanny pack around my waist is always in order for standing quietly in good posture!

If you have multiple animals, just take your grooming tools in a bucket and your fanny pack full of oats with you to their stalls and do them there. If they are all in one pen in a herd situation, do not wear your fanny pack until they can all be rewarded at the same time, at the end of grooming. Body clipping is not a healthy solution and should only be done when showing. During shedding season, it is impossible to get it all done at once and still keep the hair coat healthy. It is easier if you do it weekly and take off the excess hair gradually. When grooming is done regularly and goes easily, it greatly reduces anxiety and bad behaviors.

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Chasity’s Challenges: Learning to Come to Be Haltered: 4-14-20

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4-14-20

We determined that Chasity had cataracts in both eyes, worse in the right eye than in the left. This made her hesitant to come to me at the stall door to be haltered. She wanted to come to me, but she just wasn’t sure. I insist that ALL my equines come to the stall door or gate to be haltered, so I knew I would have to train her and win her trust to get her to do it like all the others.

When she went away from the door, I simply stepped to the inside door of her stall and encougraged her to come to me from there, but she was still suspicious and ran to the far side of the pen. I just walked toward her and spoke in a calming fashion telling her to “Whoa.”

She began to get nervous and started to weave away from my approach, but before she could suck me into the back and forth along the fence, I stepped to the side, waved her into the stall and shut the door behind her.

She knew she was confined and went to the corner of the stall. I knew she could not see me very well with her right eye, so I opted to walk along the wall to her left side and approached her from the left side. Before attempting to put on her halter, I told her what a good girl she was and offered a handful of oats. I allowed her to finish chewing them before I put on the halter.

I was careful about putting on the halter slowly so I would not startle her and then gave her a reward of more oats for standing still. She was grateful and again, I waited until she was finished chewing before asking anything more from her.

Then I asked her to square up with equal weight over all four feet. This would become the protocol EVERY time she stops. I want to change her posture and begin to increase her core strength in good postural balance. The repetition of this movement will change her habitual way of standing.

I rewarded her again and then took off the halter while standing by the open door and watched her chew.

I rewarded her for NOT forging through the door, waited for her to finish chewing and then put the halter back on.

We then turned around and walked to the back of the stall to open the door I had closed, did another turn and exited the stall. She will soon tire of me going into the pen and chasing her into the stall. One thing that is also VERY important in halter training is the type of halter that you use. Although they do provide leverage, rope halters have pressure points everywhere there is a knot and the biggest knot is right underneath their ear. Try putting your index finger underneath your ear and ask yourself how long you could stand it just being there? Now put the palm of your hand under your ear. How does that feel? Nylon webbed halters lay flat against their face and do not cause distractions like rope halters will. The equine can focus their attention 100% on YOU and not be distracted by subtle pressure points!

I would much rather encourage my animals to comply happily and willingly than try to use any kind of forcible leverage with them. I have found it to be unnecessary. Building a willing bond between you prevents them from becoming herdbound and being sour about leaving their friends. It enhances the relationship between you so they really WANT to go with you. This particular routine gave Chasity an idea of what to expect and resulted in her coming to the stall door willingly when I call her after only two times of having to proceed this way…completely resistance free. She is a very intelligent girl and learns quickly despite the disadvantage of cataracts. I have other equines with eyesight issues that have been successfully trained the same way. The key is patience, understanding and a careful, respectful and sensible approach.

Chasity’s Week Two Bath6

Chasity’s Challenges: Chasity’s Week Two Bath: 4-10-20

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4-10-20:

It was the end of March when Chasity first arrived and the weather was much too cold to even think about giving her a bath, even with our indoor facility. Even though the equines come in to us with Health Certificates and a Coggins Test, we are still very careful about keeping them in quarantine for 30 days and bathing them for hygiene purposes. Chasity would be no exception.

Finally on April 10, it was warm enough to bath her. The water at the outside hitch rail would be too cold, so I opted to bath her in the Tack Barn where there was warm water. Chasity was about to experience her first bath at the Lucky Three Ranch! I began with the lower part of her front legs, then moved to her forehead and worked my way down her neck after spreading a line of shampoo across the full length of her body. I did not use the shampoo on her face.

Ordinarily, I do not use soap during the yearly bathing, but since she had come from another location, I used my Tres Semme Breakage Defense shampoo. It is not as drying as some shampoos and does not require any conditioning. As I sprayed her with water, the suds came up and I followed the sudsy water with my shedding blade to eradicate the dirt from her body as she was rinsed.

As I scraped her with the shedding blade, I just kept the water flowing until no more dirt and suds came from each area. Chasity was not exactly thrilled and moved into me and up against the hitch rail where I could not reach her. I just adjusted the spray to more power and aimed it at her flanks until she moved over. Then I adjusted the spray to be lighter and less penetrating again.

Once she was willing to stand still, I was able to check some questionable spots on her body. He chest had completely healed from the old bug bites, but I did notice a bald spot on her right hind leg. It didn’t look like much and I thought it would probably fill in with hair as her good hygiene was maintained. If need be, I would treat that with Neosporin, too. It works well on most things like this that donkeys seem to get quite often, including “jack sores.”

After the right side was all done, she was rewarded for being a good girl! After chewing her reward of crimped oats, we resumed first with her forehead on the left side.

I worked my way down the left side the same way as I had done on the right side…covered the length of her body with shampoo, followed by water and scraping the suds and dirt from her body with the shedding blade.

She was much better on this side! I sprayed her teats clean and she stood like a trooper!

She now knew what to expect and was amply rewarded for her efforts!

I had prepared to dry her with a hair dryer, but it was so warm, I decided to try her on the hotwalker. I wasn’t sure about how she would take it, but I took it slow, tied her with the chain looped through the ring on her halter and not under her chin. She walked right off as if she had done it all her life!

She dried much more quickly than she would have had I used the hair dryer! I was so proud of Chasity! I think she is finally beginning to trust us!!!

Chasity’s Week Two Workout2

Chasity’s Challenges: Chasity’s Week Two Workout: 4/6,8,10/20

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4-6-20:

Today, Chasity did much better after two days of rest over the weekend. Her hair coat is much softer and her color is becoming more brilliant. She was moving around quite a bit while being groomed and had to be corrected. After being corrected and rewarded, she stood still.

4-8-20:

Today she was much better during grooming after being corrected the last time, although she was still a bit impatient. She wanted to continue forward before she finished chewing during her lesson in the Hourglass Pattern. I expect that will change in time.

She stood still while I wiped the dried milk-like drainage from her teats and scraped off her legs.

I also found dried bug bites of some sort on her chest that I thought could be old scars from hatched bots. I scraped them off with the shedding blade and treated them with Neosporin. It worked well.

It has only been a week of lessons, but we have made some progress with her neck. It is difficult to tell much from looking at the left side of her body. But now, when you look at her neck from the right side, you can see her mane sticking up across the top. We could not see it at all before.

The neck sweat Velcro is overlapping a bit more and I am able to tighten the adjustment on the “Elbow Pull” since she is now more flexible in her neck.

Her back is beginning to look better even from the start of the lesson. Although she still leans on it, she is randomly submitting to the “Elbow Pull” and matching my steps more easily.

Chasity continues to improve. She is happy to stand quietly, is more balanced over the ground rails and squares up much more easily with only slight indications from the lead rope.

4-10-20:

With each new lesson, Chasity continues to improve. It is only necessary to do the Hourglass Pattern once in one direction and then cross the diagonal and do it in the other direction, at least once per week and no more often than once every other day. She is now learning to bend through her rib cage while remaining erect around the turns in both directions.

Again, she is balanced over the ground rails, squares up nicely and maintains her good posture. She resumes the pattern and goes over the ground rails again for a balanced finish! There was no need for pulling on the lead rope at all, just slight indications!

Chasity’s overall balance and core strength is progressing faster than I would have thought. This is the reason I tell people that these lessons on the flat ground will need to be done for 3-6 months to gain ultimate postural balance and core strength before moving on to obstacles for the addition of coordination. Some equines do progress faster than others. Chasity appears to be one of the faster ones!

Removing Chasity’s Shoes11

Chasity’s Challenges: Removing Chasity’s Shoes

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4-2-20:

Our farrier, Dean Geesen came out to take care of Chasity’s feet. The first order of business was to introduce himself with an offer of oats! She did not want my veterinarian, Greg Farrand, to pick up her feet on Tuesday, but during grooming on Wednesday, Ranch Manager, Chad and I cleaned her feet, so she was much more compliant today. Getting her hooves in balance will greatly improve her overall body balance. And, getting the shoes off her overgrown front feet will enable the frog to do its circulation job!

Her front hooves were exceptionally long with Borium shoes (non-slip) on them and her back feet were long and uneven. All four feet had been trimmed out of balance.

Dean showed us how the shoes had been abnormally and unevenly worn.

Dean removed the shoes and trimmed her hooves in the best balance that he could for now. Her hooves had been pressured to one side and would need several trims to get them properly symmetrical in alignment.

Dean is a correctional farrier and knew just what to do to get her started off on the right ‘foot’ so to speak. It was a definite improvement from where she was!

She will need to be checked periodically to keep her feet in good shape as she moves forward in her therapy. Sometimes these kinds of things just take time!

She was rewarded with oats in appreciation for her cooperation! Chasity seemed thankful for her newly balanced hooves.

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Chasity’s Challenges: Chasity’s First Workouts: 4-1, 3-20

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4-1-20:

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!

4-3-20:

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.

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Maintaining a Happy Donkey: 3-2-20

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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.

Wrangler, Chasity, Augie and Spuds are TRULY HAPPY DONKEYS!


After The Winter Break 3 29 21 29

CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: After the Winter Break: 3-29-21

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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!

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Maintaining a Happy Donkey: 3-2-20

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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.

Wrangler, Chasity, Augie and Spuds are TRULY HAPPY DONKEYS!


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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Riding in the Open Arena: 10-6-20

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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!


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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Fine Tuning Chasity’s Response: 9-22-20

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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.

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Lunge Line Training: 7-21-20

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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!

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Ground Driving Chasity: 7-7-20

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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!

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Hot to Trot: 6-30-20

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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!

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Learning to Submit to the “Elbow Pull”: 6-23-20

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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!

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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Lunging Together: 6-10-20

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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!


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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Perfecting the Moves: 6-2-20

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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!


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CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: Chasity Meets the Monster Vac: 6-2-20

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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!!!

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