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Wrangler is such a goof ball! Because Wrangler would lock up in front of the Tack Barn and not want to walk over the grate, I got smart and learned to take Chasity to the Tack Barn first. Then, he didn’t even notice the grate and walked right in! However, he gets pretty rambunctious about waiting his turn. I could lead them both at once, but he needs to learn to be by himself with me sometimes…and BEHAVE! When I first got Wrangler, he would get excited like this and then just try run over me when I opened the stall door. Through repetition and humane discipline, I changed his behavior with Behavior Modification, a systematic reward system of training. To be successful, one needs to target the behaviors that need to change, set up the equine for success and promptly reward the positive behaviors as they occur. AND, you need a specific, consistent and humane way to stop bad behaviors in their tracks when they occur. We work on the premise of POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT, but we also need to learn how to use NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT if one does not want to be hurt, or even killed, by these VERY LARGE and STRONG animals!
The negative reinforcement that I use really works. When he got aggressive the first time, I raised my hand like a stop sign and when he did not stop, he got a firm slap to the side of his mouth as I said, “NO!” as loud as I could. I promptly raised my hand like a stop sign in front of his face again after which he started to turn back around. I quickly took a handful of oats from my fanny pack, took a step forward and offered him the oats. He did a double-take and came back for the oats to which I replied, “Thank you for giving me my space!” Going forward, he still occasionally gets too aggressive, but he always stops when I put my hand up like a stop sign in front of his face and takes a step back. He won’t need to be slapped again since this was done correctly the first time. He remembers!
As soon as I open the stall door now, Wrangler immediately stops his antics and becomes a gentleman that can be rewarded. He stands stock still while I put on the halter and then drops his head at my shoulder. I hold his lead rope in my left hand while pointing in the direction of travel with my right hand. I tell him to “Walk on” and look down to see what foot he is leading with and follow his front legs, step for step. We get IN SYNC with each other and I lead him that way from the time he leaves his pen to the time he returns. I do this the very same way with ALL of my equines ALL of the time. Consistency breeds familiarity and compliance.
Donkeys have issues with chronic runny eyes and noses. The way to stave off any infection is to clean their eyes, nostrils and ears with a damp towel daily. This also encourages them to accept handling around their face in general.
Donkeys are inherently desert animals and can severely founder or colic on lush feed. Symptoms of too rich feed will be manifested in the hooves as abscesses, crusty growth, collapsed heels and frogs, or just plain stress rings. Wrangler has abnormally small rear hooves and it is important that his core strength is developed in good postural balance to make sure the weight distribution is even so none of his hooves are carrying too much weight for his size.
Wrangler is rather flat-withered and needs a saddle that will “hug” his body, leaving ample room for his spine.
I initially tighten the girth snug, but not too tight. The crupper is adjusted so the tail lies comfortably.
I gently press on the bars of his jaw to open his mouth for the bit and carefully bring the crown of the bridle over his ears, protecting them with my hand. Being polite and considerate will get much more cooperation from your equine.
I adjust all the straps on the bridle so it is comfortable, paying special attention around the ears. The drop noseband helps him learn to hold the bit properly. I always gradually tighten the girth over several times.
The walk to the Round Pen is still IN SYNC…all three of us! Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull” postural restraint is adjusted and he is reminded how to release the tension.
Wrangler’s posture has greatly improved over three years and has given him added strength, endurance, stamina and animation to his gaits. He defies the slow and pokey characterization of donkeys in general! He’s a true athlete!
Wrangler and Chasity do a very nice reverse in sync with each other. Wrangler resumes the working walk.
Five rotations at walk, five rotations at trot, reverse and repeat in the other direction. We do 3 sets with a 3-minute break in between. Rewards are in order with every halt. With every halt, Wrangler is asked to rebalance and square up!
Then I begin riding with three rotations at trot in each direction. I carry a riding crop in case he needs a little encouragement to keep going. If he gets too tired, we call it quits and will do more another day.
I always end the sessions with a halt and rein back. Then I dismount and reward him again for a job well done!
Back in the Tack Barn at the work station, I carefully remove the bridle. I always hold the halter crown strap in my right hand while removing the bridle. I then slip the bridle onto my left arm, pick up the nose band of the halter in my left hand, bring it over his nose and buckle the halter. This way, if he pulls away, I still have my arms (and halter) around his neck to hold on to him.
We make our way back to the barn and Wrangler waits patiently while Chasity enters the stall first (Ladies first, you know!). He follows her sedately into the stall and they both turn around to me to have their halters removed and to receive their rewards. Wrangler “suggests” to me politely that I should hurry with Chasity’s halter and get to the rewards…QUICKLY! He’s still hungry!!! Silly boy!!!
A lot of people tell me they have problems when their jennets or molly mules are in heat. And, they expect the behaviors of their gelding to change drastically when they are castrated. In my experience, it really doesn’t make much difference if you have a fair and equitable management and training program. When their bodies are managed in a healthy way and they are consistently taught good manners, they will be willing and able to perform well regardless. I always approach training in a fair and equitable manner that does not throw too much at them all at once so as to avoid anxiety. Wrangler and Chasity both appreciate this (as did my jack, stallion and other females). It wasn’t until AFTER this lesson that I realized that Chasity was in heat and Wrangler was EXCITED about it! This program is a slow, logical and sequential approach that the equines truly appreciate and respond to positively no matter their mood. The results are miraculous!
Today, we were to begin with an interview about donkeys. Wrangler watched intently while Robbie wired me with the microphone. Then we went to the center of the Round Pen where I set him up and asked Wrangler to stand quietly while we did the interview, and he did what he was told. Such a good boy!
After the interview, Wrangler did his exercises of five rotations at walk, trot and even a little bit of canter. He is getting really good about stretching his spine from head to tail and his flexibility is greatly improved.
Since Wrangler had previously bolted with the lunge line in the dressage arena, I thought another lesson might be in order. I asked for the halt. Then we went to the open arena where I tied the end of the lunge line to the his bit with four inches to spare that I ran under his chin and snapped to the bit ring on the other side. This would prevent the bit from being pulled through his mouth.
I first lunged him to the right at walk and trot, halted him and changed the line to the other side. I gave a slight pull on the lunge line as his outside front leg was in suspension as a cue to keep him on the arc of the circle.
Wrangler did very well, so I stopped him and he stood quietly while I rolled up the lunge line. He followed me when I put away the line and stood still again while I prepared to mount.
Once mounted, the reward was in order followed by a rein back. He was offering more steps in each new lesson with only very slight squeeze/releases from my little fingers.
We did a very well-balanced turn on the haunches and made our way into the Hourglass Pattern. Wrangler proceeded forward with an energized working walk.
Wrangler remained erect in his body carriage as we made our way through the pattern, bending his body appropriately through his rib cage to the arcs of the turns and moving in good posture on straight lines.
Wrangler remained soft in his response to my hands, seat and legs. Donkeys are notorious for leaning against pressure, so it was imperative that I kept myself relaxed and “giving” to his movement.
Wrangler’s internal pendulum kept him moving through the Hourglass Pattern in a very nice balance, first through the pattern one way, across the diagonal and again in the opposite direction. My inside leg at the girth on the turns helped him to stay erect while my outside leg was well back to support the bend and encourage impulsion.
Wrangler obediently executed a square halt followed by a nice rein back with the lightest of cues from my fingertips. When you are patient and spend the time to train your equine this way, it makes a world of difference in their gaits and produces an incredibly smooth ride!
Wrangler stood quietly during the dismount and went through the gate perfectly! It was truly a resistance-free lesson! That is what you will get when you spend time on accuracy and wait for speed to come later.
Wrangler and Chasity both stood stock still while I got Chasity untied, then we all walked happily in sync together back to the Tack Barn! Leading them together is never a problem! The boundaries to good behavior have been established from the very beginning. They both know clearly what is expected!
Wrangler is wondering why Augie and Spuds, the mini donkeys are here. He is usually worked with Chasity… just the two of them! Wrangler is big on being the center of attention and stands quietly while I put on his surcingle instead of his English saddle this time. He is sure something is up, but he doesn’t exactly know what it might be just yet!
Wrangler and Chasity are now getting REALLY GOOD at being led together and stay in sync with my steps. They negotiate the gate easily and obediently. This is how well things can go when you are clear and consistent about the way that you do things. The animals then know what to expect and can comply without anxiety.
I led Augie and Spuds to the Round Pen and tied them up outside so they could watch Wrangler and Chasity while they were lunging. I thought maybe I would be able to lunge all four of them together if things went well. When they have someone to watch, my animals learn to stand still when tied. They know it will soon be their turn.
Wrangler immediately noticed the mini donkeys and wondered why they were there, but when asked, I regained his attention to business. Chasity walked off to practice while I adjusted Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull.”
Wrangler stood quietly while I made some adjustments and asked him to flex at his poll to make sure it was not too restrictive. Then I sent him to thr rail for lunging. He went quietly forward in a nice working walk.
When asked, Wrangler and Chasity moved into a smart working trot. Chasity is getting better with her posture and will soon be able to keep the “Elbow Pull” loose throughout the entire workout like Wrangler does. It takes time to develop that kind of core strength in good balance!
I added the drive lines to Wrangler after successful lunging while Chasity stood by and watched. He was a bit hard to turn in his last lessons, but this time his turns were much improved. He stayed very light in my hands and moved at the touch of a finger. I made sure to use the verbal commands “Gee” (go right) and “Haw” (go left). It makes a huge difference!
Wrangler stayed calm as we walked around the Round Pen doing an occasional “S” turn through the middle to change directions.
Wrangler was much improved from his last lesson! I don’t “drill” them until they get it right. That would just make them tired and cranky…then they do not learn. I spend about 20-30 minutes on their lessons and quit when they have made an honest attempt. Wrangler came into a nice quiet halt and was rewarded.
Wrangler did a much better rein back than he had before and offered many more steps on a very light rein! I was extremely pleased with him! It was time to quit with him. I tied him outside the Round Pen so he could watch the others do their workouts…and learn to stay quietly tied… which he did!
Wrangler was introduced to our new donkey jennet, Chasity, with a double fence between them and has seen me working with her for two months now. After being alone in turnout for three years, he will finally have a turnout buddy once she is out of quarantine. This will happen in just a few days. However, I could sense that Wrangler was jealous of the time I was spending with Chasity, so I decided to surprise him! He obediently came to the stall door and waited patiently to be haltered, but it had been such a long time since he had seen the Tack Barn work station that he needed to PAUSE…
…and take a good look at the metal drainage grating before entering. He was rewarded at the hitch rail for being brave and was somewhat curious about what would be happening next.
Wrangler was so pleased when I walked through the door with his new love, Chasity! They both looked expectantly as I walked from the Tack Room with the familiar towel. I cleaned their eyes, ears and nostrils.
Wrangler showed Chasity that the “monster vac” was nothing to be afraid of. He stood quietly while I put on his Passier All Purpose English saddle. With the girth four inches back on the swell of his barrel, so as not to chafe the sensitive skin right behind his forearms, I adjusted his crupper to hold it firmly in place.
They both watched me intently as I returned to the Tack Room for the bridles. Wrangler politely lowered his head to make bridling much easier. I always return the favor by being VERY CAREFUL about pushing their ears through the headstall by protecting them with my hand as I slide the crown piece over them.
I took Wrangler to the Round Pen. Then I went back to the Tack Barn, got Chasity and tied her outside so she could watch him being lunged. I hoped this would help her to “get it” when it became her turn!
Wrangler was in pretty good shape when I got him three years ago. He’s always kept himself balanced and in good shape, so he was able to go straight to lunging for core strength in his “Elbow Pull.” He only had two lessons two years ago, but his good posture and core strength has endured. The “Elbow Pull” remained loose throughout his entire workout in the Round Pen.
He planted his pivot foot, easily executed his reverse and continued the same way in the other direction. I was so proud of him! Wrangler reminds me a lot of my super champion jack from 1980-2014, Little Jack Horner! What a classy guy!
Since Wrangler was doing so well, I decided to go ahead and let him try lunging with Chasity. They had not yet been in the same pen together, but I trusted he would behave himself and he surely did! He encouraged her to go forward and then did his reverse promptly on command. She took a bit more persuading to reverse, but he patiently walked until she caught up with him.
With Wrangler in the lead, they did five more rotations and Wrangler never swayed from his good equine posture. When we were done, I tied Chasity to a post in the Round Pen and returned to the Tack Barn with Wrangler. He was so happy to finally be able to spend some time with me and to share his experience with Chasity!
Wrangler came to us in 2017 and has had to be in turnout by himself because he was so rambunctious that he didn’t really fit into any of our turnout groups. He was always turned out next to “friend” like Sir Guy but never with anyone else. Mr. Moon was his stable buddy, but still, there was always a run fence between them. Mr. Moon recently turned 32 years old and developed a condition that required that he be put down. Wrangler’s “stable buddy” was now gone.
With the empty stall and run next to Wrangler, we now had space to consider getting him a new companion. I checked with my friend in Oklahoma and we found Chasity! What a lovely “Lady!” I was told 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! They were clearly VERY interested in each other! Love had begun to blossom!
The next day the vet came to do a health check on Chasity. She will need a lot of core strength work, but it will be a good thing to keep her occupied while she is in quarantine. Wrangler looked on with interest as the vet surveyed her condition. Two months passed before Chasity was finally put in Mr. Moon’s stall and run next to Wrangler…they eyed each other suspiciously…this was a lot closer than they had previously been!
Wrangler stuck his head through the panels to sniff and Chasity looked interested, then decided to play shy!
This only frustrated Wrangler and he began some very active male donkey antics which spooked her away from him.
She returned only to be spooked away again while Wrangler continued his antics and embarrassed himself by tripping!
Chasity thought maybe NOW he would calm down and Wrangler started up AGAIN! She thought…REALLY?!!!
I called Wrangler over and had a little talk with him about good manners and being polite to young ladies. He seemed to listen and said he was sorry. Chasity wasn’t sure if she believed him!
But after receiving their crimped oats reward for settling down…all was GOOD!!!
It was a perfect hot day for Wrangler’s yearly summer bath! We tried taking a “selfie” with a Canon camera and telephoto lens…not too bad for our first try!
He’s a real ham! He loves to smile for the camera and eat oats from the fanny pack.
Just tell him to and he perks his ears for the pictures! Wrangler is now an 11 year old gelding and softens my loss of Little Jack Horner in 2014!
Wrangler is so much like L.J.H. it’s crazy!