Saturday, September 4

Saturday Dose of Cute: Donkey Training

Donkey Training 1
Cute but Clueless

Donkey Training 2

Donkey Training 3
(That would be both of them.)

Going somewhere fun this weekend? We're staying put!

Disclaimer: There were no baby donkeys harmed during this real life training session, though a hunky farmguy may have been slightly humiliated—and if not, he surely is by now.

As you've probably figured out, nobody around here has any experience teaching donkeys how to lead. Wear a halter, yes. We have mastered that trick, though not on the entire herd. I did slip the neat new quick release halter we've been using on Gus (which was really inexpensive, touted as something like 'great for even sly animals!' and backordered almost as soon as the vet supply company offered it up for sale) on Evie the other day just to see if I could, since she probably hasn't worn one since this glamour shot was taken back in 2008. (Was she stylin' or what?) Halter success! Even after all these years. The two of us stood there in the sand field looking very professional and accomplished and feeling totally proud of ourselves, but of course I couldn't get her to budge an inch. Since I didn't actually need her to go anywhere, I simply took it off and scratched her neck and ears for a while instead.

I know there are some of you out there cringing right now at the thought of all these untrained equines running around on the loose, but it's really not as bad as it sounds. Unfortunately donkey training always seems to fall below something far more pressing on the farm, like working sheep, or working sheep, or—I don't know—working sheep. That's not really all we do, though sometimes it feels like it.

For years we've relied on the old 'addicted to treats and you can lead them anywhere' approach, which works extremely well for pretty much every critter on the farm. (You'd be amazed at what I can talk Joe into doing with the promise of a couple loaves of salted onion rye bread or a batch of lemon meringue tarts.) I never said we were anywhere near perfect around here, and I feel better letting you know how things really are, rather than making it seem like we lead some fairy tale idyllic farm existence. Not even close. I mean, we live in a falling down shack and decorate our living room with dirty laundry.

We do try our best, and it's not as if we're going to saddle up the donkeys and ride them, or attach them to a little pull cart or anything. I'm sometimes still surprised by the fact that we even have all these donkeys (current count: seven). I knew nothing about them, let alone ever imagined myself owning one (or seven!), until that fateful call from the donkey peddling cowboy all those years ago. But now these loving longears have stolen my heart, and I can't imagine life without them.

The good news is that thanks to some very helpful tips from kindly Farmgirl Fare reader and equine expert The Japanese Redneck, our next baby donkey training session should prove to be a lot more productive than this one. It probably won't be nearly as funny, but we might actually get somewhere. Maybe someday we'll even convince little Gus to pull a cart. I have no idea why we would need him to, but I bet it would be really cute.

Want to see more of the little Gus man?
9/7/10: Heading Back
9/10/10: Catching On

And my hunky farmguy?
11/14/07: Ram Lamb Transport (one of my all time favorite photos)
1/27/10: Man at Work

©, the stubborn foodie farm blog where most of the time it's not easy to tell who is really in charge around here. I'm pretty sure it's usually not me.


  1. I am reading with interest about your donkey traning. Our new little one is Morgan- he is 3wks today.
    Please come be a follower on my farm blog.

  2. I love your blog--especially the endings each post where you talk about all the things your farm and blog are !~!

    Donkeys are becoming more cute all the time....

  3. They don't call them stubborn for nothing! They can be strong willed for sure. The one I had when I was a young was trained with a saddle. He was NOT the best animal to ride due to stopping and not wanting to move again--period.

    Gus is so cute...and your hunky farmguy is as you describe him! Great photos!

  4. Forget pulling a cart--hitch a bunch of 'em up and make 'em pull a hay wagon. Then no worries about the tractor.

    P.S. HI BEAAAAAR!!!!

  5. Seriously??? Train a donkey??? Is that even possible??? Besides when you're that cute, you can away with anything. Thanks for sharing these great photos of your
    sweet animals and your hunky farmguy!!

  6. Very cute photo. Do you halter train them. How do you train yours to let you mess with feet for ferrier to trim feet??

  7. Who cares if it works? If you're not going to use them to do chores then there is no reason to frustrate (ok, humiliate) any one. Although that doesn't mean you should stop taking photos!!

  8. Oh my gosh they are so cute!

  9. Having a donkey/horse, etc. trained to be led by a halter can save the animal's life if there is a barn fire and you must evacuate the barn rapidly.

    But, he is very cute!

  10. Ohmahgah. He is a good man.

  11. You MUST use a butt rope when teaching foals or donkeys to lead. They actually will resist pressure and respond in the opposite direction. You pull on their head they will sit their butt on the ground, or just pull against you. When using a butt rope, kiss or cluck and say walk while pulling on the butt rope. Once their feet move let go of the pressure on the butt rope. It will take a week of consistency, but don't do more than 10 minutes at a time, as they have very short attention spans. A butt rope can just be an extra long (10-12 foot cotton lead).
    Attach the long cotton lead as you normally would, slide your left hand 6"inches down from the snap while holding the extra lead in your right hand. Run the extra lead in right hand, careful not to lose the slack under the snap, all they way around the animal. In the beginning you will have to use 2 hands to lead the baby. The right hand will do the tugging on the butt rope the left will keep the slack under the animals head. You DO NOT want to pull on the head and the butt rope. That would defeat the purpose. Pull only with the right arm and release immediately once the animal gives to the pressure. Don't forget to kiss or cluck when you engage the butt rope. Be consistent and you'll get results. Good your recipes!!

  12. Hi Everybody,
    Thanks for all the fun comments.

    BRILLIANT idea! ;)

    Weekend Cowgirl,
    The text in this post is all about halter training. : ) As for them letting us mess with their feet, the girls all let us, which is a big help - though of course the farrier still has to catch them up.

    Our jack, Donkey Doodle Dandy, won't let you near his feet, nor will he wear a halter, but once the farrier finally has him caught, he does some kind of farrier whispering on him and Dan submits to a pedicure - though he's definitely not happy about it. :)

    That's a very good point. We're going to do our best to get all the donkeys halter trained eventually. In the meantime, they don't actually get to go in the barn, so at least that's one thing we don't have to worry about! :)

    Thanks so much for the detailed instructions. That is pretty much how The Japanese Redneck told us to do it - and I think I even understand what you're saying. Implementing it will be another matter, but I have high hopes for little Gus. Now if only Gnat would let me snuggle him like Gus does!

    And if anybody was concerned that Joe was tugging on Gus in these photos - not to worry. That's a big halter, which is actually too loose on him, and Joe was barely pulling it at all. I know it makes us all look clueless and I risked some people thinking we were harming Gus, but I just couldn't resist posting these photos because they crack me up every time I look at them. But just know that Gus was fine the entire time. :)

  13. Hey Susan,

    Hope you get to try the leading tip so that we know how it went.

    LUV the pictures. Baby donkies and donkettes are just so cute!

  14. I'm gonna tell Joe you said that 'bout him.


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