Love Them Longears
When I needed to find a companion for my horse, the last thing I had in mind was a burro. Nevertheless, I stumbled across a free two year old Longear Jack, without the slightest clue what that meant. A Jack, in horse terms meant he was not gelded, something that needed to be taken care of immediately! What I didn’t need was a mule, which is exactly what my mare would produce if turned out with her new companion.
First thing on the agenda was to get the farm vet out and castrate the wooly gray donk, changing my Jack to a John. This procedure was just the beginning of the many noticeable differences between a donkey and a horse. For instance, I was surprised it took at least three times more anesthesia to knock out a 400 pound donk than a 1000 pound horse.
Over the next three months it became apparent that my equine training methods for everything from halter breaking to ground manners were absolutely ineffective on a donkey. Completely frustrated, I frantically searched for an online crash course donkey school. Of course I found an abundance of informative websites and helpful people more then happy to help me understand a donkey’s mind. First of all, dumb ass is one name I’ll never call a donk again, maybe a goofy ass, but without a doubt, smart ass is a name they’re indeed worthy of.
I decided to keep the name given to him, Beamer. He was strong, very curious, and although friendly, in an overbearing way, could be a real bully if he didn’t get his way. In time, I realized that the best way to handle him was to trick him into thinking what I wanted was his decision. He was not in control of his curiosity and was easily food motivated, knowing this, I used both those weaknesses as a training tool.
Horses, if given the choice would rather just be left alone, however, donkeys are like a 500+ pound dog. They want lots of attention and can be relentlessly pushy until they get it. Taking into consideration their extraordinary strength and size, it was imperative that I taught Beamer to respect my personal space as quickly as possible.
Within a few weeks after Beamer came to the ranch he was quiet for haltering and I was able to lead him around the ranch, but only on his terms. What I thought was stubbornness was in reality his cautious hesitance. Once he trusted I was taking him to perhaps a better place he was in agreement. Every introduction to something new was like starting all over again, but letting him decide to willingly walk forward became less time consuming once we established trust.
Beamer’s intelligence is astounding, there’s no way a horse is capable of a donk’s thought process. I watched him drag a ground feeder away from the horses because they were trying to bully him from his share of hay. After he dragged it about 20ft, he then tipped it over so the hay was everywhere assuring him better access. Smart Ass!
Today, Beamer is five years old, and now he can even do barn chores! Nah… but he does get into the horse trailer, walks willingly on a lead rope, stands quiet for the farrier, and with a little attitude takes a bath.