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January 05, 2005

Training Your Donkey for Hoof Care - Part 1

In yesterday's article, I described several reasons why your donkey might choose to kick. One situation where he might kick is when you are handling and/or trimming his hooves. Here is the first step I take to gain his confidence and teach him that he doesn't need to be scared and kick when I'm working with his feet.

My very first priority is to remain safe. Donkeys can kick back as well as out to the side. When I don't know how my donkey will react to my handling his legs and feet, I try to stay close in near his shoulder or as close as possible.

I start with something my donkey is comfortable with. A good place to start would be brushing his neck, shoulders, and back. Don't start off with something he is uncomfortable with or scared of. This pleasant brushing will calm him down and get his mind off of the scary things you might do.

Then while I am still standing in a safe place and watching his reaction, I start brushing down his front legs. If he is uncomfortable with me brushing his front legs, I brush a couple strokes on his shoulder or neck, and then let one stroke go from his shoulder part way down his leg. Then I just brush his shoulder a few more times. I repeat this, while increasing the frequency I brush down his front leg and the distance I go, as he is comfortable with it. He will start to learn that nothing bad happens when that "accidental" brush stroke goes further down his leg, and that he doesn't need to fear your touching him there.

Once my donkey has completely accepted my brushing all up and down and around his front legs, I move on to working on his back legs. I start off brushing his back - the place he is comfortable. When he is relaxed with that, I start brushing farther back on his hips. If he becomes uncomfortable at any point, I move back to an area that he is comfortable, and then try again.

Once he is comfortable with me brushing his hips, I start brushing farther down toward his hocks, around his flank, and between his back legs. Take this slowly at a rate that he is comfortable with.

You may have to start by stroking him with some kind of extension (i.e. a glove on the end of a short stick, or a whip), so that you can stay out of kicking range until you are sure that he is comfortable with what you are doing, and won't kick you. Then once you feel he is ok with you brushing him with the extension, you can switch to using your hand to brush him in the same areas.

Just take things slow and safe. Depending on your donkey's past experiences and confidence level in you, you may be able to cover this first phase in a few minutes or it may take you a few weeks. Just be patient and watch your donkey's reactions to know when he is comfortable and ready to move on.

Once your donkey is completely comfortable with you brushing or rubbing him all over up and down his front and back legs and in between them, you are ready to move on to the next step that we will discuss later in part 2.

Happy Donkey Training!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at January 5, 2005 10:23 PM