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January 17, 2005

Training Your Donkey for Hoof Care - Part 3

So what is the next training step once your donkey will let you pick up his front feet, and is comfortable with you rubbing all over and in between his back legs?

For the next step, you will need a 3/4" thick cotton rope. It is very important that the rope be cotton, because synthetic ropes can give you or your donkey rope burn. I found that cotton rope with that large a diameter was hard to find locally, so I ordered mine through a place like Valley Vet Supply. You will need at least 15 feet of rope. I just bought a 50-foot roll and cut it down.

First I hold the rope loosely looped through my hand, and I start rubbing the handful of rope all over the donkey, starting on the shoulder and moving back. This teaches your donkey that he doesn't need to be afraid of the rope. It feels good to get a back rub, so he soon learns that it's just fine to let the rope touch him and flop around on him.

Once he is comfortable with me rubbing the rope it all over his back and hips, I run the rope through between his back legs and around to one side, so that I have two ends of the rope in my hands and the loop going loosely around his back leg above the hock (see picture 1). This part should be done with the donkey either tied up or with an assistant holding the donkey's lead rope so he can't run away.

Picture 1: Rope above donkey's hock.

If the donkey is comfortable with that, I gently slide the rope back and forth to get the donkey used to something moving around his leg. As he becomes comfortable with that, I let the rope slide down lower and lower until he is comfortable with me sliding it up and down and back and forth all around his leg (see picture 2). If at any point he starts fidgeting and becoming uncomfortable, I back up to a place he was okay with and start again from there.

Picture 2: Sliding rope around all up and down the leg.

The beauty of doing this with the long rope is that you can stand out of kicking range while your donkey is getting used to his legs being handled. That way if he does get upset and kicks, you are out of the way and safe.

Once I can slide the rope all around the donkey's leg, I let the rope slide down around the bottom of pastern just above the hoof (see picture 3).

Picture 3: Rope around pastern.

I then gently pull on the rope a few times, applying pressure to that area. Usually at this point the donkey may hesitate or show signs that he is unsure about what I'm doing (see picture 4). I go back to sliding the rope up and down and around his leg, and then go down and apply the pressure again.

Picture 4: Donkey is hesitant and pulling away from rope.

Once he stops hesitating when I apply pressure, I ask him to let me lift his foot off the ground and set it back down again by adding more pressure to the rope. Usually this is the point where most donkeys that are going to kick will do it. The goal is to try to avoid getting to the point where they decide to kick, and giving them a release just before they decide to kick so they will learn they don't have to kick or don't get into a struggle with you.

Once your donkey is relaxed about letting you move the rope all up and down and around his back legs, and doesn't mind you lifting his back feet with the rope (see picture 5), then you are ready to move on to the next step.

Picture 5: Donkey is relaxed now and letting me do the lifting.

If you have any question along the way, please email me and I'll try to explain in more detail.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at January 17, 2005 09:59 PM