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March 01, 2005

Building Bridges

Here are several great obstacles that I have found to be very helpful in keeping my donkeys interested in their lessons while we are practicing repetitive exercises.

If you add new challenges such as obstacles in your donkey's training routine, that will help keep them from getting bored. Often times if you are practicing something over and over to perfect it, you will be much more successful if you add challenges to keep the practice interesting and keep your donkey or mule focused on what you are working on.

These obstacles or challenges can be used in almost all aspects of training. For instance, if you are teaching your donkey to lead and he has the basics down, but you are trying to refine his moves and get better responses out of him, just add a few obstacles along the way. You might add several poles for him to walk over, or a "bridge" like the one shown below for him to cross. You could ask him to walk between two parallel poles or you could ask him to walk across them, or you could even ask him to stop as soon as both front feet are between them, etc. Just be creative and change things up a bit every lesson or two to keep things interesting for him.

The most recent obstacle I have used was a "bridge" I made by laying a sheet of plywood on the ground in the middle of my training pen and placing a pylon at each corner of the plywood. Here are a few pictures of my gelding, Andy, and the "bridge".

Note: This bridge is designed so that the whole sheet of plywood is supported by the ground underneath. If you want to build a raised bridge or a bridge across a ditch, you will need to use much heavier lumber and make sure there is not way the bridge will break under your donkey or mule's weight. You would not want them to have that bad experience and decide to never cross any kind of bridge again!

A few weeks ago I experienced a remarkable difference in my donkey gelding when I added the "bridge" to his training area. Even though I was practicing riding him at his standard walk and trot and turning that we have been working on for a long time, he was much smoother, more responsive and happier when he had the new plywood "bridge" challenge to keep his mind from getting bored while we were practicing the old routine. I guess the same idea applies to teaching anyone. They say, "practice makes perfect", but we all seem to learn faster if there is variety to keep the practice interesting. You just have to learn to be a creative teacher!

Here are a few pictures of my little helper riding Andy across the "bridge". Looks like fun, doesn't it!



Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at March 1, 2005 07:51 AM