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May 10, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I like to see the rain to help the gardens grow, but it sure does make it hard to find a good time to train and condition my donkeys.

Utah is supposed to be a dry state, but this spring has been very wet! We've had an extraordinary amount of rain the past 8 weeks. It seems like it will barely dry up enough to start riding again in my training area, and we'll get another week of rain.

I thought I was going to get a good head start on conditioning Andy and Elsie for Bishop Mule Days this year. Things started off well the beginning of March, we had two good weeks of training, and Andy was really starting to get into it. Then the rain came, and it's been raining off and on ever since. I have finally given up on waiting until it dries out. Any evening it isn't raining I usually try to at least do some riding. If it's too muddy in my normal training area, I just ride around the back yard instead.

I have found that doing short (no more than an hour) training sessions with a mix of both fast and slow exercises is really helping Andy get back in shape fast. We usually do a little trot work, and transitions up and down from trot. Then we mix in some softening and responsiveness exercises while walking, and transition up and down between walk and halt. Then we might go back to a little more trot. I also mix in some leg yield along a fence, backing up, and if the ground is dry enough, a little canter.

It's also important to keep things interesting for your donkey or mule while doing your training and conditioning lessons. I have several barrels, a few pylons, a sheet of plywood, and some white PVC pipe lying around different parts of my training area. I use these items in my training to give me points to turn around, navigate through, stop by, etc. Every few lessons I like to move them around so that there is a new arrangement to navigate through.

I recently found a new riding instructor who has access to a large indoor arena that we have also started using once a week when it's too rainy to work outside. In the arena there is a new variety of distractions and obstacles to train the donkeys around. They have several jumps set up in the middle of the arena. They also have stall panels, a pile of rocks, a fire hose, oddly colored jump boards, and funny doors around the perimeter of the arena, too, to add some challenge.

Here are a few pictures of Andy and Elsie from our lessons last weekend.





If your weather is uncooperative like ours has been, you might try to find an equestrian center or farm owner in your area with an indoor or covered arena who is willing to let you use their facilities for a small fee. If nothing else, it's a great opportunity to expose your critters to a new environment - working inside a building!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at May 10, 2005 10:23 PM