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February 21, 2006

Dressage for Donkeys?

Isn't Dressage just for fancy horses and riders? If you don't know much about Dressage, you might think that. That's what I thought before I learned.

Before I learned to ride, I thought all there was to riding was just staying in the saddle and directing the horse or mule or donkey in the direction you wanted to go. But I quickly learned there is much more to it than that! So I started looking for a "Western" riding instructor. I rode with Western tack, and thought Western lessons where all I needed.

I ended up with a teacher who taught beginning Dressage and Western and English - or basically whatever kind of beginner riding you wanted. She taught me that there is more to Dressage than just looking pretty. She taught me that Dressage can benefit any style of riding, and is really all about training and a communication and one-ness between the horse and rider, or in my case between the donkey and rider. I have since become a firm believer in the great benefits of teaching any horse, mule or donkey Dressage techniques as a solid foundation to whatever discipline you want to pursue with them.

Dressage isn't just about riding the Dressage test patterns. It is about becoming one with the donkey or mule you are riding, teaching that donkey or mule to respond to the slightest aids, learning how to carry themselves, and conditioning and suppling them to become a real athlete.

When I first started teaching my donkey gelding, Andy, Dressage techniques he was pretty heavy on the bit, didn't turn softly, and in a way was like riding a freight train. I have been diligently working with him almost a year now, and he is a totally different donkey to ride than he used to be. He carries himself much more balanced and is much more in tune to my aids than he used to be. He has become much more flexible than he used to be. And I have learned how to position his body and mine to best aid him in his balance and executing the moves I ask for.

When Andy and I are having a good day it is really an amazing feeling to ride him, and be able to fluidly position him wherever I want to. We can move sideways, backwards, forwards, on a diagonal, or just the frontquarters or hindquarters independently, among other things.

As an added bonus, it has also helped Andy's way of going while driving. Even without doing much driving over the last year, Andy's way of carrying himself while driving has improved dramatically through his Dressage riding lessons.

And the thing I love about Dressage is that it is all about working with the equine instead of trying to force your desires upon them. My donkeys have really taken well the Dressage training techniques. So if you are looking for a riding instructor to teach you and your donkey how to work together better, I highly recommend you look for a good Dressage instructor in your area. Maybe try to take at least a few lessons on their trained schooling horses, so you can start to get the feel of it and learn some of the basic techniques. Then ask them to work with you on your own donkey or mule.

Some donkeys, mules and horses are built to be better at Dressage than others, but I firmly believe that no matter what your mount's build and conformation is, that if they are sound for riding, basic Dressage can help any of them perform better.

I will be writing some short articles soon about a few of my favorite Dressage exercises that I use with my donkeys.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at February 21, 2006 11:17 PM


Have a 6 yr. old standard donkey. Have changed feed through he years. Would 10% sweet feed be better to feed than crimped oats? Bahia pasture and hay are available yr. around.

How often should donkeys be bathed? We live in central FL. Thinking about clipping Thumper, our donkey.

Posted by: Mary Kay Pederson at March 17, 2006 07:52 PM

Good article on the Dressage DONKEY. I would like to see more (articles and pictures) on performance DONKEYS, as there are still alot of people that ask,"what do you do with them "? "Can a DONKEY Canter"? "Can a Donkey change leads" ?

Posted by: Dale McCall at March 25, 2006 09:33 PM

I also appreciated the article on dressage and donkeys. As a dressage enthusiast, I am pleased to see that donkeys are being brought into the fold. I have a Percheron and we do dressage for his fitness. I am interested in getting a donkey and would like to know more about what they can safely do besides trail (which is great on it's own). I hope to do dressage with my future donkey!!

Posted by: Janet at April 6, 2009 11:23 PM