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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 11:17 PM | Comments (3)

February 12, 2006

Setting up a Barn WebCam - Part 5

The next piece that you will need for your barn camera is a source of power and a way to get the video signal back to your house.

You will need to run a power line to the location where your camera will be located. Just make sure the cable is adequately protected from curious donkeys!

Now for the camera signal cable! There are two ways you can get a CCTV camera signal from your camera location back to your house or wherever your TV monitor or computer are located.

Wireless seems a lot simpler – no cables to burry. But I chose not to use wireless. The disadvantage is that the CCTV camera wireless transmitters are dependant on a clear line-of-sight from the transmitter to the receiver. Therefore if you had a bad snowstorm, or a tree was planted in between the transmitter and receiver, you would get a lower quality signal. There are commercial transmitters that are supposed to transmit the CCTV signal wireless over a longer distance (more than 400 feet), but when I was looking at them last spring they were pretty pricey.

So when I set up my webcam, I chose to use RG11 Coax Cable. My camera is located about 450 feet from where my computer is, and this cable did an excellent job of carrying the signal back. For cameras located farther away, you may want to talk to the specialists at your local security camera store to give you a recommendation that will work well for you.

You can buy the RG11 Coax Cable from your local security camera store. If you buy it in a large roll, you will probably need to also buy the connectors to put on the ends of the cable. You will want BNC connectors – they should plug into your camera and into your TV monitor or computer devise. These connectors can be purchased at your local security camera shop.

The BNC connectors usually are available in two different styles – ones that screw on to the end of the cable, and ones that crimp on to the end of the cable. I prefer the crimp on kind because they are less likely to come off once you have crimped them on.

Now you can go out and start running your cable! Just be sure to leave enough extra on the end so that you can reach your computer in the house or wherever your TV monitor will be located.

Now you should have all the pieces you need to be able to set up your camera and hook it into your TV monitor and watch your donkeys from inside your house! Next time I’ll start explaining about how to connect your camera system into the Internet and add your new WebCam to your website!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2006

Bishop Mule Days

When I am showing people my photos from Bishop Mule Days, one of the classes that I often get questions about is the Youth Ride-A-Buck class.

This is a fun class to watch! It is only open to Youth riders. Each rider enters the arena riding bareback on his mule. The ring steward gives each rider a dollar bill, which the rider has to tuck under his leg between him and his mule. Then the judge gives the riders directions. He might ask them to walk their mules, trot, canter, stop, and back up. I also heard him ask for a collected canter and a few more complicated things like that!

The trick for the riders is to try to keep that dollar bill tucked under their leg the whole time while doing the things the judge asks! As soon as the dollar bill falls out, that rider is out and has to go to the middle of the arena and wait. It was fun watching the kids in the Youth Ride-A-Buck class at Bishop Mule Days. Some of them really had to try hard to get their mule to do what they wanted, and before to long they would lose their dollar.

The one little girl on the white mule did an excellent job! Her mule was very well trained, and she was an excellent rider She was one of the last two contestants left competing at the end!

Here are a few photos I took of this fun class last year at Bishop Mule Days:






Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2006

Setting up a Barn WebCam - Part 4

There are a wide variety of camera lenses that you may want to consider when setting up your barn webcam.

The first one that I would suggest you find is an Auto-Iris lens. This lens automatically adjusts the amount of light coming into the camera depending on how much light is outside. So if it is darker outside, the auto-iris will open up larger to let more light in so the picture isn't so dark. And if it is very bright outside, the auto-iris will close smaller to let less light in so that the picture doesn't get so bright that you lose the details. You will want to make sure the auto-iris lens is compatible with the camera you purchase, as different auto-iris lenses are designed to work with different models of cameras.

If you want your camera to pick up a larger pen, or area outside, here is a lens I found very helpful. My expectant-momma pen is a small paddock area with a run-in shed for shelter. I keep my expectant jennets in that paddock for at least 2-3 months before their due date, so I want it to be as big as it can be while still being all in the camera field of vision. I added a wide-angle lens to my camera, and it picks up a much wider area allowing my jennets more space to live while awaiting their baby's arrival.

If you have your webcam set up in a smaller space like a foaling stall in your barn, depending on where your camera is located in conjunction with your jennet's stall, you may not need a wide-angle lens to pick up the whole area.

There are a wide variety of other lenses available for CCTV cameras. With a quick search on Internet or a visit to your local security camera store, you can find quite a bit of information about these other options. But for now, I have found the Auto-Iris lens and Wide-Angle lens to fill my needs well.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

All Dressed Up and Ready To Go

Today is a day I've been anxiously awaiting!

I've been busy the last few weeks, and haven't gotten a chance to write in a while, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing what my donkeys and I are up to now!

I ordered new harnesses for my donkey "team-in-training", and they finally came last week. Today the weather was nice, and I took my donkeys over to our local equestrian center for a riding lesson with my coach. While I had her there to help me, we harnessed up Andy and Lily for the first time together.

I ground drove them around the parking lot for a bit while my coach walked along beside us to help if I needed an extra hand. Andy and Lily did great for their first time driving together as a team!

Here are a few photos of them in their new gear.





Now I need to get them a wagon and polish their driving skills a bit more, and we'll be ready for some fun this summer!

Are any of the rest of you working on getting together teams for the new Donkey 2-up Hitch class at Bishop Mule Days this year?

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 11:05 PM | Comments (4)