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September 27, 2006

Adding to Your Obstacle Course

Donkeys love variety in their lessons! There are many fun obstacles that you can set up to challenge your donkeys during their routine training sessions.

One of the most versatile pieces to add to your obstacle collection are a number of pieces of plastic pipe. I have tried several different kinds, and prefer white pipe that is about 4" in diameter. It stands out well against the color of the dirt, and teaches your donkey to be used to pipes like the white ground rails that they often use at shows.

I started off with small solid PVC pipe for my ground poles and cavalettis, but they were a little too small, and I didn't want to spend what it cost for larger solid PVC.

So I was looking at Home Depot for other options and found this white drainage (?) pipe. It doesn't bend like flexible pipe, and kind of has several layers of plastic to form the outside. It's construction sort of reminds me of how cardboard is constructed with the air pockets in between the layers. I love this pipe! I believe it's about 8 feet long and 4" in diameter. It is lightweight plastic pipe with a row of drain holes cut in it all the way down one side. It's the perfect size for ground poles, and didn't cost as much as 4" solid PVC would.

You will probably want to get 4 to 10 pieces of this pipe. Once you have that, you can make all kinds of obstacles!


Lay the pipes parallel on the ground with about 3-4 feet of space between, and ride or ground drive your donkey over them. If your donkey is pulling a cart, you can drive through parallel between then and see if you can go straight through without bumping them.

You can also make a box shape with the pipes, and ride in then turn around and back out. Or I've even used them to set up a keyhole type of pattern to practice the keyhole race in.

You can make a box shape to turn a small circle in, or a wagon wheel shape to practice stepping over the "spokes" (I've seen this one before in trail courses at shows). You can also try sidepassing over a pipe to see how straight a line you can hold while moving sideways.

For making higher cavalettis, I've used cinder block bricks on both ends with the pipe set across the top. I set up some that I really liked that were maybe 6 or 8 inches off the ground. We had some of the decorative cinder block bricks that have an X shape design in the middle instead of just two square holes. Set two of these up (braced so they won't easily fall over) and laid the ends of my pipe in the top of the X. If you are careful about how you set it up, the bricks won't tip over even if the pipe is knocked off the top of them, and the X helps keep the pipe from rolling off. That worked very well, and didn't cost much either.

You could probably also use large blocks of wood on either side to set the pipe across. The important thing to remember is to always set it up so that the pipe can easily fall off if it is bumped by your donkey's leg, and so that whatever it is resting on will not fall over and hurt your donkey either. But there are plenty of inexpensive things you can use to build a great "playground" for your training lessons!

Use your creativity to set up the pipes in different shapes to navigate around and through. Your donkey will love the challenge, and it will help to keep things interesting during their training lessons!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2006

Teaching Your Donkey to Cross the Bridge

This is the perfect time of year to teach your donkey some new tricks!

A few months ago I posted an article about how to build your own bridge obstacle. Now that you've had time to build your own, it's time to teach your donkeys to cross it!

First, your donkey should be leading well and have basic handling training done. Also, you should teach your donkey to cross a sheet of plywood laying flat on the ground. This will get them used to the sound and feel of walking across wood without having to worry about stepping up onto and down off of the bridge.

Once your donkey is good at those basics, set up your bridge obstacle in your training area. Start your training lesson with some of the familiar exercises that your donkey knows well. Then after a few minutes of familiar things, lead your donkey up to the bridge, and let them check it out. They will usually want to sniff it real good and get a good look at it.

Ask your donkey to step closer to the bridge, and when they do, reward them with a small treat or other reward. Then ask for another step and another. Pretty soon your donkey will be standing with his front feet right up next to the bridge. Most donkeys will not want to step on the bridge at first, so getting them up right next to the bridge is the first step.

Once they are comfortable standing right next to the bridge, as then to step up onto it. Usually this works best of you start off asking them to cross the bridge from side to side (the short way) instead of going across it the long way, that way the part they have to step across is wider and not as long. Later you will teach them to cross it the long way from end to end.

Your donkey may try to walk around the end of the bridge instead of cross it. Just quietly bring them back to the side you asked them to cross, and ask them again. Sometimes it helps to stand beside your donkey and set one of their front feet on the bridge then give them a treat and lots of praise. Then next require them to keep that front foot on the bridge while they get their praise and/or treat. If they take their foot off, the reward stops.

Usually it will take 15-30 minutes before they decide they can walk across part of it. The first few times, they will step one or both front feet on and then step off to the side without setting their back feet on. This is a good first try, and deserves lots of praise! Let them repeat that a few more times, then ask that they set more feet on before stepping off to the side (or ideally not step off to the side at all).

After you've gotten them to cross the bridge (setting all feet on as they cross over) about two times, let them be done for that lesson. You want to stop on a good note when they've just done something great that you've been trying to get. Put them away for the day, and let them think about their lesson. I can guarantee they will be thinking about it while they wait for their next lesson!

When you bring them out for their next lesson, start with the basic groundwork exercises that they know well. Then after they've gotten into their lesson, ask them to cross the bridge a couple times. They should be able to set all four feet on it and walk across this time, since they did it in the last lesson. Repeat this process for a few lessons until they happily just walk right across with you when you lead them up to and across the bridge the short way.

Once they are doing well crossing the bridge that way, set up two barrels on either side of the bridge so that they can cross the bridge the long ways in between the barrels. The barrels will work as a guide to help them stay on the bridge while learning to cross it the longer and narrower way. Lead them across it several times that way, and reward their good work. Once they are doing that well, you can start asking them to cross the bridge that way (with the barrels) in their riding and ground-driving lessons.

After they have become proficient at crossing the bridge the correct way between the barrels, you can remove the barrels and/or add other decorations to your bridge obstacle. Some of the favorite decorations that are added to bridges in the show ring trail classes are fake flowers on both sides of the bridge, or blue tarp "water" on both sides. Just be creative, and teach your donkey to accept all kinds of things beside their bridge.

I just recently started several new jennets in my training program, and got a few photos of them showing off their new found talents in crossing my bridge.



Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2006

How Shall We Haul Hay Today?

While we're on the subject of donkey feed and hay, I thought you'd enjoy this story!

While I was going through my files looking for a couple other pictures, I found a photo that I thought you would get a kick out of!

Years ago when we got our first donkey we didn't need much hay for her, so we just bought a few bales at a time from a local hay dealer or hay farmer and brought them home in our little utility trailer. Then I started adding to my donkey collection, and soon I started needing more hay than we could efficiently haul in the little utility trailer. We liked the cheap price we were paying to buy grass hay out of the field from the farmers, but we needed something bigger to haul it in.

So we got a U-Haul truck. I think the first year we did that, we rented one of their largest trucks and an open top trailer. I think we made two trips with that. It was a lot of work picking up all the bales by hand and carrying them to the truck.

The following year I had more donkeys, and we didn't want to make two trips to get the hay, so we rented 3 of U-Haul's largest moving trucks, 2 of their open top trailers, and a BobCat (to move the bales from around the field to the trucks)! This photo shows two of the trucks and their trailers lined up in our driveway. lol! It looks like a hay delivery caravan!


Once we got them home, we unloaded all the hay and stacked it in our barn. The funny thing was that we had to call out the U-Haul repair man to fix something on one of the trucks after we got them back home full of hay. The truck that needed repairs was in the front of the line, which meant that it was farthest from the road. But it couldn't have been more than 300 feet down the drive off of the main road. When the repair man came out he was complaining about how far off the road the truck was!

Soon after that I decided it was too much work picking up all my hay out of the farmers fields, so I just had hay delivered to the farm for a couple years, and then I found a good hay dealer that keeps lots of good grass hay year round in large barns where I can just go down every couple months and fill my horse trailer with hay. We've been getting hay from him since then.

I thought you'd enjoy that story.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2006

How Much Hay Do I Need?

KristieJorgensen.jpgAs winter approaches, many of us are looking ahead and planning how much feed we'll need for the coming months. But how do you know how much hay you will need for your donkeys?

Here are a few formulas that you might find helpful in answering the question “How much feed do each of my donkeys need?”

The standard formula that I use for calculating my donkeys’ hay consumption is:
Donkey’s weight X 1.5% = The weight of hay per day.

Then I multiply that by the number of days I plan to feed hay, and that gives me the amount (weight) of hay that I will need to buy.

So if my donkey weighs 600 lbs., my formula looks like this:
600 lbs. X 1.5% = 9 lbs. of hay per day.

Then if I plan to feed hay for 90 days:
9 lbs. X 90 days = 810 lbs. total of hay.

I can then divide that by the number of pounds the bales each weigh. That will tell me how many bales I need to have.
810 lbs. / 75 lbs. per bale = 10.8 bales

But how do I figure out the amount of hay my donkey should eat, if I don’t know how much my donkey weighs? I started searching, and found a really good article written by Marsha Jo Hannah on the Florida Wild Horse and Burro Association website. It explains several ways to estimate your donkey’s weight.

The amount of hay your donkey actually consumes will vary somewhat from animal to animal depending on several factors, such as how much work your donkey is doing, whether it is a pregnant or nursing mother or not, and what kind of hay you are feeding.

But with these formulas, you should be able to pretty accurately estimate how much hay you should have on hand for the coming winter months, and you also know how to estimate your donkey's weight!

Note: These are the formulas I use for donkeys. Mules may need more that 1.5% of their body weight in hay everyday. And I believe I read somewhere that horses usually need about 2% of their body weight in hay each day.

Also, if possible, please feed your donkeys plain grass hay. They are much healthier on that than being fed alfalfa or alfalfa mix. The alfalfa has too much protein in it for donkeys, and can potentially cause quite a number of serious health problems.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at 03:36 PM | Comments (1)