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January 20, 2009

Old Enough to Start Training? Part 2

So what can you start teaching your donkey? And at what age?

Your donkey is never too young to start learning. But what you teach them will differ depending on their age and maturity.


So for instance I handle my donkeys all over from the moment they are born, start teaching them about letting me pick up their feet when they are still very young (1 day old with my last foal). Just make sure that momma donkey is ok with you handling her newborn baby first. This jennet was more than happy to let me mess with her baby as long as I was scratching momma's shoulder too.

When they are 3 months old or so, I start gently teaching them to lead. By the time they are weaned I like them to be leading reasonably nicely, and as a part of that I also start them with a few basic obstacles to add variety to the leading lessons (going over ground rails, across the bridge, around barrels and pylons, exploring around the yard) - just simple fun little games to keep them interested and make learning fun. Once they are comfortable with the simple obstacles, they can also be taught to get in and out of the trailer.

They also need to learn to respect my personal space at this age. While it might be cute to have a little baby donkey plow into you for attention, it isn't quite so funny and is downright dangerous when they get a little bigger. It's much easier to teach them that respect as a weanling.

Then comes the wait while they grow up a little... During this time I continue their training in the area of basic obstacles and handling, take them out to visit new places and see new things (walks down the street, take them to a couple of shows just to go exploring around a new, busy, noisy environment, etc). And in general let them "enjoy their childhood" and not push them too hard to learn "adult" training. They should view their lessons as fun playtime sessions, not drudgery work.


When they are 2 1/2 to 3 years old, I think a donkey can start learning ground driving. My young jennet, Star, is 2 1/2 now, and I had thought I would wait a little longer, but she was begging so much to come in for lessons, and I was getting tired of doing the same obstacle ground work with her. So I decided I'd give her a try at ground driving, and see if she picked it right up or got burned out trying to learn it. After a session or two, she had it down pat like a pro, and absolutely loves it. So obviously she's mentally mature enough to learn ground driving at 2 1/2 years old. I'll wait until she's about 3 years old to start light driving in the cart, but in the meantime, she is soaking up her ground driving lessons, and loves showing off her new skills!

I think Star will mature out at the lower end of mammoth size range, probably at around 55-56" tall, so I think she'll probably be ready to start carrying a rider when she's 4 years old. By then she should be a pro at driving, and riding should come quite easily since she'll already know the commands and rein signals from her driving training.


Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at January 20, 2009 07:27 AM