D O N K E Y   T R A I N I N G   e - C L I N I C
        groundwork (1b)

      introduction to donkeys and people ----  communication

        part 1a --   groundwork (1a)                                 part 1b --  groundwork (1b)

        part 2a --   first touch (2a)                                     part 2b --   first touch (2b)

        part 3 --   hand leading

        part 4 --    training attitude                                    part 5 --   leading

        part 6 --   step by step training checklist          part 7 --   lunging

               Part 1b   Why ground training?

                 From:  Vicki/ladywife <ladywife@b...>
                 Date:  Sat May 27, 2000 7:25pm
                 Subject:  Why ground training? Part 2

                 Who needs ground training?  The same folks who needed potty training.

                 That's just about everyone isn't it?  When you were born you didn't know
                 what that porcelain throne was for until someone taught you about sitting on
                 it.  If someone had not taken the time to teach you about toilets you would
                 still be wearing a diaper. 

                 Wait, you are saying, I thought this discussion was about ground training
                 horses/donkeys/mules?  What has that got to do with us?  You know, the humans. 

                 The answer is because YOU benefit more from the ground training than the
                 horse/donkey/mule does.  Yeah.  Really.  Each individual animal has it own
                 way of moving, thinking, and responding.  In an average day I ride 12-15
                 different horses/donkeys/mules.  Each one of them is different.  I can not
                 expect one to respond to the exact same cue that works for a different
                 animal.  That is what ground training is about, about learning the animal
                 and learning how to communicate with him.  If you ask Rogo, I am sure she
                 will tell you her mammoth does not respond exactly like her steer or her
                 pig.  She will also probably tell you she learned how to communicate with
                 each of them by doing ground work.

                 While you are teaching your h/d/m ground work, you are actually learning
                 useful and needed information too.

                 Every time you approach a horse/donkey/mule you are unknowingly doing ground
                 work.  Your h/d/m is learning how you move, how you think, and what you
                 expect of him.  If every time you enter his pasture you chase him into a
                 corner until he stops running so you can grab his halter, you have just
                 taught him he is supposed to run like a fool so you can get your daily
                 exercise before you direct him into the corner where he is supposed to stop
                 and wait for you to grab him.

                 Don't chase him.  He thinks you want him to run.  If this is a habit your
                 h/d/m has developed you need to short circuit it now before the day arrives
                 when there is an emergency and you need to catch him quickly so you can move
                 him to safety.  Walk up to the gate with empty hands and if he turns and
                 moves away from you, turn around and put your back to him.  This is animal
                 language for "you hurt my feelings."  Stand there for at least 5 minutes and
                 don't move.  9 out of 10 animals will approach you to see what is wrong.
                 H/D/M are gawkers.  They are nibby.  They can not resist knowing what you
                 are doing.  When he approaches, ignore him.  That's what he did to you, so
                 now you are doing it back to him so he will know how you felt.  Humpf loudly
                 and walk away.  Don't look back.  Just walk away.  Go do something noisy
                 that he can hear you doing but can't see you doing it.

                 In 30 minutes walk back to the gate again.  He will still probably move away
                 so repeat what you did earlier.  The second time is important if he moved
                 away.  This reinforces in his mind that he hurt your feelings.  Leave him
                 again and continue with your noisy work where he can't see you.  Come back
                 again in another 30 minutes.  This time his curiosity has the best of him,
                 he may move slightly away a few steps but that's okay.  That's an acceptable
                 distance.  The habit you want to break is when he moves several steps or
                 walks away just out of your reach so you end up following him. 

                 Anytime he puts you in a position where you are following him, turn around
                 and walk away from him.  This lets him know you are not happy with him. 

                 This is the very basics of ground training.  To be able to train a h/d/m you
                 must learn to communicate your wishes to him in a way he will understand.
                 Two donkeys in a pasture.  One wants to groom and the other one wants to be
                 left alone to take a nap.  The second donkey will turn his back (butt) to
                 the wanting-to-groom donkey to let him know "no".  This is a posture your
                 h/d/m already understands so use it to begin communicating with him.  You
                 walked up to the gate and your h/d/m walked away from you.  He told you "no,
                 I do not want you to bother me now."  You turned your back which told him
                 you disagreed with him.  Then you walked away telling him "well fine, buddy,
                 I'll just go do something fun and I won't share it with you."

                 When you returned the second time you were telling him you were giving him a
                 second chance to share some fun with you.  If he walked away, you repeated
                 the scolding by walking away from him again.  The third time you approached
                 the gate he knew what to expect if he didn't wait patiently for you to walk
                 up to him.  If he did wait patiently you rewarded him with praise in a
                 joyous tone of voice and rubbed his shoulder in a "you are my favorite
                 friend" gesture.

                 Being able to walk up to your h/d/m anytime, anyplace with NO FOOD IN YOUR
                 HANDS is an accomplishment you should be proud of.  It is the first giant
                 step in developing a solid relationship.

                 One of the things I see most often is people set themselves up to fail.
                 They will put their h/d/m in a 40 acre field and then become frustrated when
                 he high-tails it over the hill when they approach him.  Or they will put him
                 in a suitable 10x20 paddock but they will put one or two other animals in it
                 with him.  That does not work.  Why should he make the effort to learn how
                 to communicate with you if he has a buddy that already speaks his language?

                 Training is a one to one communication.  Remember way back when you were in
                 elementary school?  You were in a classroom with 20-40 other kids with one
                 teacher.  When the teacher started explaining long division your mind went
                 blank.  It was like she was speaking Martian. Do what with this number and
                 carry this to where?  Borrow?  Huh?  Only when you took your book up to her
                 desk and she spent one to one time explaining it to you were you able to
                 grasp all the strange words and notions of complicated mathematics.  Once
                 you understood how it works it became a solid foundation for you to build on
                 when she began throwing even weirder mathematic stuff at you.  That is the
                 same thing you are doing with ground work.  You are building a solid
                 foundation of cooperation and understanding.

                 Put him in a small enclosure by himself.  You don't have to schedule 8 hours
                 a day 7 days a week to do his ground training.  Five minutes here, five
                 minutes there every day and within a week's time you will be amazed at how
                 much difference there is in how you can speak to your h/d/m.

                 If you want to jump right on and start riding, then go buy a h/d/m that is
                 already well trained and spend a week learning to ride him under the
                 tutelage of his previous owner.  That is the safest way and it avoids
                 traumatizing a beautiful, gentle creature.  If you think you don't have time
                 to waste a week learning to talk to your new h/d/m, I will warn you now to
                 expect him to change.  If you have not made the effort to establish
                 communication with that well trained h/d/m eventually he will become
                 frustrated by your demand he do this and this and this and your lack of
                 giving to him in return and he will develop some rather nasty and unpleasant
                 habits.  To be a pleasure for him and for you it must be a relationship.
                 You give and take and he takes and gives.

                 Even well trained experienced horses/donkeys/mules need that give and take
                 of an exchange of communication otherwise their confidence lags and the joy
                 disappears and they become unwilling slaves to your wants and demands. 

                 Anyone who has ever tried to ride a barn sour h/d/m away from the barn knows
                 exactly what I mean.  There is no pleasure in having to wrestle that sucker
                 do get him to go the direction you want him to go. 

                 Horses/donkeys/mules are not Chevrolets where you can jump in and turn the
                 key when you want to go somewhere and then park them out of the way until
                 you want to go again.  They are living, breathing, feeling, thinking flesh
                 and blood with emotions, wants, and needs just like us.  Sure, they walk on
                 4 legs and bray or whinny but their heart can be broken just like ours.  All
                 you have to do is observe the depth of emotion a new mother displays for her
                 newborn foal to understand how much like us they really are. 



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 © 2001 Vicki Abbott