D O N K E Y   T R A I N I N G   e - C L I N I C

     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 5: Leading

              Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 09:54:11 -0500
              From: Vicki/ladywife ladywife@b...
              Subject: Donkey Training E-Clinic: ....

              Now I am ready to teach my donkey to Walk, Stop, Left, and Right.  Before I
              start I want to make sure he understands everything up to this point.  I can
              approach him and he stands quietly waiting, turning his neck to watch me.
              With him untied I can rub him all over his body and pick up his feet without
              him feeling a need to step away or avoid my hand.  If I walk away from him
              he will take a step to follow me.  He will allow me to put on and take off a
              halter without resistence.

              Within a donkey herd young donkeys are taught by their elders to follow
              behind in a single file.  I can use this to help the donkey understand I
              want him to go with me.  I go through the steps of approaching him, rubbing
              him, and putting on his halter.  Now I attach a soft cotton 6 foot lead rope
              to it and stand there and rub him for a couple of minutes and then drop the
              lead rope and walk away from him.  I keep a cautious watch because when he
              takes the first step, he may spook at the snake dangling from his head and
              trying to grab his legs.  I stand back and let him work it out on his own.

              This method avoids the struggle and wrestling match with the donkey.  I am
              letting him teach himself about the magic of the rope and how it can
              mysteriously keep him from walking.  When he steps on the rope it tugs on
              his halter.  He must stop.  This gives him time to think about it.  To take
              a step he must pick up and set down his feet until he finds the one that
              releases the magic rope and lets him walk.  He has already learned in an
              earlier lesson to stand tied.  Now with no one standing near him and no
              posts near him, the rope is tying him to the ground.  This is a very
              important safety lesson that should never be overlooked.  Someday,
              somewhere, someone may fall off of him, or he may become tangled in
              something, this lesson teaches him to STOP.

              When he follows me calmly stopping and starting when he steps on the rope it
              is time for me to pick up the rope and begin directing his line of travel.
              I never pull on his head.  His head is his brake pedal.  Pull on it and he
              will stop.  The harder I pull, the more determined he will be to resist.
              Instead of getting in front of him and pulling, I step to the right and give
              a short tug and release, tug and release that causes him to turn his neck
              toward me.  I am him to turn Left and once his neck bends it is a simple
              progression for me to take another step toward his hip and tug and release
              again.  With his neck bent this far it causes him to shift his center of
              gravity to make himself more comfortable.  The shift of his gravity is the
              beginning of him taking a step with his hind leg.  Whether a donkey is
              turning left, right or walking forward, he must move a hind leg first.
              This is his gas pedal and his gear shift.  His head is just decoration and a
              balancing weight to keep him from falling over.  It is his hindquarters
              that control his direction and his speed.  If I can get his hindquarters to move
              it pushes the rest of his body in the direction I want him to go.

              I tug and release until he moves a single hind foot in the direction of a
              turn to follow me.  Now I move to his other side and do the same thing and
              ask him to turn Right and tug and release until he shifts in that
              It usually does not take very long alternating between sides for him to
              figure out to turn when I step around to that side and give him a tug and
              release I want him to take a step in that direction.  I repeat the Left or
              Right so he will begin understanding what that word cue means.

              Once he understands to give to the slight tug and release to turn, it is
              time to teach him to walk forward.  I use a second rope called a
              "come-along".  This is a lead rope I put a knot in about 4 feet (for a
              standard/large standard/mammoth) from the snap end (bull snap).  Snap the
              snap in the knot.  This makes the rope "P" shaped.  The loop of the "P" is
              what I put over the donkey's rump.  Up to this point I have encouraged him
              to move by tugging and releasing on his lead rope, now I am going to
              encourage him to take a step forward by giving a tug and release on his
              hind quarters to get him to take a step forward.

              Holding the lead rope in my LEFT hand and the end of the come-along in my
              right hand, I am going to step forward, pause and give him a chance to take
              a step forward with me, if he doesn't, then and only then will I give him a
              slight tug and release on the come-along.  This may startle him and cause
              him to bolt forward so I make sure I am standing at his left shoulder where
              I will not be in his path if he does startle.  I only tug on the come-along
              AFTER I have given him an opportunity to take a step on his own to follow
              the direction of my own body moving.  When I step forward I begin with my
              right leg so he can see I am moving.  With practice he will watch to see if
              I am going to move so he can shadow my action.  This is very helpful for
              later when I want him to trot in hand.

              I lead him everywhere, over obstacles, in and out of the trailer, up and
              down hills, circling bushes and trees.  I do not want him to become bored
              with leading so I try to make it interesting and fun for him.  I reward him
              frequently with praise and lots of rubbing.

              If he balks then it is because he does not understand what I want him to
              Instead of trying to force him to do it, I stop and back up to a point
              where he was comfortable.  I do not want to confuse him or shake his confidence
              in himself.  I want him to enjoy being my partner and be self-assured.

              Some donkeys tackle the introduction to new things with glee, others are
              hesitant and take a little more time to assure them it is okay to make a
              mistake.  That all you want them to do is try.


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 © 2001 Vicki Abbott

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