Hello my dear blog friends! I hope you’re all having a great weekend! I had a very eventful and productive donkey-training week, I will tell you all about it! 🙂
We are getting to know Tiltan a lot better now, and she us. We are having some minor troubles with the name – I like Tiltan (Clover), I think it’s a very cute name and also, my 2 year old niece invented it, so I am honour-bound to keep it! 🙂 But I keep calling her “Jenny” and S. calls her “Layla” (Night), so the poor thing is probably totally confused. We should really sort it out!
Anyway we are enjoying the donk very much, she is clever, friendly and full of life! We definitely got lucky when we found her, and her previous owners lost out… No one has come to find her, and we are getting more confident that she belongs with us. I have no idea what kind of training she has had, but I’ve been working with her starting at the very beginning – come, stand, back, getting used to the halter… I think she has been sort-of-trained, but not in a positive way. In the Bedouin way, probably. She is terrified of machinery, which makes me suspect they forced her to move by driving at her with a car or tractor. I actually found people recommending this method on a forum. It’s a good thing that her pen is right by the field road, where tractors drive back and forth all the time. This way, she can figure out for herself that they won’t do anything to her. At first, she ran off whenever she heard one, but now she just stand there, looking suspicious.
I am determined to try and turn around any negative training she might have had. I want every single experience she has with humans to be a good one, full of treats, pats and kind words. I want her to learn to love us and to trust that what we ask her to do won’t affect her negatively. When she came to us, she did not like our hands coming at us and moved away whenever we made to touch or stroke her. I’m now trying to associate human touch with something she likes – such as food! She’s extremely food-oriented, which is mostly a good thing but has some negative sides too! 🙂
She is a very fast learner, makes connections quickly and is extremely inventive trying to get to the food. I’ve had to block access to the chicken food, but watch how she manages to get to this bin of bread:
I’ve put the bin away now, because it’s probably not good for her to eat too much bread! It’s my father-in-law who leaves the bread – he simply cannot bear that I’m paying good money for chicken food! So he brings me bread from the cow barn. Who am I to argue! 😉
I haven’t trusted the donk around children yet, because of this:
This is after I let her out of her pen in the morning! 🙂 She usually calms down after she’s run a few laps of the yard, but I would not want any small children to be around that. So she stays in her pen in the afternoons and on Saturdays, when there are visitors. But in the mornings when it’s only me, she can run free. After she gets rid of some excess energy, I give her breakfast and feed the other animals while she eats. Otherwise, she follows me around trying to get at the rabbit and chicken feed. Then I put on her halter – which is only possible by coaxing her with treats – and work with her for a while. I’ve been teaching her to walk with me, stop when I ask and back up when I need to open the gate. She gets a treat whenever she does something right, which works a treat – except that she got a little too frisky with her teeth trying to find treats in our hands. It was very easy to teach her to wait until we offered it to her though – I think she got that in about ten minutes.
Yesterday, I thought that I could try to take her for a walk outside again. Well! That turned out to be a bit of a misjudgment on my part. Think of the video I showed her of her running through the pet zoo like a donkey on speed, and then imagine her doing it while I’m trying to hold on to her. Phew! I totally blame myself though. It was Saturday, she’d been penned the whole day, and what red-blooded equine could resist the sight of this?
She was so excited by the sight of all that lovely wheat grass that she took off at high speed, dragging me after her practically flying through the air holding on to her lead rope. She only did it for about two seconds though, and she stopped quickly when she realized she was dragging me. She could have so easily shaken me off, kicked me, got rid of me – but she didn’t. We spent some time walking through the field, grazing. Well, I didn’t graze – she did. LOL. Then when it was time to return, she did need a bit of encouragement in the form of a sweet teenage girl with a bowl of rabbit food (thank god for my helpers!), but then she went back inside willingly enough, while I wiped the cold sweat from my face. I think we haven’t quite progressed to the stage where we can take walks outside yet! Maybe it will be easier after the wheat is harvested.
Today, we made major progress when she met a group of children for the first time. My youngest son’s daycare came to visit in two groups. I took her out of her pen while the children burst into the gate, all excited and eager to see the animals. With the first group, I kept the kids on a distance. She looked at them and they looked at her. She listened to the noise they made, little high voices chattering and laughing. I gave her treats while she stood still, then I walked her around the yard while the children played with the bunnies and looked for eggs. She behaved perfectly. With the next group, I gave her some food in a bucket while the children came up to her, crowded around her and stroked and petted her. She didn’t move a muscle! She was so focused on her food that she didn’t mind being stroked by lots of little hands. Usually, she moves away from our touch, even if she is eating. I did the same thing again, leading her around while the children were busy doing other stuff, and then put her back in her pen and gave her lots of grass. I was so proud of her! She will be a people-loving pet zoo animal in no time!
I just hope she won’t figure out how to unbolt the gate… I wouldn’t put it past her!! But if she does escape, I hope that she will return to us by herself. I think she is pretty happy here!