2017 was the Year of the Donkey. There’s no doubt about that. Layla has been with us for an entire year now. I’ve just been looking back at the earlier posts I shared about her, and I was laughing at myself! I didn’t have a clue! Well a little bit. But anyway, a year later, she and I have both changed and learned so much. She has me trained just as much as I have her! 🙂 We are more in tune with each other now. There is no more running off – because she learned how to lead properly, but also because I learned to recognise her body language. I knew when she was about to run off and when she was relaxed, when I had to keep her head close to me and when I could let the lead rope trail.
Right there, she’s happy and relaxed, focused on grazing. There’s no reason to keep a tight hold of her – she isn’t about to run off.
This is a whole different kettle of fish! Her head is high, her ears are pricked up, she’s got her attention on the horses. The horses are excited and curious. In a second, they could all decide to take off running and bucking. Caution required!
So, how far have we come in Layla’s training? Well, how’s this:
Yes, that’s right – I got my kids riding her! Proud mummy here! It took a bit of time and a lot of learning on my part, but in the end, I got her used to a saddle and a rider. Once she understood we weren’t terrifying predators attaching themselves to her body, she couldn’t care less! She’s as steady as a rock. The part we are now working on is steering – she hasn’t got the idea of that yet! Or rather, she doesn’t see the point. She wants to go to get the nice green grass, not the other way.
The change in her is huge. When she came to us, she was almost a wild animal. She was definitely untrained and almost unhandled. Her feet were not in a good state – she had abcesses that had to grow out. She was mistrustful of people and frightened of us putting our hands on her. I just didn’t recognise her fear, because… she’s a donkey, not a horse. Horses respond to fear with an immediate burst of energy. When Layla is afraid, she freezes. I didn’t recognise this as fear at first. During our walks, she sometimes stops dead and stares at something. It took a while before I learned that there is no point trying to make her go on – she just wants to see that there is no danger. After a minute or so, she will usually continue walking.
Dogs are a potential threat. In the beginning, I totally misunderstood her reaction to dogs checking her out. Because she stood still as a statue while they barked and ran around her, I thought she wasn’t afraid. In fact, the opposite was true. She was debating whether to fight the pack of threatening predators surrounding her. Poor girl! She has learned to relax around dogs though. There are a few she actively likes, such as this adorable Italian sheepdog:
Note her half-closed eyes, the droopy ears and the head low to the ground. She’s relaxed. She nuzzles the dog and he licks her, on the face, inside the ears. He sometimes even jumps up with his front paws on her back, and she doesn’t move off. It is very hard to get her to leave after we meet this dog!
She has also learned a few tricks! She figured out how to open the rabbit cages just by watching me do it. At first, I didn’t understand who kept leaving the doors open and letting the rabbits out, until I caught her in the act!
Clever donkey opening the rabbit cage 🙂
She also learned how to break in to the feed shed:
She opens the door by biting and pulling, pawing and pushing! She even completely tore it off once. Now we tie it shut and put a rock in front of it.
All that breaking in and eating rabbit food isn’t good for her! I know she is a bit bored and looking for stimulation. She should have a field, and a friend… both things that we are planning to get her, but are still saving up for!
In the mean time, we found a temporary field for her: the swimming pool! 🙂 Well, not the actual pool itself, but the area around it. It’s closed now for the winter, and there are tons of weeds for her to eat. I bring her there every morning and take her back in the afternoon. She runs around and plays, she eats green stuff and generally enjoys herself! This was her reaction the first time she was there:
Layla in her “field”
I felt guilty seeing how happy she was and how much she needed exercise and green stuff to eat! There is really nothing better than seeing happy animals. That’s what I’m doing it all for! 🙂