It was high time Shiloh earned her keep around here. We had a foot of fresh snow on the ground, we needed to create some trails to help with our farm chores, the kids wanted to do some sledding but there are no sledding hills around, we needed to deliver some Christmas pastries to the neighbors, and I had a donkey bored out of her mind in the pen. I decided to deal with everything at once, and have a ton of fun while doing so!
I called JR to help me (he has become my donkey-lover-in-training), and told him my plan. He was as eager as I was! Then, we tried to go step by step, which is pretty easy and fast with a donkey. Mind you, before I go on, I want to note that you do have to be careful working a pregnant equine. In Shiloh’s case, she is ridden for short periods of time on a regular basis, and occasionally for longer periods of time. As she gets bigger, I ride her less, and allow the kids to do most of the riding to prevent stressing her. However, although I wouldn’t introduce anything very strenuous in her current condition, lightweight pulling is much easier than carrying a rider, which is why I decided to do it. OK, back to our adventure:
- First, we brought out a somewhat pregnant (about 7 months at best estimate) and onery donkey jenny. I worked her for a minute to improve the attitude a bit. She seems to be cranky a lot these days, as her pregnancy progresses. Oh well. I remember feeling that way, too!
- JR groomed her while I gathered together a makeshift harness.
- I reviewed her ropes training, to ensure she was desensetized to ropes all over her still. Of course, she was fine. She is pretty laid back for the most part.
- Then, I got creative. I know the parts of a good harness, but the problem is, I don’t have one. So, I made do as best I could. If there are any experienced drivers out there, please don’t yell at me. A harness is in our future plans, but in the mean time….
- After “harnessing” her up, I worked her a bit in circles to give her the feel of the straps all over her.
- Once she seemed comfortable, JR led her around while I walked behind and applied increasing amounts of pressure to the straps, simulating her pulling something.
- When she was fine with that, I led, while JR pulled the sled behind her, getting her aquainted with the noise of the sled.
- Finally, we hitched her up and let her pull the empty sled, followed by JR getting on the sled and riding while I led her around.
All that work only took us about an hour from start to finish, and we had the beginnings of a sled donkey! Here is a photo of her first time pulling JR:
After our training session, we were ready to go have some fun! We bundled up the kiddos, S got the camera and the pastries, we strapped some jingle bells onto Shiloh, and off we went down the ice-and-snow-covered, dirt road.
Because it was Shiloh’s first time, we didn’t want to overstress her. For longer stints, we limited the weight to JR and N, or we put M, A, and N on together. Although S and I both had to try it out, neither of us rode very long. I’m sure she would’ve been fine, but again, between being in foal and her first time under harness, I wanted to keep the experience as easy and pleasant as possible.
After we delivered the pastries around the neighborhood, we jingled our way back home, and let the kids take turns riding the sled at a walk and trot, as I allowed her to flatten out walking paths in the snow for me to do my farm chores.
After it was all finished, she got a quick hoof maintenance trim, and got to return to her pen.
Why, you might ask, would I go to all that trouble to hitch her up, when we could just pull kids on a sled?
Because I can. Because it’s waaaaay more fun to be pulled by a donkey than mom and dad–especially when she trots. And because mom and dad wear out much faster than Shiloh does. Besides, I love the sound of jingle bells and hoofbeats. That’s why.
Just for fun, we took a few video clips of our little adventure. Enjoy!