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Skittish Donkeys

 
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Hello! We have 2 new geldings we adopted from a rescue center. We have had them for about 3 weeks now. They are about 5 years old.  They haven't been handled much and are quite skittish, but we have been working with them daily and we are slowly gaining their trust. They both arrived with halters on. I would like to remove the halters, as I've already seen one of them get it snagged on something, but they still won't let us unbuckle the halters without bolting.
My question is:  should I give them more time, as I don't want them to be fearful of us, or should we just 'strong-arm' them and get it done although it may undo weeks of trust-building? Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you
 
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If the harnesses are on comfortably ( not too tight or too loose) I'd be patient, personally. Just watch, to make sure they don't get caught on anything.
 
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I would also leave them on (my experience is more with horses than donkeys, but i suspect it's similar)- the chance of you freaking them out and setting back your progress is probably greater than them getting it caught on anything.
I'm also a big fan of leaving halters on, especially with animals you don't know well yet, just in case you have some sort of emergency and need to be move them/tie to provide care/etc. (yes I am a big worrywart. sorry.)
 
Anne Ford
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Thank you! I will do that for now.
 
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Hi Anne:   Its just going to take time to gain their trust. I agree about leaving the halters on for safe handling.  
Donkeys are incredible animals if they like / trust you... Donkeys and mules are a favorite pack animal for retrieving wild game from the mountains.
At 5 years old these guys are going to take time to decide if your worthy of their trust.
Do not strong arm them... they will not forget.

I see they are rescues.
Were you just offering them a safe happy home? Or are you hoping to pack /camp with them?
If you are hoping to pack with them, you might consider a third donkey.
Best would be a trained packer but a happy youngster might do well at helping your rescues  adjust.


download-(8).jpg
Happy donkey
Happy donkey
 
Anne Ford
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Hi Thomas.
Thank you for your reply. We adopted these geldings just as pets and enjoyment. I wish I knew what their history was. I tried to tie a lead to one of their halters a couple weeks ago, and he is still mad at me. Lol.
So far, one of them has let me pet him over his back and down 1 leg for about 20 seconds before he moves away. Hopefully I keep making progress before they need any medical attention or trimming!
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Anne;
That's super you guys are giving happy homes to rescues!
Since these guys are just for happiness, find a treat that they dearly love and BRIBE them!
Fruit, sugar cubes, alfalfa/molasses ??? Who knows what it is they like... but when you figure it out, they should respond.

Shelter ,food,clean water and maybe treats... it will take time but eventually they will come to trust that you mean them no harm.

 
Anne Ford
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Thanks Thomas. We will!
 
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Maybe you don't need to take it this far, however something like what we did with a rescued horse might work.  Our farrier said he should be put down.  Dad wasn't going to do that.  I asked the farrier what could be done.  He suggested I put a chair near the gate and leave an apple or pear on a post several posts down.  Each day move the chair a few inches closer.  I did homework to have something to do while waiting.  The farrier said leave the horse alone, don't look at him, don't approach him, don't make fast moves and be still as possible until he walks away.  About six weeks later I was a few feet from the post with fruit on it.  One day I rested my hand on the fence post and held the fruit.  The horse took it.  A couple days later he came into his stall while I was mucking and putting hay down.  I ignored him, finished up a little more quickly than usual :.) and climbed the stall wall to sit and watch him so I could also get out if he got wonky.  He just ate his hay.  That became a habit for a week or so.  One day I noticed our barn cat sitting on his rump while he was eating hay.  I slid one foot onto his rump next to the cat and he was okay with it.  A few days later I slid off the stall wall onto his back and he just ate his hay.  Then he walked around with me sitting on him.  Next day I put a hay string through his halter and let him feel it on the sides of his neck.  I made sure he could see or feel where my hands were at all times and moving slowly was important.  The next summer he was doing some reining and eventually going around barrels in one of the ponds :.)  And sometimes I slept on the hay with him ^.^

Ptience and going slow cannot be overemphasized.  He went from almost being glue and wearing apparel to forever being an amazing part of my life <3  While he was healing, it was important he be around us on his terms.  When he began trusting, it was important not to undo that.  He gave back all the gentle kindness he'd been shown and then some.  Never had to break him.  Only had to show him something new and go slow with it.

Given time, your donkeys can come around to feeling safe around you.  And others, too, if they take the time needed.  A soft muzzle nudging you for a cuddle or a treat feels so good it's worth the wait.

I will add that he wore the same halter Dad brought him home with, for months.  It was probably 3-4 months after we had him that he would let anyone move toward his face because he'd been beaten so badly.  His poor mouth had been scarred with rope and... yeah.  

You can bet your donkeys are skittish for a reason, even if only because they haven't been handled or not handled properly.  About leaving the halters on for now, maybe something can be done where the halters catch.  Hang or lay something over that spot?
 
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My experience is with horses not donkeys, but I would get those halters off as quick as they will let you. A horse can get a halter snagged and panic, ripping the skin off of most of it's face. I think donkeys are maybe a little smarter, so hopefully they won't do that.

I once got an untouched colt to accept a halter within 2 days by bribing it with a bucket of oats. Abused animals would take longer but the process would be the same. Try holding a bucket of oats, or other treats, in one hand. With the other hand you pet the neck and ears while it eats. It will probably pull away a lot at first, but eventually realize that the petting doesn't hurt. At that point you should be able to get the halter off. Keep doing the treats every day until they actually like you, and you can put on and take off the halter without problems.

Also try not to look directly at them, that is what predators do.
 
Anne Ford
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Could anyone tell me how to upload a photo on this site? My donkey has some kind of skin condition developing, and I was hoping someone out there might offer suggestions as to what it could be.
 
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clicker training could be useful, though I'm no expert there are plenty of videos on youtube for all different species. for getting them used to you, nothing beats just sitting in the pasture, reading aloud or just chilling. before you get the halters off I would recommend getting them comfortable enough for you to catch with a leadrope (you know, looping it over their neck to 'hold them' while you would halter them) and maybe training them to come when called/whistled.

strong arming is a big no-no, not just becuase it will set them back, but unless you're in a round pen, it'll also make it impossible to catch them again without traumatizing them further. What kind of pasture/paddock are they in, what king of leadropes do you have? I'm familiar with the kind that have a clip on the end, which may be easier to use until they are calmed down.

That's great progress with the one, I would see if he lets you loop a leadrope around his neck and hold for a second before releasing. That moment is key because if you can teach him to stand for longer, it'll make it easier to take the halter off.

I've never met a horse that doesn't like peppermint and hopefully that goes for donkeys at well. you can get a big bag at a dollar store; crinkling the plastic can be enough to bring them running once they're conditioned to them.
 
gardener
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Anne Ford wrote:Could anyone tell me how to upload a photo on this site? My donkey has some kind of skin condition developing, and I was hoping someone out there might offer suggestions as to what it could be.





details in this thread: https://permies.com/t/61133/Post-Image-Permies
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Anne;
To expound on Amy's answer.
After you click on the attachment button,the screen changes and you see a choice to upload a file.
Clicking on that button will bring up your photo's from your computer.
Highlighting the photo you want and click open.

After you have downloaded your pictures then hit submit.

One note , photo's that are too large will be very slow to load.
 
Anne Ford
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Thanks everyone. This bare area on Walter's rump started a few weeks ago, and I thought it was just matted fur at 1st, but now its obvious he's lost quite a bit of hair. Is this normal winter shedding, or a type of mange or parasite? I'd love to know what you think.
20200514_193150.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200514_193150.jpg]
 
Anne Ford
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And thank you for the handling tips. I have now been trying to get his halter back ON, because we have a vet appointment in a couple weeks.
Of course , as soon as he sees the lead or halter in my hands, he bolts. So my tactic has been to get a chair and sit in the pasture, WITH the halter in my lap. He is curious and watchs me.
Eventually he approaches, and I praise him and pet him, all the while with the halter in plain view. I keep the halter in my hands as I give him treats. I'm hoping soon he will allow me to slip it over his head.
He has worn halters his whole life, so he knows exactly what it is I'm trying to do. Hope this works.
 
Morgwino Stur
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sounds like you're doing amazing! It's good you're working on it so early and giving him time to learn. The spot on his rump looks like he's just shedding to my not entirely expert eye. if you can touch the border area, see if the hair there doesn't come off easy. I know with horses, when they start shedding it tends to be a bit patchy at first, and the areas where they can't rub (belly, crook of the legs, etc) are the last to go. the placement looks like he could just rub that area easily, but if that was the case it should be the same on the other side. the only two skin conditions I know of for horses are rain rot and ringworm, and based off that picture I'd say it was neither. If the hair thins out further, to the point you can see skin, or gets clumpy that'd be the sign it's something that needs addressing.
 
Anne Ford
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Thanks for your reply! I will keep an eye on it.
 
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I use to live with and train donkeys, horses and mules, for many years. Donkeys are my favorite, because what most people who don't know them don't know is that they are very different from mules or horses. Donkeys are much smarter, have a much longer memory, enjoy music, have a sense of rhythm are very curious and a have a sometimes silly and amazing sense of humor. During your getting to know them, play to their strengths. I would recommend something like putting a treat under one of two upside down buckets, and when they find it, laugh with them. Do something interesting near them, they like to watch progress, lol!  As other said, take your time, they are really worth it. They also will become tame enough to enjoy going for walks with you long before they let you tack them up, but eventually, it will all be part of a game for them. Life is a game for donkeys.
 
Anne Ford
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Thank you, Cady.
I am learning as I work with them every day what draws them in, and what makes them shy away. They love watching us do projects in their pasture and are so curious. It feels like it has been a very slow progress with them, and sometimes I think they will never get used to people or like our company. I don't think they have had much positive interactions with humans before they came to us.  But then they will surprise me and let me.....touch their ears for the first time, or come running to me when they see me instead of ignoring my arrival.. I still can't get them used to the kind of handling they will need for foot trimming or the vet, but I hope I can get them there before their feet grow out.
They definitely set their own timeline; they like attention until they don't. I've found they even have a preference for what time of the day I interact with them, so I try to use that to my advantage.  I try not to push them and let them set their own pace and make every interaction really enjoyable for them.
I am going to try to attach a lead to Walter's halter tonight, (with treats galore!), and let him see that nothing horrible is happening to him. Wish me luck!  Baby steps.
 
Anne Ford
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I did it! I got Walter's lead on! I had it in my hand, and he knew it, but I kept talking to him and giving him sugar cubes.
Then I reached under his chin and clicked it on. He bolted, to the left, then to the right, tried to run out of the barn. I just stood still and held my ground,  all the while talking to him.
He abruptly stopped fighting me, then accepted another sugar cube. I immediately removed the lead then and praised and praised him. Whew!
I was worried he would be "traumatized" from our lesson and would be angry with me, but when I left and returned to his pasture, he came running over just like before. Double whew!
I have no idea what I'm doing, but I hope its a method that works.
 
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