Sunday, March 08, 2009

Disciplining Dixie

In short, we sort of failed in some regards where Dixie is concerned (and I know I've written about this before but I am going to rehash rather than post a link to the previous post because I am just too darn lazy to fish through 300+ posts to find it). We brought her home in December when it was COLD and when I was super busy studying for my Series 65 and we did not really train her or work with her and right when I made the commitment to start working with her more Lucky, Buster and Peanut were born and then...well, we all know what happened after that...

To be fair, there are 2 schools of thought where donkeys are concerned. One is that they require the same training and discipline as horses. This means regular feedings. Halter training. Working with their feet (critical when it comes time to have the farrier trim their hooves). Keeping them up in a stall for a portion of the day (daytime in the summer, nighttime in the winter) so that they don't gorge themselves and founder.

The other school is simply that they are donkeys and to let them be. As one donkey (and horse) owner I know put it, unless you plan to put them in the circus, what's the point of all that training?

At the end of the day, we wound up subscribing to the regular feedings (which we sort of had to do because of the goats) and putting Dixie up at night. Putting her up at night seemed like the one aspect of disciplining I could handle. I would also put her bridle on daily - even though you aren't really supposed to keep a bridle on a donkey unnecessarily because they can injure themselves and/or get caught on something and all sorts of bad things can happen.

So this has pretty much been the routine for the last few years. Until...

The other week I met with another Country Girl (and donkey owner) such as myself. We had coffee and were swapping animal tales and I mentioned that we put Dixie up at night and she asked why. One of the whole reasons for having a donkey is to protect your herd. If a coyote or a pack of wild dogs or any predator were to get in the pasture, Dixie would kick, stomp and in general PROTECT.

Well of course we knew this and there have been plenty of occasions were we heard things in the woods (coyotes perhaps) and we left Dixie out so that Lucky and company might be protected. But after a night or 2 we'd go back to putting her up because that was the one form of discipline we really employed.

But my conversation with Country Girl II got me thinking.

So Marty and I made the decision to start leaving Dixie out at night. It made sense. Wasn't protecting our kids the single most important thing?

That then posed a new problem. Dixie's bridle. I would always put it on her in the morning when I let her out of her stall and I would always take it off at night when I put her up. However, if I wasn't doing that, there seemed to be no reason to use her bridle at all. But when I stopped using her bridle over the summer when she developed all of those hot spots, it was very difficult to get her used to it again once she finally healed.

So I'll pause in my ramblings to say that with all of this cold weather, there's not a whole lot of green in our pasture. Our yard is a little bit better and Marty and I have recently noticed that when we let Lucky out, she seems more interested in what little green is in our yard than any treats we are planning on giving her.

So yesterday. Yesterday was gorgeous. And we were standing in the back yard and let Lucky out so she could spend some time with us (or maybe so we could spend some time with her - I am never quite sure who misses who more). And she of course started furiously eating the grass and we could tell that Dixie was jealous because Dixie is ALWAYS jealous when we let Lucky out and then it occurred to me.

Once upon a time, I used to put Dixie's bridle on, and put her on a lead, and bring her out to the yard and work with her. Why not start again? This would effectively accomplish several things.

1) Give Dixie access to some green stuff (at least until the pasture grows in).

2) Give Dixie some minor form of discipline. I am not saying we (and yes, I mean WE) will do this every day but 1 - 2 days a week we should be able to put her bridle on and bring her out with Lucky for a 10 minutes to work/play.

3) Assuage Dixie's jealousy of Lucky.

And so after a bit of a struggle, I got Dixie's bridle on (it's so much easier to do it when she's in her stall and being bribed with a treat), got her on the lead, and brought her out. She fussed some but that's to be expected. We haven't done this in a while. But she loved grazing in the yard (I brought her over to her favorite patch of bushes behind the garage that I remembered she loved from when I used to do this on a regular basis). And she loved being with us and Lucky.

She even let me work on her feet a little! I was thrilled!

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...