Eighteen to Twenty Whangarei donkey owners and friends spent part of Saturday 7 October listening to a talk on animal training using positive reinforcement, followed by riding and hoof care sessions at the Cook's block on Mt Tiger.
As happens occasionally in locations where there is a good view, the wind blew! But at least it was fine and not cold,
Pero stood quietly in the sheltered back yard while Heather explained an approach to training, then he caused some amusement by remembering the very short introduction he had had the previous day. The little orange ball on the end of a pointer was immediately recognized, nudged by Pero with his nose, then the appropriate reward was requested! Heather's face was a picture! This wasn't meant to happen, 24 hours after a 5 minute initial introduction! It certainly demonstrated the effectiveness of the training method, or was it great donkey memory, or a bit of both?
After having each member of the group introduce themselves and outline their involvement with donkeys we adjourned to the shed to saddle up Dolittle. He has never submitted quietly to taking passengers on his back and refuses to stand still while being mounted, but, as usual, once anyone is on board he behaves well. Neil took him for a gentle walk, then two rather brave ladies did the same, after initial hassles trying to get into the saddle while Dolittle moved around. Thanks to some feedback from watching horse-wise visitors, we may now have an answer to this activity, which also bugs the grandchildren when they ride Dolittle.
Lunch provided an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and donkey experiences, before walking down to the back paddock to meet Muffin and his family. Muffin, alias Don Quixote is the now gelded father of Lucy and Sancho who were mothered by Ms Dolly. The four run together and have hooves varying from excellent to real problems. Muffin, who behaves impeccably at hoof handling time, enabled us to look at really good hooves, while Dolly showed us how they should not look! That provided a great opportunity to talk about the causes of bad hooves, seedly foot in particular, and the impact of diet on this problem. There was some concern and difference of opinion about what constitutes an overweight donkey. This, combined with an earlier discussion about tongue lolling after eating suggests that there is plenty of scope for another Donkey Day next year, especially if a vet or equine dentist can be involved.