Growing up in the country on a small farm that bordered my uncle’s larger farm, I had access to a LOT of animals even if they technically didn’t belong to me as my pets. One animal that sticks out was Jack, the jack (aka male donkey). I was super young when Jack arrived on the farm, and I’m not really sure where he came from. My uncle (mom’s brother) probably purchased him at auction. Jack lived on several different properties, throughout my childhood, but always returned to my uncle’s farm next door.
Jack is remembered for being the kindest, gentlest of animals. He let small children climb over him and never misbehaved. The other thing I remember about Jack was his rivalry with my horse. My uncle once remarked that Jack would cross through three fence lines, and open gates just for the opportunity to fight with my gelding. My horse and Jack would stand on opposite sides of the fence and bite at each other for hours. I’m still not sure if these spats were amorous or hatred driven, but no one was ever hurt in their marathon wrestling sessions.
My mother’s sister also had property that bordered my uncle (her brother). Even though she lived in another state, my aunt and uncle spent many of their weekends on the home place restoring the farm house she lived in as a child. Jack loved my aunt, probably because she baby talked to him while feeding him all manner of treats like carrots, oreos, or powdered sugar donuts . Every time he spotted her he would come running braying this loud HEE-HAW that could be heard anywhere on the property and neighboring properties (think 1000 acres).
Jack was cute, but I never really saw the purpose in donkey ownership for myself. My uncle used donkeys to train cattle to lead for shows, and sheep farmers use them to guard flocks. I do not plan on increasing the Gardner HLH farm sheep herd or showing cattle, though. THEN…I attended the Southwest Donkey and Mule show (SWDMS). Having been to all manner, discipline, and level of horse show, I’d never been to a donkey or mule show. Bell County Expo center had just completed the new equestrian center and the SWDMS would be one of the first events hosted there.
Nothing could prepare me for the cuteness that awaited me at the SWDMS. Holy crap I just wanted to smoosh faces, stare into those giant brown eyes, and the EARS! The show and competitors were so much more laid back than any horse show I’d ever attended. Even though I loved attending the show, I still didn’t really feel the need to own my own donkey or mule yet. Then Darling Husband went to the BLM event to select his mustang for the M&V 2018 program, and I was drawn to the burro corral. In that moment I knew. We NEEDED one of these long eared creatures on our little farm.
Fast forward six months, and my presence is required to present at a company meeting hosting all of our VPs for the next three days. This just so happens to be the same day that Darling Husband and Great Friends planned to attend a BLM adoption event in Paul’s Valley OK (so much for me taking vacation to go). Our friends planned to purchase two mustangs for themselves, and were prospecting for a client that had hired them to source, halter break, and put the first ride on a mustang. It was affectionately suggested by one of my blog readers (who knows Great Friends), that I refer to them as The Blonde and DumbA$$, but I’m still sticking with my super generic name to protect the innocent. I digress. Devastated to miss out on a fun road trip to see mustangs, I sent Darling Husband with a brand new purple halter and orders to procure me a burro.
Four hours into my meetings, the initial photos of the Paul’s Valley donkey corral began hitting my messages. I drew pink arrows over my top choices, and Darling Husband reported back which burro belonged to me (technically the U.S. government for the next twelve months, but once they see the cush life our animals live, titling this donkey will be no issue.) I’m now the proud caretaker, soon to be owner of Thistle, a three year old jenny (aka female donkey) that may or may not be in foal! Thistle wasn’t actually my top choice, but apparently donkeys were in high demand today and there were a few bidding wars on the more popular asses. Not all of the horses adopted out today, but the donkey corral was empty!
I tried to focus on meetings as pictures of Thistle in her new purple halter loading into the trailer began to flood my phone. She’s a little under weight, and her feet could probably use a trim, but a few weeks on our farm and she’ll look like a rock star, providing that she lets us touch her in the next month. Of course after being rounded up from her home in the wild, run through a livestock shoot, injected with vaccines, drenched with de-wormer, shuttled between different government facilities, and auctioned off, she’s a little stressed and confused. Bless her, Thistle seems curious about the strange people hanging out around her temporary home, our round pen. Several of our neighbors stopped by to check out my ass last night. We’re giving her a few days to settle in, and then we’ll begin getting her used to all things “people.”
I “need” a donkey like I need a hole in my head. I’ve never worked with a donkey besides giving Jack treats, and I’m starting with a completely wild young animal. Conversations with competitors at the Mule and Donkey show and multiple horse trainers as I was toying with the idea of adopting a donkey have convinced me that I can throw everything I know about training equine out the window when working with my burro. Pressure and release apparently aren’t the motivators for donkeys that they are for horses and ponies. So I bought a book through Kindle, downloaded it on my phone, and proceeded to read all four hundred pages in the three days leading up to Thistle’s delivery. I can also readily access it when I’m standing in the round pen wondering what in the hell my ass is doing.
So stay tuned for the adventures of Thistle in addition to all of the other equine mis-adventures we have going on!