Most of our donkeys are quite small in stature - they stand on average at 10 hands. We have several old carriages that are far too big for such small donkeys so we needed someone taller!
We very rarely buy donkeys, preferring to adopt or breed our own, but for a donkey of 13 hands we had to invest. We searched online all over Ireland, and we eventually settled on a beautiful mare, 13.2 hands, grey and according to the advert - broken (trained to work).
When we went to see the mare in her stables, as soon as we entered the stable she shied to the back corner. Despite her reluctance to interact with us, she was so beautiful and still seemed very sweet. So we got her and brought her home to Kinedale - we named her Silver Jubilee, or Meg as her stable name!
After a week of settling, we took her into the field with a few of our quieter mares so Meg could be inducted into the herd. This was a big mistake! She ran to the far end and was near impossible to catch. Now because Meg is so much bigger than our other donkeys, we didn’t want to put her, the other donkeys or ourselves in danger. We tried enticing her with hay, with buckets of feed, with carrots but to no avail… She seemed particularly spooked by the men which can be fairly common in animals. So the men held back while Becky approached Meg on her own - bucket in one hand and a lead rope in the other. With slow deliberate movements, Becky eventually managed to reach her and place a hand under her chin. Meg allowed the contact and further allowed to have a lead rope put on her.
Meg clearly hadn’t been trained to the degree she had been advertised, she didn’t even seem to be handled! Her fear of men also raised our suspicions that her history was not what we were told. But no matter, she was with us now and had the chance to be treated with kindness and to be a much loved member of Kinedale. We spent days and weeks allowing Meg to get used to humans - in a good way. We spent longer with her, stroking her and talking to her in a low, calm voice until she started to come to the stable door when she saw one of us approaching. Even though she was now comfortable, we scrapped our plans of having her as a carriage driver - it didn’t seem fair now!
We still wanted to work with her though - as Meg seemed to respond to Becky well, we started to train her to simple voice commands. In our experience with training donkeys they are incredibly clever and Meg was no exception. It took only an afternoon for her to learn them all! One thing we noted was that Meg appeared to enjoy a challenge. You could see the intelligence while she worked out exactly what you wanted, and her pleasure when she was praised. She learnt things so quickly (even by donkey standards) that we thought we would try breaking her to ride. She is far more elegant than Oberon - who is very heavy-hooved and uncomfortable to ride. Riding allows for far more contact than carriage driving; you are not just telling them what to do with voice and reins but with your entire body and Meg picked up these extra commands with ease. Meg and Becky were soon riding around the field, enjoying each others company (while Robert anxiously stood watching at the fence).
Several years on after we first got this timid mare, she participated with the rest of the Kinedale herd in displays at The Balmoral Show Display and at the Dublin Horse Show (where Meg and Becky galloped around the arena!). We eventually got her carriage driving too and she truly is a sight to behold. She’s still the most graceful donkey we’ve ever seen… perhaps donkey dressage next?
We said in our last post about how trust is the greatest gift you can be given. We’ve had many of our donkeys from foals so the trust is there from an early age. It is quite an emotional experience gaining the trust of a donkey that does not give it easily. Meg was such a challenge and we now have a beautiful relationship with her. She won’t be at Balmoral this year as we are showcasing some of our other beautiful animals but perhaps at Dublin! Don’t be scared by this big donkey - she just wants to be treated well, and will treat you well in return.
Kinedale Crew x