Sunday, January 23, 2011

Donkey showmanship postscript

You will often hear people say that mules aren't just horses with long ears.  That statement is doubly true if you're talking about donkeys.  After spending a day watching the donkeys do their thing at the National Western Stock Show, I can tell you this for sure--Donkeys are emphatically not horses.
Some of the differences between horses and donkeys were made obvious during the Donkey Showmanship class.  Right off the bat, it was clear that the donkeys were not very invested in performing the pattern smoothly.  Oh, they were willing to humor their handlers, but that good will only went so far...

Donkeys are big believers in not exerting themselves unnecessarily.  That first trot down the line of cones just didn't make a lot of sense to most of them.

Suffice it to say, the handlers did a lot more trotting than the donkeys!
Of course, the donkeys that did trot weren't always interested in stopping. 
More than one handler resorted to grabbing the donkey's head and wrestling it to a stop. 
Having an arm (or two) around the donkey's head also worked for backing. 
this was a surprisingly common strategy!
Other handlers just put two hands on the donkey's chest and pushed backwards.
The three quarter circle after the back up also elicited a lot of pushing and pulling and some of the donkeys never did complete it successfully.  After all, why turn 270 degrees to the right when a 90 degree turn to the left would take you to the same place?

There was one part of the pattern, however, that every single donkey in the class nailed.
It didn't matter...
if the donkey was big...
or somewhere in between.... 
 They all stood like Champions!
Tired of donkey pictures yet?  I still have the Donkey Cart class photos left to edit...


  1. I honestly don't think I could tire of looking at these guys, they are so ridiculously cute!!

  2. Oh no, I'm not tired of looking at donkey pictures. I LOVE Donkeys (and have owned lots and lots of them.) They teach us patience and good humor - traits in which humans always need improvement. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Commenting on your comment though I have to say I am loving the donkeys too. They are so much fun.

    I was thinking on repainting my reiner. We will see once I get him and get motivated to paint what I already have. Of the BHR I have had the pony (resold him to someone who wanted him real bad)and still have the Shire in gray, a weanling, the Arab but he was broken in shipment (seller thought he'd be ok with no packing, cry!) and when I saw that I was so heartbroken I closed the box and put it away. Haven't looked at him since, probably has been 10 years or more :(. I also have the percheron I am repaiting to look like my Ajax. And now of course, the reiner.

  4. Oh, a donkey cart class? That sounds like some great pictures - I can't wait to see those! Donkeys and mules are so much fun!

  5. I'm loving the donkeys and I always love anything pulling a cart - a donkey cart class sounds irresistible! I had no idea showing these guys in halter could be so entertaining :-) To watch, anyway, maybe the handlers would have something else to call it :-)

  6. I don't think I'll ever tired of donkey pictures! And I do hope drafts are next.

  7. Linda--I love what you wrote about donkeys teaching patience and good humor. I kind of suspect they're good at teaching humility as well!

    To everyone else--I'm still editing pictures but it's become obvious that the driving pictures (both donkey and draft) did not turn out as well as these. Hopefully there will be some that are good enough to share, but it certainly won't be my best work... Love the new camera, but I still have a way to go before I get it all figured out!

  8. I actually showed donkey showmanship a few times back in the late nineties. We always did very very well, because my donkey behaved a lot more like a horse, in that he didn't require any physical manipulation to do his job, LOL! There's even a photo...

  9. Erin--You MUST share that photo!!!

  10. after reading your descriptions/checking out the pictures of the classes, I have determined that my gelding was a donkey in his past life. :)

  11. Hey Braymere! I know that this is a nearly 10 year old post, but I was going through your references and found this gem!
    I used to show a mini donkey when I was a kid-my parents couldn't afford horses, so I had the next best thing! I'm kind of surprised at the turn out of some of these guys, we always always clipped ours and down here in Texas almost everyone else did as well, all the way from mini yearlings to proper Mammoths under saddle.
    Donkeys are fun little guys. I worked with mine 7 days a week for about two hours(as an 8 year old kid, haha), and he bossed almost all trail aspects with no reluctance, except water pools. Donkeys usually don't spook like horses, they just stand still and stare at you until you coax them into what you're doing- fickle and incredibly smart creatures!
    anyways, if you are ever looking for reference pictures for donkeys or their show tack, let me know! we still have my show gelding, though he's 15 and long retired from competition now, and I still have my championship rosettes and buckles in the closet. thanks for all the great references!

    1. The Stock Show happens in January and that's a cold month in Denver. If you clip, it's months of blankets and stables. I'd probably forego it, too, if I could.