Jack and Jill: Part 3

So I have these two oversized miniature donkeys named Jack and Jill (named by a child). Spending time with these two is a highlight of my days. Initially, I just sat with them singing, yep, “Jack and Jill went up a hill…” Since their experiences with people had not be that great, they were extremely cautious probably thinking about how badly I sing? As they grew stronger and healthier, it soon became apparent that Jill was the favorite in her previous home. I could touch Jill and brush her and she was just about the sweetest thing imaginable. And then there was Jack…

It was doubtful that Jack was handled much? As he became stronger, he was downright spooky! He didn’t hesitate to back (or side) kick at any danger he perceived/suspected! Brushing him was out of the question! I was lucky if I could touch him! I was more than a little worried being around him; I had SO MUCH to learn!

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Jack and I have forged a unique relationship: one built on mutual trust and respect.

Over the course of the almost four years I’ve had these two donkeys, people have come into my life to help me help them. These people have appeared when I most needed their help to help my donkeys. And the lessons I’ve learned over these years have been invaluable in understanding not only equine body language but specifically how to train and interact with Jack.

I’ve trained both donkeys much like I train my dogs. I use learning theory which promotes positive reinforcement for complying with my requests. I was once told that I was giving the donkeys the option to comply; my response is that we ALL should have options in life! And I know, there will ALWAYS be something that causes them fear; being able to trust me was my best bet in training the donkeys to understand that I wouldn’t ask them to do more than they could do at any time. That I would keep them safe.

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To watch the donkeys run, they exhibit such a joy for life now!

While Jack is still “frisky”, I seriously doubt he would ever intentionally hurt me. I’ve patterned certain behaviors with both donkeys that I have then generalized to other situations. Something as simple as “touch”  when holding out my outstretched finger will earn them a reward and is a higher motivation than balking at whatever is being asked. It also conveys they are “safe” so it is okay to “move forwards”. And if they can “touch” with their noses, they can also learn to “touch” with their feet. I’ve used cheap mats to signify exactly where I want their feet to “touch”. This allows it to be their decision where to stand to get that treat. Training Jack to retrieve a ball… Okay, this IS a trick! Like with the dogs, it is good exercise for Jack who thoroughly enjoys this game! Trained through sequencing steps, I want that ball delivered to my outstretched hands. Anything less, now, does not earn that treat! The choice is up to Jack so Jack retrieves that ball to my hands! Did I mention donkeys are incredibly intelligent animals?

Coming when called… this is huge! I am NOT chasing two donkeys in my pasture who obviously can run faster than I can! Both come when I call because again, they are rewarded for this behavior! Walking on lead is also important. While many think the donkeys are “cute”, they outweigh me by more than double my weight! The LAST THING I want is to be taken for a drag! Walking is important but so is stopping. Again, they are reinforced for the word, “whoa”; both know it means to STOP!

Donkeys, in general, are incredibly smart animals. Given respect, they will give respect back. Like all equines, anything done on one side needs to be trained on the other side. This has to do with their eyes being on the sides of their head rather than in front; they see out of each eye differently so everything done needs to be trained twice to assimilate that even though it may look different to them, it really is the same regardless which side/eye they are seeing from. Who knew this? I certainly didn’t when I started learning about equine behavior!

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I had no idea how drawn I would be to these amazing, intelligent animals!

We’ve continued to grow together over these last few years but after that first year, I realized just how far we had come. I decided to write a photo-journal book about our lives together that first year. Self-published, proceeds from the sale of my photo book have been donated to our local donkey rescue to help other donkeys find their forever homes. My book is available through Amazon.com with proceeds being donated to this wonderful organization to help all donkeys find a better life. If you’ve followed my story thus far, I invite you to check out my book! Donkeys are one of the most under-served, often neglected animals; each and every little bit will help that next donkey in more ways than you can imagine! THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

~ Jennifer

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A photo journal story of two neglected donkeys who have found their “forever” home!

 

7 comments on “Jack and Jill: Part 3

  1. Oh Jennifer, such beautiful lessons and loving you have been taught, as you are teaching! I have been so moved by all of your stories. Earlier this week God gave me a poem with equine imagery–I am eager for you to read it on my post this week. I am sure I have crossed all the references, and misplaced the terms, but it is the way it came to my heart. Your words and your story here have touched my heart more than you can know. Thank you for opening your heart to share. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awww… THANKS, Bettie! ❤ I will most certainly read your post (am behind on WP unfortunately!) The donkeys, especially Jack, have given me far more than I could EVER have given them and… when I lost the ability to do what I had planned on doing, well, I would never have known donkeys if MY LIFE hadn't changed! 😉

    I am scheduled for surgery this Friday! I'm getting my thumb joint fused. I figured it was time; am having some ulnar neuropathy from "guarding" my hands especially at night. That and the joint next to the thumb joint is now being effected 😦 They say… 3 months recuperating time! I just hope I can still type (praying that isn't taken away from me too!) Frantically trying to "get ahead" because I don't know how I will be feeling afterwards? But… It will be good to finally get it done (and then I can think about the other thumb that needs doing!) I figure… eventually I will be "bionic"; funny, not funny!

    I hope you have a wonderful, blessed, and painfree day!! ❤

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    • Oh, thank you for letting me know about your surgery! I will put it on my calendar and pray for you! I see my Rheumatologist on Thursday, so I am hoping for some progress on possible treatments too! So thankful that God sees our pain, and He knows how to help! Blessings to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh wow, Jennifer. I love these stories and photos of Jack and Jill. I never knew many of these things about how to care for donkeys. You have such a marvelous affinity with them. Teaching Jack to fetch a ball really has me smiling. I’m sorry you have to go through yet another surgery. May God give you strength, comfort, and a quick recovery! Love and blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Trudy! Tomorrow is the “big day” and… I’m beginning to freak out! I will be happy when this next surgery is DONE! (And I’m the road to recovery!!)

      The donkeys (all animals) are just something I do well. I can “feel” their emotions. I was once told by a cowboy that… “Jack would never hurt me because I would never push him past his tolerance.” That is true; why would I? But I had a LOT to learn on equine behavior; am so grateful to so many who came to help me- Help my donkeys ❤

      Hard to believe that Jack is now learning how to pull a cart limited only by my decreased mobility and ability to train him 😦 I'll have to write another post about our latest accomplishment… I'm now able to put a winter blanket on Jack's back to keep him warm 🙂 Long ago… I would drape an old towel on his back to prove to him it wouldn't "eat" him! And yes, I stood back protected as he kicked and reared all the while reassuring him he was fine! Those lessons, done over the course of time, now enables me to put his winter blanket on him. While he could "survive" without it, the goal is to thrive! With the low temps and wind-chill warnings we've had last week, I feel so much better knowing he (all of them) are warm and toasty! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

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