Tara and Easter

Tara and Easter
"Aw, mom"

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Nippers Of Death

 This is Marty.  As the eldest of the burros, I should tell this story.  It's a Halloween story sure to scare small burro foals and make grandma burros mad.  

I should start at the beginning.  We were taken from our home, which, apparently, humans say isn't ours to begin with.  Some of them even called us "feral".  Personally, I prefere 'wild' because it has a sense of mystique you just don't get from 'feral'.  Those humans also said that we don't belong in the desert.  Well, it was humans that brought us there in the first place.  They wanted us to help them carry their stuff while they dug for pretty rocks that they were excited about.  That story came down from my ancestors.  They brayed with laughter at the absurdity of it all.  You can't eat a rock!  And all those crazy miners seemed to buy with their rocks was 'liquid trouble', as the wise, old burros called it.  If humans took us to that desert in the first place, why blame us for still being there over a hundred years later?  Anyway, that's where we were and, as my grandpappy used to say, you belong where your manure drops.  Well, humans feel differently.  They said it was unfair to the other animals, so we were hauled away.  

Instead of going into the various details of how I came to be here, at this little farm, suffice to say that it was a tedious and winding road.  However, here I am, and these three humans that adopted us have proved themselves to be generous treat dispensers.  Plus, the work is easy.  All in all, I thought it was safe to settle into a pleasant life of domesticity.  

I was wrong.

IT came in a truck and trailer that rattled and banged along the road.  IT was loud, large, and shaggy.  Although mostly human in appearance, IT had none of the quiet, gentle tones that our humans have.  ITs large paw-like hands smelled of chemicals and hooves.  Worst of all, when I was tied up, I couldn't flee and IT gripped my poor hooves and held on.  IT also had metal tools that were sharp and noisy. I don't know why, but IT wanted my feet!  Our humans have had an odd fascination with our feet since we've been here.  Always examining them and picking them out every time they take us out for work.  I thought it was just a quirk, and they were gentle enough, so no big deal.  The IT, however, wanted to cut our hooves and our humans allowed it!  The lady human just gave me treats and used soothing words while this beast thing was nibbling off my feet with ITs tools!  I tried to tell her, with my eyes, how much peril I was in, but she failed to understand.  When IT let me go, I kept myself composed until she led me back to the paddock and then, to show that I disapproved of it all, I pouted the world's biggest burro pout.  Burros and donkeys are champions of pouting.  In fact, a burro I knew in Arizona kept up a pout for five solid years!  

Later, our humans came back and gave us treats.  As if they could buy us off.  Ha!  As if I would forget all the weirdness of the IT because of a treat.  Ha!  Although it was one of the really good treats we only get every once in awhile.  It had alfalfa in it.  And corn.  Is that a little oats in there, too?  And molasses.  I love molasses.  You know, the word 'ass' is in molasses for good reason...

Wait, what were we talking about?

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Packing and trotting

 The burros have been carrying the pack saddle every day through the obstacles course or around the farm.  The fitting has been difficult to get used because I've never actually packed before.  With the help of instructional videos, and what I've learned about driving harnesses, I think I have it fitted properly for both burros.  

Almost daily picking of their hooves will, hopefully, pay off today when the farrier comes to do their feet for the first time.  There are just not enough farriers around our area, so he usually can only fit us in when everyone is due.  

JJ needs to learn how to trot in hand.  My previous attempts were unsuccessful and, actually, made him nervous.  I tried speeding up while leading him and speaking encouragingly.  His head went up, his eyes got big, and he resisted.  This time, I picked a stretch next to the barn to move him along, so he couldn't swing out.  He had already been acclimated to the feel of the little whip and wasn't scared of it.  I moved the whip behind him (not touching) to motivate him.  He trotted a few steps and was rewarded.  He was more relaxed because I think he finally understood what I was asking.  Good boy, JJ!  

Meanwhile, Marty is gaining weight and looking better.  


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Pack Saddle!

 It finally came together today.  Both burros went for a walk with the pack saddle on.  

I need to back up because I haven't been posting regularly (my apologies).  

Lessons learned in the last couple of weeks:

1) The burros aren't ready for the trails, yet.  

2) They must be handled every day, or, at least, only skip one day between sessions.

3) They will do anything for treats.

I did daily sessions all week, with the exception of yesterday (too many chores).  They picked up their feet and enduring extra leg grooming due to flies.  In fact, this time of year, the flies become absolutely ruthless on poor donkey legs.  For some reason, donkeys suffer worse than horses.  I used medicated paste smeared on their lower legs where the flies had caused bare patches and sprayed the fly spray, aggressively, daily.  This week is when the burros really learned that all my attention has rewards.  

I switched the order of training from JJ first to Marty first.  SInce JJ is more nervous, this gives him a chance to see exactly what he will experience.  He watches quietly from their paddock.  

On Monday, I created an obstacle course in the small pasture next to the barn.  I've been turning the horses out in it, so the grass is eaten down enough to move easily.  I set up cones and a barrel to weave around.  I set up the jump with one side on the standard and the other side on the ground (for now).  I set up poles in a three sided square to work on turning on the haunches and stepping over.  Each day, I groomed the burros, walked them through the obstacle course, and then put the pack saddle on their backs.  Om Tuesday, the cinches finally came in, so I cinched it up by degrees each day until today, when it was fully cinched up and the breeching was placed over their hindquarters.  They did very well.  I'm so proud of both of them.  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Busy Days and Regression

 Events conspired to keep me from doing daily training for three days.  I managed to pet both burros daily and give them treats.  I also walked JJ around his paddock on Friday, practicing a few little things, but I didn't do the daily hoof picking.  As it turns out, that was a mistake.

I finally got Jeremiah out yesterday morning.  He was a little jumpier than usual.  It's amazing how fast these guys regress without daily handling.  I was on the last hoof, when he jerked it away from me in a spastic motion.  He hit my jaw with his hoof pretty hard.  It wasn't an intentional hit.  It was more just a sudden frantic pull.  I felt around and nothing was broken.  Just a bruise that will show up later and a cut on the inside of my lip.  Not a big deal, but ice would be good.  First, however, I got the soft rope back out, and used it on JJ's reactive leg several times until he was lifting on request and quietly holding it up for me until I let him put it back down.  After he was all groomed up, I put his saddle blanket and pack saddle on for the first time.  I don't have the cuinches, yet (should be here Tuesday) but JJ stood with it on his back for awhile.  When we were done, I groomed both Marty and my Mustang, before heading inside for a washcloth and some ice.  It feels much better this morning.  With a mask on in public, no one will even see the bruise that will likely form.  

I have a goal of taking JJ to the MHF show at the beginning of December, but our daily, or near daily sessions will have to continue long after that until he is a settled citizen.  He should be considered "green" for at a least a year.  My immediate concern, however, is that our farrier is due this week to trim both burros.  I'll do extra sessions and add a few new movements to mimic trimming and rasping to get them ready.  He is spookier and harder to train than Marty, but I remember that the spookier animals are also the more sensitive ones.  That sensitivity can be a good thing, once an animals is comfortable in their new life.  

Marty is finally gaining weight.  His hair lies closer to his body and he's lost some of that pot bellied look.  No more coughing either.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


 Jeremiah needs to learn how to stop when he's afraid and let me help him.  To work on this, I've added a form of "sacking out" to our routine.  This phrase conjures up negative images of fear and kicked up dust, but it shouldn't be that way.  I tie JJ to the hitching post and I show him something potentially scary.  If he reacts by moving his feet, I ask him to 'Whoa'.  When he stops, I praise him and offer a treat for being a brave burro.  Pretty soon, he learns that I won't push him to the point where he has to move his feet and I won't hurt him with the new object.  He gets praise and treats for standing.  I start out by getting close enough for him to reach out and smell it.  When he does, he gets a treat.  Then, I back off and re-approach with it at his shoulder, then his back, and off to the other side to repeat the process (which usually goes much faster).  It's game we play where he gets lots of treats for being brave.  

One other interesting thing that I've added to his routine are hugs.  Or, more accurately, burro hugs.  I reach over his withers and pet his opposite shoulder or neck.  It helps calm him.  I use it whenever I think he might need it, or to be friendly.  He seems to calm down a bit.

To make sure both burros are not spreading parasites back and forth, I dewormed Jeremiah today with the same dewormer I used on Marty.  Fecal tests next month to make sure they're clear.  

Marty is already looking better since his deworming.  He had loose poops for several days, which usually means the body is ridding itself of killed parasites.  He is brighter and more energetic.  His cough is also gone, so the vet must have been correct about the endocarditis.  His antibiotics are almost gone now.  I think he has maybe two more days of it.  His bray is becoming louder and stronger as well.  The farm has been too quiet.  It's nice to hear braying again.  

Marty at the hitching post.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Bolting, Again

 Both burros are really doing well with having their hooves picked out daily, brushing, walking around the farm and seeing new things, and tolerating blankets on their backs.  I can't put the pack saddle on until I receive the cinches.  I thought it came with, but nope.  They should be here in a week or two.  In the meantime, JJ and I started out in the arena with sidepassing, backing, and turning on the hind end.  He is making slow progress.  

Then, since he did so well the other day on the road, I took him for a short walk.  I want to hit the trails with these guys so badly.  JJ did well, but he was nervous because the neighbor across the street was mowing her lawn.  She looked to be done with the upper portion, so we turned that way for our walk.  

Only one neighbor with an old truck drove by and stopped a bit to talk.  JJ was tense but not too worried, until he heard the mower in the woods behind us.  I forgot that she has a trail she mows through there.  JJ suddeenly bolted.  I tried to turn him, but his neck was set and his momentum built too quickly for me to gain control.  I let go.  He ran to our property and stopped outside his paddock fence.  I walked up to him, picked up his lead rope, reassured him, and we headed back up the road.  He balked a bit, but I got him almost to where we were before, and then he bolted again.  The neighbor just started weed whacking.  I fetched him again, and we walked partway up, and then past the gate the other direction, before heading back home.  

I pushed him too hard today.  I thought he was ready, but the mowing noises must have been too much for him.  I have a few rope burns to remind me to slow down a bit and do more basics.  Our neighbor is nice person, and always mows her lawn on Saturday morning.  She has her headphones on and probably didn't even know that we had so much trouble.  We'll stay on the farm for a few more weeks and avoid Saturday morning walks.  

I took Marty out for grooming and a walk around the farm.  He did so well.  He even made tentative friends with one of the goats.  While grooming him, I noticed, with alarm, that he has still not gained weight.  His coat is still rough and he is too bony along his topline, shoulders, and hips.  I also hear a lot of tummy noises whenever I'm close to him.  I asked the vet about deworming, but she was more focused on his heart murmur.  I had some deworming paste, so I gave him a dose for his approximate weight.  I hope it makes a difference.  He was very good for the dewormer because he's so used to his antibiotic in the mornings.  

The Big Blue Ball

 I don't remember when they became popular, but the horse world has been inundated with giant toy balls for horses over the last ten years.  There are plenty of videos of horses rolling, chasing, kneeling and biting at these balls.  

The burros were not aware of this trend.  In fact, the idea of going anywhere near a giant, bright colored, round thing that moves at the slightest touch, is the opposite of what they would like to do.  JJ, especially, considers the ball a threat to his immediate health and welfare.  

I suppose it will take some work to get him to go near the thing.  Since they are profoundly popular among horsey types, we might see them at the event in December, so I do think this introduction is necessary, but it will have to wait.

In the meantime. daily grooming and hoof picking is the top priority for both burros to be healthy and well-adjusted.  We took them both for a walk together, but Marty was the weakest link, slowing and stopping at every chance.  We'll have to go back to individual walks.