Donkeyotee and Phoenix have been turned out together since Donkey was 7 months old. In fact, when designing our horse barn, we built an extra big stall at one end so they could share winter quarters. They love to tussle and play fight, but the vet said 'no more'. Phoenix is 21 years old this year and was diagnosed with navicular. He is sound enough for light riding, but has more bad days than good when he roughhouses with Donkey, so our vet recommended that they be separated. Poor Donkey pouted this winter in his private corral. We decided he needed a little companion. Fortunately, I heard about a Shetland Pony that lost his donkey companion and was also pouting. Good fit, right?
Well, except that the pony was feral. He didn't even have a name. I went to meet him anyway. The owners had trapped
him in a cattle chute, using feed, then wrestled him into a corner and put a halter on him.
They told me the last time they did this, he got the halter off by
rubbing his head on the ground until it came over his ears and off his
head. They had given up on him and were going to send him to a bad auction here in Florida
(along with cull cows, if that gives you any idea of the type of
auction). When I met him, he was shaking from fear while the two owners held him with two lead ropes. I asked if I could try to lead him and used treats to get his attention (it worked). He did seem to quiet a little as I walked calmly and carefully. I led him around their yard and he seemed eager to please despite his fear. I told them that I would take him if he loaded
into my trailer. Of course he walked right in! He is 10.1 hands tall and his previous owners did not know his age because he came from a neighbor. His height and build mean he is too large for a mini and clearly in the Shetland Pony size range. He also has the leg feathering and stockiness of a Shetland. In honor of his Scottish origins, I named him Feargus (Gus for short). He is a lovely little silver bay colored pony.
Here's Gus that first day:
At home, I carefully unloaded him into our round pen for quarantine since his vaccine history was unknown, his deworming
schedule was non-existent, and his feet were in bad shape. Knowing his
halter tricks, I took it off. I started off by just feeding him treats and getting him used to a lead rope moving around him. Soon enough, he had a relaxed eye around me so we moved on to touching. He was itchy and this went very well. I worked with him as often as possible and gained his trust enough to halter him a few times. I did get a fecal sample checked and it was negative. After he had been here for a month, I let Donkeyotee in with his new friend.
You can see how much of a pest Donkey is in this video, but he just wanted to play. By the next morning, it was obvious that Gus was in charge.
Donkeyotee and Gus
Finally, after several more sessions and a formal move into the horse barn with Donkey, Gus was ready for his vet visit. I arranged for the farrier the same day. Poor little pony was looked at from head to toe! He was fully vaccinated, dewormed, trimmed, teeth checked, gelding verified and a Coggins was drawn. He is 7 years old, his teeth are good, his hooves are much better now, and he is a gelding (YAY!). All this meant he earned his freedom. Out to pasture to graze with his new pal, Donkey. The farm is quieter now. Donkeyotee is no longer trying to disassemble fences to get in with Phoenix or pouting in that polished donkey way. Everyone seems content with the new arrangements. And, best of all, Gus the Feral Shetland Pony is now Gus the Tame Shetland Pony.
All groomed up and dappled: