Our farm has animals that come and go, for various reasons. Weanling calves go on to new homes. Steers go to slaughter. Sometimes, however, somebody gets a new home. This time, it was Gus and his beloved donkey friend, Xavier. They are inseparable, so, when we needed to cut back on our herd, they had to go together.
Gus was always the extra pony. We took him in because he was feral and about to go to slaughter. He didn't even have a name when we brought him home. It took him a week before I could pet him, but he came around slowly. We've had him for four years and during that time, he was not asked to work very often. After all, John has Maggie to ride. He rode Gus a little, but he and Maggie had a stronger bond.
This year, we worked with Gus to get him ready for the Scottish Games (he is, after all, a Shetland Pony). Maggie has been many times, but this was his first time. He did very well. There were huge crowds and lots of people visiting his pen. The were bagpipes and balloons. Drums and little kids with sticky fingers. He became quite sociable. The ultimate test was when we took him in the parade. There was a huge crowd in the bleachers around the arena and Gus took it very well.
After the Games were over, we decided he was tame enough to have a little kid of his own. We found a very nice lady, not too far away, with a two year old girl. She has plenty of horse experience and there is time before that little girl will be old enough to ride.
But, what to do with Xavier? He never fit in with the horses, but loves to play with Gus. They chase each other and play fight. Xavier will even pick up a bucket and rattle it while chasing Gus. They are so much fun to watch. Before the Games, we separated them. Maggie and Gus were together to get ready and Xavier was by himself. Xavier pouted and pined for his friend.
When the lady came to meet Gus, we told her about Xavier and she loved him. Xavier was who helped us recover from the loss of Donkeyotee. He came to us secondhand from an auction covered in lice and scared. Now, he loves hugs and scratches. He can be ridden by children and will give you hugs with his head. He also was wonderful with kids of all ages at John's school when he was the Nativity donkey, two years in a row. It was a difficult decision, but he belonged with Gus.
They left Saturday morning for their new home.
Among the equines, we have Phoenix, who is a 25 year old AQHA gelding. He is retired due to navicular. We also have my sweet Libby, a 26 yer old Morgan, who is still spunky and going strong. And, we have Maggie, John's adorable Shetland Pony mare. My husband does not have a horse to ride at the moment, but we will not be getting him another riding horse until the fall.
Now, once again, we are without a donkey. This is not acceptable after one has had a donkey. They are the most dog-like of equines because of their friendliness. They will even leave food for attention. Once you have a donkey on your farm, it just isn't the same without one.
We talked as a family last night and came up with a new plan. We will mail an application in for a BLM burro. There will be an auction in our area of wild mustangs and burros in a few months. The burros come from Arizona. We have the facilities to train and house one and, we believe, we have the experience to gentle one. The only concern we have is if we will ever get the burro to relax when they hear a helicopter. If not, we will just have to make sure they are in a safe place when one goes overhead. Helicopters aren't that common around here, but they do fly over occasionally. Helicopters are used to round up mustangs and burros, so it's a common fear among them. We would like a young jenny because she would fit in with our herd best. Adopting from the BLM has become less popular lately because of the economy. There are many animals stuck in holding pens out west because interest in them is too low. There isn't enough forage for them on public lands and not enough people willing to give them a home. If we get just one, we have done our part to help and the new burro can make the farm right again with her brays and unique donkey personality. I will keep a log of the burro's training and, perhaps, it won't seem too daunting a task for someone else to try.
Here is Gus at the Scottish Games (Feargus, actually).