Both of our mini donkeys were rescued from two elderly ladies who had to sell their rural property. The ladies had rescued these donkeys as newborns from a frozen farm field – about 15 years ago. The ladies were sweet, caring pet owners – who were overly sensitive to anything that they thought would ‘trouble’ the donkeys.
As a result, they were never tied. They were never handled except to get horse treats. The only way they got foot care was every other year or so the Vet would tranq the donkeys and a Farrier would literally saw off their hoof curl.
The ladies fed good grass hay and the donks had a little acre playpen with a shelter. The donkeys were obese but otherwise healthy.
The lady’s property was about two miles from our farm – they knew about our barn and pastures and fences – and that we raised and trained Quarter horses. Desperate, because they had to leave their little acreage, they asked us to please take the donkeys so they wouldn’t be put down.
2 years have passed.
We now have both donkeys wearing halters, standing tied without a wreck for extended periods, being brushed, wormed, fly sprayed – and we have Fiona, the jennet, so I can trim and work on her feet – even using a little hoof jack that I made in the shop.
The jack, Willie Nelson, however, was a nightmare when attempting to handle his feet
We’ve had our Farrier here regularly. He’s a quiet guy who is sensitive to ‘Willie’s’ problem. For the first year, we paid our Vet to come and tranq the donk so he could be worked on – this wasn’t a ‘cool-and-calm’ tranq – it was a ‘knock-him-out’, on-the-ground procedure. Between the Vet and the farrier, the bill was $225 each time.
Without full tranquilization, handling his feet was a danger to us and the donkey. Rearing, double foot kicking, weight shifting, squalling – just plain nightmare.
Fearing for the safety of the Farrier, we built a solid little ‘stocks’ that we pull ‘Willie’ into with openings in the sides and back to pull a foot through – it kind of works – so far no one has been hurt – but, it takes a whole tube of Dormosedan gel to get the job done.
Dormosedan Gel is a ‘cool and calm’ over-the-counter, from the Vet tranquilizer in oral tube form. A whole tube is used for a 1,100lb horse and it does work well on horses. They stand as if drowsy and lose a lot of anxiety about whatever procedure is being done. Donkeys, we’re told and have witnessed, react differently than horses.
It took the full tube for 300lb Willie to have an effect. Even then, his adrenalin would overcome the tranquilizer and he would still fight the Farrier.
Frustrated, we began a focused program of handling Willie.
EVERY day for weeks and weeks we started handling his front feet (couldn’t even touch the back feet when he’s being brushed – fine, as long as we don’t try to lift them. Eventually, we used a soft cotton rope along with the command ‘lift’ and got him to release for a moment or two – longer than a few seconds and he hits the anxiety button.
But, after literally weeks and reward treats, he let us pick up his front feet. Weeks later, he let us put his front feet on the trim stand both forward and backward. We then started tapping his feet with a rasp. First time, he actually kicked the rasp the length of the barn alley. We can now rasp and trim his front feet on the stand and he stands pretty well.
Patience in time paid off for the back feet – we slowly brushed our hands up and down his back feet, then rubbed or pinched his hocks and fetlocks until he didn’t mind. Took dozens of sessions. Using a soft 1″ cotton rope twisted around his rear fetlock (we stand to his side up against him) we have him lifting his back feet with only desultory kicks that quickly stop. He is now standing for a quick rasp – not perfect, but a lot better than ever.
Progress – and we no longer use the shoeing stocks.
We’ve raised and trained horses our entire lives. Over the years, we’ve tied up quite a few horse colt feet to help trim. Our experience is that horses always eventually give up. Not ‘Willie’. The word ‘quit’ was never part of his makeup.
There is an outcome.
We’ve learned that ‘Willie’ needed more patience than typical. We’re convinced that in his past somebody did something to his feet that scared him silly – we’re guessing a Farrier. The ladies had no ability to cure the problem and it came back every time the Farrier showed up.
There’s an old saying about donkeys and mules that is certainly true in this case:
“A donkey or mule never forgets. If he’s ever wronged he’ll patiently wait 20 years for the chance to kick your head off.”
We’re continuing to be patient with ‘Willie’, handling him every day in some way. We’re sure we’re on the right track.
You’ll note from the photo, that the tips of his ears are gone – they were frozen off at the point where he was pulled from the winter field right after birth. We’re pretty sure that starting with the ear freeze he’s been pissed off ever since.