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Yara (meaning loved one) and five others found themselves in an equine pound in County Longford in May 2016 after being abandoned. Their hooves were extremely overgrown and distorted, resulting in severe pain each time they took a step.
Thankfully, the pound called us and told us about the plight of these poor donkeys. An immediate plan was put in place to bring them to safety and to help end their suffering.
Yara is a skewbald mare who was underweight and infested with lice and worms, with horrifically painful hooves. She is bonded to other donkeys Lyanna and Meera.
I have been working at The Donkey Sanctuary for a long time, twenty years plus, mainly at Knockardbane Farm where it all started from a leaking caravan and a few staff.
I can honestly say there never has been one day the same, every day comes with something different- be it happy or sad stories and endings. I recently got the task at short notice to arrange to move two of our donkeys across the water to their new home.
Sound travels considerable distance in the still of a summer Sunday afternoon. Massey, Forde, Ruffles, Rory, Ted and Ryan are listening to the sounds of cheering and groans coming from the open window of a house as the various expressions of emotions reveal Ireland’s progress during the Olympics. But these six boys are quite content to be missing the action.
'"He's a lovely donkey'' is not a phrase one expects to hear at the vetting gate of the Royal Dublin Society during horse show week. A reply of ''he's an even lovelier mule'' raised a few eyebrows swiftly followed by a raft of mule/hinny related questions from the vets. This seems to set the tone for the rest of the day as myself and the mule maestro Eugene Butler displayed Sanctuary mules Bohea Lad and Kendon on a showery Sunday at the prestigious venue.
What comes to people’s minds when they hear the word mule: stubborn, aggressive or even dangerous? Mules can be perceived as all of these things but it is in fact our perception and how we work with and respect these animals for what they are. When treated with kindness, patience and understanding they learn to trust and obey. If they are treated with force they are most likely not going to obey as they can sense danger. This is where people’s perception of mules as being aggressive comes into play. But it is a defence mechanism for them, to protect themselves.
Education is without doubt a key part of the answer to improving the lives of donkeys and mules in Ireland and running donkey care courses in new venues throughout Leinster is something high on the priority list. We have held successful courses in Wexford and Dublin in established guardian homes and at My Lovely Horse welfare organisation in Kildare. Courses have been well attended and the feedback has been positive and encouraging.
Phoenix (age 5) and Baxten (age 6) are two ordinary donkeys that came to me a year ago from the Donkey Sanctuary. They are two lively young donkeys with an inquisitive attitude to life. At the weekend they went back 100 years in time to 1916. The occasion was the “Country and Rural Life” re-enactment hosted by Teagasc on their farm in Athenry, Co Galway and over 20,000 people were expected. Three months ago both the donkeys and I were totally unprepared for this journey.
In Ireland, the identification system for equines (horses, donkeys, mules, hinnies) comprises of a passport, a micro-chip and details recorded on a database maintained by approved issuing bodies.
It is the law that all equines have a passport and a microchip. The aim of these regulations is to improve the system for the identification of equines and to provide extra safeguards for owners and breeders of equines as to the identity of animals. It also represents a major step forward in safeguarding the food chain.