The Donkey Sanctuary welfare team provide donkey care courses throughout Ireland catering for all abilities, levels of knowledge and interest. On Saturday past eleven enthusiastic individuals gathered in my kitchen to learn more about the wonderful world of donkeys! It became clear to me that there were four distinct groups present:
Group 1 – exuberantly enthusiast persons, keen on learning more about donkeys but had never cared for an animal bigger than a Labrador dog.
Group 2 – these persons were mainly from a farming background so we will call them the ‘farmers’. The section of the course on mucking out, fencing and pasture management was familiar territory for them but putting a head collar on a live donkey certainly tested their mettle! As is often the case it was the children who were present in this group that adapted well to receiving instruction and were soon handling the donkeys and picking out their hooves with ease.
Group 3 –group 3 the ‘seasoned’ donkey owners who lets say have a solid level of experience and knowledge but that experience is often tinged with little habits that can gently do with re-shaping. For instance reminding them of the simple things such as a mineral block can make a big difference in the summer when donkeys need copper to help them shed their winter coat.
Group 4 –ISPCA volunteers who benefited hugely from learning how to address a donkey’s body condition score. As a Welfare Adviser this seems like an everyday procedure but for the volunteers who had never been shown it before the exercise did appear quite daunting. After several exercises and handling sessions with my two very patient and obliging donkeys their judgment levels improved immeasurably! They also got to learn a little of donkey psychology and that for instance encouraging a horse to walk forward by gentle pressure on a lead rope produces a different results with a donkeys!
It was rewarding to see the wide range of abilities and backgrounds coming together to learn more about donkeys and it is my experience that they get a lot of knowledge from these days and it definitely shows in the subsequent quality of donkey care.
Two real beneficiaries of the course will be Rupert and Milton a lovely pair of guardian donkeys who are due to be delivered to their new guardian home with one of the participants this week. I visited the home a couple of days after the course and found straw has been sourced, a new electric fencer connected, the water trough cleaned and new grooming brushes and a hoof pick are all in place. Fantastic!
My wife’s soup, which received great praise in the course feedback forms, is all gone but there is on-going satisfaction in knowing that the information imparted on the day has been acted on and donkeys across the country will reap the true benefits of our courses.