Friday, March 20, 2015

And when I'm not cuddling her

For those of you who don't know, 14 days ago I picked up my BLM burro for the 2015 Great Burro Turnaround.  Per the rules of the event, I have a total of 100 days to gentle her and teach her as many things as I can before she and I will (hopefully) share her skills at the event in June.  I haven't shared much yet about how things are going with Buttercup's training.  This is primarily because the majority of the time thus far has been spent, as you've perhaps seen in my earlier posts, allowing her to be cuddled settle in and get hugged become familiar with life at Critter Farm.

However, despite not being totally training focused right now, we have developed a bit of a daily routine where we work on some simple skills:

Then, every day we reinforce the skills we've worked on the day before.  One of these skills, for example, is standing quietly while allowing me to put the halter on:

She doesn't love the halter, but she has come to accept it:

Having mastered this, I thought I'd give the lead rope a try.  I was initially worried about introducing it, thinking it might be too soon. But she often surprises me with her reactions to things and, when I first held out the rope, she came right over to investigate:

I'm fairly certain this was just because she had NO idea what impact this nylon tether would have on her life moving forward:

And, yes, some days go better than others with the lead rope.
My mantra, though, is always:  be consistent, be patient, be calm.  If I can't be those things, I need to take a break.

Buttercup and I also spend time each day learning about objects that she doesn't have to be afraid of.
The things that scare her - and the things that don't - have also been a surprise to me.
Here are two things she has been quite fearful of:
1.  The jolly ball:
You'd think that green orb was about to detonate for all the suspicion and distance she gives it.

2.  Rubber feed tubs:
Funny smelling and odd looking, she just doesn't trust them at all.

So we've spent time with these items.
It's amazing the leverage I am given just by starting out with a butt scratch.  For her, it turns out not to matter what the object is, as long as it's rubbing the hind area, so that's where we started with the jolly ball (see the how the tail is sticking out a bit?  Anyone with a donkey know that this is a clear indication that she is enjoying the jolly ball attention):

From there, I just kept going, praising her the whole way.  Up the back: 

All the way to her head.  While she isn't exactly at ease here, she didn't move away.  After a couple days of this, she's not so worried about the jolly ball any more, as long as I don't bounce it on the ground. :-) 

Of course, reward is a big part of Princess Buttercup's motivation and I've never been stingy when it comes to the carrot coins:

With the rubber feed tubs, it was a very similar process.  I let her see them, I let her see me handle them, I let her smell them, I touched her gently with them.  Then I spaced them out on the ground and asked her to walk around them.

She said no.
So we spent a bit of time on the lead rope working up to figure 8s around them and, after a bit of locked legs and wild head swinging, she actually did it.  This photo is just after I took her lead rope off.
She's a smarty, this one:
We celebrated with...can you guess?

Butt scratches:


  1. Loving these posts! Loving you and Buttercup (and everyone else at Critter Farm)!

  2. All I keep thinking is, SO different than a wild horse.

  3. I was just explaining to my BIL that donkeys aren't stubborn, they are sizing up a situation. So glad your girl likes carrot coins and scritches. 😁

  4. Your Ass is totally kicking my Ass.... :-)

  5. So much progress in so little time. She'll be wearing one of those feed tubs before we know it.

  6. What a joy you are bringing to those of us who love us some donkeys. Thanks Ms. Danni.

  7. Patience, Patience, Danni. She is coming along nicely.

  8. I look to see her carrying a feed tub, Snoopy-style: "Hey Mom, where's my chow?" She is so delicate, feminine, sweet & smart -- I just want to hug her hard (which would scare her more than a Jolly ball, huh?). Love seeing your progress together!

  9. I am really enjoying these updates, they are fascinating. Note to self: butt scratches and remember to buy carrots at grocery this week.

  10. She is so beautiful! Good job bringing her along. I loved seeing her back into your stool last post. Our Darby does that too! She sure has landed in the perfect spot for lovin'.

  11. Just fround your blog thru Carson's, and I love Buttercup, and applaud all you're doing for her. Are you planning to keep her? I guess time will tell ..


  12. This is so interesting, to see how you move her forward, bit by bit. It will make a grand journal to look back on and see how far you've come on day 100!

  13. Do you think butt scratches and carrot coins would work on Little Miss M, too? :-)

  14. Danni, I just got back to reading blogs again and there you were back after all this time. Congratulations on you new burro. Princess Buttercup is one pretty lady. And I know that she will be a wonderful addition to your farm. Looks like butt scratching is the secret to her behaving.

  15. Can we get a blog post about the final outcome of the Turnaround? Would love to hear about your experiences. Thanks!


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