Stubborn as a Donkey? More like Sweet as a Donkey!

Before beginning to volunteer at the horse rescue, I had limited contact with donkeys. There had been one at the ranch I worked at several years ago, but he was a grumpy old guy (and completely untouchable) so I didn’t have a whole lot of interaction with him.

The rescue currently has 3 donkeys, Marty, Jack Jack and Chico. Marty’s a total attention hog! He obviously must have been loved quite a bit at some point in his live, because he loves being around people and getting bushed and petted. He’s the medium sized spotted fellow in the picture above and the one below.

In the photo below, he’s hanging out with his buddy Chico. Chico’s a little jealous because Marty was getting all the attention. They both were probably hoping for a horse treat or two, as well!

Have you ever heard the phrase “Stubborn as a donkey” or “Stubborn as a mule?” Donkeys and mules have acquired quite a bit of a bad reputation over the years as being stubborn, ornery and generally hard to work with.

A horse’s instinct is run away and move it’s feet if it feels frightened or threatened. This is one reason why traditional horse training relies so heavily on negative reinforcement. A bit of carefully applied pressure, with an appropriately timed release, can quickly be used to teach a horse to respond to cues and move in certain directions.

Donkeys have some flight instinct. However, their flight response is not nearly as strong as a horse’s. So, in a situation where a horse might try to run away or escape, if a donkey feels threatened, frightened or confused, he might plant his feet and refuse to move. A donkey would rather spend sometime thinking about and studying a situation, which earns him a reputation for being stubborn. A bit of positive reinforcement can work wonders with a donkey, as it gives them a bit of motivation and something to work for!

But why work, when you can spend the afternoon relaxing in the shade with a pretty bay mare? That’s what Jack Jack the donkey is doing in the photo below.

One more last photo of Marty and Chico. We’ve been really pleased that these two are hanging out, as Marty was a bit of an outcast when he first arrived. Recently, Chico seems to have accepted him into the little donkey herd. However, neither can accept why I’m wasting time taking photos when I should be scratching them and feeding them treats!

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