Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Riding Brighty

R has been saying she wants to try riding Brighty. I put her off for awhile and then decided... why not? The worst that could happen is she would hit the ground. But I really didn't think that would happen... Brighty (our 10 year old former BLM feral burro) worships R, follows her around like a puppy, and would never intentionally hurt her.

So yesterday afternoon when she asked if she could try to ride him I said sure, and we headed out to the barn. I told R we could only take 15 minutes or so because I was in the middle of something at the house.. I'd forgotten, of course, that Brighty is a donkey.. not a horse. It took 15 minutes just to get him into the small pen.  As soon as we put his halter on and tried to lead him away from Murphy and Tucker, he became suspicious and decided to plant himself.

There is no moving a planted donkey. A donkey will only move if and when it decides it wants to move.

We finally motivated him to come with us with a treat of a few sunflower seeds...

He was great in the pen...he's a very sweet and calm donkey. We started by me holding the lead rope while R leaded across his back, so he could feel the weight of her on him, but her feet were on the ground so if he took off she wouldn't take off with him!

Brighty is a big donkey and R isn't very tall and she wasn't able to put her full weight on his back while still standing on the ground, so I told her to go get her grooming bucket/stool and stand on it next to Brighty... That way she could put her full weight on him, without actually getting on him.

It turns out Brighty is deathly afraid of slightly noisy black grooming bucket/stools.

Generally he is the calmest of donkeys... an Eeyore sort of fellow.

But putting that grooming bucket right next to him caused him to first jump sideways and then, when I pulled him up with the lead rope, continue to side step away. He was looking like a circus donkey side stepping in circles around me...

So then we had to spend another 10 minutes or so desensitizing him to the grooming bucket... letting him smell it all over, tossing it around (not too close to him) so it would make noise and he would see the noise of it wasn't going to hurt him, then moving it increasingly closer to him and praising and rewarding him (by moving it away again) when he allowed it to be next to him...


Finally R was able to set it next to him, stand on it and put her full weight on his back.

He put his head down... he thought is was weird... but he didn't try to move away.

Then she slowly eased her leg over and was sitting on him! :)

Again.. he kept his head down... probably thinking this was the weirdest thing a human had done to him yet...

... but he didn't bolt or buck (or do his fancy side step!).

He was still uncomfortable with the grooming bucket/stool so I didn't try to lead him around... but he's started. I think R will have fun working on riding him. She may not go very far, very fast... but he's wide enough for her to lounge on quite comfortably! I have fond memories from when I was a teenager, of "borrowing" a horse (a boarded horse that no one ever noticed I borrowed from time to time) so I could ride with my best friend who owned a horse... We'd ride out into the country a ways, then find a nice quiet spot and let the horses graze while we lay flat on their backs, using our hands to shield the sun from our eyes, and  talked... Brighty has that kind of back (and personality).

We finished the riding lesson with more sunflower seeds and hugs... What a great way to spend an hour.

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