My goal is that by the end of the year I would like to be driving my donkey in a cart. Will I reach that goal? I have absolutely no idea but it is what I am working towards. My aim is for the donkey to be able to give cart rides for Christmas. Lofty goal, I agree.
I broke out the harness and decided to work with the donkey, much to her annoyance if you read the flick of her tail. It is so funny watching her pout, she sticks her head down with her ears out to the side and is all angst teenager-ish. I brought her into the arena, harnessed her up and worked on ground driving first. She is getting much, much better. I no longer worry about her taking off (and when she does, it is really easy to control), she turns, halts and backs with relative ease and while she still gapes her mouth at times, she is getting better about holding her bit and is still very soft in the bridle. She is being driven in a simple spoon snaffle. I am trying to get her to halt by voice command instead of rein pressure, she halts with very light rein pressure but just doesn't always stop with a Whoa. We just need more practice I guess.
After we warmed up I tied a pole onto her tugs and tied it onto the loops for the traces. Last time we pulled poles I had used a surcingle and not her harness so this was the first time she would pull with her breastcollar. While she did have some "donkey scoot" moments, she did really well and did better with turning then last time. Since she was doing so well I went ahead and hooked up a second pole to her so she was now in "shafts". Her first walk with them was a bit quick, she tried to scoot away and was fairly concerned about having something behind her on both sides. Some reinforcing butt scratches when she was correct goes a long way while driving her.
It took a bit of encouragement to continuatlly go forward when she had two poles, she went from walking when asked to now needing a flick of a whip to get her to move forward. She also started stopping a lot too. Almost anytime we were by the arena gate she was stopping (despite having NEVER stopped by the arena gate while we have worked) and it was a 50/50 shot of her stopping while we walked down the long side of the arena. If we were changing direction or going in a circle she wouldn't stop. Strange donkey. I worked her almost a full 30 minutes before I let her be done, longer then I normally work her and she seemed miffed about it. In the end though, she went an entire lap around the arena (cutting the corner by the arena gate so we didn't start an argument) without stopping and while she didn't stop when I said Whoa, she only required a very light pull on the reins to halt. I unharnessed her in the arena and then led her straight to dinner, I think she forgave me at that point.
Perhaps this weekend I will do this again, she obviously needs more time with the poles. She is starting to figure out how to turn in them but she certainly needs more exposure. After she pulls the poles a couple more times I will try dragging a tire behind her for additional weight and noise before I hook her to the cart. Only 4 weekends left, can I meet my goal???