With my goal of having the donkey in the cart by the end of 2012 dashed, I am trying to have her in the cart by at least spring. Other things just keep popping up and taking up my time, stupid life events. When I found I had a free night last night I told SO that I planned on either riding the App or driving the donkey, maybe even both. He made the off handed comment that the donkey would probably make the decision for me, wouldn't she?
Alas she did. Her current "thing" is that she doesn't want to come to the gate to be caught at night. It has gone from severe to minor and then settled in the middle, the worst was one night she was at the gate when I went to bring everyone in for dinner. I walked up to the gate, she turned around, walked away and went in the arena. She had been doing this for about a week or so at this point so this time I didn't try to go after her and instead brought the boys in and left her outside. After about 3 hours I went back out to see if she wanted in and she came trotting up to me and hasn't been that bad since. She does, however, still walk away while I halter everyone and I have to insist she come closer to me several times before she is close enough (5-10 feet away) that I will relent and go and halter her. She rarely ever walks away when I finally do go to halter her, it seems to be a power trip for her. She is making me go to her, she doesn't want to come to me. This whole week I have been bringing the boys in and leaving her outside until I am done with feeding and then, if she is by the gate, I will bring her in. So far she has been by the gate each time.
Last night she did the same thing, she heard me call everyone, the boys came out of the arena and came up to the gate while she hung far back. As I lead everyone out of the pasture, she sauntered up close(er) to the gate. When I was done feeding she was at the gate. This time, however, I didn't bring her in and instead haltered her, tied her in the arena and grabbed her harness. She tacked up just fine and after closing the arena gate, we did some ground driving.
She is doing really, really well with ground driving. She walks on command. She halts quite nicely and while she does require some bit pressure, she requires very little. She yields to very little bit pressure in turns and hasn't spooked or taken off for quite a few sessions. I hooked up a pole and had her drag it around and that too went just as smooth. At this point SO let me know he had finally found a tire for me. I had been asking for one for a while, it has been suggested I have her drag a tire before hooking her to a cart as a graduating step and go from there to introduce the weight and noise. I drug the tire up to her and she didn't seem to care. I drug the tire to behind her and she didn't seem to care. I walked with her with the tire and while she scooted a bit, it wasn't bad. Alright! She is taking this just as easy as the poles, I thought. After a circle or so she was fairly relaxed so I stopped her and tied the rope around the tire to her tugs using the old tie-backs that came with the harness. They are old and dry rotted and I didn't plan on using them, thus I had no issues with using them for another purpose. In this case, something that would break if things went awry. After I snapped the rope that was around the tire to the loop I had created at the end of her tugs, I went up and took her bridle off and put her halter on. You know, just in case. Best. Idea. Ever. I walked with her about a quarter circle. She got fairly uneasy when she was feeling the weight on the breastcollar and after the quarter circle she decided she had enough and took off. I ended up face planting as I struggled to stay with her and eventually just let her go. After a lap around the arena the tie-back broke and the tire came to a stop. She ran for a half circle before facing me and going "What. Was. THAT?!?".
I figured this was obviously a sign that I needed to back off the training and take a different approach. I went up to her, grabbed her lead rope and walked her around a few moments. When she relaxed I went back up to the tire and grabbed it's rope and tried to walk with her while I pulled the tire again. It had worked before, it should work again right? Wrong. At this point the Donkey decided she no longer cared that I was holding her and took off again, this time tripping me as she body bumped me, sending me flying into the wall and my shoulder met the support post. It was a hard fall, knocking the wind out of me and leaving a (so far anyway) large, palm sized bruise on my arm about 3 inches below my arm socket. It was not humerus (hehe, get it? Ugh, I am a dork.)
At that point I decided it was not worth getting hurt over so I collected the donkey and took her harness off. Then, instead of putting her away which she seemed to think we were going to do, I snapped the tire rope onto her halter. C-ya donkey! She ran and bucked and kicked trying to get the tire off. I got comfortable and watched her go and go. It took her about 40 mins before she really settled down (not nonstop, she took several long breaks of standing around staring at the tire). She was still occasionally trotting around with the tire but she no longer was kicking or bucking at it, even if it bounced off of the wall. At that point I grabbed the lead rope and went out to her. I hooked her up and told her if she walked with me and didn't act stupid, she could be done. We were almost a quarter of a circle when she started to take off. I ran her into the wall and told her to stop or she would be out here all night and tried again. This time we were successful in walking half the length of the arena without a spook or takeoff so I unhooked her tire and called it a night. I walked her around for almost 15 minutes as I made her pick the arena with me and then I put her away. She was surprisingly a bit sweaty, as she is rarely sweaty, but she was cool, though damp, when I put her away.
This morning she was her normal self, we will see how she acts tonight. I can't tie her to the tire tonight as I am giving a lesson however there is always tomorrow! They say donkeys will first assess a situation and that donkey spooks don't last long, last night was not a donkey night as she didn't show those qualities! Last night was more horse than donkey behavior. No worries, the cart will come, all in due time, one step at a time.