We have a delightful mini donk who is getting fat just standing around doing nothing, so I was thinking I might teach him to pull a cart. Are there any good resources for walking a beginner through this? I know how to long line so I have him walking and trotting well on the lines, but I don’t have much experience with the cart itself. I
The NMDA used to sell this 20-page primer. I don’t see it on their website anymore but they do say they still have back copies of their magazine so if you contact them they may still have one sitting around?
Your safest option is to contact a local Driving club for a trainer recommendation.
Or a member might be willing to help.
And since donkeys process things differently than horses, someone who knows donkeys would be best.
It is really a 2-person job to even soft hitch (not securely attached to your cart) that first time.
One person walks the cart behind as the other leads the harnessed animal.
Shafts just sit in the tugs, not wrapped to stay.
At the advice of one of my Club members:
Before trying the above, you can attach pool noodles to the surcingle, where the shafts will be:
starting at point of shoulder, back to where your singletree would be.
Gets them used to something touching their sides & nobody gets hurt if they react to that.
Still safer to do this with someone leading harnessed donkey.
This is a very good point, I do have someone who can assist me, a very experienced horse trainer but with a little driving training experience. And I have taught a horse to pull jump poles and have driven trained horses, just never had an actual cart to finish the training. I definitely will make a set of PVC “shafts” to desensitize before hooking to an actual cart, and will lead and ground drive, then add weight and ground drive before sitting in the cart. I just like to be systematic and want to make sure I am not skipping steps so I would love a book like Libby suggests! The pool noodles are a good idea to use before the PVC, sounds forgiving if there is a spook. Safety first!
What fun for you!
I drive a standard donkey and when I trained her it was: ground driving first. Teach “wait” & “whoa”, the 2 most important things a pleasure driving equine must do. I added noise (whistles, can’s clanging, etc) while ground driving and drove her literally over water, garbage & debri- to desensitize.
Next was dragging weight. It was winter so I used a plastic toboggan and added weight to it. I continued to drive her over curious things- a piece of 4 by 8 siding, a secured tarp and so on.
Next came the cart and it was a cinch because of her solid base.
I wasn’t on any time frame to get this done. Donkeys learn differently than horses. In my experience you get 2 maybe 3 repetitions of an exercise and they are done. Move on to something else and you can repeat the exercise in a bit.
Good luck with your miniature donkey.
Thanks, this is great advice! I will absolutely follow it. I will say my mini donk is just the BEST guy with an amazing and quiet temperament. The vet was out Monday and I had him draw blood for some panels because the donk is…portly…and cresty, and the vet was in “so where are we going to have to pin this thing and do you have 3 strong men to help get this done” mode. I was like “no he’ll be fine.” They could not believe he just stood quietly for getting stuck, while I just petted and talked to him. He hangs out on the porch, fearlessly follows my kids through their adventures, is happy to graze while kids climb over him, and otherwise is just the absolute coolest donkey. I think he likes the attention. I’ve been keeping it to 15 minute sessions and lots of praise, and he is doing fantastic ground driving. Super willing and smart as can be.
His temperament sounds perfect. Use his curiosity during training and he will be a winner when driven.
It was worth hiring a trainer to come to our farm and help me learn to harness properly. You don’t want to get a bad experience from soreness. Our little Shetland was a hard fit, but taking the time to be sure it was just right meant it never hurts.