WHY I DRIVE DONKEYS by Kristi Kingma

There are horses... Lots of fancy horses from drafts to minis and everything in between. That varied assortment extends into the world of mules…. So why choose a donkey to drive? Everyone knows they are unreasonable and hard to work with... Whell first off my friend… donkeys are not for everyone and if you decide you are to be owned by one and you like it, you'll never go back to those ear-challenged ones. Donkeys are not horses, they don't think like a horse so treating them as such will get you nowhere.

Maybe one should explore the reasons for having donkeys in the first place. There is the guard animal factor. Donkeys do not appreciate having their domains invaded whether it is coyotes, deer, wild turkeys or tame kitties; it's just not in their nature to share. So when you have donkeys, you pretty much only have donkeys inside the fence line, the rest of the world remains outside that boundary.

Maybe it's because donkeys are so darn people friendly; they absolutely adore children and have an amazing tolerance for the disabled. They crave personal one on one attention and have a tremendous desire to please. Donkeys add a quiet touch of escapism to my world. They put me into a state of mind where peace and quiet reigns. When I am with them suddenly everything becomes “in the now” and I just surrender to their sight, sounds, smells and terrific company. We discuss private issues and they never squeal on me! Sometimes we just hang out together in the pasture, they huddle around just so we can commune with each other and life becomes good again. Why do you think gold prospectors of the 1800’s chose a burro to accompany them?

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With such high IQ's these animals are easily trained when one has the patience to go at their pace and show them exactly what needs done without boring them to death. They love to get out and explore the world once they have built up their personal self confidence in the job at hand and have formed a trusting bond with their trainer. It's that trust that makes them so good to tolerate parade happenings or drive through crowds of slow moving people. They just don’t seem to get overly excited by their surroundings when they know you will guide them safely thru any situation. Driving is in their DNA today just as it has always been.

It's a known fact that a well broke team has seen at least a hundred hitchings and that goes the same for donkeys. I felt that my team was pretty solid after fifty hitches until the next year's first spring drive when I realized that maybe the one hundred mark applies to donkey teams as well. They were good just not as great as they had been before being put away for winter.

I drive donkeys to keep them trim and in great condition and it does not hurt my figure either. All that harnessing and unharnessing and moving the vehicles about is great exercise. Ground driving is more fun than just going for a walk, its way more challenging with a donkey ahead of you. All that ground work pays off in huge dividends whether it is riding or driving, it all starts with simple walks and adding commands. Driving gives one the incentive to get up an hour or two early and head down the road before the sun warms everything up, even drinking one less cup of coffee is not such a bad idea either, it could tend to make one healthier if you're not careful.

I also drive because of the harness and the equipment. Learning what works best for the team and what this 58 year old woman can hitch "all by herself" has been a huge accomplishment. Driving my team to a two wheeled cart means I can go off road trekking just about anywhere I want once the crops are off the fields. That makes it fun for the boys and me to be able to get away from the dusty gravel roads and into the fields where we are able to drive in and out of deep canyons sometimes with a creek running thru the bottom and perhaps an opportunity to see a herd of elk bedded down. Donkeys never miss spotting wildlife, all you have to do is to watch their radar ears. Taking out the buckboard for a parade is a real thrill and for guests the four wheeled rubber tired vehicle is perfect. Hitching to the country gig for a pleasure driving show truly exhibits how much class a handsome mammoth donkey has. There's always farm equipment that needs hitched to; a harrow, a plow, a sled to stack wood on, it’s a whole world of to-dos with the donkey boys out there. Tandem, unicorn, four abreast and four up hitches are just another piece of the puzzle yet to be solved by the Teamdonk boys. Following our 2011 spring blog will let you know if we manage to get these hitches done.

Why do I drive donkeys rather than ride? I actually do both but driving gives me a thrill and a huge sense of personal satisfaction. More importantly driving is the most relaxing activity I do! When I am behind the team my heart soars with the eagles, the squawking geese, the diving hawks, it sings along with the songbirds perched on the electrical wires as we pass them by. It gives me a true sense of the changing seasons as I watch the tender green fall wheat poking out of the ground and eventually maturing into tall golden rods ready for harvest. You notice the little things when driving. It gives me an opportunity to stop and chat with the neighbors or take a passenger along for a great visit and a lasting memory. I dream of driving season when winter is raging or the spring rains are falling. It's knowing that for a short period every year I will be out there waving to people who pass me in their vehicles, I’m sure they are wishing it was them holding the lines of that fantastic looking pair of longears. Yes, it is me out there driving a team of mammoth donkeys in North Central Idaho on the spectacular Camas Prairie and enjoying a slower pace of life even if just for a brief moment in time.

Luc, Galahad… walk on boys, it's driving time! * Kristi*

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