I have found if I follow a step by step system and don't
skip ahead to the fun stuff or hurry his training, the
donkey is happy and eager to learn something new and it
avoids problems later when I introduce the donkey to
difficult maneuvers such as sidepassing. By the time the
donkey is ready for lunging (step 30) we have already:
#1 - using non-threatening body posture when I approach and
waiting until he overcomes his fear so he doesn't freak and
#2 - he turns his head to watch me when I walk around him.
#3 - using his own curiosity to get him to take a step
#4 - allowing him to touch me before I touch him.
#5 - rubbing him all over (hand grooming).
#6 - picking up his feet.
#7 - pushing him left and right so he takes a step.
#8 - getting him to follow me (hand leading with my hand
under his jaw).
#9 - stopping when I want him to.
#10 - standing quietly.
*Steps 1 through 10 establishes communication with the
donkey. This gives me an opportunity to learn his individual
mannerisms and for him to begin learning my sounds and
connecting them with my body postures and what I am asking
him to do.
#11 - putting on and taking off a halter.
#12 - standing quietly when tied.
#13 - taking a few steps when lead (from the left side - use
of a come-along to get him to take the first step or by
pushing his hip away and tugging his head toward me inside a
circle so he must take a second step to face me - not
tugging on his head. The lead rope should be slack).
#14 - taking a step back (when lead from the left side by
putting my hand on his chest and saying Back so he will
associate the word and action).
#15 - turning left (when lead from the left side - saying
Left so he will associate the word and the action).
#16 - turning turn right (when lead from the left side -
saying Right so he will associate the word and the action).
#17 - taking a few steps when lead from the right side.
#18 - stepping back (when lead from the right side and
#19 - turning left (when lead from the right side and saying
#20 - getting the donkey to turn right (when lead from the
right and saying Right).
*Steps 11 through 20 establish a pattern where I ask the
donkey for a movement and he complies with my request. I
ask him for very simple movements first so they will be easy
for him to do. This builds his self-confidence.
#21 - spray him with fly spray.
#22 - give him a bath.
#23 - clip him with electric clippers.
#24 - cover his head with a blanket.
#25 - drape a blanket over his back that dangles around his
#26 - walk over a plastic sheet.
#27 - step over a log.
#28 - step on a sheet of plywood.
#29 - step in and out of the horse trailer.
#30 - walk around me in a circle to the left (lunge line).
#31 - walk around me to the right (lunge line).
*Steps 21 through 31 establish trust.
To teach a donkey to work on a lunge line first I have to
have an understanding of propulsion. How does a donkey
walk? Think of a wheel barrow. His hind legs are the
person PUSHING the wheel barrow forward. A donkey does not
pull his body. He pushes it.
The following photo shows my shaggy Q-Te when he was 6
months old. A is Q-Te's center of gravity. There is an
invisible line dividing him in half. The front half is the
wheel of the wheel barrow. B is Q-Te's point of motion.
This is the point of propulsion. For his front end to move,
this point must move first.
It is the same as the handles of the wheel barrow.
To turn left he must move this point to the right
so his left hind leg can move forward. This shifts
his balance so he can drop his left shoulder and step
into a turn. To turn right he must move this point to the
left by stepping forward with his left hind leg so his right
shoulder can drop and step into the turn. To move straight
ahead he must push forward to move A out of his way. To stop
Point B must stop first. If I step in front of him that
does not stop point B from moving. He can still move
forward by just shifting either left or right and that
continues to push point A forward at an angle.
Up to this step of his training I have been teaching him
that when I step to his side past point A to where I am
standing at point B, that means for him to propel forward.
Now I use that basic training to teach him to confidently
move forward when I am not standing close to him. At first
I am only going to ask him to walk forward around me to the
left with my left hand outstretched toward his head but my
body positioned at point B in a circle about 4 feet wide.
He will probably take three or four steps then stop and look
at me confused about what I want him to do. I will step
left so I am standing in front of or at point A. This tells
him it is okay to pause while I explain what it is I want
him to do again. I will reassure him with my voice and
stroke him, then say his name to let him know I am going to
make a request, then step to the right to point B and say
"walk". Again he will probably take a couple of steps and
stop and look at me again, wondering why I am not going with
him. At this point I lay the lead rope on the ground and
walk around him once or twice. Usually if they see me walk
around them they get the idea of what I want them to do. I
return and pick up the lead rope and repeat the request for
him to walk around me. Once he makes a complete round I
praise him and encourage him to continue and keep the circle
small. I ask him to stop after 4 complete circles so he
won't get bored. I step to his other side and ask him to
walk again. I repeat the above steps until he understands
to walk around me to the right. The most important cue I
have taught him up to this point is STOP. When I say stop
he should immediately stop the movement of his hind legs
without me having to jiggle the leadrope and definitely not
have to give him a tug. If your donkey does not stop
willingly and immediately do not attempt to teach him to
work on a lunge line! It would be disaster waiting to
I will work my donkey on the lunge line in the small circle
once or twice before I let out a little more line to make
the circle about 10 feet wide. Once he is walking
confidently left and right and stopping and waiting to see
what my next request will be, then I begin asking him to
stop, turn, and wait for me to ask him to walk on. During
his leading practice when I asked him to turn I said left
when making a left turn and right when making a right turn.
It usually does not take long for him to figure out left
means turn left and right means to turn right. At a walk
with him moving to my left I will ask him to stop. Once he
has come to a complete stop I will ask him to Left.
Hopefully he will turn left. I may have to ask him more
than once at first since this is something new and he won't
quite know what it is I want him to do.
I wait until he is walking right and left, and stopping and
turning before I move on to the next step which is asking
him to trot. I begin by leading him in a straight line
speeding up and asking him to trot. Once he understands and
willingly trots with me leading from his left side and his
right side then I can begin asking him to trot on the lunge
line. It is not necessary to carry a whip unless you want
to use it as a pointer to point which direction you want him
to go. Waving a whip may make your donkey move but it isn't
going to explain to him what it is you want him to do. A
lot of times waving a whip erases everything you have taught
him up to this point. You have worked hard to establish a
partnership with you donkey based on trust. He willingly
does what you request because you have been patient and
given him the time to understand each step. Dragging out
the whip and waving it around or worse, snapping him on the
rump with it is not part of a partnership. Using a whip in
this way is dominance. You can force him but he will resent
it and the joy he has had learning is going to evaporate. A
whip is an extension of your arm. It is a long finger you
point with. It is not a weapon or a club. A whip can be
used as a "spacer" to remind your donkey to stay at the end
of the leadrope when he is circling. Hold it so it points
at his point of propulsion Point B. Always ask him to Stop
and waiting until he is completely stopped and standing
quietly before you ask him to turn. Switching the whip to
your other hand and holding it so it points in front of him
encourages him to turn and reverse directions. Three or
four circles in each direction at a walk are all I ask him
to do for a few lessons. When he advances to a trot I
change from a walk to a trot and back to a walk plus add
several Stops at a walk. I do not ask him to Stop from a
trot yet. I prefer to have him trot over ground poles first
so I can be sure he is fully engaging his hindquarters
before I ask for a Stop from a trot.
I do not expect him to do it the way I want at first. Just
like learning to ride a bicycle it takes practice to get it
#32 - trot left on the lunge line.
#33 - trot right on the lunge line.
#34 - canter left on the lunge line.
#35 - canter right on the lunge line.
#36 - in hand sidepass to the left (using a broomstick laid
against the side of his body so I can nudge shoulder, then
hip, shoulder, then hip while asking for a Left Pass.
#37 - in hand sidepass to the right (again using the
broomstick to nudge shoulder then hip, shoulder then hip
while asking for a Right Pass).
#38 - in hand left turn on forequarters (left fore pivot
point - using broomstick against his side to keep his
shoulders from moving and nudging against his hip so he
steps around the pivot point).
#39 - in hand right turn on forequarters (right fore pivot
point - same as left forequarter turn).
#40 - in hand left turn on haunches (left rear pivot point -
using the broomstick to hold his hips in place while he
takes a step back and crosses over with his forelegs).
#41 - in hand right turn on haunches (right rear pivot point
- same as left turn on haunches).
*Steps 32 through 41 teach the donkey how to balance his
body at different speeds when moving under my guidance as to
the direction and what part of his body I want him to move.