A Great Example of Donkey Driving

I received this donkey driving video from Jana Schmidt, one of my clients. Jana is receiving coaching as she drives her donkey pulling a cart. She wanted to know what I thought of the donkey’s cart-pulling ability and if there was anything she could do to improve.

What You See From the Donkey

In the video, you’ve got a donkey that’s doing an excellent job of listening to the driver. The donkey is framed up and it’s head is down. The donkey is walking with a four-beat gait, which is good. The head is not elevated, it’s balanced and framed up, looking very nice; the nose is on the vertical and it all looks very good.

It looks like the tack and the harness are in a good place, right where they belong. I’m not a fan of the breast collar harness; Jana’s using a breast collar here. I prefer a collar harness instead. The collar harness goes around the neck. It’s a lot easier on donkeys and mules because these animals are very lateral when they are walking and their shoulders will hit the breast collar harness. A donkey can easily get what’s called a Sweeney shoulder, which is damage to the suprascapular nerve, tendons and things like this. So my preference is a collar harness, just be very watchful of the donkey tripping or maybe dropping his head; things like this are indications that the breast collar is putting pressure on the shoulder. My thing is I really prefer a collar harness over a breast collar harness, it does so much better.

What You See From the Driver

She’s doing a very good job of driving the cart. I appreciate that she’s wearing a helmet. That’s great! I can’t see her hands all that well, but it looks like she has great communication between the lines with the donkey. The donkey is extremely relaxed. If the donkey is relaxed, that means she’s communicating very well.

What You See Regarding the Cart

The cart is the right size for the donkey and it’s a nice cart. It’s got a fifth wheel undercut on it which is very, very nice for turning. I noticed that when she stopped, the cart went forward, past the front of the shoulders which tells me she needs to shorten the quarter straps that go to the britchen (the britchen is the brakes), so when she stops, the cart should only move about 2”. If I was going to do anything at all, I would adjust the quarter straps for the breeching so that she has better brakes.

Driving a donkey cart well isn’t easy, It takes time to improve. She’s doing correct training, in that she’s using obstacles to go in and out, that’s always very good. It gives the donkey something to think about. I don’t see her arms moving a lot which is great. That means her communication from her hands to the bridle is very subtle and the donkey is following through with it.

You gotta love donkeys for their disposition. A donkey will show you if they’re unhappy if you’re pulling on them. I think she’s doing a very good job all the way around.