I'm always up for a challenge and today was no exception. Having a passion for donkeys, I would volunteer myself for just about anything to be able to be with the donkeys. This week I got the chance to become a volunteer groom!
Armed with grooming brushes, I joined Kelly, one of the grooms down at Hurfords. The weather wasn't too good, so we went inside the lovely warm barn and me being me, waited for the most inquisitive nose to come up and give me a nudge wanting attention. It turned out to be the smallest shetland pony you can imagine! His name is Scrap (affectionately called Scrappy) and was definitely in need of a groom as his coat is moulting with avengeance at this time of year.
Scrappy came to the Sanctuary in 1985 with a group of donkeys, but he has since made friends with Goldie, another Shetland pony. He's getting on in life now and requires regular visits from Colin, one of our farriers, because he wears special plastic shoes to give him extra hoof support.
Having tied Scrappy up, I made a start with using a metal cattle comb as this made the work of combing his dense hair easier. He has such an impressive mane that almost touches the floor. It is so thick and keeps him warm during the Winter months along with his dense fur coat. After an hour of grooming, I finished off with a soft body brush around his face and ears and asked him not go out too soon an role around in the dirt. Famous last words - from experience of grooming my own donkeys, this is the first thing they normally go and do!
Like all good grooms, I then tidied up the grooming kit and swept away the pile of fur that Scrappy had deposited on the floor. This reminded me of the times I used to leave clumps of fur out in the paddock when I'd finished grooming my own donkeys, especially at this time of year. Why? Well, the birds are nesting and many of them used to swoop down and take it away for lining their nests. It brings a smile to my face to think of all the chicks snug and warm.
Kelly took me for a tour of the three barns down at Hurfords. Harvey Barn has two groups of donkeys - bad breethers or older donkeys in one section and male donkeys in the other section that have had medical treatment and not ready to join other herds of donkeys. Down the track is Rennie's Barn where donkeys needing to lose weight live where their feeding and access to fields is controlled. At the end of the lane was Far Hills Barn where a group of fit donkeys live. All were out running around on the grass when we stopped off to see them. Before heading back to the office, I gave some of the donkeys a cuddle as their inquisitive noses came to see what was going on.
And yes, Scrappy went and had a good role outside!