Friday was my last day at Il Rifugio degli Asinelli (IRDA) and I only had the morning with the mules before departing for Turin to fly home. I used the time I had in the morning working on what the mules had all learnt during the week.
I had a long session with Margherita, covering all the things she had learnt and built on during the week. She is coming on fantastically and will stand like a little star to be groomed from head to toe, have her ears, eyes and teeth examined and all four feet picked up and out. She is also doing brilliantly well with her voice commands and has got the hang of what is required at a super fast pace. Margherita has done everything I asked during the week and more, by now slowly becoming a very handy training partner.
I also did a nice long session with Biclo covering all of the same things as Margherita. He too is thriving on the attention and stimulation the training sessions offer. Biclo needs continued work on his voice commands, as he currently still feels the best place to be is on top of your toes at all times. He needs to learn a little bit more about personal space, but he is heading in the right direction.
As the rain continued to pour, and the hay and chaff arrived, all the mules huddled around the stable. Lidia and Magda will now happily approach the stable with me there and go inside to eat. It sounds like a little step but it is a big advance on the beginning of the week, when they didn't trust to be near me or the stable with me in it. They too have come on fantastically.
Then of course there is little Irene. I worked with her for a few small sessions throughout the morning. Irene copes best when the sessions are kept short and sweet. If the pressure is kept on for too long she doesn't seem to focus as well. It is the early stage in her training, so I didn't want to run the risk of undoing all of this week's hard work and taking a step backwards. In the small sessions I had with her this morning she didn't rely so heavily on Margherita's support and I was really pleased to see she accepted me whilst she was alone in the field straight away and let me continue from our training yesterday. Being able to approach and stroke Irene in an open environment is the best leaving gift that I could of asked for. I feel that she has really started to become more trusting.
My week in Italy has been truly remarkable. I have made new friends and built bonds with these animals that, at the start of the week, I could only imagine. All the staff here at IRDA have made me feel so welcome. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside the team, in what looks to be an ongoing case of the Colleferro mules, donkeys and horses.
These mules have come from the worse possible start in life, yet somehow still have the courage, dignity and trust to work closely alongside a human. Despite the experiences in their past they have generously given their time and energy to me. They have learnt with and even entertained me! My respect and admiration for these amazing animals never seems to stop growing. They have all worked so well this week, in everything that I have asked, and I will always remember everything they have taught me in return.
I will follow the work of the team here at IRDA, and never forget the five Colleferro mules who let their guard down for me. It was a humbling experience to work past the damages of their past and be part of their future. They have further built my always growing love for mules... I hope to return to Italy one day to see them all again.