When I started out learning about equine behaviour 15 years ago, I got the chance to spend a year studying, working and eventually teaching in California. That time, working with the world’s best teachers in equine behaviour, the horses themselves, changed my life and my perceptions of equine training methods forever. Those experiences with Mustangs, Arabs, Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, mares, foals and colts changed me and ultimately set me on a path that led to working with horses, donkeys and mules all over the world.
So it will be no surprise when I tell you that since then I have always harboured a dream of returning to the States to share what I have been fortunate enough to have learnt since my early stumbling steps learning about equine behaviour. I guess deep down I have always wanted to say thank you to those amazing teachers, the horses, who put up with my learning, accepted my arrogance of thinking I knew something and taught me humility. All my work is dedicated to the horses, donkeys and mules I have learnt from over the years but for those early teachers I always felt it had to be back in America that I needed to say thank you.
This year I have my chance - thanks to donkeys and mules and The Donkey Sanctuary. I was asked to attend and present at the first Donkey Symposium in Davis, California and for about 6 months this conference has been on my mind, not only the presentation to 120 vets, scientists, donkey charity workers and donkey owners, but the practical demonstration of my work with two donkeys.
The question is how do you put 15 years work in a few minutes and hopefully help even more donkeys and mules? It feels as though I have to put my beliefs, my soul, actually myself up on the screen laid bare in the hope of getting more people to think differently about donkeys’ behaviour.
Over these few months people have said most kindly, you will be fine, you will be great, you always are, which is very kind and appreciated, but the truth is this feels different. I so badly want to make a difference to help open a door on donkey behaviour, to help the Sanctuary expand its work and influence to reach more donkeys, but in a country we tend to think of as knowing it all when it comes to behaviour, after all it's where cowboys come from and the horse world is flooded with American trainers visiting the UK to sell their methods, so going the other way seem very daunting.
So over the next few days I am going to tell you about the experience, not just of the presentation, but of the four donkeys, yes, two have become four donkeys that I will have two and half days to work with and what I will learn from them.
I hope you will join me on my journey as I try to say thank you, spread the word about donkey behaviour and further the work of The Donkey Sanctuary.