As part of the Sanctuary's strategic plan, we aim to provide displays and demonstrations of the working donkey so that our supporters can see how versatile they are and how hard they have to work for a living overseas.
To this end Stephanie (one of our grooms here at Slade Farm) and her colleagues have selected and started training Noodles and Gizmo - firstly to long rein with the longer term aim of pulling a cart, chain harrows and a plough so that we can cultivate some land to produce crops such us sunflowers, carrots and lettuce: Sunflowers to feed the wild birds who live on Sanctuary land, carrots as tempting succulent feed for the donkeys and for our customers to the Hayloft Restaurant and lettuce for the salads and garnishes used by the Hayloft.
So, first of all, why did we choose Noodles and Gizmo to be our driving donkeys? We decided on these two donkeys because we felt they are both very forward going, always wanting to learn and do more, but most of all, because they have the right attitude for the job.
We first started by walking the two boys out together so that the could get used to lots of different things that they may come across while out driving. For example, dogs, cars, loud noises, etc. Noodles has always been the braver of the two which is helping Gizmo overcome any anxieties he may have while out and about.
We then took them out on their own which was a little hard at the beginning, especially for Gizmo who is very close to Noodles, but after around 2-3 times, he now knows the he will always be going back to his friend.
Over the past three weeks while we have been training them, Gizmo has become braver and braver.
Our next step was to start getting them used to wearing tack and having items on them that may flap around. We are really pleased with Noodles and Gizmo because they behaved really well and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
As you can see from the photo above, even though we have only been long-reining for a few weeks, Noodles and Gizmo have been taking everything in their stride and seem to love all the new challenges we have been giving them.