We were all really excited when we heard we were having a new group of mares coming to Paccombe, especially when we found out that some of them were in foal!
When they arrived they were understandably pretty nervous and avoided us as much as they could, huddling together as a close little herd. We gave them time to assess their surroundings but we tried to settle them in and make friends with them.
As my husband Neil is the Farm Manager at Paccombe, we live on site with our three children. Ned is our eldest son - he loves the donkeys and was even more excited than the rest of us, if that’s possible, about our new arrivals. He rushed home from school that day and straight up to meet them. He was immediately drawn to Maddy, who seems to be the most nervous of them all.
Poor Maddy didn’t have the best start in life. She was relinquished into our care with three others – Benjy, Justin and Blue. All four donkeys hadn’t been handled much and were very frightened of people.
Because of this, their hooves hadn’t had any attention from a farrier and Maddy’s feet were overgrown and twisted, making walking very uncomfortable. You can read more about their relinquishment in Hannah Bryer’s blog.
From that first meeting, Ned and Maddy have become firm friends. Maddy really seems to like Ned - perhaps because he is smaller than the rest of us, she seemed to relax with him and let him scratch her withers. We go and spend time with them every evening after tea so that she is used to us being around in preparation for having her foal.
Ned cannot wait to go and see her and as soon as he gets home from school he constantly asks if it’s time to go and see them. He often saves bits of food from his lunch-box and dinner if it’s something he can share with Maddy, like a chopped apple.
All of the group are now settling down nicely and getting to know us all, and are much more relaxed. They are getting into a good routine and they really look forward to their evening visits - all waiting by the gate when we arrive and calling out to us.
Ned is also working towards a Cub Badge and using Maddy as his ‘helpful job’. He picks up the poos in her paddock and stables which keeps it all lovely and clean overnight in case Maddy feels ready to have her foal.
Hopefully Maddy’s confidence will keep growing, and she will soon be a lovely relaxed donkey Mum.
All of the staff here are so excited to think that we will have foals here at Paccombe. It will be the first time that any of us have ever looked after a foal.
It is very important for us to keep a constant eye on Maddy and the other expectant mares, so we have fitted cameras in the stables.
This enables us to check on them without disturbing them too often, and when the time comes to give birth, we can watch from a distance – only stepping in if they need our help.
An added bonus to having the cameras, is that hopefully we will be able to record Maddy and her friends, and share their foals first moments with you – so watch this space!
Blog by Lisa Coles