I recently added a blog to our catalogue about how things work in our Holding Base. We have a working farm so you can imagine how busy home is. However, there’s always plenty of room and time for any donkeys that need help.
Sometimes animals arrive who have real problems – medical or behavioural. One such animal to have both is Enoch. He arrived here in with his friend, Winston. They were both stallions and as The Donkey Sanctuary policy is to geld entire donkeys, once they had settled in to our routine they were castrated. Unfortunately, due to some complications Winston had to be put to sleep.
Enoch on the other hand survived, but through the stress of gelding and losing his friend he developed a massive infection that had to have round the clock treatment. Arrive the unsung heroes – no matter the time, the place or the task the three Cunningham boys are there with me to help (Dad, Robert and Gavin).
Enoch was not easy to handle so we had to work hard at winning him round and gain his trust. It took quite some time to get his halter on, hold him to administer his medicine and any bathing needed, done. In the beginning the extent of his infection meant the vet had to visit on a regular basis.
Enoch soon recognised that it meant needles and he wasn’t pleased and would shoot to the back of his stable, turn his bottom towards you and fire with both back feet. To get him ready for the vet’s visits meant time spent with him to try to let him understand that yes, there was a prick with a needle but in the long term he would be better for it.
So how did we do this? I spent lots of time with him just talking to and stroking him. The boys would come to the stables when they were free and take over from me. At coffee time I would take my cup out to his box and just stand and look over his gate whilst drinking my coffee.
Whether or not it was the ginger biscuits I was eating that attracted his attention (I think it was) after a couple of times he would come towards me and take an interest. Nothing more than stroking his nose and a small piece of biscuit.
Eventually, following this principle Enoch came around to having his halter put on without shooting off. I would take him out and around the yard to stretch his legs. He seemed to be OK at first walking on his halter. When he was a bit stronger he was turned out for a while every day in the paddock.
He soon gathered strength and realised it would be fun to try to take charge when being led out! However, team Cunningham schooled him out of that trick.
Next was to work on lifting his feet. He didn’t like that from day one when he came home so I knew I’d need the boys to help. At the start of his ‘feet schooling’ Enoch would kick the stars out of heaven.
When the farrier came it was a real pantomime. As far as the donkey was concerned here was somebody else, another stranger and what was he going to be doing with the tools? So now the four of us have to work on raising his confidence when lifting feet. Not an easy one, as before he came to The Donkey Sanctuary he very rarely had his feet trimmed.
The boys and I take turns at picking his feet out (or trying to) so that he can become used to having different folk handling his feet. At the moment he’s OK with the front hooves but the hind ones will be a long time yet. What does help to win Enoch round is to spend time grooming.
He loves to grab the dandy brush and toss it to the opposite end of his stable. Not a flinch when brushing his legs but whenever the brush goes below his hocks – careful!
Enoch is a beautiful black donkey, full of fun, and a lot easier to handle. He just hates having his back feet lifted. We will keep trying to overcome his fear. How? Simple - team work!