Meet Jo Cordell: Donkey Guardian since 2010
When Jo Cordell’s horse died she had empty stables on her land. “We thought about having alpacas,” she says, “but one day I started reading about the Rehoming Scheme on The Donkey Sanctuary’s website. And I thought, ‘That looks like a good idea!’”
In particular, she liked knowing that her donkeys would be taken care of if, at some point, she were unable to take care of them.
“I wouldn’t encourage anyone ever to buy a donkey, because donkeys often outlive their owners - and what happens to them then?” she says. “Plus, I didn’t want to buy a donkey and encourage breeding when there aren’t enough good homes to go round.”
Donkeys are always rehomed in pairs - or, in this case, two pairs! “I like to have a goal I can work towards,” Jo explains, “and so do the donkeys.”
With Flora, Jo decided to drive her with a little cart. “I went on a driving taster course and it frightened me quite a bit!” she recalls. “But Flora needed exercise so we worked at it. We’ve learned a lot and we’ve both gained so much confidence. Flora enjoys pulling her carriage and I love having a new skill.”
Breda, who was timid at first, is now ridden by children. Oonagh, the matriarch of the group, is long-reining and Cerys, the baby of the four, is both long-reining and being ridden. Jo all takes her donkeys for showing, long reining and driven dressage classes in local shows.
“I’ve found the donkey world to be open and friendly and very sociable - even more so than the horse world,” says Jo.
Jo values her donkeys for many reasons. “They have interesting characters and they’re all so different. I could cry sometimes when Oonagh looks at me. She’s a really knowing, wise donkey and has a real depth about her.
“Once they understand what you want, donkeys always do it, and they don’t forget what they’ve learned. They’re also really easygoing.”
She adds, “Having the girls has opened up so many doors to me. People call in just to see the donkeys. Donkeys just seem to attract attention and love.”
Four - the perfect score
Jo greatly appreciates the support she receives through the Rehoming Scheme. When things run smoothly, Donkey Welfare Adviser Liz calls by every six months. If there’s a problem, Jo can call and get immediate help. In between times, she can research anything she needs on The Donkey Sanctuary’s website.
She thoroughly recommends becoming a Donkey Guardian. “I can honestly say that the biggest regret in my life is not having donkeys sooner. I would tell anybody: don’t think about it, just do it. Get a couple of donkeys - or, if you can, get four! Donkeys give you the opportunity to learn new confidence and skills.”
She admits, “At first I wasn’t really sure about doing it but now I can’t imagine being without them.”