I often ponder many things over breakfast, as you know if you have read my previous posts. I try to conquer the tough questions of the universe while eating my eggs covered with a healthy portion of Chompin’ At The Bit Jacked Up Salsa. 😉
This particular morning my mind was drifting to the old west, wagon trains specifically. I know there are a bevy of livestock that can pull things; horses, cows, etc, but I don’t have access to these animals.
I do, however, have access to a herd of the coolest mini donkeys you could find…could they pull things, carts/carriages specifically? Can a miniature donkey pull a cart or perhaps even me?
Yeah, yeah I know what you’re thinking, an oxen team would have a hard time with you (lol). I happen to have faith that little Lovebug would make me proud.
The quick, simple answer is yes. Hooray!
This is good news for anyone looking to get in the miniature donkey show circuit especially.
Minidonks make for great drivers due to their gentle natures, quick intelligence, and willingness to please. This, of course, goes for jennets and geldings, but not so much for intact males.
They can start ground driving at 2 but its best to wait until they are 3 or 4 before pulling weight.
The miniature donkey’s quick intelligence and willingness to please allows them to be trained quickly for pulling and their gentle easy-going nature makes for an easy ride (not too jerky or bucky).
So now that we know they can pull carts there are a few more questions that help us to understand the answer a little more clearly:
So as discussed, miniature donkeys have a pretty good level of intelligence, which more often than not makes it easier to train them.
An important thing to remember is consistency.
Most animals respond well to consistency when training. Repetition is another big key. Consistently repeating simple commands over and over is the key.
When you are in the beginning phases of training, treats are a good way to help your mini donkey catch on, however you will eventually want to phase them out and substitute praise so that you won’t always need treats to get your donkey to do what you want them to do.
Carrots and apples are great treats BTW, just small pieces and in moderation due to the sugar content. You can also use 'cookies' from the feed store...there are some that are healthier than others so pay attention to what you are buying.
Remember, when you are training your mini to drive a cart, gentleness is always better. Gentle, consistent, repetitions. Be patient and remember that all donkeys are different. Some might catch on quicker than others.
So hopefully you aren’t reading this article with thoughts of pulling anything super heavy with your mini.
While your little all star might be pretty strong, they definitely aren't meant for heavy farm work, that's for sure. The average miniature donkey can weigh around 300-400 pounds, but minis can come in a variety of weights and heights much like other equine breeds, so all that needs to be taken into consideration.
The best rule of thumb is to make sure you are only pulling with larger miniatures, a good way to tell a larger mini donk is if they are 33”-34”+.
A good-sized, well-raised mini donkey can safely pull 1-2 average sized adults and a small cart without much stress. In fact if done the right way, your miniature donkey might even enjoy giving you a ride around the farm every now and again.
There are many shows across the country (and world, really), where mini donkey owners show off their prized mini’s in several different types of contests, including pulling a cart through an obstacle course!
It's loads of fun to watch and participate in!
Bit or bitless driving when training your miniature donkey to pull a cart?
So this next “bit” (lol) in the blog is going to discuss whether or not it is better to introduce a bit to your donkey when driving or to drive 'bitless'. This is apparently a hot topic amongst equine owners of all types.
Some say that going bitless is a harder path due to whether or not your donkey can take the pressure of steering with a bitless bridle. Some say using a bit takes some getting used to for your mini donk, but once they are used to it, they might not even really notice when they have one in and won’t mind it a “bit” (hee-haw).
If you are going bitless, you need to go slow with the training (slower then if going with a bit) and use a circle pen arena (round pen).
Then of course, there are those that recommend asking the best expert, your own donkey! Your mini can be introduced to both and you can get a feel from them on which way they would prefer to be driven. Win win.
Your miniature donkey can be used to pull carts. There are definitely limitations when doing this, however. Careful not to overwork them and make sure you are all having fun, that is the most important part of this whole thing. The miniature donkey community is very open to helping/teaching other donkey owners how to train their mini donk for a future in pulling carts.
Some excellent resources on teaching your miniature to drive are:
Step-By-Step Guide To Training A Miniature Horse To Drive by Mindy Schroder
Breaking a Horse to Harness by Sallie Walrond
Other great resources can be found in the ‘bookstore’ at the Carriage Association of America.
Harnesses and tack can be found at Chimicum Tack. They are extremely helpful and will assist you in proper fit. They have everything you need to get started and will make sure you begin on the right foot/hoof. We especially love their Comfy Fit harnesses and have purchased a couple for our own herd.
For more info on miniature donkeys or if you are in the market for fun miniature donkey merch click here and happy browsing!
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