Friday, March 28, 2008

At a crossroads with Alan

It has been five months since George and Alan, the yearling BLM burros I adopted, joined the herd. George is now halter trained, craves human attention and affection, stands calmly and willingly for the farrier, and would probably come in the house to watch tv with me if I’d let him. Alan will reach out to touch my hand, take a treat and calmly stand about a foot away from me, but to get any closer is to invade his flight zone and he stresses...leaves, backs up, jumps over the hay tub to get away. He watches me hug George, watches me groom him and kiss his nose and get the goobers out of his eyes. In my heart, I know if I am patient, Alan will come around and want to enjoy the same sort of relationship with me that I have with George. But in my head, I know that he needs his vaccinations. My vet looked at his shot records yesterday and said I could hold off until May, but I shouldn’t put them off any longer than that.

So here are the two scenarios I envision:
1. I spend as much time as possible with Alan over the next eight weeks and hope and pray that he comes around to trusting me, accepting my touch and being haltered so that I can give him his shots without any undue trauma.
2. He doesn’t come around by the end of eight weeks, so I have no choice but to close him in his stall, move a corral panel between him and me to safely contain him, ply him with as many pieces of carrots as necessary, and give him his shots. I know this will probably destroy any bit of trust he has in me, but to not vaccinate him is to risk his health.

Being a glass-half-full kind of person, I believe Alan will come around. But if anybody out there has any suggestions on how I might ensure that, I’m listening.


  1. Linda, go to and read the DaVinci diaries. DaVinci was extremely traumatized by abuse early in his life/training and these diaries are all about how this couple gained his trust and affection.

    There's one specific entry that has to do with exactly what you're describing and some of the techniques they used might be useful in your work with Alan.

    I do think if you have to corral him, etc. and you do it quietly, quickly, and matter-of-factly, and he gets treats and then freedom, it doesn't have to be the end of his trust with you.

    That said, this is exactly the kind of thing that would stress me completely out! I have found that usually it's not nearly so dramatic as I worry it might be. I hope this is true for Alan.

  2. Thanks, Billie! I'm on my way over to right now.

  3. I'm a half-glass full person too, so I am sure what ever happens Alan will love you anyway. Good Luck.

  4. Hi Linda, I agree with Billie. Equines are way more forgiving than humans, but they don't forget. I have rescued a few of these critters and what I have found is different personalities. The friendly ones, once the get to know us, easily trust and become our friends. In other words, they get over their fear of the unknown quickly. The untrusting ones, well, they may never completely trust. Even though the get to know you, don't mind taking your treats, they are always fearful. Maybe less fearful as time passes, but never fear-free. Although, I have a mini horse I cannot get close to when he's loose in the field, once he's haltered, he's very cooperative and tolerent of anything we do. He's wonderful with children. But would reather not be touched by humans if he has a choice.

    That's just who they are and sometimes you just have to accept them and learn to live with them.

    Have fun with them! Their entertainment never ends.