Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unlocking the key to Lucy

In the three months that Lucy has been in my life, we have developed a beautiful relationship in the saddle. The only bump in the road has been getting her to the saddle. When Lucy decides she'd prefer not to walk on the lead line from the barn, through the gate, to the hitching rail, she is immovable. Period. No amount of coaxing, cajoling, or carrots will get her from point A to point B if she decides it is not time to go. I've tried every trick in my horsemanship book with her, to no avail. Donkeys simply don't respond the way horses do. With lots and lots of time and patience, we've always gotten to point B eventually, but I knew there had to be another way.

Within the first 10 minutes at the weekend training clinic, I discovered one such way. That yellow rope you see around Lucy's head is what Steve Edwards calls a "comealong hitch." The hitch is used like a halter and lead rope – if she doesn't follow along as you lead her, the pressure of the rope across the top of her nose makes her uncomfortable. To escape the discomfort, she follows. Instead of making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult, as you might to train a horse, apparently with donkeys, you have to make the right thing comfortable and the wrong thing uncomfortable. In time, the comealong hitch will be replaced with a correctly adjusted, traditional rope halter.

Lucy picked up on the concept right away, and she willingly walked along with me all weekend without resistance. I could have left the clinic after the first 10 minutes and felt like I had gotten my money's worth – it was that much of a change in her and a mega-kilowatt lightbulb moment for me.


Lucy: Mom, that mule won't stop staring at me.
Me: That's because you're so wonderful. You'd better get used to it.

Everything else we learned at the clinic – and there was lots – was gravy. I don't have any still pictures of us to share with you, but I conned a spectator into shooting some video with my Flip camera.

30 comments:

  1. Glad the 'comealong hitch' worked and LOVED the video! Lucy is simply the best!!!

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  2. Wow, Bernard and Ellsworth were there, too. You are all learning together!

    And I loved seeing her gait in the video. She's a nice ground covering smooth ride for sure. Lucky you and lucky Lucy for getting the tools you need for a solid partnership. You go, girls!

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  3. Interesting. I heard that donkeys are like horses - except when they're not. Which I never understood.

    Looks like you both had a great time!

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  4. You looked so amazing up there with Lucy, Carson. So amazing! :)

    Ellsworth can't wait to see Lucy again this weekend. He just can't stop talking about her!

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  5. Nice job you two! BTW, where did the clinic occur? I could get over my claustrophobia in cantering inside with that awesomely huge arena!

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  6. How exciting that Bernard and Ellsworth were there also. Looking forward to seeing what all three have learned at camp. Loved the choice of music.

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  7. Estella from Co.5/17/11, 6:24 AM

    What can I say...You and Lucy do look so good together. A match made in Heaven. I'm tickled pink, purple, and every other color. I just couldn't have asked for someone as perfect as YOU for Miss Lucy. Happy Trails :)

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  8. Chaserider, the clinic was held at 4 Winds Equestrian Center in Estancia, NM - a top-notch facility with safe barns and fences and that big arena.

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  9. Hooray! Looks like it was a perfect weekend.

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  10. Way to go Lucy! You guys are stars! And Lucy's a beauty.

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  11. Looks like you had a great time at the clinic and Lucy learned how to follow with her new halter. Nice ride.

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  12. Great video, Carson. Thanks for sharing.
    Best always, Sandra

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  13. Oh my goodness I am so proud of Lucy :) You have one great donkey there !!! Jeanne in SC

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  14. It looks like a wonderful time was had by all. I can well understand why Ellsworth and the mule had eyes for Lucy! She is fabulous!!

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  15. Way to go Lucy! Good to see Bernard and Ellsworth too. Loved the video.

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  16. You and Lucy are two peas in a pod!! You look sooooo great together. That little video made my day! It was good to see the Morning Bray friends too!

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  17. Great job team Carson and Lucy! You look like you've been together for years!

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  18. Lucy is a star! I love the halter --- its like a Dog's Gentle Leader (Halti). Whoodathunkit?

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  19. Lucy's a peach!
    The comealong hitch makes total sense (well, to a dog owner who has used a prong..and kind of reverse the "it's uncomfortable, I'll stop" instead of "it's uncomfortable, I'll go").
    Anyway...Lucy! Peach! :D

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  20. Lucy really is your sunshine! I love the way she moved right along.

    Nancy in Iowa

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  21. You both are pure sunshine! Beautiful!!!!

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  22. It's hard to believe you've only had her a few months. You two look like you've been together for years! I'm not suprised Ellsworth was smitten with Miss Lucy...she's fantastic! :)

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  23. Whoa! A singlefootin' donk. I didn't know they did that. When I first started reading your blog I wondered why anyone would ride a donkey, but now I see that not only is she comfortable, but she's really a good size for you also. I didn't expect that at all.

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  24. That's great finding out about the comealong. I was very impressed watching her gait. That look like the same sweet little gait my mare does. I can cover alot of miles with that steady beat.

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  25. Yippie-LUCY-Yayyyyyyy! She looks like she enJOYed that ride as much as YOU did!!!It was great to see someone YOU knew too!!!

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  26. It's good that you went to the clinic. Wow, that come-along looks like the miracle cure. You look great together.

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  27. You two own that ring! Judging by the description, I think I must be a mule. *grin*

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  28. can you please tell me how to make one of these comealong hitches? sometimes when i need to move my donkey, she doesn't see why she has to, and there's little i can do about it except to trick/bribe her and i would rather train her than trick her. my email is eli underscore barnett at hotmail. i would very much appreciate your help. i wonder if they can be made out of baling twine?

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  29. I know I am over a year late in my comment, but I have to tell you something.
    First of all, my favorite part of every day is logging on to your blog. Not only do I read the latest, but I always scroll down to the links below and catch up on some from "before my time" I never read less than 4 a day.
    Secondly, when I was a young girl I had the most impressive collection of Breyer horses that any girl has ever seen. I used every penny that ever came into my hands to add to my collection. And as any self respecting aspiring horse girl does, I made halters for them all. I made them exactly as you made your little hitch line for Lucy. Now I have real horses of my own, and quite often when I go out to catch them I just take a piece of string or a rope, or a dog leash (or what ever else happens to be handy) and I will slip it around their necks. If they balk (I have one that does) I simply slip it over his nose and underneath, though my loop and make that same little halter I did on all my Breyer horses. Problem solved everytime.
    I'll admit though, I had no idea that was I was doing was a tried and tested training tool.
    Thanks for all of your wonderful posts.

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