Hiking with donkeys is one of my all-time favorite activities. Donkey trekking is actually quite a popular activity similar to hiking. Hiking is more about leisure and shorter trips. The term trekking is used when you talking about typically a longer and more rigorous trip. But whatever you choose to call it, it’s a load of fun and highly beneficial for you and your donkey.
Benefits of Hiking with a Donkey
You get fit and the donkey gets fit! But that’s not all. Hiking will deepen your bond with your donkeys and also get them used to you being the leader in the partnership you are building. You can also incorporate training groundwork basics into it. More on that soon.
Getting Started Hiking with your Donkey
Getting started hiking with your donkey is so simple as long as your donkey leads well! For basic training information, I have some YouTube videos. For in-dept lead training videos and much more, I have an online training membership group you can join for less than the cost of a cup of coffee! Donkey Training Membership Group
When I start out with an out of shape donkey, we typically hike on mostly flat ground and for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you are new to fitness and starting out yourself like I was a few years ago, maybe start with 10 minutes and work up to 20 adding 5 minutes each time. Once you are actively hiking around for 20 minutes with your donkey, it’s time to change it up.
Next step! Then we work going up hills and rougher terrain. We also work on stopping (whoa!) backing up together and then moving forward again. Little exercises like these are what I call the ‘mimic game’ and are an important part of ground work for donkeys. They really get your donkey thinking. Wakes up their brain, keeps them from getting bored and gets them excited. It also gets them thinking about being a ‘team’ and about what I’m going to ask for next.
3 days a week is the idea for this workout. You don’t want to burn them or yourself out on it. Although my riding donkey, Jasper, thinks we should hike every day. Some donkeys are like that and just love it!
Incorporating Training Sessions into Hiking
Hiking sessions can become training sessions. You’ve already seen how you can incorporate some extra training into a hike but there’s more.
Through hiking, they learn to lead right beside me in the proper position. They also learn voice commands and transitions. Each time I change speed I will say Trot or Step (step means walking for us). This also gets them ready for ground driving and long lining training. After a couple of ground driving sessions in the round pen and barnyard, this turns into us hiking with me ground driving behind them.
Hiking together also gets them ready to do liberty type activities I like to throw in for variety and mental health. They learn to watch my body language and how I move. After a couple of weeks of just hiking 3 days a week, my donkeys can tell when I’m slowing down, speeding up or backing up before I even say the cue word most of the time. They already know how I move and are used to watching me for what I will do next.
My donkeys need to drive (or ride) all over our farm. So all my donkeys need to be desensitized to my husbands’ pigs and our dogs that live on the lower side of the farm.
Walking and jogging by the pigs, giving treats and praise gets them over the pigs and dogs quickly. I feel like if they can be desensitized to pigs they can get over anything!
We also approach the horse trailer, the trucks and other objects that may seem sketchy to a donkey.
Hiking with Donkeys, the next level with Intervals
In training, we call it transitions in hiking; I call it intervals.
To focus on how long I’m doing an interval, I need a timer. I use Gym Boss app. It is FREE! and you can set it however you want. You can also play music while it’s running if you want. I highly recommend it Gym Boss App. It’s available for apple or google play.
Now, starting out teaching transitions on a hike I set the HIIT timer for 10 seconds trot, 50-second walk. You can ease in and set enough intervals to go about 15 minutes if you need to. My goal is typically 20 minutes.
I do ALL my hikes on uneven, rough terrain with hills at this point. But if you aren’t ready for that a flat surface will still get you guys in shape!
Once that becomes easier I might up it to 30 seconds trot/30seconds walk. Then 40 seconds trot/20 seconds walk. And so on. Then I’ll readjust to maybe 50 seconds trot/30 seconds walk.
These are just examples you can set your trotting times or just do them spontaneously. This will depend on your donkey too. Some of my donkeys are happy to trot 40 seconds but some think 10 seconds of trotting is plenty! As long as they are responding to the transition voice cue in this part of the training, I’m happy. For me, it’s as much about training the donkey as it is getting exercise for us both.
This is an excellent program for getting your donkey back in shape for driving or riding after a lazy winter or time off too!
A few words about proper form and the right shoes!
I mean shoes for you! Donkeys rarely ever need shoes and even then I recommend trail boots rather than shoes. If you are really getting into trotting transitions with your donkey, that means you are jogging. Make sure you have great shoes! I have never been a ‘runner’. Honestly, back in the day if someone mentioned going for a jog with them I might have stopped being their friend!
Even speed walking used to give me horrible sheen splints. I realize now I had bad form and the wrong shoes! Since I hike/jog on rough ground, I wear Merrel hiking boots with lots of arch support and cushioning to absorb impact and provide stability. Like these Merrels They are wonderful! No joint pains and no sheen splints! That’s saying a lot for a 46-year-old non-runner!
Be aware of your form. I was always a ‘heel’ strike kind of girl. That’s why running used to hurt and so I avoided it like crazy! This video is a really good one on proper form and foot strike.
It is a new fitness attitude with working donkeys in my life
Donkeys have given me the motivation to not only get in shape but to maintain a better fitness level.
My donkey hiking workout time is not about marathons or having leg muscles made of steel it is about function. Fitness for me at this age and mindset is all about health and mobility now. How I function and feel. I know what it feels like to be unhealthy and weak and don’t want that for myself or my donkeys.
I used to be stressed out a lot but these hikes have helped me manage stress which has overall improved my health and mindset. Donkeys have improved my health and made exercise so fun!
Are you ready for Donkey Trekking?
One of my goals is to take a real donkey trek someday! Pack up my donkey and head up one of our local mountains for a view and a picnic. Hiking with donkeys is a stress-relieving, enjoyable experience. I can only imagine this would be heightened with the mountain views.
There’s just something about the donkey walking alongside me. Feelings of contentment, feelings of thankfulness all bubble to the top of my mind while breathing in all the fresh all.
This video is just a little inspirational video I made out hiking with Rocketman. I was just feeling so thankful and blessed I thought why not share the moment and hopefully inspire more people to get out there and hike with a donkey…
Hiking with donkeys or donkey trekking, just get out and enjoy your donkey today!
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