How to Ride a Donkey

How to ride a donkey?? People who don’t know that all donkeys aren’t small usually act completely shocked when I say I ride some of my donkeys… “some” meaning the ones large enough to carry me!

But how do you know if a donkey is big enough to carry you? And how do you teach a donkey to ride? Do they need a saddle?? Does a donkey wear a bit??? I get flooded with questions like this all the time and I’m more than happy to educate people on How to ride a donkey!

how to ride a donkey and riding donkeys

Riding Donkeys isn’t new!

Riding a donkey is about as old as time. Christians are familiar with the fact that Christ rode a donkey colt and in the old testament you see riding donkeys mentioned a lot! Riding donkeys is mentioned way more than riding horses or mules. So riding donkeys is far from a new thing. Its an old thing and imo its the best thing!

In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but donkeys if they came in peace. First Kings 1:33 mentions Solomon riding a donkey on the day he was recognized as the new king of Israel. Other instances of leaders riding donkeys are Judges 5:1010:412:14; and 2 Samuel 16:2.

So not only did people ride them, kings rode them! In China a tomb was discovered not to long ago of an Empress from the Tang dynasty who was buried with her polo donkeys! 

I could go on but you get the point… riding donkeys can, has and will continue to be done!

How much weight can a donkey carry

Before anything else, you need to figure out how much weight your donkey can carry. Don’t judge a donkey by how tall he is!! Its more about the donkeys weight than height! I have this article and guide for figuring out a donkeys weight: Can You Ride a Donkey? {How much weight can a donkey carry?}

Donkey saddle

Now, if you’ve determined, your donkey can carry you its time to think about saddles. You can ride a donkey bareback.. but donkeys don’t always have comfy backs! Most of them how a ridge looking spine and its not comfortable or easy to balance on.. I feel like its uncomfortable for the donkey too because they always seem to ride better with a saddle than without.

A good saddle to start with is a vintage McClellan. They are close contact saddles, build on a smaller, more narrow tree and just seem to fit more donkeys well! An exception would be a wide donkey with Mammoth Jackstock bone structure. But for standards and most large standards, I have found McClellan saddles to work great. Plus they are lightweight! 

You usually can find them on ebay or CL for low prices. They are center-fire rigged but if you use an over girth or have it converted to a double cinch they really fit well! I have videos in my training group about rigging a donkey saddle correctly.

Donkey Tack

Some donkeys with very narrow backs and no withers will need a saddle breeching to keep the saddle from sliding forward. My saddles are tuned into my donkeys well and using a pulled wool pad helps, so I usually don’t need one, but I use one if we are going to be going on a lot of hills. You can read more about the kind of saddle breeching I like best and why here:  Saddle Breeching

Donkeys also need a bridle and reins. Horse bridles don’t fit donkeys well and lots of them squish the donkeys big ears. This makes them head shy over time because it’s uncomfortable, so I designed a couple of bridles just for donkeys! They can be used with a bit or with a bitless nosepiece like a hackamore. I also make a bitless bridle option for riding donkeys and driving donkeys! 

Here are my donkey bridles that can be used with a bit or with a hackamore: Donkey Riding Set

how to ride a donkey and riding donkeys
Custom bitless donkey bridle riding set with an easy snap brow band and plenty of room for the donkeys ears.

How to ride a donkey? Your balance and ability are important!

If you’ve ridden horses or mules before and recently, your balance to ride is probably ok. If you’ve never ridden an equine before or you haven’t ridden one since you were a kid, take some riding lessons. 

You’ll be more confident and that’s important to a donkey! If you wobble around on your donkey, he will not be comfortable and he will not want to go. That’s a problem. So even if you can’t find a local person who offers riding lessons on a donkey, take some lessons on a horse!! You’ll develop balance, confidence AND you’ll learn how to use your hands softly. 

Harsh hands can hurt the donkeys face or mouth. Yes, even using bitless options, harsh hands can hurt! If you’ve never ridden, please get some guidance. If you hurt your donkey, riding won’t be fun and it’ll be hard to convince the donkey to allow you to ride and they’ll never ride willingly. 

By the way, I offer riding lessons on my donkeys if you are in southeast TN or if you are planning a Donkey Bray-Cation and want to learn about donkeys in beautiful SouthEast TN contact me at angie@donkeylistener.com 

Conditioning your donkey

Conditioning your donkey before you start riding is most important! Not fair to ask your donkey to carry 130 pounds or whatever you weigh without getting them in shape. You wouldn’t put on a 30 pound backpack on and start climbing mountains. You’d build up to it!

Conditioning is always a huge part of my training plans for a donkey I’m starting out. Condition is a really important factor in how much weight a donkey can carry, what kind of terrain they can carry you on and how long they can comfortably carry you. 

When I first starting riding Jasper, my 13hh large standard, he couldn’t carry me up hills well. 2 years later and lots of exercise he canters up hills with me riding him!

Yes, it makes a HUGE difference! So make sure conditioning is a part of your training plans.

How to ride a donkey: Training!!!

If you’re ready to move on to training plans, how to videos on mounting, getting forward movement, conditioning and would like help with this goal, I’d love to have you join my Donkey Training Membership Group! 

I also offer online coaching and, like mentioned above, hands on lessons. I’ve helped people all over the world train their donkeys and reach their goals with my resources! 

I hope this article inspires you to train your donkey to ride if that’s a goal of yours. Its a beautiful way to spend time with your donkey! 

donkey tack and riding donkeys