Training Donkeys: Liberty Donkey & Donkey Agility

Curious about what a liberty donkey is and why would you want to do donkey agility? That’s what this week’s article is all about! The more unique ways you are training donkeys, the better your donkeys will be.

What is Liberty Training?

Liberty training as defined by Robin Gates of www.libertyhorsetraining.com 

“At liberty, in a free environment, unrestrained, with the absence of tack, we create a bond through a series of companionship interactions that are naturally enjoyable to the horse. This bond is the key to a magical relationship with your horse”

Yes, that definition is about horses, but it really applies to donkeys too!

Liberty training helps build trust with donkeys. Which is the most important thing to a donkey!

Why would you want a Liberty Donkey?

Liberty training does more though!

The ultimate goal in Liberty horse training is to get past using pressure stages to the ultimate level of communication where your horse responds to your intent. ~Johnathon Fields

Yes, another quote geared toward horse but I promise this quote applies to training donkeys as well.

Liberty training will make you a better donkey trainer because liberty training allows you to start reading donkey body language better. In return, your donkey also learns to read you better! 

Liberty training is one of the highest levels of training where you can learn about the true nature of your relationship with your donkey. With liberty horses, it looks like the trainer has a connection with the horse mind. While it may not look exactly the same with a donkey because donkeys have fewer fast-twitch muscles and do not respond to pressure the same way, the study of donkey body language is the same. 

Being about to communicate with your donkey at such a subtle level is not only impressive, but it strengthens your communication skills! Liberty training a donkey lets you work on your timing and feel too. Being able to communicate better = building more trust and more understanding.

Here is a list of reasons Liberty Training is helpful to you and your donkey

  • Opens up a window to help you understand donkey body language
  • Forms a natural connection 
  • Develops a stronger bond 
  • Liberty benefits other disciplines by developing better cue responses and subtle communication
  • Liberty can give you feedback about whether your communication to your donkey is clear.

Steps to Liberty Training a Donkey

If you have decided to give this fun training method a try, the first thing you will want to do is set you and your donkey up for success! This works best when your donkey already knows how to lead, and trusts you. If you are a complete beginner at training donkeys, please check out my Donkey Training Membership group.

I like to incorporate liberty training in my foundation level right from the beginning during leading training. My Level 1 course can get you started with what I call the mimic game. It’s included in the membership group but you can also purchase it here Level 1: Foundation. 

Your donkey will need to understand the drive and draw.

This is where liberty training a donkey is different. With horses, the drive can be very strong but if you drive your donkey with to much pressure, he will choose to just stay away! Remember, a donkey is different. Liberty training a donkey can have a lot of the same benefits but it won’t probably won’t look the same as a horse.

Most people start liberty training on line and just remove the rope later. I do both. Some things I start completely at liberty, like leading and the mimic game. But many things I start on line until the donkey understands me better, like HQY.

With horses, liberty training is usually all pressure/release training, aka -R.

With donkeys, +R works much better to start and then you can give fewer rewards as your donkey progresses.

You will need:

  1. Set goals and make a plan! You can use my  {FREE Training Planner} if you like. 
  2. Have a small area to work in (round pen is idea but not totally necessary)
  3. Gather the tools you’ll need: check out my video {My Top 5 Training Aids}


Liberty Training Books

As far as I know, there are no books written especially for training liberty donkeys. Don’t let that stop you! My Level 1 course can get you started, so can the other videos on my YT and in my membership group. 

This is one of my first videos of Jasper. If you’ve been on my site before or youtube channel you know Jasper is my heart donkey. Liberty training is something he responded to so quickly and it started building a strong bond between us. 

Liberty Donkey and Donkey Agility

One of my goals with training liberty is to eventually get into donkey agility on a higher level with an expanded agility course. You can do donkey agility on lead but how amazing to have a donkey run through (or walk through) an agility course at liberty! Donkeys can be incredibly athletic and some of them really enjoy jumping and trotting. Even the less energetic donkeys might enjoy a walkthrough. 

Why do donkey agility?

  • Good exercise for both your donkey and you
  • More communication skills are developed
  • Provides enrichment for your donkey
  • Deepens your partnership and bond

Again there are no books wrote for donkey agility specifically BUT my donkey training group has several videos on how to get your donkey to jump and some DIY obstacle course how to’s.


Is Liberty Training the same as Positive Reinforcement?

That depends. In traditional liberty horse training, no. A lot of pressure is used but since donkeys do not respond to pressure the same way, I use +R to start the donkeys. 

Donkeys respond better when +R techniques are used within liberty training. At least for my donkeys, this has been true.

Just be sure to teach your donkey treat manners first if you plan to use treats! I have a few  videos on that subject on youtube and ofcourse its a foundation training in my Level 1 course.

It’s very easy to train, but you must be consistent! 

When Liberty Donkey or Donkey Agility Training Might Not Work

Take into consideration the donkey individual. Is your donkey in good health? Lower energy during training or higher energy? Not all donkeys will like this kind of training, but some will explode with potential!

Some donkeys may like structure better. They may prefer a nice on-line hike. I’ve got donkeys that like multiple kinds of training because they just enjoy doing something with me. You never know until you try.

I’ve found that most donkeys like liberty training, though not all excel at donkey agility at the trot most enjoy walking through my small obstacle course.

Want to get started training your donkey?

Training donkeys from basic to advanced. Liberty donkey and donkey agility

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