Training a Rescue Donkey {Case Study: Gucci}

Training a rescue donkey can take a long time depending on level of abuse, neglect and how long the donkey was in the auction pipeline. I’ve trained, rehabbed and rehomed dozens of donkeys! No two are exactly alike. 

This is about Gucci. A 6-7 year old gelding that was in a nearby kill pen. He was underweight, his hooves are overgrown and he’s absolutely terrified of humans. His coggins and the multiple glue spots on his booty tell me he’s been in the auction pipeline for a long time. This is extremely scary and stressful for a donkey! 

Start Training the Rescue Donkey in a small training area

Finally got Gucci in the small training area to get started. He will live in this area until he no longer fears me and I can halter him. (Update: all the rain flooded my training area so he had to be moved. This means training will take much longer)

Gucci wants NOTHING to do with me!! Been a while since I had one this feral!!!
Lots of work to do with him. He’s extremely fearful of humans.
The multiple glue spots from the auction and the date of his coggins tells me he was in the auction pipeline a while. This is very traumatic for a donkey.. being chased and hit by men from auction chute to chute,, to pens with aggressive jacks and other scared donkeys,, then crammed into crowded trailers to the next auction. Sometimes horse traders and meat buyers leave them in the trailers overnight without food or water.
It would have been better if someone could have got him directly from whatever farm he came from as just feral/unhandled, than to spend so many months with that high level of stress.

Rescue Donkeys do best with Positive Reward based training methods

This is why a -R start will not work with a donkey like this. He knows pressure. He knows pain stimulus. When he’s trapped, he freezes and shuts down. That’s not learning. Not building trust and not getting mentally better. Because he freezes in small spaces, it can make someone think he’s getting ok with touch… but once he’s out… its catch me if you can all over again!
He’s learned nothing… freezing is a fear response and once he has the option, he goes into flight despite the fact that when he was in a really tiny space he could be touched.
Here is his intro video Gucci Intro

Rescue Donkey Care and Hoof Rehab

His hooves are very overgrown so being in the training area I can get him used to the chute so its not so scary when the farrier comes to help me with his hooves. I’ll feed him in it to get him more used to it and start associating it with something he likes.

What can you do with a donkey?

This donkey makes me cry… he’s so beautiful and such a nice herd mate with the other boys. They all like him.
This size donkey often gets overlooked… he is the size cattle farmers like to guard, but he’s a very mild non-aggressive donkey. He’s not a guard!
Most people think he’s not big enough to ride.. WRONG! For the right size lady or kid, he’s perfect!
He’s to big for a lot of people who what to drive a donkey…I get that… the little guys are much easier to maneuver!
But for people who want to do serious farm work, they think he’s to small…wrong again! He’s perfect for farm work!
He’d also make a great pack donkey for hiking or maybe even burro racing if he likes to trot.. most donkeys love to go hiking… not all like to run!
With training, he can be a loving pet companion. Again a lot of people want smaller donkeys for just pets… but whatever… he will find his place with a good family where he can be loved and feel safe…
He will have a future!

Update: Gucci March 2022

Since we got hit with a ridiculous amount of rain that flooded my training area I’ve not trained Gucci with the frequency I usually do. Due to ALL the rain I couldn’t have trained him as often even if my training area stayed drained!

But Mr.Untouchable has made progress!! Training this rescue donkey has been different and I can tell he’s been abused but slowly he is accepting life here. He’s accepting that I’m not all bad! He has started following me and asking me for scratches! He’s not shy about that!

After all these months he is just now accepting a reward from my hand and that is really huge! Still no allowing me to halter him, but he will allow me to touch him with the halter for scratches.

Update: May 2022

Gucci is allowing me to put a fly veil on him and a halter!!!!! Still no fly spray or picking up hooves but he is beginning to lead and accept the fly repellent salve (which works better than fly spray anyways!)

He still gets scared over sudden movements, but he is well on his way. You can see all this progression in my Donkey Training Membership Group on patreon (link below)

Remember: Progress not perfection!

That’s what I want! When it comes to abused rescue donkeys you have to be persistent but never pushy. It’s not so much about patience like every likes to say. To me its more about being determined to be successful and doing whatever it takes to achieve that. 

Help with Training Donkeys

If you are struggling to train a donkey I have SO many resources to help you! I’ve been building these resources for years now. 

You can sign up for my DLL for emails full of tips and free help. Subscribe to my youtube channel for free care and training videos. I have books and courses available you can buy for more help! 

My Donkey Training membership group, which contains well over 100 exclusive donkey training videos, training plans, the course guides and ebooks. 

I can’t help all the donkeys because I do have limited funds and resources like most people, but if I can help you with your donkey that makes me feel just as happy! 

Other articles on donkey training and donkey care you might like:

Donkey Training Information [Getting Started]

Training Donkeys Tip {Train the Individual, Not Just the Donkey}