1) Are donkeys empathetic? 2) teaching long lining

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1) Are donkeys empathetic? 2) teaching long lining

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    12-14-2013, 11:51 AM
1) Are donkeys empathetic? 2) teaching long lining

Two part question, as the title says:

I am at the moment completely devastated, my beagle died in my arms the other morning, a few hours after we arrived home, a 24 hour journey home from a 3 week vacation. I was surprised that the cat went and laid in bed with him that morning, I never thought the cat would be that sensitive.

The one that really shocked me was when I went to hang out with the horses for a while, they were quiet , and accepting of hugs, maybe more than normal, but little Poncho came bustling over, reached up and just laid his head and neck up against me. As he is so little at full stretch his nose comes up to somewhere between waist and bust, he just leaned into me and let me rub his face and ears. He has never ever offered to do anything like that before, he is usually friendly but aloof, I can go a pet him, he doesn't come to be petted, food yes!

For those who don't know, I share Poncho with another lady, so he was here last winter for 6 months, went to her for the summer, and has only been back a couple of weeks.

Second part:

I would love to teach Poncho to be ground driven, maybe to pull a cart in the future, how would I start? I know with a horse, but everyone says donkeys are different. He leads fine, but I think that is all he knows.
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    12-14-2013, 12:09 PM
I do think that animals (donkeys included) can sense when a person is sad or sick or hurting. And I think they can react accordingly. My cats love my current, invalid state. Cats sure do like crippled people xD

That said, I'm not sure that donkeys (or any animal, for that matter) can really experience "empathy".

I don't know about the second question!
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    12-14-2013, 02:26 PM
First off, yes I believe every animal is capable of empathy - some are more kind than others, while many are simply out for themselves. I think it's a personality thing and a relationship thing. If they care for you they're more likely to care about your feelings.

As for teaching a donkey to drive - all the donkey/mule rescues near me are 100% Clicker Training. I use CT with my horses and have consulted them alot. They say (and this is a large generalization here) the trouble with Donkeys is they aren't able to be bullied or threatened into doing something, its takes far more severe pressure for a donkey to respond from it. While horses generally are trained through the use of pressure/release - most Donkeys don't find that a good enough reason to do as asked. And my horses agree!

The biggest difference between P/R and CT is that with P/R the animal is working to avoid pain/discomfort/annoyance while with CT the animal is working for a reward.

That being said even with a small donkey you can create a monster just feeding them treats without setting guidelines.
There are several methods and ways of starting animals with CT to be safe for the rest of your work.
Personally, I'm feeding my horses handfuls of food almost all the time when I'm working with them, but since our initial training I've never had them invade my space, be rude or pushy - it's all about teaching them what exactly they do to earn the reward - and being rude does not (and so they don't do it!). :)

So all that being said here are some links to some fantastic trainers I love to learn from - most of their information is free with youtube videos and blog posts. :)
This link helps explain better what I tried to explain with the difference between CT and P/R
The Dominance Model and Horsemanship by Equine Ethology Are Dead | enlightened horsemanship through touch

This is one of my favorite clicker trainers, the first video in this shows how to safely start a horse (or donkey) with CT - the rest of her website is full of fantastic information too about riding and driving
Video 1

Here's a good step by step guide

And here is a cool video of the end results of CT done right :)

I hope this helps :)
    12-14-2013, 02:27 PM
Sorry double post :)
    12-19-2013, 08:34 AM
I beleive that donkeys are more "in tune" with their people. My two are usually full of them selves, bouncing around & being a pest. Trying to see who can get more of my attention. There have been times when I've been very upset about things & they will stand very quitly by me & just rest their nose on me while I cry it out.

As for training, slow, slow, slow! Give him time to think about each step. Things that would have taken me a day or two with a horse took weeks with my donk. If you try to push them, they push back. I didn't use treats with mine, his reward was a good scratch in his favorite places & a lot of verbal praise.
    12-19-2013, 11:55 AM
Punks--To my knowledge, there is really no empirical evidence to suggest that animals have a sense of self, and to some extent "emotions" especially one as complex as empathy. For example, an animal can comprehend "dead" but I don't think it can comprehend "dying".
Based on what I have read while studying psychology, it is what people project onto them.
    12-19-2013, 04:23 PM
Zexious - I strongly disagree. I live with my horses. I am with them 24/7, there's not much they can hide from me as for what they're feeling.

About a week ago our rescue lost a member of our herd. She was a mare born with us 26 years ago. She was raised with us and knew every rescue that came and went. She developed cancer (the same thing that killed the rest of her family). The horses at our rescue have seen lots of death, their response is always the same. In this case the mare got progressively more sick for weeks on end. She lost weight and couldn't sleep. At first the herd carried on as normal, some overtaking her in leadership, she slipped to the bottom of the herd. But as her weight dwindled I watched as her friends would find food for her, they would dig up some grass under the snow and call to her, when she came they stood over her as she tried her best to eat it. Of course we offered her a buffet of food, anything she would eat she could have, but she couldn't eat and couldn't sleep. On the last day of her life we knew it was over, we brought her to her paddock and let her friends be with her. They stood around her all day, she trembled and fell to the ground (the vet was at an emergency but on her way). Her owner and I stayed with her, holding her head out of the mud. The entire herd, even the ones in other fields were at their fences watching. All of them quiet, no one asking for food or fighting with each other, just watching. Her friends in her field let us be with her. The vet arrived and euthanized her, as the life fell from her eyes there was a collective sigh among the horses. Even our 8 month old colt who had only known her for two was watching with his head low. They licked their lips submissively, they shifted their weight around uncomfortable, and but they were all quiet. When we left to get the tarp to cover her until the backhoe arrived, her friends surrounded her. They took turns touching her body and nosing at her gently. They knew she was gone and they were sad.
Our barn is usually loud with horses demanding their next feeding and their blankets changed or to come in or go out or their friend not being where they could see them - there's always a fuss. But not this week. The week went by eerily quiet. Even our obnoxious OTTB stallion, who was her over-the fence buddy for 8 year, was quiet in his stall, not pawing or sticking his head out to moose anyone who walked by.
No one called to her - they knew she was dead.

NO one can tell me horses don't love, have empathy, or have sorrow. It's just not true. If you live with them every day and you really pay attention - not asking things of them, not being with them just to perform a job, not living with them on your terms - just share your existence with them, you will see what they're capable of.
I believe people choose not to believe horses are capable of sorrow, pain and loss because it would only make us feel guilty for what we put our animals through for our own benefit. But I believe there is a balance to be mutually beneficial. I will never tell anyone not to ride or work their animal - I would only say do it kindly and Ride with Empathy.
    12-19-2013, 06:52 PM
Dammit PunksTank now I'm crying again, sounds like the herd were saying goodbye.

As to Poncho, he is back to his normal bustling self, so I'm going with him knowing that I was sad, I maybe delusional, but hey, doesn't hurt anyone right?

First attempt at ground driving the beastie

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    12-19-2013, 06:58 PM
HAHAHA he's SO cute! Look at that belly!! I love it xD

What might help you with ground driving is getting the reins over his belly xD For my pony, before I had a surcingle, I used a polo wrap wrapped around his belly with 2 D rings wrapped into you (I just wrapped the polo once around the ring and then about a foot, then once around another ring) then tied it under his belly. So I could run the reins on either side on top (but a little to either side) of his back. So it didn't get tangled in his legs or get stuck on his pot belly :P
    12-19-2013, 07:12 PM
PunksTank, yes, I need to rig up a better system, that was just a play to see what would happen. I'm going to try him in my side pull if I can make it fit, and I have an old harness that I think I can get enough workable parts off to make a redneck set up to make it safer and more effective. Now if the weather would just warm up a bit!
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