Friday, 26 August 2011


I have spent this week doing work experience at a donkey sanctuary. I have already learnt a lot and I am going back next week as well! Before going I had no experience with donkeys and expected them to be very similar to horses. During my Equine Science degree we didn't learn anything about them either. I have found donkeys to be much more different from horses than I had expected.

Here are a five things I have learnt this week!

1. Donkeys eat a lot of straw! Coming from a horse background I am definitely not used to feeding straw. Donkeys have evolved to live of forage that is not as rich as the grass the horse eats. Therefore they can put on weight easily when given too much grass, hay, haylage etc.

2. Donkeys put on weight in different places than horses! When horses put on weight it is generally evenly distributed around the body. In donkeys they get "saddle bags" these are areas where the fat is. They can get them along the sides of the neck. On their back and sides they get fat concentrated in areas which looks like lots of lumps. When the have been fat it can also make their neck drop over to one side. I can stop worrying about that donkey I saw on holiday who looked like he had a broken neck now!

3. There are all sorts of breeds of donkey. I did know that there would be breeds of donkey but I didn't know what a variety there would be. In the sanctuary I was helping at there was a cheeky Miniature donkey and two big Poitous who are the size of a small horse and one of them had very long hair, they are about 14.2 hh!

4. Donkeys form very strong bonds with another donkey. Trooper has his best friend Joe, they spend all their time together in the field, yet if we separated them for any length of time they wouldn't mind. Donkeys on the other hand, form a very strong attachment to another donkey. They can get very upset or distressed if taken away from that donkey. Donkeys that come into the sanctuary are kept together and when they are sent out on foster they will not be separated from a donkey they are strongly attached to.

5. Donkeys can get a disease called Hyperlipemia. From what I understand of this disease, it can happen when donkeys get stressed. They stop eating and their body starts releasing fat. However, the body then doesn't stop releasing the fat and they can become very ill very quickly. This makes it very important to make sure a donkey eats if it has just been under stress. Horses and ponies can get this disease but it is much rarer, apart from in miniature breeds.

All the donkeys were so lovely and all have such strong personalities. The donkey sanctuary I was working at is just a small one. I am going to ask them if I can write a post on their donkeys but I keep forgetting! I want to ask first as they are rescued donkeys and have come from a variety of backgrounds. Hopefully I will be able to do a post on some of the donkeys that have stood out to me over the two weeks.

Here are a few photographs I took on my phone, hopefully next week I will get a bit of time when it's nice weather to take some photos on my proper camera!

The poitou.

The foal!

The foal and his mother.

Love Laura

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