RIDING YOUR DONKEY(S)
You might not run at breakneck speeds, but you will sure have fun riding a donkey if it is trained well. Riding a donkey is a bit different then riding a horse. Some donkeys are naturally gaited. Most donkeys will go at their own pace....usually a walk. However, a well trained riding donkey will step right out, keep up with any group of riding horses or mules as well as stay with them at any gait.
Donkeys were and still are used for packing, not only because they could carry much weight, but also they walk at about the same speed as a human walks.
Donkey are used to compete in English Jumping and Western Barrel Racing as well as other horse type sports....but donkeys compete against other donkeys. There are many sports a donkey might compete in. Believe me, you will have a blast training and competing with your donkey......if you train correctly.
When choosing a saddle for your donkey, chose one that fits the donkeys back well. An English Saddle may fit a bit better then a Western Saddle, but it will be the individual saddle(s) you will have to try on your "no withered" donkey. I can just about bet you, and win, that a "Full Quarter Horse Bar" saddle will not fit your donkey. A saddle can in fact, if not fitted correctly, make the donkey sore across the shoulders. If you do not know how to fit the saddle to the animal or to your own butt, get some help, both are important.
Make sure that the saddle you use is in good repair and keep it that way. Saddle trees break, leather wears out and becomes brittle, horns break, buckles rust, etc. Check the saddle over well, and do it again in a few months. Keep the saddle clean and repair or replace any parts that are even starting to wear out or get brittle.
Cinches are another concern. If you use a horse sized saddle for your standard sized donkey, you may need a pony sized cinch. If you use an English saddle for your donkey, you may need a pony sized girth. If you use a pony sized saddle for your miniature sized donkey, you may need a miniature sized saddle cinch.
Bits, Bridles, Hackmore, Halters or Rope Halters for riding a donkey? The choice is up to you and must be made based on how well your donkey is moved and stopped. Many donkeys need a bit. Snaffle bits are most often used. Make sure again that it fits your animal. A pony bit may be a better choice then a full horse sized bit. Check the bridle over to see if it is good repair before using it. Don't use a rusty or cold bridle on your equine!!
In the winter, if you do not store your tack in a heated building, warm your equine bits before putting them in your mounts mouths. That metal gets cold!!
Many good hearted horse folks, bless us all <grin> will give you there old tack; cause after all "it's only a donkey". Be gracious, but don't be stupid. If the tack is old and needs to be thrown away, tell this person, "thanks anyway, but I think I will keep looking".....many times this same good hearted horse person may "dig a little deeper" and find you a nicer peice of equipment.
I was once given an old saddle blanket...even had a small mouse hole. I went to Wal-Mart and bought some $1 per yard purple denim like fabric and covered the pad. On each of the back two corners I added a silver concho with a stand of rawhide and three pony beads per strand. You can not imagine all the compliments I got on my less then $10 saddle pad......and years later....I am still using it. It cleans well, has stayed in good shape otherwise and fits my horse well. My point is, don't turn up your nose to someone else' used give away tack. Do wash the used tack well, fix up any broken parts, make sure they fit your mount and then....enjoy!!
If you have gained a bit too much weight to ride your donkey, I do have a Yahoo Group at the Yahoo Groups Website called Does My Butt Look Big in the Saddle for overweight riders that would like to loose weight and enjoy riding equine again.
If you decide to ride on or train your donkey yourself rather then taking it to a professional trainer you are on your own as for as safety and accidents. I am listing here how we had success training our donkeys. Every person trains a bit differently and every single animal reacts differently. Even the same person training two different donkeys will have to "change the program" just a bit per donkey. Be careful, wear protective clothing, boots and gloves, have fun and know that we assume no responsibility for your training, health, safety or for that of your animals.
You do not train a donkey just like you would a horse. A donkey is not a horse. Donkey training, to me, is more like you would a llama or a goat.
Donkeys will not take well to force or fear training and will remember it at a later date. Many a good donkey has been ruined by training not conducive for a donkey but more for a horse or dog. You will want to make friends with and gain the trust and respect from your donkey before you start training your donkey to carry a rider.
Your donkey should be trained to walk well on a lead. The donkey should be a friendly, tame donkey; ideally anyway. Training should begin in a calm and individual matter. If you are in a hurry, forget it, buy one already trained. Training an animal to ride or drive takes time. Some people think that they can take an unbroke equine to the lake, get on and ride out on a broke to ride animal....good luck to them.
Granted, with some unbroke donkeys you can get on their backs and they do not care. Some you may be able to command with a halter while on their backs. Some donkeys will let you throw a saddle on and get on. But for proper and safe riding training, it is going to take some time, treats and patience. BTW <grin> Some donkeys will buck like a bronc seen at the rodeo.
A round pen would be best for training the donkey, but an open field with a helper will work just fine...most of the time.
(more to come, make sure your saddle fits the donkey and you and is in good repair)