Horses · Project Pack Donkey

Project Pack Donkey Update…

You can read the story of my little donkey here but, if you’re short on time I’ll recap it for you. I got my donkey off Craigslist in Alabama for $75. He was supposed to be a pet for my daughter, but she quickly lost interest and he became mine. My daughter named him Rusty. He was completely unhandled when we got him and just getting him on the trailer was an impressive feat of horsemanship, if I do say so myself. He took to training like a fish to water. He was so happy to have some attention and something to do other than stand around bored in a pasture that he willingly accepted just about everything we’ve thrown at him.

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My goal was to train him to be a pack animal- to hike with me and carry a pack on his back. He loves to go for a walk, and didn’t protest when I put his pack on for the first time. I’m getting more serious about my goals for him. I would really like to do some overnight backpacking trips with him and start hiking more serious miles.

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Sometimes I make my daughter come out to the barn and walk him, since he was her idea originally. He’s amazingly well behaved, especially since being gelded. His personality is so chill. You would think he was much older than 3. He’s really still a baby!

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I had planned to take him on his first camping trip last weekend but we got skunked by the weather. As soon as the weather cooperates, I want to take him out on his first overnight. We will most likely car camp with the truck and trailer right there, because it’s just easier. I can bring my high line kit that has a heavy ratchet that is way too heavy to carry anywhere. It makes a super secure high line though, and I never worry about the horses pulling it down and getting loose. Rusty has never spent the night on a high line, and that’s one of the most important backcountry skills he’s going to need.

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We need to hike some miles with his pack on as well. So far he has only hiked with an empty pack. I need to add weight to make sure that it doesn’t slip. His pack is actually a set of saddlebags that fits behind the saddle on a big horse. I attached it to a surcingle made for mini horses. (A surcingle is a training tool that is basically a belt for a horse with a whole bunch of rings to attach harnesses to.) The rings allow me to attach the pack at different points to keep it secure. It was a way cheaper option than buying a custom pack saddle.

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The other day I took Rusty on a short walk around the yard to graze. It was wet and muddy, and it reminded me how happy I am to muck about in the countryside with horses. That is the thing that makes me happiest, to hang out with my horses and be outside enjoying nature. They are the best companions, even the ones you can’t ride.

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