As most of you know we've had more than a little bit of trouble getting Sparky the donkey on a trailer so we could move him to our farm. After spending a few days of our time attempting to get Sparky on the trailer we finally decided we all needed to take a step back and take a break from things for awhile. So for almost two weeks we made no more attempts to get Sparky on the trailer.
For anyone that missed it here is the initial post about our donkey loading attempts along with a couple of pictures. A little over a week ago Jason and I had a conversation about Sparky. To say we had lost a lot of sleep over this, not to mention days of our time, would be an understatement. We were going over the list of things we had tried:
1. Having a friend already in the trailer.
2. Spending days and days trying to desensitize him to the trailer.
3. Using food and treats to try and bribe him on the trailer.
4. Putting a rope behind him and trying to push him on the trailer. We also tried having the rope tied in the trailer with a pulley hold but he would just lay down.
5. We tried flapping plastic bags behind him and other scary objects.
6. Against my better judgement we tried blindfolding him. I had tried this years ago and he reacted very badly to it, however desperate times call for desperate measures and we tried it again. He became frantic and then did his usual thing - plop down.
7. We tried lifting his tail over his back hoping that would encourage him to get on.
8. We tried turning him in circles around the trailer hoping we could sneak him on.
9. We tried all of the above with both of our trailers - we have a stock trailer that is a step-up and the horse trailer that has a ramp.
10. We shut him in a dry lot with food and water on the trailer. After four days I said uncle, I wasn't going to watch him dehydrate himself to death. He then proceeded to drink 15 gallons of water - he really was THAT determined not to get on any trailer for any reason.
11. We tried pushing him into the trailer with the tractor - cue Sparky laying down on the ground.
12. We tried physically lifting up his front feet and placing them in the trailer. He would let us put one in, even stand there with one hoof on the trailer, but watch out if you tried the other one.
13. We tried locking hands behind him and pushing him forward.
14. I know I'm forgetting a few things but you get the idea here . . .
As we rehashed all the things we had tried I said to Jason "I think we need to stop talking about all the things we have tried and talk about things we haven't tried." The conversation went like this:
Jason: After thinking about for a minute Jason said "we could have the vet out and heavily sedate Sparky, as in he is down on the ground and not conscious, and then have a bunch of people there to drag him into the trailer." (I should add here for background info that we already know from past experience that Sparky doesn't really sedate very well, you can give him very large doses of dormosedan or xylazine or ace and it really doesn't have any effect on him)
Me: There is a lot I don't like about that plan. We have no idea how old Sparky actually is and how he would handle the heavy sedation. Plus what happens when he wakes up in the trailer? That could be a total disaster.
Jason: Do you have another suggestion for something we haven't tried?
Me: I had to think for a few minutes. Finally I said "We could call an animal communicator and discuss this with Sparky. You know, try to reason with him."
Jason: Watching the expressions cross Jason's face was one of those things where a picture is worth a thousand words. I could literally see the responses going through his head but he kept wisely choosing not to say them. There were a lot of bad words interspersed in there. Finally he said "I thought the point of this conversation was to come up with viable solutions."
Me: I just stood there and shrugged my shoulders. "That's all I've got."
So we left the whole Sparky getting on the trailer issue alone for awhile and went on with our lives. However it was always on our minds. Finally last week I broached the topic with Jason again. We decided we were going to try one more time, and if we couldn't get him on the trailer we were going to have to euthanize him at some point. He could stay at my mom's farm for awhile but due to many different logistical reasons that I won't go into here that was not a long term solution.
This was it, this was going to be the title round for Sparky vs. the trailer. So far the score was something like Sparky 9, people-with-trailer 0. We decided that we were going to go all out and tackle this with an army this time. In addition to ourselves we lined up seven more people to help us at my mom's farm on Saturday. I came armed with a lunging surcingle, two halters, two ropes, and a lot of treats. Our plan was to put the surcingle on Sparky and run the ropes through the rings so they wouldn't fall down to the ground if they got slack. We were going to have two halters on him in case one broke.
We parked the stock trailer at a spot in the pasture where there was no step up and the floor of the trailer was flush with the ground. I went and got Sparky and led him to the trailer. I gave him some dormosedan even though I knew it wouldn't have much, if any, effect on him and it didn't. So after 45 minutes of waiting and hoping Sparky would sedate I called Jason and told him it was time, we were just going to have to go for it. He gathered up our army and drove them over to where Sparky and I were waiting at the trailer. We tried once just having everyone pushing/pulling on him but even with seven people behind him Sparky hardly had to break a sweat as he planted his feet, and of course threatened to lie down.
I put the surcingle on him and we ran the ropes around him and back into the trailer. We got everyone in position. We had four people in the trailer pulling, me also in the trailer pulling on the leadrope, three people behind him pushing/pulling on the ropes and controlling his hind end, and someone ready to slam the trailer door shut should this actually work and we got him on the trailer. On the count of three we all started pulling with everything we had. Before Sparky even had a chance to realize what was happening both of his front feet were in the trailer. Jason yelled "keep pulling!!" Sparky quickly realized he was about to lose this battle and went to his old standby, to lie down.
But we were ready for that. Since the ropes were run through the rings on the surcingle they didn't lose any tension, plus we had enough leverage to keep him on his feet. In a few more seconds Sparky was in! The door was slammed shut, the guys let some slack out on the rope, and Sparky just stood there quietly. It was kind of anticlimactic as five of us stood there in the trailer along with Sparky. As I have said all along I knew if we could get Sparky in the trailer he would ride in it very quietly. His issue was not the trailer, but going through the door of the trailer. We opened the people door on the trailer and the people exited the trailer.
Sparky was at the very back of the trailer and ideally we wanted to get him to the front so we could shut the middle divider and keep him in the front half of the trailer. We went back in the trailer and started to try and pull him to the front but then I changed my mind. I asked Jason if it was safe for Sparky to stand at the back of the trailer for his trip. He said it would be fine as long as Sparky was quiet and didn't move much. I was confident he would ride in the trailer like a seasoned pro so we let him stay where he was.
The answer to the question of "How many people does it take to get Sparky on a trailer?" appears to be nine. It would not have happened with one less person. My deepest gratitude and endless thanks to our helpers on Saturday, we couldn't have done it without you.
We drove Sparky to our farm and he stood like a statue in the trailer. We drove the trailer right into his pasture and opened the door for him. He stood there contemplating things for a minute and then hopped off the trailer. He checked out his new surroundings and then went and joined his friends and started grazing. Everyone - donkey, horses, people - was happy. Sparky is sending out his change of address cards to all of his friends and acquaintances as I type this. The End.
The victory picture, Sparky is standing quietly in the trailer in the background. Pictured are seven of the nine members of the donkey loading crew.
Sparky in the trailer trying to puzzle out what went wrong and how he ended up in there
Sparky deciding if he wants to get off the trailer
He hopped off after a minute of contemplation
Sparky checking out his new digs
Back with his friends
Trigger and Moe having some fun
An amish horse and buggy went trotting by the farm a few days ago. Did that ever get a lot of attention from the horses. They were probably scared they might have to really work for a living!!
Maisie, Lily and Cuff Links
Faune saying to Gibson "play with me!!"
Flyer and Cocomo
Donneur, Lotus and Romeo
Jason and Carter were giving Johnny some pats
Walden and Fabrizzio
Hemi and Apollo