Pack & Draught Horse & Donkey

Pack & Draught Horse & Donkey

The relationship of easy familiarity and mutual confidence that characterises modern natural horsemanship was also the case in the best of traditional farming all over the world: owners trusted, and were trusted by, their beasts of burden, tillage or transport (donkeys, mules, horses, oxen, buffaloes, camels, llamas, goats).

Traditionally, horses worked nearly every day and often they learned their trade alongside their mother or another experienced horse. Today, the majority of horses are used only when their owners have free time, typically once a week, making it difficult for the horse to get back into work each time. In driving, there is the added difficulty of contact being restricted to reins and voice only.

Nonetheless, if the horse is well used to groundwork with long reins, not only will he be better prepared for riding, it will be easier for him to adapt to traction - tillage, skidding lumber, drawing cart or carriage.

Training for carrying loads, with some sort of packsaddle, is inherently less complex than training to draw. Perhaps the handler has more to learn here than the horse, donkey or mule, in mastering the fitting of the packsaddle and balancing the load.

In traditional farm horse and donkey training for riding and packing, it was common practice to gradually accustom the animal to having weight on his back, often starting with an empty flour sack, gradually adding sand, next introducing the saddle or packsaddle, then saddle and sack of sand, building weight steadily. At the same time as this paced training was going on, animal and owner were getting to know each other.

By applying knowledge gained from ethology and learning theory, we can compensate for our not having the necessary time for traditional training, especially by more effective communication thanks to a better understanding of the animal’s mind, ideally resulting in the animal being better accompanied in the learning process.

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