“Donkeys are kind of known for being stubborn, aren’t they?” said my friend Sarah the other day. Aha, the most common of donkey myths. I have discovered that everyone who doesn’t particularly know about donkeys seems to think this, while all the donkey people know otherwise, and comment amongst themselves about how people have got donkeys so very wrong.
Donkeys are intelligent; they use logic and you can, apparently, reason and negotiate with a donkey (although the woman who told me this, Dyfi beach donkey Louise, said the donkey will always win, which isn’t my idea of satisfactory negotiation).
Donkeys also have a strong sense of self preservation, they know what they like and don’t like. Training a donkey by rote and command won’t get you very far – instead training is a process of getting the donkey to trust you, to believe that you also have their best interests at heart, and that you are the competent herd leader, even (or especially) in a herd of two.
“Aha!” I said to Sarah. “That’s what people always think. It’s actually just that donkeys just won’t do what they don’t want to do, you see?”
“Yes. Isn’t that the definition of being stubborn?” said Sarah who is, after all, a barrister. Good point. Donkey people, how do you plead?