Blog of the Year – Zonkey Training

To finish off 2016, we’re all looking back at the year and choosing our favourite CT blog to watch again!

I’ve chosen Hannah’s Zonkey Training  video as my Blog of the Year. Firstly for sentimental reasons. I loved Zambi and Zee, the zebra x donkeys who came to us for training. It was a great pleasure to watch them arrive as two very scared zonkeys and then gain confidence and trust as each day went on.

Don’t tell Zee, but I particularly loved Zambi, the Mammoth Donkey cross. Maybe it was those huge fluffy ears or her big soft eyes? But she captured my heart with her desperate desire to try, even though she was so frightened of humans and what they did. She had an equally strong desire to investigate and make friends.
With Zee, it was mainly about the food. And the sweeter the better! But Zambi wanted a relationship. She wanted to try things out. She wanted to play. And at the end of the video, it is so beautiful as she trusts Hannah, leaves the free food and tries a new game.

I could talk about all the training reasons I love it too. It encapsulates our philosophies in one video. Firstly, the set up provided the 3 F’s: Friend, Freedom and Forage. Either zonkey could leave the building at any moment and could go and feed on free hay instead of the treats.

Secondly, our focus on emotions. Hannah trained with awareness on how each zonkey was feeling in the moment. Her focus was on relaxation and fun. It’s relatively easy to get behaviours from animals when you use rewards, but getting those behaviours with an animal who really is happy and relaxed is a whole different matter when they start as scared as these two did.

Finally, you see here the focus on each animal as an individual. In training, we don’t believe that “one size fits all”. You have to see the animal as the individual she is and change things accordingly. Hannah had to get very creative with Zambi and the result was delightful.
We still miss our “stripey girls”  but watching this always brings a smile to my face. Sit back and enjoy watching fear change to trust and anxiety change to fun. It’s a wee bit of magic!

CT Member? You can see the full story of Hannah’s training with Zambi and Zee in the Connected Members area. Plus, members get access to our forum and live Q&A sessions so head over there if you need some guidance and support working with a frightened, wild or un-handleable equine. 

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