An introduction to Donkey Care, probably the most important course I’ll go on ahead of my trek. Arguably, I’ll need more than an introduction ahead of the three months I plan to spend walking across India with Zappa, Ziggy and Nina, but to be honest I like to learn on the job. And really, how hard can it be…
Dangerous first words aside this particular course was run by The Donkey Sanctuary, an organisation I cannot sing the praises of enough. As a whole, and individually, The Donkey Sanctuary have tirelessly gone over and above to help and support me in the preparations for my trek. And the teacher of this course, Mark Kerr, was no exception. A fountain of knowledge on all things donkey related and an all-round nice guy.
The course was held at Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, East Sussex and started with a theory session in a classroom. Feeling slightly like I was back at school as we all introduced ourselves my reason for being on the course was met with the puzzled looks, open mouths and general bemusement I’ve become accustomed to. Regardless, everyone was very friendly and the morning extremely informative, full of genuine, practical advice that will be invaluable on my trek. I was reassured to learn that donkeys are used to walking on rough ground, are generally good at self-maintenance and can live off food with a very low nutritional content. I was less reassured to hear that they like shelter at night. There is no way Zappa, Ziggy or Nina are sharing my tent.
After a morning’s theory, we set out to visit the donkeys and put into practice our newfound knowledge. In the company of my daughter (an avid horse rider) and a group of people far better versed in the equestrian world that myself I was dubious about how things would go. However, Mark was ever the helpful (and not at all condescending) teacher and talked us through even the most basic of tasks. How to unpick a hoof, how to tie a quick release knot and early signs of illness and upset to look out for.
As with any typical day at school, the course ended with a test, which (unlike my school days) I’m proud to say I passed with flying colours. Leaving the centre I genuinely felt as though I’d learnt invaluable handling and care skills, without which my trek would have been looking a lot harder. Additionally, without wanting to tempt fate, I can’t help but think how lucky I’ve been so far. All my experiences of the donkey community have been resoundingly positive and with everyone I meet and talk to my excitement grows. There is a lot of love for these creatures and I have a feeling it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to Zappa, Ziggy and Nina when we reach Calcutta.