Sunday, December 09, 2007

Donkey watch: the problem with manual over-ride

Yesterday I hitched Jethro to his lovely new cart. We went over to my ex-husband's house and picked up his wife and their two small children and, as the grandparents snapped pictures, we ambled down the driveway and went on a peaceful, extended walk.

Today, I offered my painting friend Mike a ride and off we went. Coming down a hill Jethro broke into a trot, and I was so excited I ran alongside him. All the thrills, the noise, the banging and whatnot - it was all just too much for my skittish equid. If Jethro were a cartoon character he'd have had red-and-white spirals turning in his eye sockets.

He stopped listening and sped up. His spiral eyes were rotating. I barked "WALK" and then "STOP" but there was more wild trotting. (Trotting is faster than it sounds.)

The problem is, a donkey is equipped with manual over-ride.
  • Under rational circumstances, a donkey will evaluate an unusual situation and come to its own conclusion regarding the correct action. It will then decide whether to follow your suggested response or go with its own preferred option.

  • Under stressful circumstances (say, when the donkey has frightened itself by moving too fast, or when there is a particularly threatening umbrella in the vicinity), listening and thinking cease. Unfortunately, as with human beings, lack of thought does not preclude action.
By the time we three reached the bottom of the hill, Mike had jumped out of the cart and was leaning on Jethro yelling STOP, and I was being dragged along, on my belly, by the lead rope. Jethro wasn't the only one who was acting without thinking - by the time it occurred to me to let go of the lead rope, an awful lot of skin had been ripped off the back of my hand.

Soon Jethro stopped and continued down the road as if nothing had happened. I'm banged up a bit, Mike is fine, but I keep thinking with horror that this could have happened yesterday when I had kids in the cart. We are definitely not ready for prime time.




At 8:38 PM, Blogger Alma said...

Oh my gosh, Melinama! I hope you are not too sore. A hot bath, preferrably with epsom, is definitely in order tonight.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger melinama said...

Thanks Alma, and thanks for all your comments!! I am stiffer and hurting more than when it happened, amazing what adrenalin will do. My friends made me buy some Neosporin and I'm just taking it easy and wondering how to do better tomorrow.

I thought about taking a picture of my bloody hand (look! eeew!) but thought that would be too juvenile.

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous susanlynn said...

Yikes. Take care of that hand.

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous sylvia said...

Oh lordie! It sounds like you could have been injured much worse! I think you should take a picture of your wounded hand. Not that I think it is, but so what if it's juvenile?

I'm glad everybody is allright.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Lin B said...

That's terrible! And discouraging, I bet.

Is there anything for donkeys that's comparable to a pinch collar for dogs? I thought those collars were cruel - until we got an ebullient 110-pound Great Pyrenees who cracked a bone in my arm and tore up my finger during his wild adolescence. His trainer convinced me that it's more cruel for the owner to be unable to control the dog if necessary: dog sees cat across street and dashes out into traffic, jerking owner along, etc.

Blinders for Jethro, maybe, like skittish horses used to wear?

Hope your hand's OK!


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