Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Little Things

How often we forget those little things that could someday really matter.  Take the simple word Whoa.  It is a word that almost every working animal, no matter the circumstance, should be taught, understand and respond to, excluding dogs of course! This team has been ignoring the word Whoa and making me use the lines for a stop so today and for the next few driving sessions we are going to spend time working on stopping on the spoken word … whoa!

Here is today’s video and a small portion of the end of our training session.

It was warm and windy this morning with ten miles of beautiful prairie visibility.  Our driving temp was 77 degrees with N NE Winds gusting to 23 mph during our outing.  The leaves are turning and beginning to fall from the sugar maples that surround our home.  The air is crisp especially in the mornings and the sun is loosing it’s intensity, what a great time of the year!  Yesterday was the first day of fall and one can tell the season has taken a turn. Rain and cooler temps have re-entered the forecast, we hope it is not just another moisture tease.

I am noticing how the breechings are not touching the boys since I’ve added the modified yankee breeching straps.  Now I am wondering if I need to have the breeching remade.  Luc’s harness has a shorter breeching and I’m thinking of switching Galahad’s and Luc’s harness breeching.  That should tell the tale on what needs done. This afternoons project I’m thinking!

Next drive will be weather depending, it’s a wait and see game!

Merlin & Galahad Sept 5, 2014

Today’s photo is from earlier this month taken in Bob’s hayfield that we enjoyed driving in.  I love the colors in this picture.  It was before the modified breeching was added.  Click on the picture to bring it up to fill size.


Sheep Encounter

We are driving in Bob's heavy harrowed field.  The boys are lisitening to sheep bells as they can't see them from here.  Click on the photo to bring it up to full size.

We are driving in Bob’s heavy harrowed field. The boys are listening to sheep bells as they can’t see them from here. Click on the photo to bring it up to full size.

The best thing about working weekends is the opportunity for drives like this on a Monday morning!  It was 74 degrees when our drive was over, perfect driving weather.  We sat up in the top of our wheat stubble field while I visited with family on the cell phone, just looking out and enjoying the countryside.  The boys were happy to have a nice long break.

Sheep, for years now every time we are near sheep the boys are freaking out and ready to run for the hills. I’ve tried several methods to desensitize them but so far I thought nothing had worked. I am so impressed with Galahad and how well he is handling different situations this driving season with calmness.  I think even when the sheep are near the road we are going to be able to drive past them, whell maybe not with Luc but these two are going to be fine. YIPPEE!!

Enjoy todays video..

Modified Yankee Breeching


I have always used a box or western style breeching.  Eighty percent of draft style harnesses use this type.  In steeper parts of the country the Yankee Breeching is preferred.  Barb Lee has been helping me set up a Modified Yankee Breeching in addition to my box breeching.  Today was our first outing using this style.

The steepest part of our driving area is Day Canyon, it has a quarter mile drop on both sides. I stopped the team going downhill to check the straps I had added.  They were pulled tight.  I feel that it was helping to hold the load back on both Mammoth Donkeys, the strap around their butts was definitely looser and the quarter straps were doing their job. The Modified Yankee Breeching aids in doing a better job without sweeping the rear legs out from under the team if set up wrong the box breeching is capable of doing this.  What I have done is to design a mock up of what I plan to have made.  Galahad is todays model, but you can see it on Merlin also.   Look for the Modified Yankee Breeching on the boys in future.

This is how it looks above the tail.

This is how it looks above the tail.

From the side you can see how easy it is to connect to the breeching ring

From the side you can see how easy it is to connect to the breeching ring

This will give you an idea of how it looks when in use.

Click on the photos to bring them up to full size.

Field Fire Gone WRONG

As I was harnessing I could see a plume of smoke and thought how odd it was someone would try to burn as the breeze had definitely picked up.  When we arrived at the corner I could see how intensely the fire had grown and decided to drive into the steep canyon and test the modified yankee breeching rather than go across the prairie.  More on the breeching later…

In the canyon several things happened.  First there was a large water truck headed towards us in the direction of the fire… not a good sign I thought.  Then the phone rang to confirm there was a field fire out of control and I needed to return home.  At that point I was passed by another water truck heading  in the direction of the fire.  I reached the turn around and could see helicopters working on the blaze and by then smoke was filtering into the canyon.  I decided it would be in our best interest to be closer to the home place so back up the canyon and into the smoke we climbed.

It was out by the time I reached our house and decided a field drive was in order.


Our neighbor Shirley took these photos from her advantage point across the road from the fire.   Had the fire crossed the highway it could have done a lot of damage, thank goodness it was stopped.











Here is the video of our Teamdonk drive starting off with a good brisk trot!

Saddle Up and Ride ‘Em

Merlin's First Ride Sept 15, 2014

Starting at noon I intended to do simple saddle training with Merlin, who has never even seen one until today.  Turned out it was to be Merlin’s first ride after an hour introduction.  I took it slow and he was just fine with all the steps, here is what happened when I stepped up on him.  Merlin is smooth gated, Jim is going to enjoy riding him.

Luc Ridden Sept 15, 2014Luc really wanted to go next, he was saddled and off we went for about an hours ride through the harvested wheat field checking out the neighbor’s sheep.  He is on the rough gated side but we both throughly enjoyed the outing.   Luc has been ridden a lot in the past but today I think he liked it more than he ever has.  Here is his short video.

Galahad was saddled next.  He was ridden twice five years ago, this was like a first time ride for him and he was pretty nervous.  We had a great visit with Grandma while he stood saddled.  Then we went for a walk before his ride.  He was jumpy but all went well.  The GoPro was only giving me one chance to video before overheating so here is the first part of Galahad’s ride.  It was four o’clock when his saddle was pulled off… what a fun afternoon!

Galahad Rides Sept 15, 2014

Remember to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Teamdonk Gets Some Time Off

Last week a cold front moved through the region dropping the temperatures into the twenties at night remaining cold and windy during the daytime hours.  Temperatures are moderating so it will feel really good when the smoke clears to get back out with Teamdonk road tripping.  The hay field we have been enjoying is now open to the cows.  Two of our hayfields have been disked and will soon be replanted to fall wheat and canola for a few years to get rid of the weed we have been fighting.   As far as field driving we are down to one wheat field near the house and one small hayfield.  Everything else close has been burned or is getting ready for seed.

With the slash pile fires the Forest Service is setting, the natural wildfires and the field fires the DEA has put the Camas Prairie into moderated air quality.  cough…cough… It is extremely dry, normally by now we have enough rain to green up the pastures.  It is just not happening this year!  We need moisture to replant the fields and refresh the pastures.

Saturday the boys went road tripping to the vets for dental work.  Luc has not been driven since the first of August when I noticed he was having trouble with bit comfort.  Since then I noticed Merlin has also been uncomfortable.  It was time for all the guys to get the sharp points whittled down, we do this every four years.

Dental Work

Luc getting a hand float.  Click on the photos to bring them up to full size.

We were able to get the work completed with minimal stress to the donkey boys, of course they may not agree with this statement.  A bucket of treats and a come along to convince them to enter the stocks was all that was needed.  I’m amazed that we were able to get Luc even into the facility, we did use the heavy cotton rope around his butt to keep him from backing out but again it was much less stressful than the time before.   Getting there early and having time to work with the boys and an understanding vet really helped!

Galahad & Vet Kim

Galahad was next and we were all surprised that he needed more done that Luc.

Dental Work Merlin

Big ole’ Merlin really filled up the stocks.  He needed the least amount of dental work but still had some very sharp points that were taken down.

All the boys ended up getting so much work that Vet Kim said to give them a good five days off to heal. I have a second plan for the boys while we are waiting for their mouths to heal… wait till Merlin and Galahad discover what I have in store for them!

The Ears Always Know


Today was our twenty-third drive of the year.  It is also RMS Magical Merlin’s 8th Birthday.  His sire was Heart B Mister, originally from Idaho, and his dam was a Jennet from the Garrett Ranch in Oklahoma.  Merlin hails from Ismay, Montana and he and Luc are both Rocky Mountain Songbird donkeys. He drives single or with a teammate but has yet to wear a saddle.  He’s calm and work motivated.  I really love this 60 inch hunk of Mammoth Donkey boy, he is just so dependable.

Merlin’s Teammate OK Sir Galahad had a birthday September 5th,  turning ten years old.  His sire was Siemon’s Maxamillion, his dam was OK Lady Scarlet and he was foaled at Enumclaw, WA.  I have become extremely impressed with Galahad every time he is driven.  He has become very safe and sane.  I have ridden Galahad and he would make a wonderful riding donkey.  Galahad has no fear of mud or water and often comes in with mud all the way up his legs from the springs in the back pasture.

The boys are both wearing Cruppers today to help keep the Back Straps from sliding forward off the hips and to support the breeching modifications.  The additional strap you see on Merlin is a takeoff of a Yankee Breeching.  It’s an interesting concept, I haven’t made any decisions yet if it helps or not.

Here is another look at Merlin’s Box/Yankee breeching.  I will be working on Galahad’s later today. Click on the photos to bring them up to full size.  Their winter coats are getting thicker due to the shorter days and the cooler nights. Changing Merlin's Breeching

You’ll have to see today’s video to see how I came up with the title.

Soaking up the Sunshine

That is pretty much what we did on today’s outing, soaking up the sun.  It was 63 degrees shortly before noon when we arrived back home so the warm sun felt good in the chilly air.  The boys just wanted to enjoy the scenery and stopped often just to look and relax.  What a great way to end the first week of September driving.

Yesterday we saw a lone cow that was checking out our drive.  Today that cow is back with the herd only now she has a newborn calf with her. I took this photo of them from on top of the ridge line.  They were in the bottom of the canyon a long way off but the photo still kinda came out okay.cow-Calf Once again I split up the videos to keep them short for easier loading.  The first one has a walk around the cart and the boys just before heading out.

Part Two is out in the hay field.  No deer and definitely no drama just lots of beautiful vistas. You’ll find that video here.

Our photo of the day shows the boys intently watching a pickup on the gravel road off in the distance.  Perfect for an ears up picture.  Be sure to click on the pictures to bring them up to full size. Merlin & Galahad Sept 5, 2014The tip of Merlin’s right ear shows the Butte that caught fire, wasn’t that nice of him to point it out?  See you next week.

It’s The Perfect Driving Season

I love September driving, it’s not too hot or too cold and there are open fields that need driven!  The temperature dropped to 34 this morning, it was up to 43 at hitching time, during our drive it topped off at 58 degrees with a cool breeze.  Still shorts driving weather and I love that!Sept 4, 2014Click on the photos to bring them up to full size.

We had an audience who came up to the fence line to check us out.  No reaction from the boys, all was good as far as they were concerned.Checking out Luc from the hayfield above our place.

They were a little more concerned with what Luc was doing back in the corner of the pasture where he could watch our activities.

Here is a short video of today’s activities.

We plan to end the week with a drive tomorrow morning, see you then!

Wheat Field Stubble Driving in September

Merlin & Galahad

We had a late start today because of the cooler temperatures, it was in the 30s earlier.  Once it warmed up we were off ’n driving!  It was 52 degrees when we headed out.  By the time we returned it had warmed up twenty degrees and the winds were kicking up.

Here are two videos that show today’s journey.

Part Two ends up in our wheat field across the road from the first two fields we were in.

By the time I was getting ready to post this I could see a lot of dust coming from both of the first two fields we were in this morning.  With all the field work going on it is getting harder to find places to go off road driving, but don’t worry we will keep seeking them out!

Don’t forget to click on the photo to bring it up to full size.