Tag Archives: Driving Donkey Teams

A Flurry of Upgrades!

You have probably seen Teamdonk’s new Modified Breeching.. if not go back to https://2014teamdonk.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/the-modified-yankee-breeching-is-done/  to see the breeching transformation.  That was my first #1 fall project.

I am so excited about this next upgrade I can hardly stand the wait before hitching again!  Our newest edition reminds me of the famous Cape Cart.  This design of a two wheeled cart for pairs was a huge success across several continents.  Take a look at where the single trees are mounted on this Cape Cart.Cape-cart

Cape_cartPart of why this cart was such a superstar in its day was the unique method of adding a pole across the front of the horses that was a part of the harness.  **Please Note** this illustration is incorrect, I use it only as a general idea of how the cape harness looked.

The Pacific Gig is the most comfortable riding of the two wheeled poled vehicles that I use, unfortunately it was intolerable for the donkeys to pull due to their height and the incorrect line of draft when compounded with a collared harness.

To explore more on about this topic I highly recommend Barb Lee’s booklet entitled, “Understanding Harness Balanced Draft, Breast and Neck Collars”.  Every driver, new or experienced, should own a copy of this detailed book.  It is my harness driving bible.

This diagram is from Barb Lee’s book and demonstrates what I have been up against.


Turnout D Horse is hitched to a high (Horizontal) draft vehicle with a neck collar.  Acute angle between hame and trace will divert weight to lower third of collar, with little or no weight bearing above the traces.  Very little body mass above the load.  Traces are very high above center of draft.  This is an inappropriate combination.”

Before I had the single trees lowered I researched the internet and my collection of driving books and was astonished to find newer CDE four wheeled vehicles with collared harness and single trees located near the top of the pole.  Experience has taught me this was very inefficient and the line of draft was creating incorrect trace position on the collar which forces the top of the collar to rock forward. This made the teams want to back off and not push into their collars.  The other ways to fix this was to change the line of draft at the collar with an adjustable hame or go to a breast collar harness.

TD #2 and Pacific GigHere is a photo of Hank hitched to the Pacific Gig with Merlin before the single trees were lowered.  I printed this photo out and drew lines in where I felt the correct line of draft angle should be.  That helped to determine the needed changes.

Now back from the welder the single trees have been dropped 11 1/4 inches by moving the pole braces, and rehanging the single trees.  Here is how they look on the Pacific Gig looks now.


For larger viewing of the photos and diagrams  click on them to increase their size.

The shorter length breeching with the addition of the Yankee Breeching Straps that run across the top of the butt will really help Teamdonk to hold the cart back when cruising down our steep hills.   Dropping the single trees on the Gig should make that vehicle useable again, I really cannot wait to test all our new upgrades and let you know if it is a thumbs up!

It really does take a great deal of engineering to attach two animals to a two wheeled cart.  I don’t believe you can just take any two wheeled vehicle and attach a pole and make it work effectively out of an arena situation.  The donkeys and myself love our Teamdonk off-roading adventures and 2015 is looking to be a terrific driving year, anyone up for a ride?

Happy Thanksgiving to all our Teamdonk Friends!

Jim, Kristi, Luc, Galahad and Merlin


The Modified Yankee Breeching is Done!

In the last post I was on the way to the harness makers to pick up the new shorter length breechings and the Yankee Breeching Straps.  I was able to get Luc and Galahad’s installed at that time.   I really did want to go for a drive but some very unusual winds kicked up that put Galahad into “freak out” mode, and he was much to dangerous to hook to a two wheeled cart.  I had to pull harness and get him back to the pasture before he did sometime to hurt me or himself.  I’ve never had a donkey act like this, he was definitely scared and upset.  As soon as the winds died down he was just fine so all ended well. It was a productive afternoon as I starting  the process of washing harness and carts to get ready for winter.

Today I was able to get Merlin’s new setup from my local harness maker,  I even was able to get it tried on and adjusted.  All three of the donkey boys new pieces fit perfectly, but  I won’t beabe to do the final adjustments until we are hitched and driving.  The quarter straps, the length of the modified yankee breeching may take a few outings to get everything into sync.   The breeching straps are shorter and that should make a huge difference on how everything else works.  I’m excited to test drive it.  Click on the photos to bring them up to full size..

Here is Merlin’s new equipment from the rear.

Modified Yankee Breeching The other two views are from the sides.  Modified Yankee BreechingModified Yankee Breeching


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!

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. http://youtu.be/kX23fuXPclg

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. http://youtu.be/yWjgIgM1ruQ

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.