Tag Archives: Mammoth Donkeys

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


Oh No Where did All the Hay Go?

Sunday morning Oct 19, 2014 The boys were not happy with their lack of hay situation and they let me know all about it, very loudly I might add….DSC02036

Don’t tell Jim but I broke into the “good stuff” in the barn.  They liked it so well they were begging for more when I got home from work!  So they got it!  🙂




Going to the harness makers in the morning to get their modified Yankee Breeching straps and the new shorter breechings.  Hopefully we will get a chance to test it out before the rains return.

To bring the photos up to full size one click on the picture will do it!

Every Spring and Every Fall

You can set your calendars by it!  Every Spring and every Fall Merlin has his semi-annual abscess. Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Merlin showed up to breakfast with a slight limp.  Once I was sure he really was limping I took the Digital Laser Thermometer out to take hoof and leg temperatures.  Above the hoof in the back of the pastern I could feel some heat and then it was very warm up along the side of the leg on the inside. The concern came from his lower leg temperature which registered 110 degrees, everyone else was a cool 65 degrees.   I taped an ice pack on it and wrapped it using an old tee-shirt to keep the cold in.  After two hours of wearing the iced pellets his leg temperature was slightly warm, I’ll continue to monitor it during the day and reapply the ice pack if needed. Merlin's hot leg Above the hoof and over the coronary band I taped a preemie diaper filled with Ichammol and food grade sulfur to help draw the infection out. He was also started on 1 gram of powered Butte and a packet of Uniprim mixed with applesauce administered orally.  He will get a second gram of butte later in the day, if needed.  This will need to continue for the next nine days.  If nothing else Merlin has taught me a lot about how to treat his recurring abscesses.

This one can not even be blamed on fall grass as we still are lacking the moisture needed to revive the pastures. If I am not seeing improvement come Sunday evening I guess my vacation plans to visit family will be canceled so I can stay home and make sure he gets over this quickly.  Looks like he is done driving and riding for the year.

On a happy note…September driving was wonderful with eight drives on Merlin and Galahad.  We ended the month logging in over a total of 590 driving hours and over 1,121 miles since 2006.  I’m still hoping for more drives in October with Luc and Galahad before winter sets in for good.

4 pm update:  There was no heat in Merlin’s leg and he has a very mild limp.  Here’s hoping it does not blow up into an abscess.

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!