I have been showing my two donkeys at the Heavy Horse Show, National Museum of Rural Life for several years.
Baxter is 13 years old and I have had him since he was two years old. He is a star of stage (Edinburgh Playhouse in Carmen) and screen (BBC’s Landward) as well as a winner both in hand and in driving competitions. Most of all he is a great character.
Jools is three years old and was bought at weaning when she was 6 months old. She has grown from a scruffy wee ball of fluff to a quite elegant youngster. Jools has also been successful in the show ring including winning at the Heavy Horse Show for the past two years.
The first donkey class at the Heavy Horse Show is the Condition and Turnout class. The judge is looking for the animal in the best health, not too fat or too thin, with a good shiny coat and bright eyes. The donkeys and their bridles are checked to see if they are clean. The handler should also be of smart appearance. If you have an older donkey or one who does not have the best conformation this is the class where hard work can really pay off.
The other inhand classes are split by sex and age. The judge looks for the donkey nearest the breed standard, no knock knees or sinky backs. The donkey must also move well. It is a beauty contest. The winners then compete against each other to determine the Champion and Reserve Champion Donkey.
The driving classes are split into Private Driving and Cones. In Private Driving the judge looks for the suitability of the carriage in style and size for the donkey and the fit of the harness. The donkeys are then asked to perform a small show. They usually trot a figure of 8, halt and do a short rein back (reverse for 3 or 4 steps). Again the judge is looking for an animal that moves well.
The cones require the donkey turnout to drive through a course of paired cones in the fastest time. Penalties are added for knocking the cones when the ball on top is dislodged. Style and grace are unimportant although the driver still needs to be in control.
Donkeys grow a winter coat of about 4 inches long and do not come into their summer coats until July. The winter coat starts to grow in again by August! In order to prepare for driving I clip Baxter in late March & then rug him. I usually strip Jools’ coat with various combs & brushes but this year due to the poor spring I have had to resort to clipping.My donkeys do not like baths so I keep these to an absolute minimum. They get a good brush and polish on the day & their hooves are coated with hoof oil to make them nice and shiny.