Tonight marks the end of my first week as a stud manager. I was assigned to UCD Actions Protege, a 2007 mammoth jack. I was, and am, pretty excited because I have minimal experience with donkeys and I know they are a whole different ballgame than horses. I am also so hopeful that through the horse barn program I will be able to learn more about mules.
Monday was our first stud manager meeting, where we got to pull Protege and Dun Walla Walla (UC Davis' AQHA stallion) out and handle them for the first time. We learned that the boys wear their nylon halters when they are supposed to be behaving like geldings and their leather halters when it is breeding time. Protege and I met several years ago right after I had graduated high school and came to visit Davis, I thought he was cute and took a couple of pictures with his nose through the bars of his paddock fence. Monday was our first time really interacting and I witnessed for the first time the intelligence of a donkey. I have heard that they are smarter than horses and have more of an ability to reason, etc., but had never witnessed it firsthand. I got Pro out and he was a handful at first, but once he settled down in the barn aisle I was talking to him and giving him scratches that he seemed to enjoy. Then, he looked towards me and I looked at his eye that was closest to me, and he was looking me back in the eye. I cannot describe how this reflected his intelligence, but it did. My horse has looked me in the eye before, and most horses don't, but Protege was looking me in the eye on our first day together.
I have been sick since right after fall quarter finals in December, but Monday night I took a bad turn and ended up extremely sick on Tuesday and Wednesday. I am still a bit sick now several days later, but much better than I was. On Wednesday I cleaned Pro's stall and sat and watched his behavior for awhile. Donkeys rely quite a bit on their tails to express themselves it seems. On Friday Jake and I got to move Pro back outside into his paddock. I think he was pretty pleased to be able to see the mares next to him. He really likes the paint mare, Stockings.
Friday afternoon we had our second stud manager meeting since this coming Monday is MLK Day and a university holiday. Dr. Amy McLean gave a brief lecture on important vaccines to give mares and stallions and then we got to learn how to exercise our studs. Protege put on quite the show with the hot walker and decided he did not want to do it. He figured out how he could sit his butt back and slide on his hocks through the dirt to get the machine to reset and stop. I'm pretty sure he's smarter than me. After that, we took him into the arena and I got to lunge him for about ten minutes. He was a really good boy on the lunge line! I hand walked him to cool him down, and got to see some of his territorial behavior with manure piles on the ground, and some of his browsing behavior with some dead shrubbery that was laying around the arena.
For week 2, I am hoping to increase my donkey-handling skills and begin getting Protege back in shape after having the past 6 months off. I am also hoping for a much healthier me so I can be a better intern. I am happy to have a new donkey friend, he's my first one.