Saturday, April 27, 2013

Equine Acupressure: Being a donkey then...and now...

Life for burros has changed!  And if you read my last blog, you learned a little about how burros were used in the mining communities of Colorado.  While burros were loved as great companions and friends, they also had very hard lives, carrying heavy loads and doing the work of many men.

Daisy meets Jan for the first time.

In comparison, my donkey, Daisy, lives a lackadaisical life. My dad always asks me why in the world do I want with a donkey if I’m not going to ride her. But that’s another subject. On the subject of Daisy, a neighbor of mine recently earned all of her credentials in equine acupressure.  She’s building her business and offered to give Daisy a treatment. It was hard to say no.  Not only was I interested in finding out more about it, but I was pretty sure Daisy wouldn't mind. 

Getting a check-over

I already had Daisy in the corral when Jan arrived and she set to work giving Daisy a thorough once over…checking head, spine, shoulders, legs…  Daisy was cooperative and inquisitive and seemed to enjoy the attention.  With no specific health problems to focus on, Jan worked with general pressure points that are helpful to all equines—an overall balancing and unblocking—much the way an acupuncturist might work to increase energy flow and promote healing in humans.

The session took about 20 minutes with a walk break in the middle when Daisy got tired of standing in one place.  After that, Jan took on the challenge of working with one of our ranch horses with a stifle.  The horse, like Daisy, was calm throughout. This time, however, Jan focused her attention on the area of the stifle.  As an onlooker, the hand motions and pressure points Jan used were difficult to detect, but could be observed by subtle movements or as Jan pointed out a change in the animal’s breathing. I’ll be anxious to see how this horse improves.   

Working with Lucky's stifle

It’s my understanding from Jan, that equine acupressure can accomplish many things such as: improved blood and lymph circulation, pain relief, increase in trust, shortened recovery time from injuries or illness, and it can be emotionally calming and mood elevation.  Jan describes herself as someone who facilitates and assists animals in maintaining a naturally healthy state.  It was great having an opportunity to learn about this art.  And I’m sure Daisy agrees.

How come that horse is getting all the attention?

You can link to Jan via :

Friday, April 5, 2013

Burros, Donkeys, Whatever...

I just finished reading an excellent book subtitled, “Bringing Civilization to Colorado”.  The book is entitled On the Backs of Burros by P. David Smith and Lyn Bezak.  It’s really interesting with great photos throughout and with the extra bonus of learning some Colorado history and how burros/donkeys contributed to the growth of my native state.
Before I share some highlights from the book, I want to put to rest the difference between a burro and a donkey.  None.  They are the same animal.  A burro is any kind of donkey—Equis asinu—the same animal that has gotten a poor “rap” and sometimes called by a more insulting name.  Or at least it has become insulting because of the way humans like to find ways to equate their fellow beings to some type of animal.

So why the difference in names?   Geography is the answer given in this book.  In most of Colorado this small beast of burden was called a burro.  But in Cripple Creek they are and always have been known as donkeys even to present day where the resident herd of Cripple Creek donkeys is well loved and protected by the community there.

As a writer, these two names for the same animal conjure up different images.  On the one hand, the word burro brings to mind the image of a teddy bear—lovable huggable, cute and cuddly.  The word donkey brings a whole different set of imaginings.  I think, ornery, mischievous, contrary, single-minded...anything but docile.  If I were to think of these critters as two different animals, I’d far prefer the donkey because of its capriciousness.

This bias of mine might explain why I was drawn to some of the anecdotes from the book that told of burros that ate laundry (including the negligees of women), opened latches to sheds, entered houses, and finagled food treats in a myriad of creative ways.

The intelligence of a donkey is often underestimated.  Historically the number of different jobs a burro did such as powering machinery, working in the mines, pulling carts, and carrying ladies side-saddle on outings is a testament to their abilities.  Many stories tell of burros warning their masters of danger, saving lives, delivering messages, and waking up their owners every morning for breakfast.  It's not known whose breakfast the early rising was for as burros became fond of “people” food. Pancakes appeared to be a favorite.

Loyalty is another quality that has been demonstrated by these sure-footed creatures.  Typically burros did not wander far from camp, but stayed nearby without the use of hobbles.  They also could be trained to follow along without the use of a lead.  This faithfulness was reciprocated by prospectors who invited their four-legged friends inside during a winter storm to share the warmth of a cabin. And according to one story the book, a donkey stood by Augustus Tabor's fire and was said to have come into her tent to lay down.

Donkeys were sometimes taken into bars, and according to the authors of the book, were reported to stand at “doors and windows of saloons and dance halls, listening to the music, intently watching the commotion inside, and obviously having a good time themselves.”

The use of burros for transporting supplies across the state of Colorado diminished as trains and other forms of transportation replaced the need for an animal that could successfully negotiate narrow mountain trails and access remote areas.  During the peak of the mining days, burros were an indispensable and vital part of the settlement of the west. 

During World War I, the use of burros experienced a short revival, but after that many burros were abandoned.  They reproduced in the wild, creating the modern day challenge of how to manage feral herds and find enough adoptive homes for them.  In Colorado organizations such as the Longhopes Donkey Shelter:, and the BLM facility east of Canon City are working to find homes for them.

Donkeys have been described as mystical and wise as well as many other expletive-deletives by people with less aptitude.  Donkeys can indeed be lovable and endearing in spite of my earlier comment and have a range talents and abilities, quirks and personalities.  The book “On the Backs of Burros” elaborates, with delightful anecdotes on the lives of burros and their historical contributions to the settlement of Colorado.  A great research resource!

To read more about how I came to have an interest in donkeys and came to be a donkey owner, visit my related web page: