The patient is doing well!
I have complete confidence in our new equine vet, who has now also done a complete health check on Rubí, Matilde and Morris as well, to make sure none of them might go the way of Aitana due to poor diet. We are reviewing diet as a priority. The former emphasis on a strict low calorie donkey diet, which has been the routine for the last few years in order to avoid laminitis, is now being modified.
The new vet has also pointed out the feeding-behaviour of Morris, which may be a contributing factor. Lovable though he is, Morris donkey is a classic machista male when it comes to feeding behaviour! This is not exactly a new phenomenon, but as I explained to our new vet, Morris has become vocally more aggressive when eating: he forces the females away from the food at regular intervals when eating. Stupidly, I didn’t even consider that this might have a significant effect on reducing food consumption in the female donkeys. It logically also explains while Morris looks quite well-fed in comparison with Rubí and Matilde, and yesterday we watched him chasing the weakest away: Aitana, the now fragile thin donk. I used to simply observe his behaviour and rebuke him in terms of ‘bad manners’ rather than seeing this as a herd hierarchy issue, with serious and dangerous dietary consequences for the other donkeys, as the vet pointed out.
Back in 2015 Morris was being trained to pull a small donkey cart, but unfortunately we found the roads too dangerous when we moved to El Parral in 2016 and that activity stopped; depriving Morris of his new self-importance as a draught donkey!
It is possibly a good idea to start getting Morris out of the field for more regular long walks. The other donkeys would need building up more – before we could do longer walks – but Morris might benefit from having a bit more serious exercise.
One step at a time. The Aitana situation is a real wake-up call regarding diet. It may be that the advice we were given was wrong, or it could be that I interpreted it too simplistically; but the end result was a diet unsuitable for Aitana (with anaemia that I was not informed about by the previous vet!), and also the behaviour of Morris that I did not take seriously enough. The professionalism and observation skills of a good vet are exactly what we need at this time, and I am very grateful we have such a gifted new vet. One of the key moments yesterday was when she spent at least 20 minutes simply observing the behaviour of the ‘herd’ on the lower terrace (including Aitana who had slipped away, down to level 2 unnoticed!) I do this myself all the time – as I’m fascinated by Equus Asinus behaviour! – but a vet sees more. If you have a vet who cares.
No vet in the past ten years has taken the trouble to observe the donkeys! They typically arrive, quickly administer what medication has been discussed in a brief message earlier, then disappear sending a bill next day! This also seems to apply to emergency situations, where the phrase “There’s not much we can do in cases like this” might also be thrown in…. (Sorry, but I’ll never forget that phrase, Dorothea!)
So, to reiterate the optimistic note, Aitana is looking good now. All the signs are there. Her strong personality is establishing itself again. The soft, sorry donkey who I spent hours and hours cuddling up to in the stable at night – with howling cold winds outside – is now once again breaking away when I try to hold her head and give her a stroke! Unlike the other three, she never liked being fussed over.
As Rubí donkey might say, “Silly horse!”