Florida Sailor and the Adult Unfriendly donkey
Many years ago, back in the early 1970's, I spent a summer working weekends on a horse ranch. A good friend and I had decided to go camping each weekend in rural north Florida. On one trip we found a large camp ground near the mouth of the Withalacoochee River. While exploring the facilities we found a trail riding compound that was being set up by a group of former rodeo cowboys. They had a dozen or so horses available for hire, with various levels of training. There was also a small cart to give rides to young children and a donkey to pull it. Rumours were that the donkey had been the mascot of George Wallace's presidential campaign before he was shot1.
We both had some riding experience and we soon found ourselves a part of the staff. We were each assigned a horse to ride when we needed one to lead trail rides, or just to ride when we wanted to. Most of our time was spent building corrals and tending the herd. When we took a break from work sometimes we would go down and swim in the river.
Then someone had the idea that it might be fun to ride a 'bucking burro'. The donkey was fitted with a halter and reins, a cinch strap around his flanks completed his tack. His withers were only about waist high so it was not a long way to the ground. One by one we would mount his back and the strap was tightened to make him buck. In less than a minute or two we would land on the ground and it would be the next man's turn. It did not take long before the donkey learned the game and the cinch strap was no longer needed.
We could place any child on his back and he would calmly be led around the ring, but any adult who tried to ride him would be thrown as quickly as possible. One day, when the main corral was almost complete, the farrier arrived. It only lacked a proper gate, the opening was secured by a single length of barbed wire. He was inspecting and adjusting the horse’s shoes when the time came to ride the donkey. He watched as the first few of us took our turn and were thrown off. We did not know that he had spent many years riding bucking broncos before he took up blacksmithing when he asked if he might have a turn.
The farrier mounted the donkey, set his jaw and we released the halter. The donkey bucked, twisted and turned. The man stayed on his back through it all. After several minutes the donkey stopped and started looking around, you could almost see the little gears turning in his head. He ducked his head and started running at the incomplete gate at a full gallop. The barbed wire caught the rider across his waist and he made three complete revolutions before he hit the ground.
It took us almost half an hour before we could recover the donkey and return him to the corral - but it was worth it.
No animals, or even humans, were seriously injured in this event.