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September 2008


It has been quite a month for us, with up to 15 donkeys at the same time, visiting for various ailments and problems that have meant that keeping an eye on the larder has become order of the day.

We have had one foaling down, 2 plastic colics, the dog bite continuation, lamenesses brought in by owners, an orphan, a nasty gash above the tail, and strays.   Included in this hurly burly was a frantic call from the SAPS Flying Squad about donkeys that had been hit by a taxi and requiring our assistance as soon as possible.  When we arrived, we found that the mare had already died, by all accounts quite swiftly, and her foal who had left the scene in fright was found but with a serious leg injury in another street.  After an equally swift visit to the Vet Rooms, a humane euthanasia was recommended and carried out.  The other three donkeys were all unharmed but were collected anyway until the owners were identified.  All parties have been either advised or had their donkeys returned to them by us in due course.

It all adds to the Diesel Bill, but this is what we are here for.

Our sincere thanks to the SAPS personnel who assisted by standing guard until we got to the scene and with the loading.

…and don’t forget the feed deliveries and seasonal deworming and Spotchecks on Carters on the roads!! 



Because harnessing is such a problem, we try to keep up with demand for our special harnessing made of the correct material, i.e. a natural cotton webbing.   Nylon seatbelting is a nightmare for donkeys in that it burns the flesh and hair and when conveyor belting is used, the problem is exacerbated as it takes big bites out of shoulders too!!  However, the carters just do the best they can, using in addition to the above, rope, wire and anything else they can get their hands on that might fit the job.

We had already begun making the harnesses and in an effort to speed up resource delivery, and to save our poor fingers when sewing by hand with awls, authority was given for the purchase of an industrial sewing machine. 

As Mrs Sham of New Turf Carriers is a great supporter of our ‘mission’, it was decided that portion of her donation be used for the purpose of buying the machine.  Therefore, I have pleasure in advising that ‘Dorrie’ is slaving away, everyday, churning out harnesses, and for those stricken donkeys that come in with dicky systems, we now even have the option of a blankie (cut down from one or two donated horse blankets).

Craig has shown himself an able seamster who understands the donkeys and their needs, which meant that our Beauty got herself a new blankie that we promptly had to use on Whitey when he came in sick.  The blankies certainly assist with warding off the wind chill factor!


One of my township owners became concerned as the time drew closer, about his pregnant mare and so he asked if she could come and ‘do’ her foaling down with us. Rightly, his concerns are about dogs and children ‘playing’ with the baby. 

One Friday morning, Alfred, having mucked out the camps and loaded the sacks onto the bakkie, and Craig, left for the fertilizer factory next door. I had checked her at breakfast, and all the signs were there that foaling was going to happen soon.   I was planning the day ahead in the office but decided to take a thinking walk outside.  Clearly mommy had decided that all three of us were out of the way so she could get down to business.  She promptly lay down and started the birthing process, which is when I happened along.  The AWS staff were called and with much oohing and aahing, junior was duly born.    Mommy was very good, in fact an old pro so not much needed doing, and in short order junior was up and drinking and shortly thereafter, mum regained her figure and came up all glossy with appetite to match.  Some of the other donkeys even gave her a welcoming bray.

Lots of pictures were duly taken and many visitors have been delighted to meet her.  Now that they have been moved in to a bigger camp, she delights in woering around at a flat out gallop, pronking and headbutting The Aunties and her mum, and Beauty gets a butt or two as well.  She has been named Smokey by the Webbers and I think it is a very appropriate name.   Hopefully by the time her turn comes to become a working donkey, we will have made things a lot better for her!


How many people do YOU know that have a donkey listed in their cellphone?  Well, I have Vrydag on mine.  The Stud down the road has moved to greener pastures so he has had to travel further to find his ‘family’.  I introduced a Whisperer to Vrydag on Sunday, and she assures me that he is feeling very confused and just wants to be with ‘family, i.e. horses/ponies.  You see, he believes he is not a donk!

She advised that we must give him the correct ‘pictures’, that is, that the Horse Care Unit is the safe place to ‘be’ and he must stop here where he will be fed and watered and cared for.

Thank you, Michelle.


Donations come in all shapes and forms and we have come to accept this.   So, it came as no surprise when Craig mentioned to his father, Peter, who was on holiday in Port Elizabeth at the time, that the horsebox needed minor repairs.  He promptly brought along some of his toys and repaired what needed fixing.  We only paid for the replacement parts!   Thank you, Peter!

Then there are the folk who phone asking for banking details so that they can make their contribution.  I can’t help but wonder if they take our number from the side of the bakkie!

Of course, there are the continual calls from folk with ‘throw away’ fodder, and various items of tack, and this comes in most useful and as I have said before, stretches the budget somewhat.  Thank you to ALL contributors!!


Right now in the townships, grazing is very limited so donkeys have to go further for their feed.    This has meant some very funny phonecalls that make it easy to follow and find them – they are at the robots, the bathroom fitting shop, the restaurant, etc etc.  Of course it means that the cellphone goes mad so thank goodness for my ‘ears’!  Actually, Craig thinks that he should start paying the donkey owner Gym fees – it is saving him a fortune at the gym, all this running around.

Although, if Thembi is with the group, she looks up and you can see it running through her mind “Thwarted again – here they come” and turns around and starts heading back, taking the rest of the herd with her.   Definitely an Alpha mare!


Our dog-bitten Beauty is slowly healing and also loosing her (very cute) French Poodle Cut. I gave her the name Beauty as, as all horse owners know a positive name is a good thing, and really, she needed all the help she could get.

Spook, the donkey who I think may also be a hinny, has found a possible new home – still pulling a cart, but teaching children.   I am told that he is settling in well and the children absolutely love him, giving strokes, pats and brushings.  We threw in a new harness (made by us!) and hopefully, he will give as much as he gets – love, that is – and will also to help introduce children to equines albeit in a small version.


Cheeky, although his horrible leg wound has healed now, has been kept with the permission of his owner as a companion to Rusty, the township orphan.  We call him Cheeky, because he is!  He loves walking up to the other donkeys and grabbing them by the (donated) halter to lead them around like a dog.  In fact, just recently, he waited for me to attach a lead rein to one of the donkeys and then grabbed the end in his teeth and to the amazement of the other donkey’s owner and the donkey itself, pulled him this way and that.

On the last Sunday in September, the Animal Welfare Society had their regular Animal Sunday where people are invited to bring along their pets so that we can say thank you for them and for what they bring to our lives.

I determined that I would take Cheeky.   He did not let me down!

Once he realized the importance of his attending the Service, he behaved very well.  He stood quietly when Father Holmes blessed him on behalf of all equines, just like the athlete at the Olympic Games who takes the oath on behalf of all the other competitors.

In fact, when it came to going back to the camp, he was not terribly interested, wanting to hang about with all the people and children who were giving him some spoilings.


Members of the public complain from time to time about donkeys’ ears that have been cut off.  There is a perfectly logical explanation for this action – how else can a donkey be identified by his owner?  Cutting ears has been their only option but this can be remedied by marking the donkeys in other ways to which the Carters do not have access.  The Horse Care Unit does not condone this practice, but understands why it is done.  And, lets face it, once the ear has been cut off or sliced by a previous owner, there is very little one can do to rectify the situation.

Other methods of identification have their various pros and cons too.   Hot Branding is seen as ‘barbaric’ and painful, Cold Branding takes up to three months to be ‘seen’ and when the coat is long, almost disappears.   So the next best thing is Microchipping.  We have made enquiries about microchipping, and find that in order to do the job an amount of R15,000 would be required to sort out just the Metro donkeys, and does not include the Reader.

Mmmmm…food for thought.


The East Cape Horse Care Unit has not done confiscations in the past and we hope to continue in this vein.  In fact, we have become major contenders for the World Wrestling Federation TV slot by ‘wrestling’ with owners!

By working with the owners involved both in townships and rural and peri urban areas in their own back yards, we have solved many problems.  But the Unit does not work with a personal view of an animal, we make use of the Highveld Horse Care Unit Visual Weight Estimate – so there can be no subjectiveness or personal views and opinions.   We even have a VWE for donkeys thanks to the Donkey Sanctuary in England!

We are in the enviable situation where owners phone us to collect their donkeys when they find that they are not well.  This is because the animal is returned when the problem has been solved.   With calls ahead to the Vet rooms to warn them of our impending arrival with a problem, treatment is accomplished within a short space of time, and then home, to a camp with food and water and rest.  Just what the doctor ordered!!

And, just in case you need reminding, it is only 2 and a half months to Christmas!





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