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The Donkey Show, Part I

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Donkey Show, Part I

You know that awful "icebreaker" they make you do at work events - the one where they go around the room and everyone has to share something interesting about themselves?  It's been awhile since I've worked, but I hated that.  I really, really hated that.

But it didn't matter that I hated it, because everyone had to participate.  What mattered was, did I have an interesting fact to share?  Because everyone else had something fascinating to say ("My parents are from Germany!"  "I drive a 15-year old car!" "I have a dog named Darth!").  And when they rolled around to me, every head turned my way and I could feel every pair of eyes boring into my soul.  And I delivered.

"My name is Carrie, and I won money in a donkey show with my show donkeys."

BOOM.  Just like that, I was officially the *most* interesting person in the room.

Most people laughed.  They assumed I was kidding.  I was business casual in a north Dallas country club at an insurance professional's continuing education event.  I was not a donkey-showing country girl in shit-kickers.

And that, I suppose, summed me up at that time in my life.  I was all of those things.  Insurance professional by day, donkey showman by weekend.

It should be no surprise that I showed donkeys to those who know me best...they are, after all, the ones who grew up with me in 4H and FFA...yet, everyone thought it was funny that I was showing donkeys.  Me too, even.  The thing about donkeys is, they require a sense of humor.  And right now, I am tapping into that sense of humor of mine to bring this story to light so one day my kids will know about the time Mama took her country donkeys to the city for the Big Donkey Show.

It started innocently enough.  My husband's aunt gave us a miniature donkey, aptly named Donkey.

Donkey and Goat-Goat, shortly after arriving at our place (the Saga of Goat-Goat is a tale that also needs to be told...).

Shortly after, my husband's uncle decided he wanted to get a couple of these little critters for himself and we found ourselves boarding two additional donkeys, Roxy and Bella (this is when we lived in the country, in case you were wondering how they fit into our current suburban lifestyle).

So there we were, with three miniature donkeys.  And somehow or other, I discovered that the State Fair of Texas was hosting a Donkey Show!  It didn't take long for me to decide that a donkey show with a couple of mostly untrained donkeys was a great idea!

Now, I should say here that I know a thing or two about showing animals.  I have been showing horses since I was a wee lass, and I know what it's all about.  And donkeys have four legs and tails, so surely a donkey show couldn't be *that* different from a horse show, right?

Ha!  Hahahahahahahahahaha!

The first thing I did, after signing up, was attempt to train the donkeys.  Because mine were far from "trained."  Oh yes, they were tame, and friendly, and all up in your business 100% of the time, but they weren't really trained.  They were little, and like little dogs, I just kind of let them do their own thing, and if we really needed some proper behavior out of them (for example, when the vet came), they were small enough that we could just muscle them around (not that it was easy, or pretty...but certainly easier than actually training them proved to be).

Training went...okay.  They would usually walk properly once haltered, and occasionally put their feet where they were supposed to (like the dogs you see in dog shows, they are supposed to stand a particular way while they are being shown so the judge can inspect their conformation).  Sometimes they would walk over the obstacles I set out, even.  And by the Grace of God and All That is Holy, I managed to body clip them both on my own (that means, shave off their fuzzy coats) and trim their manes based on some pictures I had googled of show donkeys (I knew they were supposed to look a certain way, I just didn't know how to get them that way, ok?).

In case you were wondering how hairy donkeys are, here is Roxy a few months before the show (and, obviously, pre-shaving - you can see the shaved version below).
And before we knew it, it was time to go to the show.

Weather in Texas is persnickety.  The show was in early October, but it was cold, cold, cold that day, and the donkeys were bundled up in their jammies (remember, they had no hair because I shaved it all off) and and off we went!

This is Roxy, in the horse trailer, waiting to be unloaded for her big show debut.
Once the donkeys had been unloaded (I'd brought Roxy and Donkey, since Bella was pregnant and a little on the wild side, still), I walked around and learned my first lesson of donkey-showing.

I hadn't done a very good job trimming their manes.

Apparently there's a technique involved, one that surpasses holding a donkey's head still in one hand and manning scissors with the other.  I had kind of guessed that as I was manning said scissors, but at the time google proved to be useless when I typed in "trimming donkeys manes for a show," so I just did the best I could.

Well, the best I could do was not good enough!  These other donkeys looked sharp.  Their manes were little works of art.  Mine was too, but...not in the same way.  Mine was more...abstract.

So, I freaked out.  And promptly went looking for Roxy's breeders (who were also at the show and had promised to assist us in any way they could).  One thing about Donkey People - they are a really kindhearted and pleasant bunch, and like to help their own.  And before I knew it, I had learned the mane-trimming technique, borrowed a couple tools of the trade, and trimmed my donkeys' manes to near perfection.

Now, the donkeys were staying two nights at the Fair, and showing the second day, so I had some time to wander up and down the barn aisles and check out the competition.

And it was fierce.

Not only were most of these donkeys bred for the purpose of competition, but they were actually trained, too (imagine that!).  Typical donkeys are a dime of dozen (just check Craigslist), but show donkeys...not so much.  They are little, and cute, and expensive.  I had brought with me one free donkey that had spent most of his life living with a goat, and one donkey that had been purchased by my husband's uncle on the low end of the "show donkey spectrum."  We were outclassed, and I knew it (hey, I didn't win the FFA State Horse Judging Competition in 1996 for nothing!).

Not only were we outclassed, but we were also unprepared.  And not even dressed properly!

I was just there to have fun and gain some experience for myself and the didn't matter if we were the bottom of the barrel.  And even if my donkeys were "backyard" at best, especially when sized up against these other fancy, big-dollar show donkeys, this was going to be FUN.

And that is the attitude I had (along with our cheering section of a gazillion family members, extended family members, and their friends, too) going into Show Day.

To be continued...

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