Julie Wallace, WI
My three donkeys arrived two years ago. They were friendly but not trained. Since I had no experience with equine and no one I knew with donkeys who were trained I read everything I could find. Clicker training seemed to be the answer, with its focus on positive reinforcement. It was a breath of fresh air after discovering all of the ways humans abuse equines during training. I bought my clickers and went to work. My donkeys quickly learned to respond to click and treat. We walked forward and back. They agreed to put their heads down and (sometimes) pick their feet up. But then I got stuck. On walks one donk regularly maneuvered me into the ditch. The grass there was oh so much tastier than the clicker treat. While in the paddock the herd would fall all over themselves (and me) to be the first in line to train. I felt unsafe and unsure how to proceed.
Online I discovered the Donkey Whisperer Farm and enjoyed reading Melody’s blog. When she announced she was offering online virtual coaching I leapt at the opportunity. And it was amazing from the start. I learned so much in our very first conversation. I was impressed by Melody’s unique knowledge about donkeys. I was also inspired by her personal story and her commitment to make the world a better place, one donkey trainer at a time!
Melody taught me the importance of being “on donkey time.” I needed to relax and love on the donkeys before diving into an agenda. When beginning a potentially stressful component of training (for example, the “friendly game”) I was to take a deep breath and blow out before beginning. It sounds so insignificant, but it proved to be invaluable in helping me and my donkeys get in the right frame of mind to learn. Melody taught me about different personalities in the donkey world and how to be effective with each one. I am better now also at listening to what my donkeys are telling me. This keeps us both safer and able to figure out the next best move.
Each week we get together and review and make a plan. Melody gives me homework. She reviews videos of me working with my donkeys. This makes the whole process more personal and customized to the needs of me and my animals.
Another wonderful aspect of Melody’s training is the focus on resistance-free methods. After others told me to do painful things to my donks to “control” them (for example, twisting their ears) it was thrilling to learn from Melody the way to become your donkeys’ trusted leader. Melody taught me to use tools and techniques that are respectful yet effective.
After a farrier visit this winter one donkey developed a painful hoof abscess. Melody walked me through all phases of treatment including how to make a boot from materials I could easily obtain. She not only saved me a huge vet bill she gave me tremendous confidence in knowing I could now handle this common but debilitating ailment.
Working with Melody is fun. She has so many stories and examples to demonstrate how to work with your particular situation. Her love of equines and her sense of gratitude and commitment are inspiring. I feel fortunate to be counted among her students. I know that the lessons I’ve learned will serve me and my donkeys well.
My name is Cindy Testerman, Oklahoma 7/24/2014
I have two standard large donkeys, Billy a gelding and a jenny named Mandy. My husband bought them for me in March of 2013. Let me tell you these donkeys were scarred and wild. Not having a clue with what to do with them other than type of shelter they needed and what to feed them.
For a month ever day I would walk out into our pasture, locate them, follow them, sit down as close as they would let me. They would look at me and walk away. Finally we decided that they needed to be in a smaller area. We were able to coax them into a small paddock with hay and carrots of course and close the gate. After a couple of days I was able to pet and brush them. That was all I could do with them for quite some time.
First farrier visit was stressful and horrible as my donkeys were scarred.
I’m most certain that they had never had their hooves trimmed prior to that. They did get better with the farrier with time but not how I wanted them to be better as I had to tie them. When I asked for their hooves it was certainly not like today it happened but it was stressful. I had fallen in love with my donkeys and loved spending time with them, brushing them and hugging them but I knew that I wanted more out of our relationship and knew I needed a professional trainer. Not a lot of donkey trainers here in Oklahoma. None to my knowledge anyways but I belonged to a group called “On Donkey Time” on face book and thought I would try Melody Johnson’s virtual training.
I started working with Melody on April 9th, 2014 and I can now trailer load my donkeys and take them for walks. Next summer I will be coming to Melody’s farm for a cart pulling class with National teacher Nate Bowers, Parelli. All of the foundation has been laid so I am now ready to teach my donkeys to pull a cart after I learn. Melody has explained to me that having a foundation for cart pulling is key to the success and for the safety of me and my donkeys.
Now I know it seems strange to have a trainer that lives over 1000 miles away but with today’s technology, you don’t even have to leave your home.
Once a week, unless something in life gets in the way and prevents it, Melody and I meet, we see one another via skype and it’s a personal trainer face to face, much cheaper than hiring a local trainer if you have that option. I make video of myself working with my donkeys (homework assigned by Melody) and then send it to her email with my IPhone. Sounds simple enough right?
The First Time I Met Melody
She wanted to know what I could do with my donkeys without getting hurt and specifically what my goals and dreams were. At that time I was able to pick up their feet and clean their hooves while they were tied up to a tree and I could halter them and that was it. I told her that my goal was cart pulling and taking them for walks.
Currently I am more than half way done with a 10 lesson personalized training program and after seven lessons I am able to clean their hooves ground tied, meaning they are not tied up to a tree anymore. When the farrier comes they are not tied up. They are haltered and have a lead rope on and I hold them and bury their head into my chest. Oh it’s so less stressful and what a bond I now have with them as I am the leader they come to me for safety.
After working with Melody my donkeys understand what whoa, walk on, back up, foot and over means. Gee and haw (right and left) is coming along. I am able to send them into their stall and they turn around and lower their head for me to take their halter off. Currently we are working on trailer loading and before I met with Melody this last session my husband drove the truck and trailer into the pasture so that the donkeys could look at it, smell it, check it out. I used what Melody had taught me so far and we slowly walked out to the trailer, carrots in hand and I said to Billy, walk on and before I knew it he had all four feet on the trailer and not even scarred. I gave him a carrot and told him good job and then said back up. He did it!! I was shocked! Wow! Mandy will soon follow. She has gotten 3 feet on and she too can back up like a pro!!!
I am so amazed how far we have come in just seven sessions.
My once wild donkeys are becoming partners to me with me staying in the leadership position without abuse my body language, voice, and words and they are well trained donkeys, TRAINED BY ME. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever. I think it’s so rewarding because donkeys, horses or mules will give back to you if you love them, respect them and train them the way they should be trained. I will always be grateful for what Melody has taught me. Melody loves her donkeys and horses. She also enjoys teaching. If she feels like you’re not learning or not understanding what she’s teaching you, she really takes it to heart. She wants me and her other students to be successful.
So, for anyone who is reading my review, I highly recommend Melody Johnson’s virtual training program.
Cindy Testerman, Oklahoma
from Martine Lyon, France
I live in France with my husband Geoff , our 3 goats ( Dini, Dora and Deeva) and our 2 donkeys, Bijou ( 27months old) and Bichette( 19 months old).
We have some woods just down the lane from us and in walking with friends and our donkeys 2 weeks ago, I decided to let them go once in the woods. The moment they felt free from the lead was a moment of great excitement. They shot out of sight, head up high, kicking their back legs, and farting in the same time. It was pure joy for them and an expectant moment for us as we didn’t know when we were going to see them again. All were anxious but me. I trusted my donkeys to be waiting for us and they were after one or two minutes when they came back. We then walked for 2 hours in the forest and Bijou and Bichette were walking together with us like friends. By the time we reached the road again we put the lead back on them and went home. I would have never been able to do that with them had I not met Melody.
The way we worked with Melody was using skype and youtube. Geoff took some video clips of me and Galopin ( our first little donkey who died during his castration operation) with his ordinary camera, downloaded them on youtube for Melody to see, and from watching them, Melody was able to coach me on skype. It didn’t take me very long to get all that I needed from her, and we have donkeys that are just adorable now. One of the most important piece of coaching from Melody was that when something doesn’t go right with the donkeys, it’s never the donkeys. From that I am now able to look at myself and re-adjust my behavior or position such that I get the result that I want from the donkeys…it works!
A few weeks ago we had some friends and young people visiting and all wanted to take the donkeys for a walk. So we went off for a walk again and the donkeys were wonderful with all my guests. I had been coaching them on 3 important points when walking with my donkeys and on taking the coaching they all had so much satisfaction with Bijou and Bichette. Isn’t that great? Little Bichette used to kick when on a walk and she has not done that for a long while. I could go on forever but I won’t. I wish anyone with new donkeys as much fun with their training from Melody as I’ve had myself with her.
Testimony from Norway, Rannveig, Alf and Snorre.
l can still remember the day l felt It, l was laying in my bed looking at a little picture that my grandmother gave me for Christmas. A picture of a horse with a soft muzzle and big black eyes. l was six years old, and from that day forward l knew in my heart that a horse was my dream.
Did l get a horse? No. l got something better, I got donkeys!
My black beauty Alf is my dream come true. I was looking on the internet after horses, and suddenly he was there. A black baby donkey, I fell in love and two months after he was arriving in my home.
My first experience with Alf was wonderful as I could do anything with him for two days. Next time he got a little bit spooked about haltering, but we worked thru that, some carrots and my boy was learning fast. We were walking every day, and l was so happy. After two months my donkey was happy and playful. Maybe a bit too playful, he was kicking and jumping and dragging me around, and down hills this was a really hard time for me as I did not know what to do, I was a bit scared. He would run, and l was pulling back, I did not really know what to do about it. l was trying a lot of things, but my donkey Alf was still dragging me around. The local people told me to take a big stick to him and I did not want to do this. l have worked with animals my entire life, so l was thinking that l needed some help as I know animals learn fast, and bad habits can be hard to break when doing it too long. I had read on Melody’s Website before, so l was taking a new look at it, and l decided to send her a Facebook e-mail. Melody answered me right away.
Meeting Melody was amazing, we skyped together on a regular basis as she proceeded to teach me about donkeys and myself. She clearly explained to me anything I wanted to know about donkeys, specifically how young donkeys are like children, how they need to play to be happy as they are smart and have lot’s energy. Melody was giving me the control back, she taught me how to be a great leader a donkey whisperer for my donkey. How to handle Alf when he was running and kicking without abuse, what tools to use. When l feel safe it’s not a big deal to let my donkey play. She was telling me things to do and I would go do them and we would talk about what was working and where I was a bit stuck and then one day I no longer needed anymore coaching from Melody as now I am the donkey whisperer on my farm. J
The most important thing I can say about Melody teaching me is she explains things so I can quickly understand the donkeys perspective and apply the training needed to be the best leader and how to understand my energy and timing to be a great leader. I quickly learned that l can ask Melody about everything, diet, feet, and she will find me the resource I need.
First Melody taught me about taming my donkey, give my donkey a chance to learn totrust me as a human leader. She explained how my donkey must trust me before he could learn from me this is step one. She was telling me how to calm myself down and not go to the barn in a hurry thus I can calm them down. She taught me about short training sessions and to be consistent each and every time and the three second rule for correction again timing is important to train and correct a naughty behavior. Melody taught me how the donkey is a deep thinker and needs time to process everything.Melody is a natural trainer and does not advocate abuse of any kind she taught me how to stay safe without abuse.
How are we doing now?
The most important thing l have learned from Melody is that a donkey needs a donkey friend, they really do. Alf was lonely, playing to ruff with our llama, and very playful around me. So Snorre came in to my life in February 2013, and l was thrilled to not have just one donkey but two donkeys. Soon my donkey Alf was a new donkey, so happy, calm and lovey to be around as he was playing with Snorre his half-brother all the time. Now I can walk them, take them for hikes carrying a pack, no kicking and running, dragging me around. Now my little boy can walk the donkeys! It’s a wonderful thing to have donkeys!!! I highly recommend Melody to help you learn how to train your donkey along with understanding the unique diet and health of a donkey as donkeys are not horses with long ears, donkeys are donkeys. Please rememberdonkeys need at least one donkey to be most happy a lonely donkey is a sad donkey.
MY BEST REGARDS from Norway, Rannveig, Alf and Snorre.
I first contacted Melody having researched the internet for someone, anyone, who could give me advice on donkey care.
I have been around horses since childhood on and off but never donkeys and when I took my horse he came with two field companions: Itchy and Scratchy; my Mediterranean standard donkeys.
They weren’t trained at all when I took them but, over time, we had gone along quite nicely until they suddenly decided that they were not going to walk on their lead ropes any more. I had no idea what to do and no amount of friendly persuasion or my usual bag of tricks would work. I was stuck.
When I first spoke to Melody I was uncertain how or if she could help me but I was really grateful she was prepared to try.
From the first moment I spoke to her she put me at ease, she was friendly, positive and assured me this would be a quick fix. I was delighted. She was right. We resolved all my issues in six sessions. I took her advice, which was clear and precise, and my donkeys began to walk on their lead ropes again! Not only that, they were keener, more present with me and interested to see what we would do next. As I continued to work with Melody different issues came along from stinky feet to gate crowding. Each week when I spoke to her and relayed the current issue she had a solution always and they worked. My boys feet are fabulous now and their gate manners impeccable.
Melody does have a sixth sense. The moment she spoke to me she could see what I needed to learn about myself to help me become a better donkey owner and this was backed up with both practical and positive solutions. There was a lot of love and not much leadership in my field but now the boys have a leader. Consequently they are a lot happier and eager to know what the plans for the day are – they come to see me when I arrive now.
For me it was really helpful to have a visual reference with Melody and Skype allowed this. Even the time difference didn’t affect our ability to connect. It also allowed Melody to demonstrate some things which is so useful and much more practical than a book. Given the cost of most internet advice for equines (usually prohibitive) her fees are excellent value. “I heartedly recommend Melody to anyone who is looking to improve their relationship with themselves and their equine.” Julie, France
Here’s a testimonial about Melody and her training…I purchased my 3 mini donkeys about 4 years ago, knowing nothing about them. I had good intentions on training them. But then I realized I didn’t know what I was doing. I had some horse friends show me a couple of things, but I still wasn’t getting the response I wanted. Then I started searching for a “donkey trainer”. I looked everywhere, but the only donkey/mule seminars were out of state, and too expensive for me to attend. Then about a month ago, I found Rio Johnson on Facebook. Her donkey Rio is the most beautiful mammoth donkey ever! I started asking her questions, and she mentioned that she did virtual training.
I was a little skeptical at first…I was thinking, how can you do training when you’re not here? LOL I was wrong…we have been communicating thru Skype and you tube. I send her videos, and she sends me feedback. Then, we set aside time so Skype. It’s so nice to be able to do this from home with my busy schedule. I don’t have time to travel out of state, or the money to pay someone to come to me. We’ve been training for about a month now, and a lot has happened! I have NEVER been able to pick up my donkeys feet.
During our first week of consultation, my favorite donk, Bonita, foundered, and has white line disease. The vet and the farrier told me I would have to clean her hooves every night to get rid of this. I thought, yeah right. Well, Melody came to my rescue. She told me exactly what to do, and sent me videos of her doing it. Then I sent her videos of what I was doing for her to look over. I’ve learned so much already! And now I can pick up all of their feet and pick them out while they eat at night! This is quite an accomplishment, because I haven’t’ been able to do that the whole time I’ve owned them. It’s always been a HUGE ordeal when the farrier had to come. In the past few months, I’ve had to have them sedated, and that’s expensive. I highly recommend Melody Johnson and her Donkey Whisperer Farm. This is a great solution to get help with your donkeys. And I love that she can work with anyone, anywhere! This has given me new hope and a new start with my beloved donkeys.