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The Day Sparky Was Willingly Vaccinated

Today was Vaccination Day number one. We finally got smart a few years ago and split up vaccination day into two days. We vaccinate the front half of the farm one day, and then the second half of the farm another day. This makes for a much more pleasant experience. Our two most challenging participants on vaccination days are Sparky the donkey and Timbit the mini.

Sparky and Timbit are never runners, but they both hate needle sticks. Timbit used to cream everybody within 10 feet of him on vaccination day. I finally solved his needle phobia by clicker training him and using toothpicks to stimulate needle sticks. The last three times we’ve vaccinated Timbit he’s tossed his head and pranced a few steps but there has been no rearing, kicking, biting and bolting. The first time we vaccinated Timbit we actually didn’t finish because four people weren’t enough to keep the mini safely under control. All four hooves were flying, he was rearing, biting, bolting and spinning into position to double-barrel kick anyone who came near him. I repeat, four adults could not get Timbit under enough control to vaccinate him that year. Clicker training solved the problem.

On the other hand Sparky the donkey isn’t food motivated enough for clicker training to work. Sparky is a champ about anything in life where he can see a direct benefit. The first year I had to body clip him after he developed PPID/Cushing’s, he had so much sedation in him it was a miracle he was standing. The next year he needed no sedation at all as he stood like a statue and let me clip him. He remembered being clipped and knew that he felt better afterwards.  Sparky is a star for the farrier because he makes the correlation that he feels better after having his hooves trimmed. He stands like a statue with the speculum in his mouth to have his teeth floated because he knows his mouth feels better after his teeth are done.

On the other hand Sparky gets absolutely nothing out of being vaccinated. He feels a bunch of needle sticks and then feels exactly the same after it is all done. In his mind he is standing politely and then we stick needles in him for no reason. He sees it as us being rude when he was being polite. For 22 years Sparky has made a career out of dragging anyone who cared to hold him – often multiple people – around as the vet attempted to stick needles in him. For the last 13 years Jason has been tasked with trying to hold on to Sparky while he is being vaccinated since he was the only one who could halfway stop Sparky when Sparky decided it was time to end things. Sparky had slowly gotten better over the years. The last couple of years Jason has required no chiropractic adjustments or massages to recover from Sparky’s escape attempts, and these had all been required in previous years.

This year Sparky stood almost motionless while he was being vaccinated. I think he tossed his head twice, but he never actually moved a leg. We were all kind of speechless for a minute, then everyone moved in to pet Sparky, tell him how great he was, and feed him treats. Jason didn’t even have to take a single Tylenol. It was a day for the record books.

Havana and Cino innocently grazing with their halters on, oblivious that their daily plan of doing nothing will be interrupted by vaccines




Paramount and Mick




Johnny, Walon and Rocky


Cocomo and Silver


Dawn and MyLight


Charlotte and Renatta


Renatta, Lily and Calimba


Merlin and Havana


Cino and Art


Fabrizzio, Alfie and Taylor


Merlin, Art and Remmy


Baby and Trigger


B-Rad and Nemo


Sabrina and Flower

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