I have been looking forward to spending a little time on the road with Matilde, and while I have family staying during August it was finally possible to leave Rubi in good care and set off for a walk. As Matilde is pregnant, I sought advice about walking with a load and was told by the previous owner that there was no problem, as a donkey can carry on as normal right up to the moment they have their foal. Matilde was carrying just 40kg, half the load she is capable of taking.
The walk I had planned was along the newly established Camino de Santiago from here in the direction of Albacete, but only a five day return trip, stopping at the house of another donkey owner on the way. In the end, we were back home within 24 hours! Towards the end of the first day, Matilde sat down in the road with all the baggage on. I hastily unloaded her while she sat there making gasping noises and looking quite pathetic. I carried the baggage into a nearby field and coaxed Matilde back on her feet, then phoned my friend to say we were abandoning the trip. I spent the night in the tent in that roadside field while Matilde spent the whole night eating, to get her strength back.
Early the next day, I loaded Matilde and aimed to walk her home again, at her own pace. However, we only managed two kilometres downhill, in the direction of a village where I intended to refill our water bottles, and poor Matilde sank to the road and her head lolled over to one side. It was a terrifying sight and I tugged at all the straps and buckles to free her from the load, then managed to get her on her feet and into the shade two hundred metres away. After a brief phone call home, help arrived to drive the baggage home and the relieved donkey walked home unladen.
Needless to say, there will be no more walking for Matilde until the foal is born. After the fright of seeing her collapse, I won’t risk her going out at all, even unladen. I believe Rubi’s foal will be the first because it seems to have lowered now in readiness. I felt around Rubi’s tummy this morning and there are distinct little hard bumps which could be little folded knees or hooves inside.
On a recent trip to the Sierra Bernia stable where my donkeys came from, I took this photo of a donkey foal with similar colouring to Rubi, so this provides a preview. I think it could be any day now and I will post the news straight away when it happens, with the first pictures of the foal.