Rood norty donkey Matilde is confined to stable

Matide isolated in the stable by three magic strands of electric wire

Matide isolated in the stable by four strands of electric wire

Today we had the most dangerous incident in five years of donkey walking.  There was some cloud cover this morning, so it looked like a good opportunity to get donkeys out walking. I wanted to explore a new route for them: a four kilometre forest path circuit I had discovered on my mountain bike a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to take Matilde and Rubí and get some photos of them in their new birthday head-collars but sadly there was only time for one photograph.  We were only twenty minutes into the walk when Matilde started going out of control and jumping on Rubí. This has happened before when Rubí was in season, and I have always taken care since to avoid walking them when either of them are in season! As Matilde became increasingly difficult to control (at one point she floored me with a head butt), I turned them round with the intention of getting them home as quickly as possible.

Then a very frightening incident happened. Matilde pulled the lead rope out of my hand, rearing up and flooring Rubí from the side. She put her fullweight on Rubí and the poor donkey went down heavily onto the rough uphill rocky track we were walking on.  Matilde sat down on Rubí with her full weight and I had to beat her with the lead rope to get her on her feet and take the weight off Rubí.

Rubí on the floor after I managed to get Matilde off her

Rubí on the floor after I managed to get Matilde off her

Rubí would not get up and as much as I encouraged her, she stayed down on the ground. There followed a very frightening few minutes as I tried to explore Rubi’s hind legs to see what damage may have been done, while also trying to hold onto an increasingly uncooperative Matilde.  I managed to roll Rubí onto her side and see the right hind leg which was hidden. There was some blood on the leg from a flesh wound as she went down on the stones under Matilde, but I had no idea whether the leg was sound. I was already looking up the emergency number of the vet and identifying my GPS position, when Rubí struggled to her feet.  It was a very worrying moment seeing if she could stand firmly or whether there was a break.  She slowly limped forward.  Thank God!

There followed another kilometre of battles with Matilde who was still trying to jump on Rubí. When I was in sight of home, I manouevred Matilde to a tree (with difficulty, as this intelligent beast realised I was going to tie her to it and fought to stop me getting her close to the tree!  Finally, I got Matilde tied to the tree with two lead ropes (not taking any chances!) and I even wondered whether she might uproot the tree, as it was a dead almond.

Once I had taken Rubí home, I grabbed a carriage whip from the house, to control Matilde,* and returned to fetch her. She had indeed broken the upper part of the tree, but was still firmly held by the other lead rope around the lower trunk.  The walk home was difficult enough, but nextdoor’s dog was also on the loose, just to add further to the theatre, so I had to shout at my neighbour to get his dog out of the road.

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Matilde in disgrace, confined to the stable.  Rubí limping around the field (I have now massaged her leg.)  And I’m confined to the Bar Cantonet in Finestrat with a computer and a beer.  Sometimes a simple life in the country with donkeys, just isn’t.

*Following a rather abusive comment from an angry person on this blog, which entirely missed the point of this, a carriage whip can be used to gently guide a misbehaving equine, just by holding it against them as you walk to show who is in charge.  The rather excited comment from this person about “cruelty” displayed a poor understanding of how equines are controlled and a rather silly ignorance of the true love of animals which requires proper control for their own safety as well as yours.  Your unacceptable abuse of me (you know who you are) means you will not be commenting on this blog again.

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Dappled things

Thanks to Cath (see her comment on last post) for suggesting this:

Pied Beauty


Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
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Birthday weekend for donks

Rubí was six yesterday, following Matilde’s seventh birthday on Friday, and they both had presents of new head-collars and lead ropes.

Matilde has gone pink.  Rubí stays red: she has had a red head-collar since the beginning and – like Morris with blue, and Aitana with green – it helps identify the donkey in old photographs, particularly with the three brown donkeys who don’t look very different at first glance.






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Happy birthday Matilde

Matilde is actually seven today (not ten as I wrote yesterday). A friend was curious to know how a donkey bought in 2010 age two could possibly be age ten by 2015.  There is a simple answer to this mystery: rabits is not good at the rithmatic…

Happy birthday to a still young Matilde!  Rubí’s birthday tomorrow, so I will try and do the rithmatic and work out how old she is.

Matilde, birthday girl. Age seven today!

Matilde, birthday girl. Age seven today!

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Dapples and beans

Matilde is losing her winter coat and yesterday I managed to pull off nearly enough hair with the curry comb to fill a small duvet!  As the winter coat comes off, the dapples are now appearing and they are much more pronounced than last year when I first noticed them. 20150603_212648


I was curious about the way these dapples have developed recently. There was little evidence of dappling on Matilde when I first bought her, as can be seen in the photos of Matilde at the birthday picnic in 2011.  I found the following on an equine grooming blog and this suggests that it is a mixture of genetics and good diet:

I wanted to also do a bit more research about dapples, so I chatted with Dr. Clair from Summit Equine Nutrition.  Dr. Clair is originally from England, and the first thing she mentions about dapples is that in the UK, they are called “hammer marks”, like you have hammered some tin or copper to make those eye catching circles.  Then Dr. Clair gets down to business confirming that a healthy coat is necessary for dapples, and we get a healthy coat on our horses because of balanced trace minerals and omega 3 fatty acids.  


Matilde is ten years old tomorrow and Rubí is six on Saturday, so – having reminded myself about the 2011 donkey birthday picnic – I think we will have a donkey birthday party this weekend.

The drought continues in the Alicante region and I took some photographs of the empty Amadorio reservoir earlier in the week, to show my Geography students the latest situation.  The reservoir is at its lowest level for three decades.DSC_5907

Luckily, my vegetable garden has a good water supply and my annual labour of planting and watering is beginning to yield results. I ate my first lettuce from the garden yesterday and there are peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, aubergines, onions, grapes and beans on the way.



The main challenge, as always, is to keep the donkeys out of the vegetable plot.  It is a while since we had a disaster, but there is always the risk that I will go down to the field one morning and find four confused donkeys standing among broken canes, entwined in bean netting. Hey ho, life here with donkeys is always an adventure.

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Spanish elections are a boar

Today we had the Spanish local and regional elections. More about that later.

The donkeys were more concerned about the scent of a boar they had picked up. From time to time, when there is an external threat, I have watched the donkeys go into herd-protection mode. They stand facing the perceived threat and make aggressive snorting noises. Rubí, who is generally the quiet mild donkey, is most aggressive on these occasions. I observe that with interest because she was the best mother of the two (Matilde being less obviously attached to her foal.) Today there was a possible wild boar near the field and I managed to video the reaction:

There may have been a boar nearby – or was it in Rubí’s imagination? – but there was certainly a boar three kilometres away in Finestrat, where the local elections were taking place. Not that elections involved me at all, as it turned out that I was disenfranchised. Let me explain.

I arrived as a new resident in Finestrat in 2010, and in 2011 before the elections, the Partido Popular town hall representative for Residents of Other Nationalities, told me to fill in the form to register as a voter. (I intended to vote for the PP.) When I arrived at the Casa de Cultura to vote on election day in 2011, I was told I was not on the list. When I said I had definitely been registered by the RON representative, they asked me if I had a padron (a local registration document.) I didn’t. They said, “That’s why you can’t vote.”

Consequently, after the election, I obtained my padron as a new resident. This year, I assumed I could vote: as I had the padron and the RON representative had told me she had done my registration in 2011.

No! I couldn’t. It is extremely embarrassing to turn up at the polling station for a second time in four years and have to face a load of people in the Casa de Cultura ALL TELLING ME I HAVE NO RIGHT TO VOTE. This included the woman from L’Hort supermarket who usually sells me my donkeys’ carrots, but was today adopting an air of great importance as she was in charge of the ballot box. As I stood there trying to explain why I should be listed, she loudly announced to all present: “¿Este es inglés y por esto no sabe nuestro sistema!”

What an incredible attitude. Excuse me:I teach in a local school. I am not a peasant who doesn’t understand things, and I was educated in Spain in the 1960s. Some of these local attitudes towards those of other nationalities need to be addressed. You cannot have such ignorance loudly expressed in the voting station, of all places.

Regarding the last PP administration, I have already made my dissatisfaction quite clear to the PP candidate Juanfran Pérez, regarding the way residents here in Benienso have had their “Neighbourhood Watch” scheme completely blanked since the promised second meeting in October 2014, which never happened (Honorato Algado, the PP Mayor, ignored our communications for the past several months, as we asked what was happening.)

The PP are the losers: for I am a natural PP voter, but have been completely let down in these matters. If they win the election today, I will be pleased for them as I find nothing good in the opposition. On the other hand, I am very disappointed with my experience of the PP. If the PSOE or (God-help-us) Podemos win, the PP should spend some time reflecting on their poor communications.

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19th May, the Feast of Saint Dunstan

st dunstan

Today is the feast day of St Dunstan, and of course my donkey Rubí is quite thrilled that the feast falls upon a Tuesday this year, as Tuesday is Rubí’s thinking day. She will obviously be reflecting on the life of this celebrated tenth century Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, who once caught the devil by the nose using blacksmith’s tongs. There are some sensible hagiographies of Saint Dunstan, but if you prefer the ludicrous version, enjoy this:

It is very rarely that I get through most of the month before writing a blog post, but it has been a particularly busy time as all my students are in exam classes and it is that time of year again. The busiest school week of the year for me, when I had to do final exam briefings for three classes of GCSE and A-level students, was the same week my new next door neighbour – for reasons best known to himself! – decided to open the agricultural water channel sluice gate (just out of interest to see where the water might go?) and flooded my donkey field while I was at work. He left it open, went indoors and forgot about it. Having discovered that he’d flooded the field, he just left it until I came home, later than usual after a drink with a friend after work. The neighbour has my phone number but didn’t think to phone and tell me my donkeys were standing there on a flooded field! If I had known I would have come home immediately, but instead I arrived home late to see the donks standing in a lake.

Worse still, this is half-treated water from the sewage plant in Finestrat and highly dangerous should the donkeys drink it. The work to drain the field kept me busy till after midnight, the day before doing exam briefings for two classes, so I was not exactly overjoyed with my neighbour! Not knowing whether the donkeys had drunk any of this toxic water, I also needed to consult the vet.

Next day, I had permission from school to return home during the morning to collect the medication from the pharmacy for a five day treatment for all four donkeys, and then the vet visited to check them. (Call out and injections one-hundred and fifty Euros.) However, things became more chaotic, as word got around among some students that I had gone home, so when I arrived back in school for the afternoon lesson some didn’t come to their final exam briefing in the last lesson before the exam. Aaaarrggh! Two year’s work to get the best results from my students, and my last chance to brief them before the exams ruined by a thoughtless act by a man with too much time on his hands and no commonsense!

You do your best in this life to try and keep on top of things: in my case with a full-time job and running a small donkey sanctuary single-handed. But then the Prince of Chaos finds a way to mess up your plans. Oh for Saint Dunstan’s pair of tongs to grab the Devil by the nose!

Oh well, here’s a photo of Rubí and I’ll leave her to think these matters properly through, as it is Tuesday.


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