A different kind of four-legged fun.

Most of us have heard the story of Toothless and his rider, Hiccup, from the movie How to Train Your Dragon. If you haven’t, the story goes something like this: Hiccup happens upon a rare breed of dragon with adorable green eyes and a fierce, black physique. What are the chances that this exceptional, fantastical beast has a disability that Hiccup can help him overcome?

Hiccup gains the trust of his dragon friend, Toothless, and the two develop an enviable relationship that we can all agree we’d like to have with our horses…or whatever mount we find ourselves on. (If only dragons were real. And no, chestnut mares don’t count!)

Most of us haven’t heard the story of my foray into donkey riding. And yes, donkey riding is a real thing. Donkeys are bright, thoughtful, and clever little animals who are sure footed and hardworking. They can carry gear, they can pull carts, and they can even carry people. I met a donkey who was, in a previous life, a mount for tourists in the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, donkeys deserve a lot of credit.

On a beautiful, brisk afternoon, I made my way out to a friend’s farm. She was excitedly tacking up her lovely paint pony when I felt a familiar, nagging urge. I wanted to ride, too! “You can ride BB if you want!” she said. Her lips drew into a mischievous, Cheshire smile.

I’ll bet you can guess my answer: Of course! Immediately, I was leaping through mud to find a halter that would fit her donkey. Poor, unsuspecting BB raised his head and tilted one of those adorably long and limb-like ears towards me, questioning my motive for brandishing a carrot at him and trudging through the mud.

BB seemed to enjoy the grooming he received, standing quietly while I fashioned a rope into a makeshift bridle. Tacked and groomed, we were off!

Or, not. BB had planted all four feet sturdily, and he wasn’t going anywhere. With an excruciating amount of effort, BB moved one foot forward and seemed to accept his fate of becoming my noble steed by following me into the sand arena. Like any horseman or woman knows, it takes time and trust to get on the back of your steed. So, I practiced leaning my weight on BB’s back, mounting and dismounting, and sitting quietly on his back before even asking him to move forward.

In hindsight, we could have used a lot more standing still. The instant my legs touched BB’s side, off we went! I should be more specific: off he went. The little donkey shot off like a rocket, putting the local rodeo to shame. Unfortunately for me and my now throbbing backside, I had to trek through the mud and into the trees to catch him because my friend was laughing too hard to help catch little BB. Like a shampoo bottle, it was lather, rinse, and repeat: Catch, mount, “emergency dismount,” and repeat!

Muddy and with a surprising amount of foliage in my clothes, we ended the donkey wrangling session with a moment of peace between magnificent steed and rider before releasing the donkey back into his paddock.

Unlike Toothless, BB was not sure he wanted a job as a trusty steed, but his effort to remove me from his back was respectable indeed. As for me? I don’t think donkey wrangling is in my future; it’s back in the saddle for me!

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