Food Enrichment Activities for Donkeys

Is your donkey bored? Here are suggestions for adding entertaining food to your donkey’s environment.
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Food Enrichment for Donkeys
The environments we keep our domesticated donkeys and horses in are so different from those in which they evolved, where the average equid covered 12-plus miles a day with access to a wide variety of plant species and herd interaction. | Photo: iStock

Q: I have a donkey that lives in a stall with a relatively small paddock. He is fed twice a day with appropriate forage, but I’d like to find some ways to provide some nutrition-based enrichment opportunities for him. Do you have any suggestions that he might enjoy?

A: Many horses and donkeys can benefit from various types of enrichment, which is the process of providing your donkey (or horse) with an engaging environment and activities, including food-based varieties.

The environments we keep our domesticated donkeys and horses in are so different from those in which they evolved, where the average equid covered 12-plus miles a day with access to a wide variety of plant species and herd interaction. This lifestyle presented great diversity, variability, and mental stimuli. In comparison, we often meal feed our horses twice a day and maintain them in areas that don’t allow long bouts of movement. As a result, management, can lead to several health and behavior problems, but offering enrichments might help mitigate some of them

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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