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Get Your Ass to Work!

An Illustrated Guide to Training Your Donkey to Harness

By Dick Courteau


A detailed and practical guide to training donkeys—for farmers and homesteaders

So you’ve gone and done it, you’ve bought a donkey! You know she can be useful around the farm—that’s why you bought her. You know that throughout history, the donkey has been one of our most useful partners in labor: a low-impact power source that also produces fertilizer. But now, as she stands there eating, how do you get any of that dreamed-of usefulness out of her? This book can show you how.

Get Your Ass to Work! is a practical, hands-on guide to training donkeys to work—in harness and packing—to serve the needs of small farmers and homesteaders. It offers a clear and detailed program for each step of training, designed to enable you to bring an untrained donkey into the animal work force within a month or six weeks.

Although there are several books in print of general interest on donkeys and donkey care, none deal satisfactorily with training. Get Your Ass to Work! will help you train your donkey to haul loads on a sled or cart, pull farm equipment, skid logs, and pack firewood, tools, or camping gear while respecting and protecting the health of your animal and keeping you safe. The book outlines how to care for your donkey, including feed, shelter, and basic hoof care. The text is abundantly illustrated by original photographs of donkeys working, with artistic sketches and diagrams to show techniques.

This book will be relevant to the homesteader and small farmer, enjoyable for everyone who enjoys donkeys and mules, and appealing to any animal lover.

Reviews and Praise

"With certain rare books character and authenticity emanate off the page almost as something tangible that you can feel the way you can feel hand-worn leather driving lines slide easy over your palms. Such a book is Get your Ass to Work. And as you may guess by the title, this sage tome has a healthy dose of hard-won humor, too.  The author has the wizened carved aspect of an old cowboy. And like many a cowboy of old, Dick Courteau is as erudite and knowledgeable about history, literature and philosophy as he is about the ins and outs of training donkeys. One thing is certain though, whether you are a green novice or a veteran teamster, whatever your predilection regards working equines, this book is a font of practical how-to information for raising, training, working and thoroughly caring for all needs of the venerable donkey. Generously illustrated with photos and drawings—this book is also a visual delight." 

Stephen Leslie, author of The New Horse-Powered Farm and Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

"There are few books in the world that provide such a comprehensive wealth of useful and detailed information on a topic they may be labeled indispensable reading. Dick Courteau has put together just such a book regarding keeping and training donkeys. It is densely packed with thoughtful, clear and concise instructions, advice, and cautions, combining a plain-spoken wisdom with a plethora of photographs and illustrations. It is a must-have for the donkey owner and would make a useful addition to the library of a mule or horse owner."

—Joe Mischka, Editor & Publisher, Rural Heritage

"[T]here’s a charm that goes well beyond practical animal husbandry… Even the non-donkey-devotee can see that this is, at its core, a lifework. It’s a book that’s informed by both life experience…and extensive reading on the subject….. It’s a book from someone who’s given more thought to donkeys and their training than most people give to anything at all."

Arkansas Life Magazine

"I'm very happy to see this book on the market now. Donkeys are overlooked, and Get Your Ass to Work very sensibly points out all of the great ways that donkeys can contribute on the homestead.  All of the training advice is practical and easy to follow, and the book can be used as a single source for beginning teamsters.  I hope this book inspires a new generation of donkeys and people working together.  Great job, and best of luck!"

—Charlie Tennessen, donkey teamster and contributor to Rural Heritage

"As the owner of two donkeys, I need a neighbor like Dick Courteau, a wise and compassionate old timer who has spent a lifetime working with equines. Fortunately, reading his book turns out to be the next best thing, since he is a natural born teacher of humans and animals. His love for long-ears is clear on every page, and he reminds us that a well-trained animal is far less likely to suffer neglect. There’s enough about care, feeding and equipment to get the new owner started, and the lively, folksy style of writing will make this book a pleasure to read even for those who enjoy donkeys only vicariously. Great drawings and photos, lots of wisdom, and a suggested reading list."

— Bonnie Jo Campbell, prize-winning author of Once Upon a River and Mother, Tell Your Daughters