Blanketing Donkeys

Many of us New Englanders are already feeling the effects of the cooler temperatures, the shortening of days and the frost on the pastures in the morning before the sun comes up.

There’s been quite a bit of debate online about whether or not donkey and mule owners should blanket or not blanket their long eared family members. So we wanted to share our two cents on the topic to hopefully shed some insight to donkey owners.

The short answer to a complicated question is, it depends. It depends on where you live, how cold it is, how wet it is, the age of your donkey, if they have cushings disease or any other types of illnesses, etc.

What we normally hear is, “But my donkey gets so fluffy why would he need a blanket?” But the truth is your donkeys fluffy fur does not have the density or insulating properties that a horses natural coat provides. Not only that but donkeys lack the oil horses have in their coats that act as a natural water repellent, which in turn keeps their skin dry. This is also why horses have that sweet horse smell that we all know and love, and donkeys do not. (Sorry donkeys.)

Donkeys descend from desert species, they use dust and sand as a way to “bathe” themselves. Since it doesn’t rain often in the desert, donkeys have not evolved to have oil in their coats to protect them from our freezing rain, sleet and snow that our northern winters bring. Mixing a lack of a waterproofed coat, plus a lot of extra winter hair without insulating properties and wet weather- is a combination for a very unhappy donkey, and can sometimes even be a death sentence for an immune compromised or older donkey.

Some may say “but my donkey never acts cold!” Donkeys have evolved to freeze (no pun intended) instead of having a flight or fight response like most mammals. Donkeys stop and think through problems or how to respond to a stressful situation. Which is why they’ve unfortunately gotten the notorious title of being “stubborn.” Most donkeys will not show when they are sick or not feeling well until they are in the later stages of their illness. Which is why it is so hard to tell when they are having a bout of colic or are injured. It’s their instincts way of protecting them from being eaten by predators. Pretty fascinating, but not great for the people who love them and want to know when they’re not well.

The bottom line is, just because they survive the winters or always have without being blanketed, doesn’t mean they are thriving and comfortable. This goes especially for the ones who are getting long in the tooth, are sick, injured, have cushings disease or thyroid issues. These donkeys are more vulnerable than a younger, healthier donkey and need an extra layer or two to give them a hoof up this winter to keep them cozy, safe and comfortable.

The bare minimum they should have is a 3 sided shelter that is deeply bedded with pine shavings, and cleaned daily. I would go a step further to say that warm mash soup made up of a handful of timothy pellets with their loose mineral supplement would also go a long way.

Please don’t take what we’ve said here today and use it as a blanket statement! 😁 Use your discernment and go based on the weather and your donkey. Each donkey should have a few different coats, a rain sheet, and a few coats from 200g- 800g insulation.

Other Blanketing Tips

-Blankets should be checked daily to make sure there are no rips, tears or dampness under them.

-Clips should always be clip side facing in toward the donkeys body.

-Donkeys should be groomed at minimum once a week with a ‘slicker brush’ to ensure their skin is still getting some air, so dead skin is being removed and to check their body condition.

-Blankets need to be washed and re-waterproofed every year. You can find waterproofing spray online or at any tack shop that sells horse blankets. (We like scotch guard)

-When putting on a blanket start fastening buckles and clips from the front to the back.

Have trouble fitting your donkeys for blankets? Bray Hollow Farm in NY makes blankets specifically for ponies and donkeys. If you’d like to check them out you can click the link below to check out their website!

Bray hollow



This year we have taken on more senior animals than we ever have before in a single year. We are always happy to take on the equines who are at the last stages of their life and require a little extra TLC. Ann and I are both suckers for a grey faced sad eyed long ear. However so deserving these animals are they almost always require extensive care, vet work, and farrier work to make sure that they are able to be kept comfortable. We’ve had to let go of two friends at the end of October. As hard as the decisions were, we are honored to be able to give them that last gift of letting them go with peace and dignity.

As many of you are aware Whichahpi our Medicine hat paint horse had X-rays done of his spine. We found out that he had some more serious complications going on than met the eye. We decided the kindest thing to do was to let him go. We said goodbye to our friend on October 24th.


Harley came to us just a few short months ago underweight, confused and sore. Harley gained a significant amount of weight while he was with us and made three other friends who were his herd companions.

Harley was loved by every single person who met him, and he loved all of them back. He started to have trouble getting up from his naps the last few days until one morning when he could not get up no matter how much he tried. We called our vet and gave him some pain meds while we waited. He did finally get up but we still had our vet out because something was still very off with him and I just did not have a good gut feeling.

After an examination and a few tests it was determined that he was in heart failure. We decided to let Harley go.. our vet estimated Harley was at least in his late 30’s.

We are absolutely gutted over these losses.. The rescue feels so empty without him and Whichahpi. I don’t think a day will go bye where I won’t think about the animals we’ve had to let go.

Thank you to all of you who donated towards his arthritis medication, grain bill and care. It truly made a difference in his time with us and he was able to be comfortable and pain free in the end.

Rest easy buddy you are sorely, sorely missed.

Due to fundraising being so low, and having spent a very large amount of money on so many seniors this year. We are going to be more careful of the ages of animals we take in. It is not sustainable for us to take on so many seniors who are not adoptable. If we continue to do so, we will cease to exist as a rescue.

Sometimes folks are in denial about how old their animals are, sometimes they are not truthful with us when surrendering, and sometimes it is passing the buck. We LOVE the seniors but are not set up as a sanctuary. It’s not fair to us or our supporters to keep enduring one heartbreak after another. Some day in the future I would like to have a set up for the older donkeys with special needs. But that is quite a ways down the road.

Thank you all for reading this far and for your feedback every newsletter, it and you are so appreciated and valued by all of us at SYA.

Wishing you all the best,


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