It’s always great to arrive at The Ridge and see horses grazing in the pasture. The horses are beautiful, and they love the attention and the snacks that they get when people visit. Now, there are some new residents to welcome visitors to The Ridge – donkeys. Two donkey moms and their babies are the latest additions at The Ridge Barn and pasture inside Russell Lands’ premiere Lake Martin neighborhood.
A mother and daughter named Thelma and Louise, respectively, and a mother and son that are known as Lucy and Ricky can be found trotting around the pasture waiting to make new friends. Linda Ingram, stable manager and event coordinator, said the donkeys came through an unexpected gift.
“A miniature donkey was donated when the owner could no longer take care of him. We named him Jerry Lee because he has very health lungs and can be loud at times,” Ingram explained. “We all just fell in love with Jerry Lee and thought that adding more donkeys to the pasture at The Ridge might be fun for families to see.”
Jerry Lee is a Jerusalem donkey, she said, as he has an obvious cross pattern on his back. The pattern relates to the Bible stories that include donkeys carrying, first, Jesus’ mother, Mary, into Bethlehem; and then, carrying Jesus into Jerusalem before He was crucified. Traditional lore purports that donkeys are born with this cross pattern to honor their importance as part of the life of Christ.
Ingram explained that the donkeys were purchased simply for the enjoyment of visitors and residents of The Ridge. While the animals could be used to pull carts or carry riders, there is no plan for these new additions to be put to work.
“They are known as yard ornaments because their main purpose is just to hang out in the yard,” she said. “They are sweet animals and a joy to be around.”
The donkeys also are helpful guardians, in that they scare away dogs, coyotes and wolves that may prey upon the horses that graze in the pasture. Horses from The Stables at Russell Crossroads are transferred to The Ridge Barn pasture when they are in need of a break from trail riding or are ready for retirement. In general, the donkeys will not travel but will be permanent residents at The Ridge Barn.
Visitors are welcome to visit the donkeys as they adjust to their new home, and the donkeys will appreciate treats that visitors bring. The donkeys like to eat the same things as horses; apples and carrots are their favorites. And look for the signature markings on the donkeys’ backs.
“Donkeys and horses are animals of prey, so they will fight back if they feel threatened,” Ingram cautioned. “It’s best to let the animals come to you first. Avoid reaching toward their faces because if they feel cornered, they may bite, kick or just run away.
“In time, they will come to the fence when they see visitors because they will want to see if there is a snack available.”
The more frequently people visit, the animals will recognize that most people are friendly and just want to spend time with them, Ingram said.
“Donkeys are actually a little more bashful than horses, but they love to be around people and should be a great addition to the collection of animals that visitors can enjoy.”
The staff at The Stables tries to bring animals to Lake Martin for people who live in cities like Birmingham and Atlanta that might not get the opportunity to see barn animals up close. The large pasture allows the animals to live in an environment where they can roam around and explore. The donkeys’ coats will naturally adjust when the seasons change to keep them comfortable. They will not be brought back to The Stables at Russell Crossroads unless there is an extreme weather situation that could cause them harm.
If you can’t make it to The Ridge Barn to visit Thelma, Louise, Lucy and Ricky, the miniature donkey, Jerry Lee, will continue to reside at The Stables at Russell Crossroads, along with two miniature horses, Stargazer and Little Man, that also reside there permanently.