Sponsored by EJ Seifert
Gasston is our resident burro who was adopted in the summer of 2014 to be a companion for Rowdy. He was born into the wild, in a barren area of the northeastern part of California in 2010. He was captured on 5 October 2011 by the Bureau of Land Management (the Federal agency that oversees our American Heritage wildlife on Federal lands), and was kept confined at a holding facility for over 2 years. In 2014 he was selected by Family Horses, an organization whose sole purpose is to tame wild Mustangs and burros. (http://www.familyhorses.net) Then, on July 6, 2014, Gasston arrived here at Mea Ola’s Place. The only reason for Gasston’s adoption was for him to be an equid companion to our Rowdy, a rejected foal who had had no equine influence for the first 6 weeks of his life. (Read Rowdy’s story on his page.) Little did we know at that time how Gasston would become an important addition here for himself.
At this point in his life, Rowdy had had only human contact, and it was imperative that he be properly socialized in the ways of his own species. In order for Rowdy to learn the ropes of equid behavior, he needed a like companion, a model, if you will, to teach him in a manner similar to the way a mare socializes her foal in its younger weeks and months.
Dr. Sam Wittlin, Rowdy’s veterinarian, suggested that we find another foal or a donkey for Rowdy. So we contacted the BLM in Ridgecrest to see if they had any orphaned foals and explained that we needed a companion for Rowdy. The BLM representative we spoke with had experienced many orphaned foals during her employment with the BLM and informed us that at the present time, they had no foals to adopt out; however, she stated that she had raised many foals with donkeys and referred us to Family Horses, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding forever homes for the captured BLM horses and burros, and funded by the Platero Project. (Editor's note: You can see how they train the burros at www. familyhorses.net. Be sure to check the video, showing Gasston himself in training. For more information about the Platero Project, click on the link below.)
Immediately, I contacted Family Horses. They told me that they had a very special donkey named Gasston, and that he LOVED people! This was music to our ears! In all honesty though, the concern wasn’t whether this donkey liked people; however, that was a perk. The concern was whether he would benefit our 6-week-old motherless colt. Questions loomed over our heads: Would Gasston have the ability to teach this little guy the proper social skills needed in the equine world? How compatible would an adult burro and a foal be? Was it a safe move for our fragile Rowdy?
With a hopeful heart and an open mind, I decided to meet this noteworthy, people-loving, equine-companion-wannabe. The moment I met him, he stole my heart. This donkey didn’t fit the stereotypical definition of a stubborn and abrasive donkey. His sweet demeanor and stoic presence were indicative that our Rowdy would have a forever buddy to teach him, guide him, and most of all, lovingly befriend him. After the necessary steps and a short deliberation with my own companion, Chris, Gasston was adopted by us and became a permanent and welcomed resident at Mea Ola’s Place.
Happily, Gasston took to Rowdy right away! Starting their introduction in separate stalls, we were elated as we watched Rowdy immediately play with Gasston through the corral fence. Rowdy was awkward and curious with Gasston. Next, we allowed them together with Gasston on a lead. Gasston stood there while Rowdy jumped on him, playfully bit him, and chewed on his tail. This is the same way a foal would play with its dam. In Rowdy’s eyes, he had just been gifted with a giant chew toy!! Yet, surprisingly, Gasston was patient and took on the maternal role we had hoped for. Instinctively, by example, Gasston taught Rowdy the equine social skills he needed to be integrated with the rest of our horses here at Mea Ola’s Place. The camaraderie between equine and burro is a precious and heart-warming relationship to witness. These two play for hours together in the big arena at turn out time. With other horses around Rowdy, Gasston becomes quite protective in his gentle way.
Today, Gasston is a hit with people of all ages who visit the ranch. One of the favorite activities at our popular Kid’s Camp is “Tape the Tail on the Donkey ," (our version of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” which uses a real live donkey, to the delight of the kids.) And Gasston doesn't mind at all; he's such a good sport. Because he is so wonderful, several people have wanted to adopt him from us. However, Gasston will never be separated from Rowdy, and he continues to play an integral part in camps and Senior Saturdays here at Mea Ola’s Place. We have referred several Gasston fans and admirers to Family Horses, and they have gone on to adopt a gentled and domesticated wild burro of their own, thanks to the Platero Project. If you ever consider a donkey, please support the efforts of those that fund the project and the BLM. After all, our wild horses and donkeys need homes, too!
P.S. Gasston’s name is not misspelled. The year we adopted Gasston, Family Horses had named each donkey with “ass” in its name. Starting with the letter A, then B, and so on, for every donkey they gentled. If they are known, Mea Ola’s Place honors the original names given to our rescues and we never change them.