My affection for "donkind" came about some years ago as a fresh faced 19 year old who just got hired as part of the livestock division out at the old Rawhide. For those of you that aren't local - Rawhide is a 1800's style western town tourist trap that was built on a large amount of mostly undeveloped land. Rawhide is a multi-layered attraction park - offering a steakhouse, shopping, theater style shows put on by the street comedy troupe, and the world famous Rough Rider Stunt Crew - but also offered hay rides, a camel ride, a stagecoach ride, a petting zoo, and a donkey ride for the kids, amongst other things too numerous to list here.
So, anyways, I was 19, and had just been hired on in the livestock division, and had been assigned the 'donkey ride' as my job. I was suddenly responsible for a herd of about 17-18 donkeys, one hinny, and one jennet. That job at first taught me more about how NOT to handle mules and donkeys than HOW to handle them, but after the first few days, we all got along just fine. (My friend who was hired alongside me was assigned Joe the Camel... needless to say her experience was a LOT different than mine! Working with the Camel, while certainly interesting and challenging, was certainly a difficult task. He was cranky, stubborn, moody, loud, obnoxious, smelly, and liked to spit on people. Personally - We didn't blame him a bit.)
The care of the animals while 'backstage' was the reason I ended up walking out of the job I otherwise loved. The girl that was put into the Livestock Manager's Job was a 20 something, 4'3", 110 pound soaking wet, absolute brainless twit of a girl who had a degree in advertising and marketing, and had been hired originally for said department in the front office. She got it into her head one day that she wanted to learn to be a horse trainer, and started attending Equine Science Classes at a local Community College - the exact same classes I was also attending at the time. (PUKE! Imaging going to college alongside your boss...for the very same field she manages and has NO clue about...) The difference between me and her though - I had real life, hands on experience, and had since I was about a year and a half. SHE didn't even know how to put a halter on the right way. We had mules that would rather kill you than eat, and she was convinced she knew what she was doing.
The front office had already approved the transfer though, and we all of a sudden had a manager that knew absolutely NOTHING about basic equine care. The first day on the job she tried to halter the worst of the 'killer mule teams' - and she damn near ended up in the hospital. They charged her, reared up, tried to strike her on the head, and chased after her when she turned tail and ran out of their pen. That incident scared her badly, but it broke her out of her ego for a while though!
There was a group of us that went up to the main office, and made a very strong case for her to be removed/replaced, but since she was a favorite of the owner - well that didn't work very well. We even tried to sneak a farrier in one day on her day off, to trim several donks and several of the mule teams because they were getting dangerously long, but he was stopped at the back gate and was asked to leave by security. Finally one of the stagecoach drivers broke down, and started trimming hooves, something he was fully capable of doing, but the afternoon put him in the hospital due to severe back issues and mules that again, would rather kill you than eat.
The situation got worse and worse, and I finally left after several attempts at arguing with her about a donkey that had a bad limp, and they were still insisting she go out with her string's rotation. I didn't know anything else I could do, and had already made several calls to the sheriff, animal control, humane society, and even a news station or two... but of course no body picked up or believed the story, even with pictures.
I bring this all up now not just for 'the memories', but because even in all the neglect and ignorance I witnessed during my 18 month employment with them, I NEVER EVER saw hooves get THIS bad....