We moved to France full time in 2014 to complete the works on our new home and gites, which we bought in 2012, ‘Les Beaux Chenes’, Pont de Barret, in La Drome. www.lesbeauxchenes.com

By 2016, our forest was becoming very overgrown. I have always loved donkeys but never considered that I could own any, living and working in a busy town in the South East of England! Eventually, Mark agreed that I could have 2 donkeys to manage the forest. I ended up saving 3 young males, in December 2016,  from the Butcher. In March 2018, I took a Baudet de Poitou female and then in November 2019, I re-homed 2 more female Baudet de Poitous, whose owner had a terminal illness.

The Three Musketeers

Late 2016, a friend heard of 3 very young Provence donkeys in urgent need. They had been collected from the mountains by a horse breeder for a customer who wanted them to go with a group of horses. Unfortunately, he never turned up for them and so she was left with animals that she simply did not want or need. I was in competition with the Butcher, since donkey meat is eaten, especially in the South of France.

When I went to see the 3 brothers, I could see how close they were to each other but they were very timid with humans and not used to being handled. When I first saw them, each one had his head of the back of the other, like the hands of the Musketeers! They were inseparable and I could not bear for any of them to be sent to the abattoir. I could not pick 2 and leave 1 behind, so I agreed to take all 3!

Hence their names Porthos, Athos and Aramis! At the time, they were aged 3, 2 and 10 months.

They were quite wild but soon turned into the nicest boys! They are still very close, very playful and just love to be taken out for walks! They are very protective of the female donkeys and take it turns to look after them!

Bamako- the only Baudet de Poitou in La Drome!

Bamako joined the boys in March 2018. Her owner, a truly lovely Poitou breeder, who had Bamako since birth, wanted to retire and sell his donkeys.

Bamako arrived pregnant for September. She went full term but sadly she surprisingly gave birth to twins, born dead. Having been so friendly, it was so sad because the death of her foals left her changed. She became angry and sad, not aggressive but really miserable. She started to copy the behaviour of the Provence boys and so eventually I thought we should find her a female companion.

Happily, Bamako gave birth to the most beautiful, joyful foal at the end of April 2020 and she is just the most doting mother!

Anissou du Vern and Dobble – Baudet de Poitou

I had been thinking about finding a female friend for the depressed Bamako. The Association which manages this endangered species suggested a Breeder and when I spoke to him, he asked me to take two of his donkeys because he had a terminal illness and could no longer look after them and these two were ‘pots of glue’ (very close). So, I agreed! Eventually, they arrived in November 2019, having been ‘looked after’ by a friend of the breeder, who has 80 other donkeys. They arrived in a terrible state and both, very malnourished. I wormed them with a treatment from my Vet and Anissou very nearly dies. She spent all night rolling on the ground and had an enormous ball of worms, showing she had not been wormed for a very long time. We were lucky she survived. Her feet were in a terrible state, with abcess on top of abcess on very foot. The Blacksmith has had to visit at least every 2 months and we have had to continue to treat her feet every few days. Every step is painful for this poor girl. She is also very afraid and backs away when you touch her. She has evidently been hit. It is just so sad to see such a beautiful, rare animal in such a sorry condition. In fact, her brother is the current Champion Stallion. Before arriving, Anissou had a foal in 2019 which was sold. Only 55 pure race Poitous were born in 2019 and Jalousie was one.

Dobble arrived with a sarcoid, a tumour, on her neck. Despite treatment from the Vet, it has not gone away. She is pregnant for September 2020 and will require surgery afterwards. She is only young and this tumour may be fatal or with luck, it may be treated. We will have to wait and see.

Kismet de Barret

Our first birth at the only small breeding project in La Drome! Kismet was born at the end of April.

Born in the year of ‘K’, so we decided on the name ‘Kismet’, meaning fate, destiny, fortune, providence. Welcome to the world Kismet de Barret!

In any other circumstance Kismet would not have survived. Uncharacteristically, Bamako was kept in that day and then gave birth at lunchtime (normally always at night!). Had she given birth at night, the neighbours would certainly not have answered their phones and even the Vet would not have responded so quickly. Also, the Vet said she had to feed in 2 hours or she would die.17 hours of syringe feeding too small quantities, she just got up and got on with it.

This foal was most definitely meant to be!

‘De Barret’, after the incredible support of our amazingly knowledgeable neighbours, who despite COVID 19, dashed into action and each came round to help with a different aspect of the birth and post-birth. We feel really fortunate to be living here, surrounded by and supported by some truly wonderful people.

So, in dedication, we are naming the foals produced by our tiny breeding programme ‘De Barret’.