‘My boys sensed I was in distress’: donkeys raise the alarm after guardian breaks leg

  • Two rescue donkeys have been praised for raising the alarm after their guardian broke her leg and her calls for help could not be heard.

    Hampshire-based Carolyn Ballard, a former Donkey Sanctuary guardian for donkeys Martin and James, slipped in May last year when feeding the pair and her and sheep Isla.

    “Martin and James were lively and always trying to get into the hay store when we turned our backs. I was taking Isla’s food into her stable, and as I turned around, both donkeys sneaked into the hay store,” said Carolyn, who stepped on a pallet, slipped and could not get up.

    A Donkey Sanctuary spokesman said Carolyn’s husband Barry did not hear her calls for help and she remained stranded on the floor in “considerable pain” before a “magic moment happened”.

    “As I was inching my way to the open door where James and Martin were standing, they started braying long and loud,” said Carolyn.

    “I had never experienced them do that before. Martin brayed or snorted when he wanted attention, but James had only brayed twice in several years.”

    The spokesman said braying is a common behaviour seen in many donkeys and is a way to communicate with other donkeys and their owners, but it is also normal for a donkey not to bray at all.

    “Lying on the floor was a change in my behaviour and something the donkeys had not encountered before. The looks on their faces and their eyes open so wide made me think they were calling out, knowing that I was in distress. Their braying was so unusual that it got Barry’s attention,” said Carolyn.

    “By then, I managed to manoeuver myself to the door where I shouted and waved to Barry, who realised something was wrong and came running to my rescue. Without a doubt, my darling boys sensed I was in distress and raised the alarm.”

    The spokesman said Carolyn was taken to hospital and an X-ray confirmed she had fractured her fibula, but had it not been for the intervention of her donkeys, the result could have been much worse.

    “The news got around to the neighbours and the farm across the road. Everyone said they heard the donkeys braying so loudly but didn’t think they were calling for help. It was so loud that even a farmer over half a mile away heard it,” said Carolyn.

    Carolyn spent several weeks on crutches with her leg supported by a boot, but this did not stop her visiting Martin and James, who have recently been rehomed to a new guardian owing to a change in circumstances.

    “This is a great example of how guardians really appreciate the safety net and support offered by the Donkey Sanctuary should they no longer be able to look after their donkeys due to a change in personal circumstances,” said the Donkey Sanctuary spokesman.

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