Rescue donkey Patty has a rare equine talent – the ability to paint.
Soon, hundreds of thousands of shoppers will soon get the chance to view the results of her creative flair for themselves, in Cabot Circus shopping centre, in Bristol, England.
The eight-year-old donkey has put paintbrush to figurine to paint one of 60 model ponies that will be displayed in the flagship shopping centre from July 21 to September 7, as part of a special art exhibition.
Equine charity HorseWorld’s Trail of Painted Ponies will be a public art trail to celebrate the charity’s 60th year.
Horseworld rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes up to 100 abandoned, neglected and mistreated horses every year and is now responsible for more than 400 horses, ponies and donkeys, including those out at responsible loan homes.
Patty can also paint on canvas and her colourful creations will be on show in coming weeks.
The art trail itself will be sweeping its way through the city’s newest shopping centre, so shoppers will be invited to visit the whole herd.
HorseWorld’s Trail of Painted Ponies will feature designs by celebrities, sports clubs, animal welfare organisations and members of the public who entered an art competition.
The model painted ponies measure up to 60cm high and long. HorseWorld patrons Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks have designed a horse each, and Patty has painted her very own piece, using “clicker training”, a technique that uses a “click” sound as part of positive reinforcement training.
The assistant manager at HorseWorld’s visitor centre yard, Vicky Greenslade, works with Patty to carry out the training. The pair have a strong, trusting bond and Vicky is able to ask Patty to perform all sorts of unusual tasks.
Patty often features in presentations. She kisses and can kick a football – all as part of her training.
“Clicker training has been used at HorseWorld for the last eight years,” Vicky says.
“The technique can be used if a horse is frightened of an object, area or traffic, to help the animal to assimilate and desensitise.
“Or, if the animal is retired, this type of training can be a really good way to exercise and provide mental stimulation for the horse, as well strengthening their bond with people,” Vicky says.
“When clicker training, the timing and noise of the click is the most important part, not the food treat. The click has to be at the right moment, and is a positive reinforcement to reward the animal carrying out the desired action.”
Patty has been doing clicker training for about a year and took to it straight away, carrying out one or two sessions a week.
Patty was emaciated when she was rescued in 2005 from an auction in Britain, after she had been shipped over from Romania with another donkey, Pixie. Pixie has since been rehomed and Patty has stayed at HorseWorld’s Visitor Centre.
“Patty was very nervous as she’d had no contact with people apart from at the auction,” Vicky says.
“Once she was at HorseWorld, she began her rehabilitation training. Patty is now the leader of the donkey herd at HorseWorld. At eight, she is actually young to be the leader and therefore the group she leads is quite a naughty, cheeky bunch!”
Reporting: Suzanne Hunt