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Can You Ride A Donkey Like A Horse?

Have you ever wondered if you can ride your donkey? Is he big enough? How much weight can donkeys carry? How would riding a donkey be different than riding a horse?

Yes, you can ride a donkey, as long as he is large enough to carry your weight and is trained to ride. Donkeys can carry 20-30% of their weight, which means that most donkeys can accommodate children or small adults.

You may not have heard of mammoth donkeys, which can be as large as horses. These can easily carry an adult.

Let’s look into what’s required to ride a donkey and what the experience will be like. Then we’ll go into alternatives to riding a donkey that can be just as fun.

Can Every Donkey be Ridden?

Can Every Donkey be Ridden

There are several factors in deciding if a donkey is appropriate for you to ride. The first one is your weight (or your child’s weight). Then for the donkey, you need to consider:

  • Their size and weight
  • Gender/Temperament
  • Age
  • Body condition and Training

Size and Weight Limits

Donkeys come in 3 types:

  1. Miniature: Height up to 36″
  2. Standard: Height 36-56″ (48-56″ tall is considered a large standard)
  3. Mammoth: Height over 56″

Donkeys can carry 20-30% of their weight. Most donkeys can carry 20%. A well-conditioned donkey can carry up to 30% of its weight because its muscles will be more developed, and therefore the donkey is stronger.

This weight includes the saddle and tack. Therefore, a miniature donkey can only carry small children. A standard donkey can carry children and small adults. 

Most adults will need a large standard or mammoth donkey to ride.

Here is a table with the weight ranges, assuming the donkey will carry 20% of its weight:

Donkey TypeWeight Range in lbs.Carrying Weight Range in lbs.
Mammoth900-1300180- 260

You can find charts online to determine the weight of donkeys using their body measurements. 

Your veterinarian will usually use a horse tape to estimate the donkey’s weight for giving vaccines and can give you that number.

If the donkey isn’t your own, the owner should know which of their donkeys is appropriate for you or your child to ride.


You want a gentle and cooperative donkey for riding, especially for children. Their temperament varies with their gender. Donkeys are either:

  • Gelding: a castrated male
  • Jenny: a female
  • Jack: An uncastrated male

Geldings are usually the gentlest of donkeys. Jennies can be suitable for riding but may be difficult while they’re in season. Jacks should be avoided, as they can be aggressive.


Donkeys need to be mature, with their bones fully developed, to be used for riding. This will prevent injury to the animal. 

A donkey can start training for riding when four years old but shouldn’t be ridden regularly until they are five or six years old. At that age, they will be physically mature and mentally as well.

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How is Riding a Donkey Different Than a Horse?

How is Riding a Donkey Different Than a Horse

Riding is not the primary purpose of donkeys, as it is for horses. They are usually used for work (such as plowing), guarding livestock, or as pets. 

But they can be trained for people to ride. If you have one that’s the right size for you, that’s been appropriately trained for riding, and you don’t expect to go fast, you can have an enjoyable outing. 

Some people who haven’t grown up around horses feel safer around donkeys. They may feel more confident getting on a donkey than a horse.

Donkeys Are Slower

You can’t expect to gallop along a trail like you might on a horse when riding a donkey.  

Although they sometimes like to run around their corral with their friends, they will walk when carrying a person for a ride. Riding a donkey will be a slow, steady-paced excursion.

Donkeys Can be Safer to Ride Than a Horse

If a horse is spooked by something, it will probably run away, maybe even rearing up first. This can be dangerous for the rider. 

A donkey will most likely freeze and assess the situation before moving. This is one of the reasons they’ve developed the reputation of being stubborn. 

But this tendency, along with being sure-footed and gentle by nature, makes them safer to ride, especially for children. Donkeys can be a good way to introduce a child to riding.

What Equipment Do You Need?

What Equipment Do You Need

To ride your donkey, you will need the following:

  • Halter
  • Bridle
  • Bit (Some donkey owners don’t use a bit)
  • Reins
  • Saddle
  • Saddle pad
  • Cinch

Because donkeys aren’t as common as horses for riding, it can be hard to find the proper tack for them. They need well-fitting equipment to prevent pain and physical harm to them.

Donkeys are a different shape than horses. For one thing, their backs are wider, so the saddle must be made for a donkey so it will fit properly.

Their heads are shaped differently from horses, too, so horse halters don’t fit donkeys well. You can find sellers of donkey halters, saddles, and tack online. 

Equine stores which sell horse saddles won’t usually have anything for donkeys. You will need to take measurements of your animal to order the correct size. 

If you have trouble finding equipment, there are donkey clubs and organizations that may be able to recommend sellers.

Training a Donkey to Ride

Donkeys are trained differently than a horse. If you want to use a professional trainer, it may be hard to find one that is knowledgeable about donkeys. 

If a horse trainer has the patience to train these gentle animals, that may be your best bet. Online videos are available to watch or purchase to help you prepare your donkey. 

Training Fundamentals

If you haven’t already, start with putting a halter on your donkey, then attach a lead. Work on walking around the pen with your donkey. This is foundational training.

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Training your donkey to be ridden will take time. You need to go at a slow pace and introduce one piece of equipment at a time. 

Don’t force something on him if he’s frightened or uncomfortable. Go back to the previous step he was at ease with and slowly progress again.

Introducing Equipment to Your Donkey

Start by introducing the saddle pad to the donkey. Then try putting some weight on his back, and gradually over time, increase the weight.

When this is comfortable, introduce the saddle, allowing your donkey to see and smell it before setting it onto the saddle pad on his back. 

Let your donkey get used to being led around with that on before adding the bridle, reins, and cinch. 

The last step is getting the donkey used to the person’s weight. This will need to be done slowly and may take many attempts before it goes smoothly.

By taking the time to train your donkey, riding him will be easier. Be consistent with your training sessions, be patient and calm, and you will be successful in riding your donkey.

Alternatives to Riding

Alternatives to Riding

If your donkey isn’t large enough for you to ride, you can do other things to have fun.

Riding a Mule

Mules are the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. They have the sure-footedness and stamina of a donkey. They’re larger than donkeys, so they can carry an adult for riding. 

Mules, like horses, are easier to control than a donkey. This makes the mule an excellent animal for riding.

Hiking with a Donkey

You can hike with a donkey on trails. If he’s been trained to carry something on his back, he can carry your water and snacks. And some treats for himself, of course. 

You can train your donkey for riding, but instead of a saddle, you can get saddlebags to put on his back. You won’t need a bridle or bit, just the halter and lead. 

Be sure the weight is balanced on both sides of his back. 

If you have a miniature donkey, hiking is a perfect activity since he won’t be carrying much weight. Bring a friend to walk your donkey’s buddy to share in the fun.

Cart Riding

Donkeys can pull much more weight than they can carry, up to twice their weight. This means that donkeys can be trained to pull a cart with you in it. It’s best to do this on flat terrain.

You can drive your donkey in a cart around your farm or in a parade. There are even competitions for cart riding in some parts of the country.


So, now you know that you can ride a donkey if it’s the right size for you and it’s been trained for riding. 

And if your donkey isn’t large enough for you, you can ride a mule or hike or run with your donkey or have it pull you in a cart. You also learned what’s involved in training your donkey for riding.

Donkeys are versatile animals. You can have them just as pets or do more with them if you wish.