By Ashley Bowden
The equestrian team received quite the surprise one day during September 2016 when an unfamiliar scream sounded from inside the stables. This surprise was none other than their beloved team mascot, Ellie; a donkey belonging to team member and junior history major, Jordynn Shaffer.
After offered a position on the equestrian team August 2016, Shaffer explained how she brought Ellie to live on campus. “I also have five other horses, so in order for me to be competitive outside of the team, I needed to make arrangements for them to come, and of course I couldn’t forget Ellie so she tagged along too,” Shaffer said.
The new addition has become quite popular around the barn not only with the other members of the team, but with many of the horses as well; however, some of them are still adjusting. Junior English major, Alexa Romano, another member of the equestrian team, mentioned how the horses often tend to have inconsistent perceptions of Ellie, especially upon her first appearance. “At first it was a big wakeup call because these horses here had never seen a donkey, but of course, after awhile they got used to it.” Ellie has no trepidations being around the horses, but for many of them, the appearance of a foreign animal half their size can be slightly unnerving. “When they see her, they’ll be very startled and very scared and won’t go near her,” Romano said. After understanding that she is only a donkey and won’t hurt them, they reluctantly accept her presence.
Precautions still need to be taken occasionally; when a horse gets frightened, the sudden behavior might in turn spook Ellie who could react violently in an attempt to get away. More often than not, though, the horses absolutely love her. With the couple of mini horses on the property, Trigger and Rose, the trio get along like best friends. Fran Martinez, a caretaker of the horses in the barn, said the relationship between the two minis and Ellie is improving. “As they’ve been going out together every day and they got used to seeing her walking down the aisles and out in the pasture, they kind of just accepted her,” Martinez said.
Ellie is a rescue pet, around 8-years-old. Shaffer and her friend happened to come across the donkey on Facebook. Since she was not purchased at an auction, Ellie was waiting to be picked up from a slaughter pen in Cranbury, NJ, but thanks to Shaffer’s friend insisting they go look at her, she was convinced not to leave her there. The two pulled their money together to save her. “When we saw her, we bought her with intentions to save her and find her a home; however, now she’s a part of the family,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer is thrilled with the amount of attention Ellie has been getting. Before winter break last semester, the donkey even made an appearance in Hillwood Commons and attracted many students to take selfies with her thanks to her calm demeanor. Many of the students who paid her a visit that day had never seen a donkey in-person before, and the same went for most of the equestrian team’s members before the arrival of Ellie. Ellie is quite fond of attention, and Romano notes that the donkey has a very friendly and lovable personality. As for future visits to the campus, Shaffer said, “We kind of play it by ear and look for fun times to bring her. But there’s always a possibility.”
As of now, there are no special plans for Ellie, but she serves as an affectionate pet and mascot. Overall, she’s a fan-favorite, and despite their initial surprise, the equestrian team is happy to know that Ellie is here to stay.
“She’s a weird pet but honestly the best decision I have ever made,” Shaffer said.