by Laura Rodley
Liebe Coolidge is a USDA class C inspected exhibitor who raises registered French alpine goats, a large black and white colored milking breed. Also a lifelong owner of donkeys and an artist, she is proud to be a goat owner since the 70s, and is committed to selling “nice stock.” Three of her goats — Rosa Pascali, born in February and named after Coolidge’s grandfather Pasquali Rossi; Murray; and their half-sister Jitterbug — won “Best Get of Sire” at the Eastern States Exposition Center in Springfield, MA. Her goat, Serena, won 2nd place registered French alpine. The day before the event was her new business’, The Traveling Hooves, debut.
Two years ago, when Coolidge and her husband Douglas Primo moved to their new 12-acre farm in Plainfield, MA, she considered two options regarding how to proceed. “I had a choice of building a milk barn to sell raw milk to cheesemakers or putting on a travelling educational zoo. I chose to educate children about three species with hooves: donkeys, pigs and goats. They are all misunderstood and have bad reputations. They are brilliant and wonderful animals.”
How are they misunderstood?
“Donkeys are supposed to be stubborn and stupid, pigs dirty and gross, goats eat anything and butt you, and get out of anything. Ours don’t get out and are completely contained. Donkeys keep third world countries going. They’re treated better than anyone else in the family because they can’t survive without their donkey,” she said.
The resulting business, Traveling Hooves, required revamping a utility trailer with lightweight metal sides, metal roofing, horse stall mats on the floor, and aluminum windows on the sides to transport animals, and forging a metal rack on their 2005 Ford Ranger that could carry the moveable 10-panel corral, each panel 8 ft. long and 22 pounds each, complete with a 4 ft gate. “Everything was weighed out so this truck would not be overtaxed,” she said.
The plan is to have the business pay for grain and vet bills, and encompasses traveling to business openings, summer camps, schools, rehab, nursing homes and retirement communities.
Their trial run in June at nearby Peppermint Park in Plainfield was a smash hit. At their debut at the 27th annual Apple Harvest Craft Fair and Children’s Festival, a fundraiser for the Amherst Children’s Center, 165 tickets were sold. “That’s one child each, plus their grandmother, parents. It was mobbed,” said Coolidge, as children stood in line outside the corral waiting their turn to walk two micro piglets on leashes, pet the baby goat Rosa Pascali, and mini donkeys — one born in May named Teddy, and his mother Lucy. There was a colorful array of soft bristle brushes for children to brush the animals.
“Most of them were wonderful with the animals,” said Coolidge, and so were their parents.
“I think it’s nice,” said six-year-old Shahd Ahmed, accompanied by her parents, residents of Amherst. She hopped from leading the micro pigs to walking the goats to petting the donkeys.
Their exhibit, one of approximately 50 at the bustling fair, included a tableful of literature about donkeys, with quotes from Vermont-based fellow donkey champion, Stephen R.Purdy’s book, “Donkeys, Miniature, Standard and Mammoth-a Veterinary Guide for Owners and Breeders,” and a poster she made comprised of postcards — some antique — featuring donkeys.
She plans to donate one of the posters to be sold at a fundraiser for Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue, the only non-profit donkey and mule rescue organization in New England, owned by Ann and Jeff Firestone in South Acworth, NH. Traveling Hooves’ baby donkey, Teddy, is named after a 46 year old rescued hinny (so-named when a stallion is bred to a jenny), that Coolidge owned who recently died.
For Traveling Hooves’ future gigs, they are training a delightful, tall and very gentle, three-year old French alpine wether, Jazzy, to pull a wooden Amish-made cart, called a “Rolling Delight Wagon,” purchased from Pennsylvania. Jazzy has prior experience as a group therapy goat, since he was a baby, being held in children’s laps at day care centers, and starring in the nearby annual Chesterfield 4th of July parade and other parades.
by Laura Rodley