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Smart Ass: How a Donke...
Margaret Winslow
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Smart Ass: How a Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature and Rediscover My Own

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  38 reviews
How do you resolve a midlife crisis?

Margaret Winslow, an overworked college professor in New York City, answered a for-sale ad for a "Large White Saddle Donkey." Hilarity ensued, along with life-threatening injuries and spirit-enriching insight.

Walk with Winslow and Caleb the donkey through training traumas, expert-baffling antics, and humiliating races, and share in
Published November 1st 2018 by New World Library
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  136 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Start your review of Smart Ass: How a Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature and Rediscover My Own
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The number of stars I give this book is an average of two ratings. 5 stars for the admiration I feel for Ms. Winslow's love and dogged perseverance in the face of all physical and emotional punishment that her beloved donkey Caleb dishes out. For being a geologist of such wide-ranging acclaim who still cares enough to stand up to the establishment and put her students first.

And 1 star for obliging her readers to endure the extraordinarily misguided and interminably tedious ordeal -- of trying to
Dec 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This poor donkey. The people involved in this book put him through years of mistreatment in blind pursuit of human frivolity. If you have compassion for animals and respect for their individual true natures, this book will anger you. I hope Caleb’s quality of life has improved since this book was written. If I was Caleb’s original owner and read this book, I would be devastated and enraged on both of our behalfs.
Ken Heard
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You won't laugh your ass off reading this book about a woman in mid-life buying and attempting to train a donkey in upstate New York, but you will enjoy it. So many books are out there with the theme: animals change humans. Many don't really deliver. This one does.

Much of the book deals with Margaret's purchase of a white donkey and then the subsequent problems trying to train it. There are parts that make me feel sorry for Caleb's life, though. It's as if it's human nature to try to "train" an
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
1.5 Stars
So disappointed in this book. While I did learn a few facts about donkeys, how Caleb was treated is sad. Purchased without any true knowledge and shipped back and forth without any true training goal (wanting a 'trail buddy' yet forcing him to learn dressage?), I question why get an animal and board him if you only see him a few hours a week? I feel sorry for Caleb.
Karel Baloun
A scientific writer new to memoirs, Winslow kindly shares with us details of how she made the transition (in the acknowledgments), which show that it does indeed take a village to write a book.

Margaret paints scenes vividly, and her characters are alive. Uniquely, she doesn’t seem to try to make all characters uniformly positive, even as she likes them and includes their pictures.

The chapters are all very bite sized, 8 to 10 large font pages, so the opposite of intimidating. Yet the college
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I guess I was disappointed with this. I saw a brief description of this book in a brochure at a local independent bookstore. My local public library didn't have a copy so I recommended (sight unseen) that they acquire a copy (using an online form on the library web site). In time the title was acquired and I checked it out of the library.

Dr. Winslow purchases Caleb, a large white donkey, based on an unexplained lifelong interest in these creatures, without any first hand experience with them.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
I have mixed feelings about this book, I would rate it 2 1/2. I love stories about quirky animals and the people who love them. I loved Caleb, he is adorable, huge, and sounds as though he can be quite cantankerous. However, I just didn't feel the love coming from his new owner -- it sounds like she wanted to love him and she wanted to do right by him, but got in over her head with him and maybe should have realized that at an earlier date and let him be adopted by someone more experienced ...more
Tristy at New World Library
“This unusual, engaging story of a woman and her donkey will undoubtedly win many hearts.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Winslow’s writing is at times laugh-out-loud funny, including her recollections of riding Caleb through what she thought was an abandoned psychiatric center and competing in a dressage competition. It is also poignant as she struggles with how best to train with Caleb while maintaining a challenging work-life balance. A moving and humorous account of what a woman learned
Susan Ainsworth
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book on the “passenger book exchange” shelf in the library of a cruise ship I was on recently. The title intrigued me as I care very much for he care snd welfare of animals.

While not as heartwarming as Sy Montgomery’s, “A Good Good Pig”, I very much enjoyed Margaret Winslow’s telling of her experiences with Caleb the donkey.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible story. The donkey was abused and treated terribly with outdated, inhumane training methods. Awful to read. Kept waiting for a turnaround and the author to realize what an ass she was for allowing Caleb to be abused, but alas, she never “got it”, and it seems she won’t in the future. Animal lovers and believers in force-free training beware and stay away from this book.
Karen & Gerard
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny, favorites, animals
What a great story! I was into this from page 1! Margaret tells the story well. At times it actually made me laugh! Of course, Caleb, the donkey, is fantastic. I discovered things about donkey's that I never knew and it has a great ending! I recommend this one! (Gerard's review)
Greg Soden
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was honestly hilarious, good-natured, and a poignant reminder of how much we have to learn from non-humans.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Light, funny, touching. I loved it and read it in just a few day, laughing my way thru it.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was thoroughly entertaining and made me laugh out loud more than once. I admire the author for her perseverance.
Lee Ann
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun light read.
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is an awful story. The problem was the author has no background in horses or donkeys so she has no idea when what she is talking about is good or bad.

She describes working with a natural horse,a ship trainer who beats the donkey with a carrot stick and berates her for talking to the donkey. That’s totally inappropriate for that type of training. If she knew anything about it she’d have known that. You never beat an animal in any kind of training, ESPECIALLY natural horsemanship.

At the
Tara Choate
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was all set to give this book a 5 star because I REALLY liked it. I am an inexperience equine person and I know all about that kind of insecurity. I also used to volunteer at a donkey rescue, and so I have a soft spot in my heart for that. I did get a little frustrated because she acted like she had no "authority" over the animal and then was surprised when things went wrong, but as that's the book, there you go. What really dropped the rating for me was the last few chapters when things just ...more
Added to my horse shelf despite a donkey being quite a different animal as the author points out. I had not realized just how different the two equine species are in temperament, social interactions and thought processes. I really related with the author’s struggles to become “top dog” to her animal as I had similar experiences with my horse. Our inexperience and tenuous “control” resulted in so much struggle and heartbreak but while neither of us got the docile companion of our rosy imaginings ...more
LInda L
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book, but it had some cringe-worthy moments. Poor Caleb -- he was just being a donkey, but all those "trainers" seemed determined to make him something else. And Margie was so often clueless -- which she admits. OK -- my favorite part was when she snatched the whip/stick from Sara and screamed "stop it -- stop hitting him". I thought M might have gotten more of a clue from the original owners, but apparently not. But -- she hung in there, and hopefully she and Caleb are buddies and ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I do not think this woman should have ever owned a donkey and feel quite sorry for its treatment. I am also unwilling to believe that she rediscovered her own nature, whatever that might be, as she seemed no less waffling. I won't argue that she didn't love Caleb, but it was certainly misguided, and possible narcissistic, unaware of his needs and careless in how she behaved around him, even when told that her moods affected him. Readable enough, but hardly worth the effort. Won't I be a delight ...more
Leslie B. Arpin
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful story! I am a big fan of animal stories and was to tickled to see this in my local library. I empathized with the author as she tried to overcome her insecurities, and I related to her need to make Caleb her friend. There is a huge learning curve associated with her acquisition of a large donkey and his training and boarding was not easy. My heart was breaking as she described her thoughts about giving up Caleb and admitting her "defeat" as she struggled to find a way through the ...more
Eileen Breseman
Picked up at the library for it's alluringly cute cover (never a wise move), I grew to enjoy Caleb (the donkey) and his antics. The owner/author however came across as a rather whine-y character. Having little knowledge of dressage, horses or donkeys, I gained some insight into the background, training, boarding, showmanship and the highs & lows that goes into owning one of these 4 legged beasts.
Kirsten Coons
I was hoping the author would get to the point that she should really let the donkey live according to his true nature and stop trying to ride him. Maybe she will write another book where she reaches that realization. It was still well-written and an engaging story nonetheless. Ultimately, it left me feeling sorry for Caleb.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this would be amusing but it was simply irritating. As a kid - like under eight years old - my sisters and I got around by donkey and no, they didn't act like horses, but they did what we wanted and we didn't have to use spurs or whips or cruel bits; all we ever had was a rope noose around their noses. This woman was ridiculous and her 'trainers' just seemed mean.
Glenda York
This was a fast read and enjoyable. The author is a field geologist and Caleb was, as his sale ad said, "a large white saddle donkey." The book lets us get to know each of them as they square off through training and gradually come to an understanding of each other. Donkeys are amazing creatures, and like all animals, can teach us a lot--if we just listen.
Ann Balaban
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a hoot!

This was a really enjoyable book. I guess you can learn a lot from a donkey. I've seen a lot of donkeys but I've never seen one like Caleb. I loved the way the author talked about what she learned from Caleb that would be great for anyone. I am glad they stayed together. I recommend this book to anyone who likes animals and learning about themselves.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the entertaining true story of a woman who buys an untrained donkey, and her adventures training him. I didn't realize that donkeys and horses were so different in their temperaments. Winslow learned to appreciate her donkey's personality, and it influenced her to stand up for what was right.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
A fast read, written in appealing way.

However something didn’t sit quite right with me about the whole idea. I too was knocked off a horse in my early teens, and am quite fearful of large animals. But poor Caleb seemed to be molded into something he was not meant to be.

Very sad.
Some cute parts, but the author got whiny at times.
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