I went to see Billy yesterday because a banana I had brought in for my lunch had been sitting on my desk over the weekend and was very brown and smelly - just the way Billy likes them! I found him resting in Cottage Shelter with the other riding-therapy donkeys who were not on the rota to give rides and was very pleased to see me with my offering. Billy is very gentle with the way he takes his bananas and he knows it's a special treat. Lauriel, head of our Sidmouth centre, confided in me that she, like me, can only eat bananas when they are slightly on the green side so if they start to go brown they become Billy’s treats!
Lauriel told me that Billy was really enjoying giving rides to the children with additional needs and was a pleasure to have around because he was so friendly and interested in everything. I asked if I would be able to go along and watch him the next time he was working and Lauriel mentioned he was working later that day so I went back to watch after a meeting in the morning.
He was with Hayley Hawkins who works at the Centre caring for the donkeys and prepares them for the riding sessions. He looked so smart in his saddle and bridle, I felt a lump come to my throat - I was so proud of him and of how far he had come from being the poor, thin, young donkey stallion with sores on his legs and parasite problems who came to live with me and my husband as our new arrivals unit was full up at the time here at the Sanctuary.
A small boy climbed onto his back and he stood like a rock while the stirrups were adjusted and safety checks made. With help from a volunteer supporter Billy’s young rider was able to go around the arena on Billy’s back learning balance and co-ordination and interacting with Hayley, the volunteer supporter and the riding instructor.
It is wonderful to see that an unwanted donkey can be transformed into a donkey that is fit and happy in his work and is making a huge difference to many local children’s lives.