With Donkey Week fast approaching, we were all scratching our heads, trying to think about what we could do to amuse our faithful followers. We always try to do something different, so when we (Lyndsey, Sara and Pam) suggested a donkey agility course – it was met with much enthusiasm.
We set about planning the type of obstacles we could use. It had to be very safe, compliant with Health and Safety, and above all – FUN!
Lyndsey said that we could borrow some of her jump poles and blocks, and we contacted the Sanctuary's donkey assisted therapy centre in Sidmouth, and Lauriel kindly said that we could borrow some of their equipment for a day or two – plus a box full of brand new rosettes so that we could customise them with our own wording. The course was planned on paper, and a copy submitted to Amy (one of the organisers of Donkey Week) to show to our perspective participants.
As the day drew nearer, we started to practice with various donkeys in our group to make sure they were going to perform on the day. Some were a straightforward NO! Some were a maybe but seven of them were a great big YES!
In the end, we chose Mr Tacker (otherwise known as Mr T), Branston, Archie, Charlie, William, Freddie and Don Quixote. They were all really keen to go around the course.
The day arrived and the posters were placed around the farm so that people knew where to find the agility course, what time it was open. We charged £1 a go and every clear round got a rosette.
The first few people came in, but nobody seemed to want to go first! After a little persuasion, a lady collected Archie and started the course and got a clear round! Another lady approached us, and asked if we had a nice, steady donkey that her husband could take around the course. Mr T fitted the bill as he is a gentle giant. He took the gentleman around the course so slowly – almost as if he knew he had to be careful.
We only had one donkey that didn’t want to play on the day – Don Quixote. He had quite clearly decided that he’d rather be stroked over the gate than do any physical exercise.
With plenty of people watching, it wasn’t long before we had a queue of people waiting to have a go! All in all, 47 people took part in our donkey agility course – including David Cook (our chief executive) and Stephen Blakeway (head of international team) - both achieving a rosette each.
At the very end of the afternoon, a lady approached Sara and asked if it was possible for her to have a very quiet donkey to try and take around the course. Her name was Gillian and due to a recent illness she required a walking frame. Gillian explained that she also asthma and so couldn’t walk very fast. There was only ever one donkey that could fit the bill... Mr T!
With Annie standing by with her camera in her hand, Gillian started the course slowly and steadily. Mr T was wonderful. He took such care of her and she loved every minute of it! When Gillian sat down afterwards to catch her breath, she kept saying that the whole experience had made her day. Those few words from that lovely lady put the whole day into perspective.
That’s the magic of donkeys!