Christmas is the perfect time of year to reward our resident donkeys. On Christmas morning, we follow a festive tradition, established by our founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, of giving each donkey at our Sidmouth sanctuary a fresh carrot.

And providing a festive treat to your donkeys can enrich their lives too!

Ben Hart, our Senior Lead for Behaviour and Human Behaviour, explains: "At a time of year when we give gifts to the ones we love, giving our donkeys presents too, in the form of enrichment, is a lovely thing to do. Providing enrichment for our donkeys and mules can improve their mental wellbeing. Creating an enriched environment helps meet the donkey's needs for movement, social contact, mental stimulation and problem-solving.

"The stimulation of opening cardboard boxes to find a few rare and delicious foods, discovering suitable treats hidden in their home, or playing with new toys, is like making every day Christmas Day for donkeys. Festive decorations made from safe trees and plants look beautiful and create a wonderful opportunity for donkeys to forage as they pull them apart."

Provided it is from a tree that is safe for them to eat, donkeys love to unwrap the bark of a yule log.

A Christmas walk to explore the neighbourhood or an extra special grooming session can also create chances to enrich your donkeys' lives.

Ben adds: "However, just like us, it is best not to overindulge. Too many changes in diet, rich sugary foods or unsuitable novelty foods can cause serious donkey stomach aches, so no Brussels sprouts, chocolate or Christmas cake for your donkeys; save those for yourself!"

It is not just our sanctuaries that play host to seasonal enrichment activities. Rehomed equines, living with our committed Donkey Guardian families, are also reaping the rewards of fun and festive treats.

Guardian Georgia McCormick, one of our Senior Donkey Welfare Advisers, cares for three donkeys – Billy, Big Ben and Bubbles.

This year, she messaged her local community to ask if anybody had been chopping down trees.

She says: "I had a few responses from people who chopped down ash and fruit trees and managed to acquire some logs which the donkeys enjoyed gnawing the bark from. They strip the outer bark off and eat it – a welcome alternative to the fence posts and stable doors they had been previously nibbling on!"

Georgia sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg over the logs to tempt their taste buds to enhance Billy, Big Ben and Bubble's enrichment.

She adds: "This treats both the donkeys' taste and smell and is a very cost-effective way to enrich their lives during the festive season. Another way I like to keep Billy, Big Ben and Bubble occupied through the dark is by mixing in forage balancer into their daily straw pile.

"It makes the balancer last longer while tapping into their browsing origins. These are very easy and simple ways to enrich any donkey's day and help to keep them bright and alert during the darker months."