Mental wellbeing is of the utmost importance for every living creature. This #WorldMentalHealthDay, we reflect on the benefits of enriching your donkeys’ environment and explore how a focus on the welfare of your animals can have a positive impact on your own wellbeing.
Start by considering the natural environment of the donkey. They would be walking up to 20 km a day in search of rough, course vegetation. During their travels, they would be interacting with a rich and varied environment that includes watering holes, high and low ground, open spaces, possibly wooded areas and even other species.
In comparison, a domesticated donkey is able to fulfil their nutritional requirement by walking less than 1.6 km a day and in the space of two-three hours by foraging on grass, straw and hay or haylage. Donkeys and mules also only rest lying down for around four hours a day, meaning there is a large period to fill with activity and keep your donkey mentally stimulated.
Once you understand your donkeys’ natural behaviours, it is time to begin formulating enrichment activities. This is when you may begin to experience a benefit to your own wellness. Creating unique and rewarding enrichment experiences for your donkey friend is a great opportunity to engage your imagination and combine creativity with critical thinking. Nourishing your natural creativity in this structured way can help build and protect your own mental wellbeing.
Enrichment is about providing greater opportunities for your donkeys to interact with their environment, to make choices and to be more mentally and physically active. By increasing the enrichment options for your donkey you will be helping the donkey engage in natural behaviours, alleviating boredom, helping them meet their instinctual needs, helping them cope with the challenges of domestication and increasing their exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
This greater interaction between yourself and your donkey may yield numerous therapeutic benefits, as well as being a fun and engaging experience. A shared enjoyment of enrichment and positive wellbeing meet with feelings of comfort and joy from seeing a happier and healthier donkey.