The Donkey Sanctuary has now begun offering donkey assisted therapy to seven schools in London, following the huge success of previous mobile services to schools for children with additional needs.
The mobile services are run with specially trained donkeys from Sidmouth and Ivybridge, who are being stabled over the summer months at a base in Hertfordshire. The four donkeys, named Austin, Boyo, Pharaoh and Tiny Tim will travel to seven different schools, where children with additional needs will take part in riding or grooming and learn about donkey care.
Katrina Hammond, Riding Instructor, said “For some city children, this will be their first ever experience of seeing, let alone being near large animals, as was proven when some of the children in the nursery class thought the donkeys were camels! Seeing the children’s reactions and joy that these unique experiences can bring, affirms how worthwhile and valuable donkey assisted therapy is”.
The charity’s London 12-week donkey assisted therapy program began in April, and hundreds of children will be reached at the seven schools. It will help the children to build their confidence and self-esteem, as well as providing opportunities to improve motor skills, balance and co-ordination.
School staff and children have been so excited by the donkey visits, not only has it inspired a range of class-based projects and curriculum activities but they have also been busy thinking of inventive ways to support donkey assisted therapy. This has involved adopting donkeys and organising fundraising activities - such as baking donkey-shaped biscuits to sell.
So far the therapy offered has been ‘taster’ sessions, but we hope to be able to offer donkey assisted therapy in this area on a more regular and permanent basis.
The Donkey Sanctuary aims to expand its donkey assisted therapy service to new schools and residential homes countrywide as part of its vision for a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering, and where their contribution to humanity is fully valued.