Our Donkey-Assisted Therapy programme is specifically for vulnerable children and adults.

Donkeys have an innate emotional intelligence that can help to develop the psycho-social and emotional skill set of humans. We allow our donkeys the freedom to work with our clients on the same level to develop an empathetic relationship, which is mutually beneficial for the client and donkey.

One of the key aims of this programme is also to raise the status of the donkey to be recognised as a sentient, intelligent being, with a huge capacity to teach us about ourselves.

Donkeys have a unique presence, a zen-like grounded quality. We’re using their abilities as sentient facilitators and encouraging them to be an equal partner in the session.

Caron Whaley, Director of Donkey-Assisted Therapy - 5 September 2017

Developing Donkey-Assisted Therapy

Initially, the programme focused on children with additional needs but over the past four decades the demand for a programme that could help adults and children with a wide range of emotional, psychological and cognitive needs became apparent. As a consequence we are building on the solid foundation established over four decades and further developing what we aim to be a cutting edge programme, focusing on developing key life skills such as self-esteem, managing emotions and empathy.

We continue to work with vulnerable children through our schools programme and also provide opportunities for these children and others whose schools may not have a place on our programme to attend our centres with their parents/carers and siblings. This not only increases the numbers of children who benefit from our programme but also allows the families of these children to be part of the learning process and help them better understand their child and the challenges and rewards they will all experience.

In addition, 21 members of staff across The Donkey Sanctuary are currently undertaking an accredited Equine Facilitated Learning qualification, which allows the charity to offer Donkey Facilitated Learning programmes to a wider client group encompassing a more diverse set of emotional, psychological or physical needs, such as veterans, youth at risk, recovering addicts or those suffering the legacy of abuse.

We plan to work in partnership with other humanitarian organisations who work with vulnerable people, providing training, support and resources for the benefit of donkeys and vulnerable humans.