The World famous Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary has DAT (Donkey Assisted Therapy) Centres throughout the UK and Ireland where these centres offer riding therapy to special needs and disabled children , and also offer mobile riding therapy where the donkeys and staff travel to schools. Specially trained donkeys also visit Care Homes so the elderly do not miss out on seeing these special animals. I am a volunteer at the DAT Ivybridge Branch and one of our donkeys (Boyo) from Ivybridge and three from Sidmouth have been staying temporarily in lovely surroundings where they are being used as a pilot scheme offering inner city London schoolchildren a chance to meet and ride them. If this pilot scheme is successful it could develop into a more permanent arrangement.
Staff and volunteers from Sidmouth and Ivybridge have been travelling up to London two days a week over the last few weeks to visit selected schools in and around the London area. I was extremely lucky to be one of the volunteers from Ivybridge who was able to be included. So on Tuesday 9th June 2015, myself and two members of the Ivybridge centre staff set off for this exciting trip.
After a very long and tiring journey up which included the notorious M25 we arrived at our destination early in the evening. Our accommodation was situated where the donkeys were located and where we would be based for the next two days When we arrived the first thing we did was to go down to the paddock to say “hello” to the four donkeys, Boyo, Pharaoh, Austin and Tiny Tim. They all seemed to be settled in their large field and barn, and quite frankly appearing to be living the life of luxury. We then settled ourselves into our accommodation and then it was out to have something to eat in a local pub. When we came back we had a relaxing glass of rose wine before retiring to bed as we had an early start the next day.
It was up at 5.30 a.m and when we had sorted ourselves out, it was time to wake Boyo and Pharaoh up, as they were the two donkeys who were going to be used. Once loaded on the van it was about a 30 mile journey to the school, but as we had to endure the M25 and then a busy road in a built up area to get to the school, in rush hour we had to allow ourselves two hours, so we had to leave at 7.00 a.m. to make sure we arrived at the school in plenty of time. We actually made it in good time and the donkeys, tack and equipment was unloaded and set up in the large playing field next to the playground, much to the excitement of the children (and staff).
We had a busy timetable through the day and the actual children who were lucky enough to ride, groom and get up close to the donkeys absolutely loved it. Their little faces lit up and there were huge great smiles all round. Hundreds of children had to unfortunately just look at the lucky ones from a distance, but in a couple of weeks time the donkeys are visiting this particular school again, so a few more will have the opportunity to meet the donkeys. We had a super day and were made to feel very welcome which even included a school dinner – gosh that brought back memories – a long time ago I hasten to add!!! Our day finished all too soon and it was time to pack up all the equipment and donkeys in the van and travelled back to where the donkeys were staying. The donkeys had to be unloaded and settled back in their paddock, have a quick cup of tea and then to make our way back down the motorway for a long and again tiring trip back to Devon. I arrived home a few minutes before 10.00 p.m and have to say I was absolutely exhausted after a very long day (and I wasn’t even driving!!). However, I thoroughly enjoyed this special trip and it was a wonderful experience.
Here are just a few photos:-
Donkey Assisted Therapy Visits London