Volunteering with Donkey Assisted Therapy for Kids

Learn about what it's like to be a volunteer for Donkey Assisted Therapy from Sarah Faulkner, a Saturday volunteer at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Centre in Sidmouth.

by Sarah Faulkner

I am a volunteer at The Donkey Sanctuary's Donkey Assisted Therapy (DAT) Centre in Sidmouth and have been helping with the monthly Saturday Club for nearly three years now and absolutely love it!

donkey assisted therapy

A volunteer having fun at the Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre in Sidmouth. Photo copyright The Donkey Sanctuary.

The Saturday club is a drop-in session for children with additional needs. It’s free of charge, and siblings are also able to join in too. My main task is to support children who are riding, including helping them on and off the donkeys, keeping them safe during their ride, and interacting with them to help them get the most from their ride.

The children are given different activities to do whilst riding and as a supporter I help engage them in these activities. They encourage the following of instructions, language, counting and many other skills. It is so rewarding working closely with the children and seeing their enjoyment being with the donkeys.

I also assist with leading the donkeys around the arena whilst the children are riding. The donkeys are so good natured and gentle. They are a pleasure to lead. Between rides, I like to give the donkeys a quick cuddle or a scratch.

Other tasks I get involved in include– grooming donkeys, picking out their feet and tacking up, and at the end, clearing up. I also help with cart rides, by helping children into the carts and accompanying them during their cart ride by walking alongside as we go around the grounds.

From the moment I contacted the centre, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I was given training and a uniform and the other volunteers and the staff were so supportive and encouraging. You don't need to have any previous experience as the staff provide you with support and training. There is such a positive atmosphere at DAT Sidmouth, and it is so rewarding to be a part of something which really gives so much. I can't imagine Saturday Club not being a part of my life now.

I don't have any donkeys of my own, but I am a Quality Time Volunteer on one of the Donkey Sanctuary's outlying farms in Axnoller. I get to spend regular time surrounding donkeys and some mules, giving them plenty of positive human contact, kindness and attention, in a wonderful countryside setting.

If you want to get involved with something amazing, then I would highly recommend becoming a DAT volunteer. There are plenty of weekday sessions and other tasks which volunteers are needed for, including going out with donkeys on visits to care homes to visit residents! 

Learn more about The Donkey Sanctuary’s Donkey Assisted Therapy centres at www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/riding-therapy. The Donkey Sanctuary is a UK based charity working worldwide to improve conditions for donkeys and mules.