Yesterday we took a trip up to the Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary (more formally known as the Elizabeth Svendson Trust for Children and Donkeys) in Sutton Coldfield with absolutely no idea what to expect. The sanctuary has 6 venues: Birmingham, Belfast, Ivybridge, Leeds, Manchester and Sidmouth.
They are a charitable organisation who offer riding therapy to children with disabilities (up to 7 stone). I’ve heard from many people about the power of using animals to help children with special needs but have never looked into it any further. When I found out that the Donkey Sanctuary was no more than a nice healthy walk away, I had to find out more
It was the Saturday Club which runs from 10-2pm and is basically a drop in centre for families with disabled children and there siblings. There is a large room with a few toys dotted about, a kitchen where you are encouraged to make hot drinks or juice for the children and a sensory room, there is also a large enclosed outdoor space but as it was trying to snow we didn’t test it out.
The whole set up was much bigger than I was expecting, however my mum had envisaged a field with a few shivering donkeys so my guess was much closer. We went in to meet the donkeys and my girl as expected, took not a scrap of notice and instead amused herself running up and down a ramp while we spoke to the staff.
I agreed that the best idea was for the instructor to simply grab her and plonk her on a donkey (a Blackpool veteran no less) and get the donkey moving before my girl had chance to react. I was nervous. I always thought donkeys were small, these looked quite big. Then again my sister was riding horses, yes real horses at only a year older than my girlie. Heart in mouth at the very thought.
Back to mission donkey, girlie was grabbed without too much resistance and plonked again with less reaction than I expected and then she sat still while the donkey walked on. Mucho impressed!
She successfully did a few laps and even got up to a trot at which point she was laughing out loud loving the movement. Total proud mama moment and I felt that she was completely safe with the staff who were clearly professionals with not only donkeys but special needs children also. They asked all the right questions and just ‘knew’ what they were doing.
We can’t wait to go back for another visit and feel so grateful that charities like this exist. Hopefully next time the little man won’t miss the entire experience having a snooze!
If you’d like more information on centres or about adopting a donkey click here