If it happened to you to spot a pair of donkeys walking on the roads around our sanctuary, you haven't seen double: you just witnessed a new activity involving our donkey "therapists", the ones helping with DAT - Donkey Assisted Therapy.
The purpose of these walks is to improve the lives of donkeys and DAT recipients as well: our DAT coordinator Laura Benzi explains why and how.
Good for the donkeys
Coming out from their comfort zone, the donkeys learn to know the world outside (new smells and sounds, roads never walked before), find unknown situations and learn to handle them, take their time to think and to look for new solutions. As a consequence, they become more balanced in every situation, from daily cares (grooming, farrier, vet) to interaction with people.
Walks take place outside our sanctuary, on different types of ground - mostly inside the woods surrounding the shelter, but also short lenght of asphalt, so that they get confident with an unusual ground and vehicles, which are not so natural, but belong to their life environment as well.
Walks are coordinated by two members of the staff: from time to time, we choose the pair of donkeys to involve, taking into consideration their links (always couple of friends, like Alin and Amilcare or Bandit and Bluto - this encourages each other and induces to face new adventures with a serene mood), their attitude and the mood of the day. Paths vary as well, so the donkeys don't get bored and learn something new every time.
... And good for the humans
Once that the donkeys are self-confident and able to manage their feeings and reactions also outside their usual life zone, DAT recipients are involved in these walks and outdoors activities. Effects are multiple:
- On a cognitive level, they learn to recognize different tools to walk with the donkeys and to handle the donkeys in a safe way, with kindness and proficiency.
- On an emotional level, they experience the sense of "know-how", increasing their self-esteem and motivation; they are facilitated in establishing relationships and in proving positive feelings towards animals, companions and operators participating in the activity.
- On a motory level, they are stimulated to set in motion the whole musculoskeletal system, involved in the action of walking, and at the same time to refine their motor skills, involved in the specific actions of putting and removing the harnesses, managing them with the hands (press, hold, release, scroll) and store them properly.
Did you know...
In 2018 only, 1814 people were involved in DAT by our Rifugio degli Asinelli: this number includes 122 people with special needs, 1310 children in school visits and 290 taking part in project Asiniamo. With your support, we hope the increase the number of people who will benefit from meetings with the donkeys!