Belfast Telegraph

Templepatrick Donkey Sanctuary offers therapy to help children with disabilities

By Gary Grattan

It was smiles and laughter all the way when children from special needs schools and their families and friends attended the Christmas Fair at The Donkey Sanctuary in Templepatrick, Co Antrim.

The Donkey Sanctuary was established as a charity by the late Elizabeth Svendsen who devoted much of her life to rescuing abandoned and mistreated donkeys in the south of England.

Tina Symington, manager of the local sanctuary - one of six throughout the UK - explained: "Dr Svendsen also started a sister charity, The Elizabeth Svendsen Trust, which delivers riding and carting therapy for children with disabilities and additional needs.

"We now have almost 200 children from local schools coming to us every week for DAT - Donkey Assisted Therapy - but we also provide a service for families and individuals who may benefit from what we can offer."

Riding instructor Gary Johnston has been involved with the local sanctuary since 2011, the year their new premises opened at Templepatrick.

"I got involved because I thought it would be something I would enjoy. I provide the therapy for the children when they're with the donkeys.

"Different targets are set out for each child and my job is to tailor the activity in order to help achieve those goals."

Violet Douglas, whose daughter Katie attends the sessions, said: "Katie greatly benefits from the different therapies available here. It's also great as it gives all the mums a chance to have a chat over a coffee."

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