A group of officers from West Yorkshire Police have completed a wellbeing session with a difference, enjoying some quality time at The Donkey Sanctuary Leeds and their resident herd. The introduction came from former police officer Kate Edwards, who after joining the team at the Leeds sanctuary as an equine assistant earlier this year, saw the positive benefit the donkeys could have on the welfare of her former police colleagues.

Kate was a police officer for nearly 20 years and found that like many of her colleagues, had sometimes disregarded the importance of her wellbeing and self-care.

“From my time in the police, I had first-hand experience of how pressured and mentally draining daily life can become,” she said. “In the dictionary, wellbeing is defined as being comfortable, healthy and happy, and far too often we neglect our mental wellbeing. We can often overlook and fail to recognise our thoughts and feelings, making us miss opportunities to manage the pressures of daily life.

“Now in my new role, I am lucky enough to be able to champion donkeys and the beneficial Donkey Assisted Activity programmes available at our Leeds sanctuary.”

The visitors attended in two groups of six, to allow individuals time and space to focus on themselves and develop skills for their everyday wellbeing needs.

The sessions involved a showcase presentation, followed by everyone meeting the donkey herd. The groups then went on to prepare and take part in elements of a donkey-assisted activity session, followed by some donkey enrichment, allowing everyone to gain an understanding of how valuable a good mental state is to both donkeys and humans.

The morning concluded with each participant taking a donkey on a group mindful walk around the sanctuary’s sensory track.

“The highlight for me was our walk around the sensory track, it was peaceful and allowed me to take in the moment,” said one of the participants. Another member of the group said the day left him feeling “calm and relaxed”, while their colleague said they had “never experienced anything like it, it was a delight and it left me feeling uplifted.”

“The Donkey Sanctuary is just that – a sanctuary – a safe welcoming place for discovery, learning and empowerment,” added Kate. “In a high stress job like the police, it can be very difficult for officers to regulate their own mental health, often pouring all their time into helping others and forgetting to look after themselves.

“My friends at West Yorkshire Police gave overwhelmingly positive feedback about how visiting the donkeys helped them find some well-needed relaxation, and I’m so pleased we were able to offer them the opportunity to take time out from their busy frontline roles.”

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