HETI(UK) Spring forum held at The Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary recently welcomed equine assisted service organisations and practitioners from across the UK to their international headquarters in Devon, for the Spring Forum of HETI(UK) (Horses in Education and Therapy International AISBL).

 Held at the charity’s Donkey-Assisted Activities centre in Sidmouth, the event offered like-minded organisations the opportunity to network and help create a better understanding of the equine perspective within equine-assisted interactions.

 The day, which also included members from the Southwest Equine Assisted Services Practitioners Network meeting, was a chance to highlight the importance of knowledge sharing the ever-evolving practices we encompass, and how to be proactive and work collectively as an industry.

 Topics of the day included social licensing, and human and equine research. Following presentations, these subjects were explored further during discussion sessions.

Victoria Banfield, The Donkey Sanctuary’s DAA Development Lead, said, “It was wonderful to be able to welcome so many organisations to our Donkey-Assisted activity centre at the weekend.

 “As a federation member of HETI, we are part of the steering committee that oversees decision making for the UK, so we jumped at the chance to showcase our achievements when asked to host the event.”

 The Donkey Sanctuary which provides services to external clients through its six Donkey-Assisted Activity centres across the UK, became a federation member of HETI in 2021, further establishing links with other organisations in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies.

 Victoria added: “We would like to give thanks to everyone involved with making this event successful, in particular Dr Jo Hockenhull and Sarah Worth from our research department, who alongside Sarah Urwin and Harriet Laurie MBE delivered engaging presentations, exploring topics that are incredibly relevant to current challenges we are facing.”

 “But the stars for us are our donkeys, being one of only a few places across the world where donkeys are involved with this kind of practice really allows us to be able to create attitudinal change towards them, whilst maintaining high levels of welfare and wellbeing as documented within our recent pilot study. “

“It was a great opportunity for us to be able to host the HETI(UK) Spring Forum to raise the status of donkeys within the EAS industry further and to demonstrate our practices with transparency, as sharing knowledge between practitioners is key to the implementation of practice standards, meaning better care and welfare for the equines involved” added Nicky French, Head of Donkey-Assisted Activities.

“Key discussions were held around social licence and the importance of accountability for all organisations both HETI members and beyond, looking at how they need to ensure they support their own equine welfare and wellbeing within Equine Assisted Services.”

The next forum will be hosted by Harriet Laurie of The Horse Course in October this year.

With thanks to The Hugs Foundation and The Donkey Sanctuary for the above images.
Image 1: The Hugs Foundation team with some Donkeys
Image 2: Practitioners at the forum
Image 3: Some of the beautiful donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary
Image 4: HETI(UK) Spring Forum participants