Hee-Haw Healing: Donkey Therapy On Denman Island

Artist Cynthia Minden's retreats make for a memorable Donkey-filled experience"

Dog, horse, goat, yoga therapy? It’s been done. Introducing, donkeys!

When Cynthia Minden, an artist and musician, moved to Denman Island, she never could have dreamed of the direction her life was headed.

For Minden, her path changed when her peaceful oasis was interrupted by a loud “heeee-hawwww.”

It all started when her neighbour’s donkey “jumped the fence” into Minden’s heart.

“My neighbour had been a director of the Calgary Zoo, and I guess they had miniature donkeys there, and he just loved them,” Minden told The Comox Valley Record.

After she discovered she felt the same, there was no going back.

She ended up adopting the donkey ‘Hedley,’ and he became part of her family. When he needed some friends, she adopted them too. Now, she has a whole herd.

Her interest in the potential of donkeys to help people peaked with a conference in Calgary all about miniature donkeys. There, she went to a workshop on “positive reinforcement clicker training” and started doing this with her own pets.

After four years of learning and training, Minter was certified as an equine-facilitated wellness learning professional through the Professional Association for Equine Facilitated Wellness Canada.

Now, she and her therapy donkeys – Rose, Dorrie, Siog and Heather host retreats at their home on Denman Island.

The retreats are all about “working in nature with donkeys and creative art exploration.”

Sessions start in the forest, where she will invite her clients to sit and focus on their sensory awareness. (What they can see, hear, smell or feel)

“People are busy, and we are busy in our heads. So the experience is one to… reawaken those sensibilities – not in a triangle way, but in a very grounded, down-to-earth way. It’s a very sensory experience,” she said.

From there, they’re encouraged to connect with the donkeys at their own pace.

Workshops often include donkey-assisted learning, restorative yoga, creative movement, playful art projects, journaling, mindfulness, and song. 

Art-making stations abound, including some right in the donkey paddock.

She runs various fun sessions, from two-hour meet and greets to two-day workshops. Her next one is July 24th/25th.

One thing is for sure; you’ll be surrounded by friendly, adorable donkeys no matter what you attend.

You can find out more about this unique local experience on her website or even book to come out and see what it’s all about for yourself.