Friday, June 06, 2014

Barbara: 1953 - 2014

My Darling passed away on Wednesday 4th of June. I'll write about her here soon.

Don’t think of her as gone away
Her journey's just begun
Life holds so many facets
This earth is only one.

Just think of her as resting
From the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort
Where there are no days or years.

Think how she must be wishing
That we could know today
How nothing but our sadness
Can really pass away.

And think of her as living
In the hearts of those she touched….
For nothing loved is ever lost
As she was loved so much.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Frisona with Barbara

Frisona with Barbara (a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Barbara Rides Again

I have been ill for a while, but on Tuesday, with some help from Jessica and Tish (plus another Jessica, out of picture), I went riding on Frisona which made me feel a whole lot better. That's our local town, Mojácar, in the background.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Wooden Horse

Barbara is not doing so well at the present time. Here's a horse that needs riding.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wegener's Granulomatosis

Since I started this blog I have discovered a wonderful Forum with all really friendly people with Wegeners. They use all sorts of abbreviations that I still don't have a complete grasp of - like they call themselves 'Weggies', while 'Pred' is Prednesone (a type of steroid) - but it is a place where you can talk to people who have had what you have or are going through the same medical procedure. I discovered that much of the material I had found was so out of date. You don't have to die in five years and there are lots of different treatments. So until I catch up a little more and get on track I think I will leave my blog except maybe to write a few of my adventures with WG. As far as the people on the forum are concerned, you would think that they would be all down and depressing but they aren't, they are just the opposite. They are positive and they are helping to push me on through the hard times.
Meanwhile at home, of course, as far as I can, I will keep on riding my horse.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Happy Birdies

The secret to keeping a Lovebird happy (and occupied) is to put some palm leaves in the cage to shred and stuff into the nest to keep the chicks warm.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Le 'tit Chien

You might as well meet the dog. He's fast and he's French. 'Wooohhh', 'e say. After being stepped on once by the horse (perhaps under the impression it was a sheep), he is now wise to the ways of the farmyard.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A New Saddle

Here is the new lightweight saddle which I have found to be comfortable and to put me in the right position. It's a funny shape, perhaps, but it makes me feel like I'm riding bareback.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Testing a New Saddle

Riding here with Frisona, accompanied by Ken on Pepper. I am trying a new saddle, which is working pretty well; it isn't really an endurance saddle although it looks like one. The seat is convex instead of concave and I really have never seen anything like it before. It is very close to riding bareback but it puts you in a good position and fits the horse perfectly. It's very light to carry as well.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On the Beach

Loli and Ken on the Beach in Almería earlier this year.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Old Posting from 15 Years Ago...

 We just found this, on an old website of ours from 1998. So, of historical interest only...
ANIMO: Late News.
Updated November 2nd 1998.

Barbara Napier, the director of Animo, is on the board of the Federation for Riding for the Disabled International (FRDI) - placed there at the international conference in Colorado in 1987. She has since attended the AGM in Paris this March and a further international meeting in Munich during September as part of an international AAT conference.

Hippotherapist Joan Would visited Animo on May 16 and 17, and imparted a two-day seminar to 25 physiotherapists, doctors and rehabilitation specialists. Joining her was the director of the Spanish Spina Bifida Association, Dr Carlos Miguelez. Information from Barbara 950 478 268.

The annual ANIMO dinner will be in Mojacar at El Puntazo on Wednesday, December 4th. During the evening, there will be a satellite link up with the Royal Prince, Felipe, the Duke of Asturias.

Talk to us about dolfin therapy? An associate from Madrid wishes to start a centre locally which sounds interesting.

ANIMO's animals are two dogs (under training), six horses, four donkeys, a rather affable pig, sundry rabbits, guinea pigs, peacocks, ducks, turkeys, about a hundred love birds and some chickens. Did I mention the sheep?

Cash is always short, as we don't charge our disabled friends, and we work with volunteers (thanks as always to Viv, Keith, Maria Rose, Lionel, Tina and Juanico). But we have one full time employee, light, maintenance and a lot of animal-feed to cover.

We now have over thirty students using the centre, from Almeria and Murcia provinces. Most have noted improvement in their mobility.

Our sessions (weather permitting) at the Era del Lugar centre in Mojacar (Almeria, Spain) are Mondays and Wednesdays, at 5.00 to 7.00pm and Sundays 10.30am to 1.00pm.

We're always looking to make new friends, give us a call 34 950 478 268 from outside Spain, or national call 950 478 268, and fax 950 478 789, or e-mail us at The Entertainer.

Miguel Rios Supports ANIMO

The Spanish rock star Miguel Rios joined the ANIMO gala evening at the Pascha discoteque in Mojacar, Almeria, last Saturday. Miguel, accompanied by Pepe Grano de Oro, the lead guitarist from the legendary Los Puntos pop group (rated during the late 'sixties as Spain's best selling band), performed two of his best known songs with a chorus of thirty children who accompanied him in sign-language. The gala, which featured Juan Roque, Corleone, Los Templarios and Backbeat, was organised by Barbara Napier, the president of ANIMO, an association which helps the disabled using animal assisted therapy. The keynote songs were 'El Himno de la Alegria' and 'Santa Lucia'. Miguel Rios, who had recently completed a Kurt Weill concert in Granada together with Ana Belén, said afterwards that he was delighted to freely give some of his time for such a noble cause. Around 1000 people attended the concert.


ANIMO, a non-profit association currently in its formative stages, consists of two distinct but complementary entities--a Research and Rehabilitation Center for Handicapped Persons, and a Farm and Wildlife Animal Conservation Center. Initiated as two separate entities, the overlap of interests and of key personnel provided a significant synergism by incorporating the two into ANIMO. The common element uniting all activities within ANIMO is the importance and utility of the relationship between man and animal. Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities are almost unknown in Spain but are widely and successfully practiced in other countries.

A remarkable benefit has been observed when animals and humans come into contact with each other. Animals have a way of relieving the symptoms of depression and creating a calming effect, partly due to the animal's complete lack of prejudice and total acceptance of a person as he is, boosting self confidence and improving mental health. The improvement in patients with depression has been widely observed when interacting with animals, which is especially useful in accident victims who have to learn to deal with a new handicap. A tremendous improvement has also been noted in stroke victims when they come into contact with animals--just the touch of their fur seems to inspire muscular movement in paralized areas. The benefit of Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is that the independence, integration, confidence, mental and physical health in the individual are improved. Animals can take the place of a missing sense, exercise and massage body parts that can no longer move on their own, or help with the tasks of everyday life, providing a happier, healthier life for the handicapped individual.The values of riding for the disabled and assistance dogs are described in detail in the following sections on horses and dogs.

ANIMO is aimed at, but not exclusive to, the physically and sensorally handicapped in Spain, which, according to a study carried out by INSERSO in 1986 and published in the Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas( INE ), was 5,191,063 people. Added to this number are the handicapped people from other European countries who have expressed a desire for a holiday, therapy and sport center in the south of Spain, where they may take advantage of the warmer climate.


ANIMO is involved with all aspects of the ways in which handicapped persons may benefit from their relationship with animals--specifically horses and dogs at this time.

Although the concept of handicapped persons riding horses may be unfamiliar and startling to many, therapeutic riding has been widely and successfully employed in other countries, particularly the UK and USA. It includes four major elements of providing treatment for people with disabilities:

Hippotherapy, in which the rider is influenced by the horse, rather than controlling it. The movement of the horse imparts a movement of the rider's pelvis that closely resembles that of walking. Under the supervision of a physiotherapist this movement can be used to stimulate the nervous and muscular systems of the rider. Physician- or therapist- prescribed exercises, which strengthen, stretch, and relax the muscles, can also be done on the horse's back.

Rehabilitative Riding is a type of treatment which uses functional horsemanship skills (movements while riding to maintain control of the horse) to achieve a therapeutic or educational goal, such as improved motor skills and speech/language skills.

Sports Riding is used to develop social skills and to provide recreational therapy and includes such activities as trail riding. Many handicapped people display an extraodinary ability in classical dressage and other equestrian events. At ANIMO we will provide top level training for these athletes to enable them to compete on local, national or international levels.

Developmental Vaulting, which is used to improve cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills, allows a rider to explore various types of movement on the horse's back.

The center will also provide Carriage Driving, both as a recreational activity and at competetion level.

Riding, whether for sport, therapy, or pleasure, is psychologically and physically advantageous for the handicapped. It gives him the opportunity to go places unavailable in his everyday life, and to experience the world from a new vantage point, the whole time providing the much needed stimulation to muscles and vital organs. Most of the trail-riding at ANIMO will be carried out on donkeys with specially fitted tack, as donkeys tend to be more surefooted and calmer for novice riders. This will also help revive a dying breed and bring a new usefulness to the Andalucian donkey, which is now an endangered species.

The instructor must have a real understanding and knowledge of horses and an ability to communicate with disabled people. He should have an understanding of the rider's disabilities and should work as part of a team including the physiotherapist/occupational therapist, center staff members, and other helpers. The team will set realistic goals to develop the full potential of each rider, while giving him a sense of achievement and enjoyment.

All ANIMO horses will be sponsored by companies, with the option to sponsor school horses or competition level horses, providing positive image and publicity for many years with a one-off cost and no on-going expenses or responsibilities. Near the stables and the kennels and with easy access to both, will be a complete veterinary surgery to cope with the needs of all the animals on site and to provide training facilities for students. All animals will undergo a veterinary inspection on acceptance and on-going supervision for vaccinations and worming. Aside from good health, the character of all dogs and horses will be studied by a team of ANIMO personnel to insure a good temperament and easy handling.

This activity is an outgrowth of an informal animal center which has been maintained for many years by the president of ANIMO at her home/farm. Due, perhaps, to the informal and casual setting of the center, all manner of birds and animals which do not normally breed in captivity have reproduced well. This has also been a popular educational and recreational center visited frequently by groups of local school children. All of the local communities have expressed interest in seeing this activity continued and expanded to enable the school children to experience, at first hand, typical farm and domestic animals which are no longer commonplace in their homes.

This center will be concerned with restoring the viability of native wild birds and animals which typically are brought to the center by concerned persons who encounter them in a distressed condition, such as very young birds which have fallen out of the nest , injured birds or animals which cannot survive on their own, and wild-type animals which have been raised in captivity and cannot compete in their proper environment. Every effort will be made to restore these creatures to a functional level such that they can be returned to their natural habitat. Those animals which are not capable of resuming normal existence will be kept at the center, where they are particularly appropriate, as often a handicapped person will relate especially well to a handicapped animal.

Since we will have a wealth of animals of all types and many volunteers, a practical step for us is the very successful Animal Visitation Program wherein animals are taken to other centers, hospitals, homes for the elderly, etc., where the patients often find the sight and touch of the animals both enjoyable and therapeutic.

The Town Hall of Vera has recently ceded three hectares (around eight acres) to the association, and is actively helping in the projected move to the new permanent site.
Barbara Napier, the President of ANIMO, has traveled widely in Europe speaking at conferences and on the radio and TV. Her boundless energy and determination has done much to bring the above-mentioned concepts to the attention of the Spanish handicapped societies and organisations.

ANIMO, Apto 34, Mojacar, 04638 Almeria, Spain
Telephones: (950) 472 277, (950) 528 862 (both voice and TTY/DTS) Fax: (950) 478 789.
Asociacion Benefica: No 137,284. CIF: F04219614
Bank: Caja Rural de Almeria, Mojacar Playa, 04638 Mojacar, Almeria, Spain. Account Number: 30580126142720001041.


ANIMO es una asociación nacional no lucrativa cuyo objetivo principal es la investigación y rehabilitación de personas discapacitadas mediante terapia asistida por animales (AAT), actividades asistidas por animales (AAA) y desarrollo de nuevas terapias derivadas de la experiencia adquirida. Todo ello sin menoscabo del seguimiento terapéutico aplicado usualmente por los distintos especialistas de nuestro sistema sanitario.
En España, la terapia y actividades asistidas por animales es una practica poco extendida y por lo tanto bastante desconocida. Sin embargo, la solidez del proyecto está basada en la actual experiencia y conocimiento de la terapia que avalan cerca de 100 años de trabajos de investigación y desarrollo en centros que la practican por todo el mundo bajo la supervisión de los respectivos servicios técnico-sanitarios.
La terapia con discapacitados asistida por animales se entiende como un programa de apoyo a otros tratamientos médicos que, trabajando como un equipo multidisciplinar, proporcionan índices mucho más elevados en los resultados perseguidos. Ofrece además este tipo de terapia la posibilidad de abrir nuevos horizontes de relación, ocio y deporte a personas que, debido a alguna discapacidad ven su vida limitada a un entorno inmediato, con poca esperanza de cambios o mejoras en su calidad de vida.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Blue Bridle

Frisona has got a fancy new blue bridle - which goes very well with her colouring - and, yesterday, she took Barbara for a ride on a large field behind our house. Everything went well; and so it should.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I fall off. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

She Stole my Heart

I was looking at horses with a friend of mine who wanted to buy his first horse. He had been taking me to my riding therapy and after his third trip, decided to try it himself. It worked out well, and he felt so much better that he started therapy on a regular basis, together with me... In fact, he liked it so much, he said he wanted to buy his own horse. He had only ridden as a child and was now in his late sixties and recovering from cancer treatment. We had so much fun going to all of the nearby stud farms and ranches, viewing and trying out different horses and seeing all types of training methods. We didn't care about whether it was pure bred on anything like that, we wanted a horse that was calm and easy for a novice. While we were at one ranch he saw a horse, standing by herself away from the pack on the paddock, and just like that said 'I want that one'. I told him we should look around some more but his mind was made up. We did look more but his heart was set on this one horse, who now lives with us in the stables. Another day, while we were at one particular ranch spread out over several kilometres and that had about 150 Pure Bred Spanish horses, I spotted a black horse on the hill, up with the youngsters and horses that weren't in foal. From a distance I could feel the excitement build and when I got up to her and our eyes met, I knew she was going to be mine. I didn't know how because I wasn't looking for a horse and didn't have the money for one but I knew in my heart she was meant to be with me. My friend had decided that without a doubt he wanted that first horse so he had bought her and brought her home to my stables and called her Cariño, which means 'affection' or 'Darling' in Spanish. A week or so before she arrived we were donated a wide-bodied Hispanó Bretón called Cookie for therapy for the children at Animo. Cookie was not too tall but she was built in a way that made her fantastic for bareback riding and her temperament was perfect and she didn't mind standing still for long periods of time, which is important when you are trying to load and unload wheelchair student on to the horse. So we now had two horses at home and I kept dreaming up plans to get the black horse I saw on the hill. We went to visit her four times but they wanted a lot of money for her and I just didn't have it. At Christmas I saw her for what I thought would be the last time, she had become thin and dry and the spark had gone from her eyes. I felt so bad that I made the owners a deal. I said that I would take her for a year and feed her and care for her and ride her and at the end of the year we could discuss it again. - They said no and I left very sad, knowing it would be the last time I saw her. One rainy evening in February I got a call and they told me to go to the stables. There she was, skinny and scared, but she responded to my voice right away. It was almost dark and starting to rain so I had to just put her in with the other horses and hope for the best and I would see her in the morning. She was mine, my dream horse was mine. They decided to donate her to me so that I could continue my therapy here at home. She is a Friesian, they are very large and have long hair on their feet and usually long thick manes and tails. In Spanish I knew that a Friesian was called un Frisón but they called her Frisona so I thought it was just a name they gave her. Stupidly I didn't know that it was a female Friesian and that she didn't have a name. She has pretty much stayed Frison but in the last few months she has made it clear that she prefers it when I call her Pony, so that is what I call her now. She has been with me for just over a year and she is 7 years old. In the beginning she was very docile because she was underfed and had never worked. Now she is a black muscled up power-house and a bit much for me to handle, but I am getting there and will never give up because everyday I love her more and everyday I know she helps to keep me healthy and happy. I have been learning about discipline and it really works. In the beginning I was so sweet and didn't want to upset her now the tables have changed and I am finally the boss and we are getting along even better. Before she loved me but didn't respect me now she loves and respects me. I am so grateful to everyone that helped in me getting Pony. I know she is my magic charm. It is in her eyes.
Picture: Frisona and Cookie

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pineapple Pol

Frisona and me share a piece of pineapple. Luckily, there's lots more.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Puppy Love

Here's the latest addition to the family. Hey, I'm taking your picture - say 'Cheese'!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Sporting Event

To have a good afternoon's sporting event, all you need is two willing teams, a bat, a ball, and a number of donkeys. Collecting the donkeys and their owners from the isolated farms in the surrounding hills can take a while, but it's all worth it in the end. You need twelve or so, plus a handy supply of carrots, to be sure that you don't run out of willing equine sportsters during a game of Burro Béisbol. Lenox, who by virtue of knowing nothing about either baseball or indeed donkeys, acts as the referee. The two teams are assembled, the Red Cross ambulance is bought a cold beer and the whistle - actually an old trumpet - is blown.
The rules, as explained to the referee, are easy enough: don't ambulate anywhere unless you are seated on a donkey. Neither the hitter, the catchers or the fielders can move unless they are mounted on what quickly turns out to be a most unwilling ride. As the donkeys stand stock still, take off in the wrong direction or throw their riders, the score is professionally tallied and the game is eventually declared: Donkeys one, Humans nothing (well, apart from a stripped finger and a bruised ass).

The top photo is from 1999. Not sure about the other. We played Burro Béisbol during the Mojácar fiestas for around eight years during the nineties.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Like any farm, you have to have some security. We use Little Boy Kitty to keep an eye on things because he's plenty tough!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Five Senses

Wegener's Granulomatosis destroys your senses, all of them. In my case it started with the sense of sound leaving me partially deaf most of the time and completely deaf the rest of the time. When I had partial hearing I had what they call 'hard of hearing', that means that you can't always identify the sounds you hear and you have no idea where they are coming from. All of these symptoms are present at one time or another, there is never a moment when everything works properly. Sight, strange things will happen to your eyes and sight. My vision, now, is very poor, I was blind for a year and then had an almost complete eye transplant from a donor, and my sight was returned. Not perfect but I wasn't complaining. Since this disease runs around the body eating and destroying bone, membrane, muscle and pretty much whatever it desires. It started on my sinus cavity and jaw which included the membrane around my eye lids which made them stick to my eyes. I also lost my depth perception. The sense of smell was destroyed for several years during which my kidneys were not functioning well. The general life of this disease is five years if you are diagnosed and treated properly, but they still don't seem to know what 'properly' is, so they just pump you full of strong steroids which practically kill you anyway. When you kidneys don't function properly everything tastes and smell metallic or you only smell the bad things and you never really know if what you smell is real or maybe you have no smell at all. Remember that all of these symptoms come on and off and around and around whenever it suits them. My case is a little different than most because I had another rare disease before Wegener's. I had Rhodotorula, a fungus in the blood, that you get in the hospital, very hard to detect, and it moves slowly through the blood destroying the heart and kidneys, so that may be why my symptoms are a little different than others. Since there are so few of us they don't really know, I feel that having the Rhodatarula first made me more susceptible to getting the Wegener's. That is just a personal opinion and I have no medical evidence. You would think that the sense of touch was pretty hard to mess with but no, it found a wonderful way of damaging all of the nerve endings and my fingers, toes and ears. Something that had not been seen yet by any hospital that I went to, which were many. The skin also cracks and the nails grow funny but definitely leaving you without a sense of touch. This again comes and goes. Next on Wegener's list are the kidneys, complete destruction over a long period of time causing everything from muscle cramps, bone pain, tiredness. Loss of tendon and ligaments in the joints, causes partial dislocation of all of the joints at varying times. Like the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, wrist and - yes - even the jaw. They all seem to go back into place after a series of painful hours or days. The last supposed stages of Wegener's are the destruction of both the trachea and the lungs. This has already started on me by making holes in the trachea making each time harder to learn to speak, swallow or chew, but each time you get the hang of it. The hardest part of this disease for me besides the disfiguration, has been the three or four times that these things have all happened at the same time. I haven't yet mentioned the chronic arrhythmia and anaemia. Yes, I have those too. I feel like I can cope pretty well most of the time and then when everything goes on the fritz at once it is a bit too much to handle. Fortunately until now these complete meltdowns have only lasted a few weeks at a time and I go back to having just one or two of the symptoms.

Riding Therapy

A few years ago I discovered that riding and being around the horses help to make me feel better. This was something I began to study in depth and after several years have come up with a therapy that really works for me, and some of the benefits are even long term not short. Some of my Doctor's prescriptions actually carry a note about riding the horse. I decided to write about what I feel because so little is known about this disease and the more I can help anyone else with it, the better, also because I just finished a one month complete shut down of my whole system, and I was very frightened and had no one to discuss it with. I didn't know what to do or what my chance of survival was and it was the not knowing rather than the pain that made it harder to deal with. I need someone to explain what will happen, they probably don't know either. My new doctor won't talk to me or even touch me.. I have way out lived their expectations, I am sure it is through the love of my family and my horse. I lose more of my body, especially my face, every day and I just wonder how long can I can hold on. My upper jaw is gone and now in the last few weeks I have started to lose the hard palate making it almost impossible to wear my prosthetic plate.
I think I should point out that my case is slightly different than others (I guess all cases are different) because I started by having re-constructive surgery for a smashed nose and cracked jaw around 2002 and received some very bad treatment for the first year. In my opinion, I was used as a guinea pig for an experimental new type of transplant that went terribly wrong. I have since met three other people who had the same problem as I did and the same doctor and same experimental transplant, without success. None of them had Wegener's. It is at the time, I was moved to a better hospital to fix the damage, that we started to see symptoms of Wegener's. Every time they would replace something the virus would come and eat all of the skin and bone around the area, leaving me in much worse shape than when I started, but since we didn't know what it was until years later we just kept operating. I have to say that my treatment here in Spain, except for the first year, was extraordinary and very good . I spoke to another Wegener's sufferer, she is being treated in America, and she is now being given exactly what they gave me six years ago, down to the quantity, that in the end never worked, which she is just finding out now.
(Posted on Wegener's)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pronto Pinto

Three years ago we went to Oklahoma to visit our children and grandchildren, a trip that we actually thought would be my last. On that trip I was talked into riding a little pinto pony named Pronto. I hadn't ridden in nine years and had become very withdrawn and anti-social due to my physical deformities and so many years in hospital and in pain. That little pony changed my life and the way I live it. I no longer sit at home and feel sorry for myself and I have found tremendous strength within me that has made it possible for me to enjoy every moment as it comes. Not only did I feel better emotionally, thanks to Pronto, but I started to feel better physically as well. After I came back to Spain, with my whole new attitude, I started to work on developing a type of therapy to help me and other people suffering from disease and toxic medical treatments. In this, I was helped by Loli Berenguel, my friend, teacher and now the new president of Animo at her stables El Albero in Los Partidores, Almería. I went several times a week to Almería to ride and work on programs that could improve my health. We used her vaulting horse, Nora, and that seemed to make all the difference and Loli and I finally found a system that worked.
We have just come back from spending another two weeks in Oklahoma with the children and, once again, I was able to ride Pronto every day. I just wanted to thank him and his owner, Patsi Smith for the wonderful gift they had given me, and that was to get my life back. Since my first visit things have changed considerably. I have my own horse, the horse of my dreams, that was donated to me so that I could do my therapy at home. My friend and partner in this investigation, Ken, also has his own horse and we have just finished building a beautiful new stables, right outside my back door. My horse is a Friesian mare that I fell in love with the moment I saw her, a year later she was mine. We are now training her to take over my therapy and in the meantime she is a great companion and I get a lot of benefit from the very active gaits that she has. She makes me want to get up each morning and start my day with a smile.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Never Stop Learning

I realized yesterday that I never had actually learned to ride in the 50 some years that I have been riding. It came as quite a shock. I have had and have been around horses since I could walk and all of the horses that I have had were already trained or I raised them from birth and had taught them myself. I always rode bare-back, no shoes and no bit; not for any reason it is just I never had any tack to speak of beyond a hackamore and I became very comfortable with the situation, plus it was a lot less expensive and I could be ready to go before my friends had tied their horses to get ready to tack up. I never rode in a ring, I just did trail riding. The foals that I raised just came with me everywhere and I just talked to them and we seemed to reach a very suitable agreement.
When our girls started riding lessons it was easy for them, because they understood the body language and the horses' characters and so they felt very comfortable both around and on them. They had also always ridden bare-back.. They were young enough that the change from bare-back to a saddle was easy and they both became Three Day Event Champions in the Basque Country where they went to school. When they came home and rode our horses and started with all of this discipline stuff things started to change. I remember one day my younger daughter, Amber, was working my foal, Casi, in the ring and asked me how I got her to put her head down. I just said, “head down Casi” that was it; couldn't be easier but the girls were horrified. I think that they always assumed that mom knew how to ride and everything else about horses. Now that they had learned dressage and jumping and knew all about leg aids etc they felt it was time to teach our horses as well. Thankfully the horses adjusted well to the combination and even became very good therapy horses. They seemed to understand who was riding by what sort of tack they had on or whether or not they had to stand at the ramp and be led around for hours.
My new horse, Frisona, is seven years old and had never been ridden or had any life experiences, like traffic, dogs, trees etc. she just lived peacefully on a hill top with 30 other mares and was put into foal every year without much success. Her nature is so sweet and she is so willing to learn and help me that she has been very easy to back and start to train. Now I have a trainer that comes once a week because I feel as if I am out of my league. She is doing great but I have to learn along with her, even if it is just so I can go trail riding. I feel like someone who has driven all of their life and just got into a stick shift; there are so many things to think about, it all used to come naturally and I never thought about it, now I have to remember to stay centered, watch where I am going, learn the leg aids and hardest of all learn to lengthen my legs so that they stay in the stirrups. At 17”2 she is quite large and I am not as strong as I used to be so I have started riding in a treeless western saddle. It is very comfortable and I feel much safer taking a green horse out to meet the world than I would if I were bare-back. It just came as a shock that in my whole life I had never learned all of these things yet always rode very well.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Things Are Looking Up

Where I came from, living with thirty other mares and foals, food was on a first-come first-served basis. 30 horses meant 30 buckets of pienso in the trough then the hay and alfalfa in the middle of the large paddock. At the trough who ever ate faster got more, so I became a vacuum cleaner and worried about chewing later. Girls all kind of gang up and get into groups, each group helping the other members to food, grooming, water etc. I just couldn't quite fit into any of the groups so kind of hung out by myself, maybe talking to some of the ponies or younger males on the other side of the fences. My name is Cariño and I am a registered PRE brood mare, with a blood line to make you all jealous. I have had three colts, all spectacular. I lived on a farm where the man just loves horses so he has them for a hobby. He has another job to make money to pay for us all. A few times a year he likes to take all his friends out for a jolly and a paella in the campo, so they all arrive with bread, wine, chorizo and all the fixings for a good day out. They each get to choose their horse. I got picked quite often because I love going out on excursions and I am not afraid of anything. I loved those outings because other than that I was pretty much alone in the paddock because the girls didn't really like me much, until one day, a strange man came to look at us. He looked at me and I looked at him. He asked our man if I could come out so he could talk to me. The next time he came, I came out of the paddock but not just for a talk, we went for a trail ride. There was something very special about this new man and I think he thought I was special too. A few weeks later he came back and gave our man a wad of really wet money; it had fallen out of his pocket while he was showering me after a ride. I don't know what happened but next thing I knew I was at a new place with the new man together with a big fat thing they called a therapy horse. She looked like a sofa to me. We had really good food in my new house and I got along with Cookie, the therapy horse, except she liked to eat really slowly so I would vacuum down my pienso and kick her out of her stall and eat hers too. Boy, this was great and easy too, she just went to the big box and ate hay and alfalfa. There was always stuff in the big box so after a few weeks of pigging out I realized that I could take a break sometimes and there would still be food left. I had a lack of salt and minerals when I was young so I loved to put everything in my mouth; still do. They got me a salt and mineral block but I never tried it until one day a new horse arrived. I thought I was pretty good size, but wow, this was some big black mare. As soon as she came into the paddock she ran straight to the salt block and looked like a cow, liking it for ages then she drank half the bath tub. I guess she didn't have one either at her old place, but she knew she needed one. The new horse was called Frisona; stupid owner didn't know that is what her breed is in Spanish and thought it was her name, well now she is stuck with it. She had also lived with thirty other mares and youngsters and all the hay was in one huge box with a roof on it but they didn't have the trough for pienso. This was getting better and better, I could eat so fast that I could finish mine, kick Cookie out eat hers and still have plenty of time to eat Frisona's. Frisona had to eat lots of times a day and in small quantities until she got used to the pienso but then boy, jack pot, I was on a diet and she had to gain a lot of weight so in the end she got fed three times a day and I could kick her out every time and eat it all myself. Now I really needed to be on a diet, they said I had a Michelin, I don't know what that is but they were all laughing and grabbing handfuls of my fat. All of this came to an end; gates went up poles went in.
I was locked in my stall until the other girls had finished then they let me out but I got my way at the big box. I found that if I came at it looking really mad, ears back, head out; you know the look, the others would step back just long enough for me to get my head in the box then I could keep my head there and walk around the box kicking at anyone that came near. If they put their head in the box I just bit them and they left, but then the lady human got really mad. Well they tried everything, electric fence, dividing the paddock with the other two on one side and me on the other. I outsmarted them on every move. I pulled the plug on the bathtub so many times we have had to buy lots of new ones, I opened the gates. I'm so talented, I don't know where to begin. Well, today my life was ruined..They took Cookie away a few days ago, to go back to work with disabled people in Barcelona, sad for our children that rode her every week but great for the disabled people at her new place. You see, Cookie can carry a lot of weight and stand still for a long time and is very gentle and not too tall so she is really good for people in wheel-chairs. I've watched her. People do the strangest things on her but they always seem to be happier and feel better when they get off. Even people who don't like horses like Cookie: she just has one of those magnetic characters. Well, back to me because she is gone. While Cookie was here on vacation during the summer, when she wasn't working with the children, Frisona moved to the other side of the paddock so she would stop rubbing her mane and tail. See, Frisona is really delicate, she may look big and tough but she is just a gentle giant and even the flies and mosquitoes get the best of her. I did too, biting and kicking her. Now she is on the other side and we also have an electric fence between us. She is starting to heal from all of her wounds from rubbing and from me biting. Today it hit me and I felt very sad and all alone. I could eat and drink all I wanted, no one to bother me, well, that was the problem there was no one for me to bother, so I just stood and watched Frisona while she slowly ate her food. Remember that strange man that came to see me? Well he has something very special about him and he saw something very special in me. Even though there were lots of mares, he knew instantly that I was his. That lady again, made him go look at other horses to be sure I was the right one and every time he saw another one he said no, Cariño is for me. He called me that – it means darling. We have such a special relationship, some people think I can be a bit of a bitch or hard to handle because I don't like to work or learn in the ring but I love trail riding and so does my special man. He doesn't care about dressage or any of that stuff, he just likes to brush me and talk to me and take him out riding.. He loves me just the way I am and I love him the same way. Somehow I think we are soul mates and meant to be together. Every once in a while you find that very special someone just like I think that lady has found with Frisona. The four of us are all kind of difficult in our own ways but we seem to be just the piece that was missing to make the other better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cookie Heads North

Slightly out of the blue, Cookie was needed up in Catalonia by Cadí Moixeró. She left last week. We both miss her terribly. Lenox thinks he's getting out of riding, but we have two horses that remain with us here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Animals in my life have made me a happier, healthier and stronger person.

I was going to write about some of the special animals in my life but as I reread my blog I find that I have written about most of them. From the time I can remember, I have always loved animals and I soon began to bring home strays, orphans and just about anything I could find. The first animal that I truly loved was a new born lamb that my mom brought home because the mother had died and it needed to be bottle-fed. I was around five years old. When I was a tween I got my first real horse: I had had horses my whole life but never one that was just mine. His name was Jiggs, he was a barrel-racer and I had called about an advert I saw in the paper. I thought that the girl said he was for sale for a hundred dollars. I went to see him and fell in love but it turned out she said four hundred dollars and I didn’t have that much. After many offers, all to stables, she decided that she would rather that he had a loving home with me than to be ridden by hundreds of people so she sold him to me. I had no tack or money to buy any so that is how I started to ride bareback and with just a halter and that is the way I have ridden since then. Jiggs was my friend that I could confide in and my transport. At that difficult age, where peer pressure and fitting-in are so important, I think my horse saved me a lot of tears and kept me out of trouble because he was more important to me than anything else. I kept Jiggs all through university then finally gave him to a little girl that loved him the way I did.
When I moved to Spain I started collecting animals again. I was living in a house with my two girls on some land on the hill above the pueblo. I bought a horse that I couldn’t afford, on a payment plan, and she came with a three week old foal that remained my foal well into her twenties. Whenever people would see her they would say “that is Barbara’s foal” even when she was close to twenty. The mare, Oli, would extend on command until her belly almost touched the ground so that I could get on. I thought that she would be great for the kids since she was older and that I would train the foal for myself. It turned out that even though she was older she had quite a strong character but she learned to love us and became a great horse. One day, I saw a shepherd pass my office and went out to talk to him and came home with two lambs and then to add to the gang, I bought a seven day old calf. I have written about all of these animals individually on this blog. The sheep, Negrita, the calf, Petite Suisse, and the foal, Casi, grew up together in the baby area which basically meant running free around the farm. They remained fast friends into their old age.
Me with Casi
I used to go to the old mill nearby to buy feed and that is where I started to learn Spanish, with Juan Sanchez, the miller and baker in a nearby town. We became great friends and every time I went I would come home with a duck or a rabbit or a dove and so my farm grew. I eventually opened my farm up to the school-children so that they could learn about farm animals since they now all lived in apartments and didn’t know much about animals and where food, milk, eggs and wool came from. I went to a Feria de Bestia – an animal fair - with some old Gypsy friends and bought an old mule and started Mojácar’s first donkey taxi. It was my first job here and I loved it plus the kids and I would take the mule down to the fountain to wash our clothes and hair and bring home water. It was a great social event and a good place to meet people and find out what was going on in town since no one in those days had phones.
I had a dream one night that I had a center for Animal Assisted Therapy, training animals for all types of disabilities and with the help of my husband and children, made it a reality. We ended up with twelve horses, four donkeys, pigs, sheep, boar, ducks, turkeys etc. Because I had a zoo license by then I was brought things like eagles and owls and other animals that were found injured or abandoned. ÁNIMO was born. We were soon running a center with over forty physically disabled children and a petting zoo. Qualified volunteers started showing up having worked in the field of therapeutic riding in their home countries like, England, Germany, Hong Kong and with them they brought a wealth of information and ideas. For fifteen years Ánimo functioned every day of the week and was free to all of the children. Even the doctor, nurse, psychologist and the physiotherapists all donated their time and my husband plus some necessary fund-raising paid for the upkeep of the animals.
Now comes the hard part. I got ill and we were running out of money so I had to start to find homes for all of my animals because I was unable to care for them physically and financially. Do you know how hard it is to find a good home for a 200 kilo friendly boar where they don’t want to eat him and just keep him as a pet? I finally gave Theodore, the boar, to a farmer who used him as a stud for his pigs so he could get better meat. It wasn’t perfect but it was the best I could. It took two years to find suitable homes for my large menagerie. For me this was almost harder than facing the fact that I had to have many operations, spend years in hospitals, be left permanently disfigured and to have an incurable disease that no one knew or knows how to treat.
Now comes the happy part again. After eight years of hell and antisocial behaviour I started to ride again, and then I met a wonderful woman called Loli who started working with me on finding a therapy that would help my illness. Since then I haven’t looked back and am again strong enough to work with the children in therapeutic riding, I have started Ánimo again but this time with a new board of directors and at Loli’s riding center in Los Partidores, just on the edge of Almería. She also has a farm school, so I don’t have to have the problems of all of the paper work or preparation of all of the animals; I just volunteer. To make the whole thing perfect, I was donated the horse of my dreams, a Friesian mare that I fell in love with but was unable to buy. My mare, Frisona, now called just Sona, makes every day special and together we are learning and making each other happy and I am able to lead a fairly normal life. I don’t worry about how I look any more and I am happy with who I am and what I have. My husband has been through hell and back staying by my side through all of this and kept me positive and feeling loved.
Since the fire in Bédar over the weekend, I started to remember a terrible fire we had three years ago. I sometimes get the feeling that maybe this strange disease helped to save all of these animals I loved so much, because there is no way I could have saved them, the fire was just too fast. It also has changed the way I live my life, I may have problems, which I do, ones that would make most people quit, but I try to live every day to its fullest and not keep wishing I had something else or was somewhere else.  The best thing about animals is that they have no prejudice, they don’t care what you look like or how you dress - they just want to be loved, cared for and respected and they will give the love back ten-fold.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Between Therapy Sessions at Animo

Here are two pictures we found in a drawer. The top one is me posing with Estudiante, a PRE gelding donated to Animo by Johanna Batista from Dos Olivos, in Seville. Because of his small stature and gentle nature, he was ideal for working with the forty or so children we helped in the nineties.
The second picture shows Amistad (or 'Ami'), donated by a pure fluke. Ami was pulling a cart - a caravan really -  from Milan across the Southern Mediterranean to raise charity money for disabled children. The cart broke down in Mojácar and the elderly couple donated her to us and then returned to Italy.
Just two of the twelve horses (and four donkeys) that participated in Animo in those times.

Alternate Medicine: No Friend to Big Pharma

In the 1930’s, Otto Warburg received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering how oxygen can destroy cancer cells.  Decades ago a twenty-year study was made on how two Chirimoyas (custard apples) a day are much more effective than chemotherapy and radiation combined at fighting cancer. I just saw a study on a similar basis that lemon juice with a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda every morning is also way more effective at killing cancer cells than chemotherapy. Fasting, under medical supervision, has also proven to be very successful at killing diseased cells; I even had a friend who went through this treatment in San Diego, to fight Leukaemia, after the doctors had given up and all treatments had been tried. It was very successful.  All of these studies are very interesting and many more are out there so why don’t people care about these studies? Why don’t we hear about them? Mostly because there is no money in oxygen, anyone can grow a chirimoya tree on their terrace, fasting is available to all and lemons are everywhere. If I can Google the information and Nobel prizes were awarded then the medical community must be fully aware of these alternative treatments. I think until the pharmaceutical companies can find a way to package these treatments they are going to stay swept under the carpet.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


Helping Frisona to build up her muscles and develop her balance, here's Lenox free-lunging.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Noble Horse

I just wanted to have this picture on my blog because it really speaks to me and makes me feel great. I have no idea whose picture it is but I would love to know. I have a Friesian mare and they are just as kind and sweet as is portrayed in this picture. I have only had my horse for five months so we haven't yet reached this stage of communication but I know we will. Frisona, my mare, gives me the push I need everyday to get  going, think positive and be happy, enjoying every day as it comes. I love Friesians. Thank you, Diego Mañas Romera, for donating her to me so I may ride and do my therapy here at home.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Student for Animo

This was Rebecka's last day. She has been staying with us for ten weeks as part of a university Erasmus program from Sweden program. She has learnt a lot about horses, including Frisona (pictured). Two of her teachers, with their backs to the picture, are José Manuel and Barbara. Elsewhere, she has had lessons from Loli, Tish, Hazel and a star turn from Esteban Flores from Cuevas, who taught her to drive a horse-drawn carriage. Rebecka has also taken classes in Catalonia and will return to her town in the 'frozen north' with new knowledge.
We hope she comes back to see us next year!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stretching One's Legs (Good Therapy)

We know that this is a blog about animals and animal assisted therapy, rather than just a repository for funny pictures, but we couldn't resist this snap of an early-morning run with Raven... and that's the thing: he's too fast for the camera!