Making a documentary of any kind is difficult. You need hours of filming just for a few minutes long documentary. Working with children and animals makes it that much more difficult because they never say or do as you expect. As a center for Animal Assisted Therapy, ANIMO trained dogs for different types of handicaps and gave classes in sign language and taught the importance animals can have on your mental and physical state.
ANIMO also had a small petting zoo with birds and sheep, tortoises and wild boar. We tried to have as wide a variety of farm and wild animals and plants, as well as the Riding for the Disabled which included hippotherapy, a medical form of riding taught by a physiotherapist to incorporate the movement of the horse to improve circulation, muscle tone and balance as well as many other benefits. The local school-children came to see farm and wild animals where they were taught about the animals’ natural habitat, feeding and mating. The children also learned about where their food came from like milk and eggs. Now that they all lived in town and not in the countryside where it would have been an everyday experience. The ANIMO center was accessible to all types of disabilities. ANIMO mainly offered hippotherapy to very severely physically disabled students. ANIMO had nine horses and four donkeys plus a host of other animals. We had a large turn-out pen where the animals that were hand-raised and used to each other could be turned out together. It was great fun for everyone but I think the blind group that came every year from Germany got the most benefit. I remember one blind boy feeling and smelling a sheep when he got to the neck and face he jumped in fright because it didn’t feel like the same animal. Even some of our younger animals got a bit confused as you can see in the picture of Mop-Mop trying to nurse on a gelding, she was kicked a few seconds later and got the message. It was the first time the blind group had ever been able to feel and smell animals that are normally behind fences. I always kept ducks with my horses, they even had little houses under the feed troughs. The advantage to ducks is that they sieve through the manure and eat the fly eggs while at the same time turn the manure into a fine dust, perfect for the garden. Theodore, our wild boar had moved in with the other boars, several months before a TV crew came to do a documentary on ANIMO. He didn’t move because of his temperament but rather because of his size and age, although he stayed as sweet and friendly as ever. The TV crew came and wanted to film how the animals helped the disabled or Animal Assisted Therapy. After a rather thorough tour they asked if Theodore could come back in with the others animals. It had been about six months since he had integrated with the other animals so I was a little dubious. I think the anchor was too because by this time Theodore was over 200 kilos and had huge tusks. Our spokesmen was a man who had done most of the administration for ANIMO, and has Cerebral Palsy. He was very calm as he hand-fed all the animals and described how each one played a part. When we let Theodore join the others it was a bit tense but then he just ran around and went kissing everyone - even the anchor girl. The cameraman was having the time of his life because every one of the animals from birds to boars came straight up to the camera and put their noses on the lens. That is why he said he must make a film after the documentary called De narices. Translated means ‘of noses’ but it has a street use which is ‘In Your Dreams Mate’.
Unfortunately they couldn’t tell us when or at what time the documentary was going to be on. I would have loved to have seen it. They also wouldn’t give us an edited copy because they said that every story they do, the people want a copy. Many other documentaries were made about ANIMO we even entered a competition for the best new project of the year. We had no money or equipment but the volunteers put a 12 minute movie together. When I went to Madrid to see the finalists, yes we made the finals, I was really embarrassed because all the others had been professionally made by TV crews and advertising companies with sound tracks and voice overs etc. No one had a home-made one, we even forgot to put on a title so they called it Montando al Caballo. Ours was just shots of the children in a hippotherapy class with the soundtrack to Queen in the background and my daughter making a few comments during the pauses. We won first place and received a video camera of our very own. The federation holding the annual competition said they never even knew that there were any projects like ours. It was the first in Spain. It is a shame that the town hall didn’t take any interest in the project because AAT is now big business and ANIMO, despite being closed down, is still one of the only centers registered nationally. We ran solely on free help from doctors, vets helpers etc. holding fundraisers from time to time to make ends meet. No one got paid. The students didn’t pay either and got free physiotherapy and medical information about their individual disability the whole while having a wonderful social day with other students and the animals.