Monday, November 29, 2010

ANIMO: National Association for the study and investigation in all types of Animal Assisted Therapy

The ANIMO center ran for almost twenty years with a farm school, hippotherapy for severely disabled children, wild native animal park, classes in sign language, training of assistance dogs, many international conferences with guest speakers from around the globe, courses in therapeutic riding. We introduced the idea of taking animals to homes for the elderly and to hospitals; Spain is still a little reluctant to start that. ANIMO stayed within the international guide lines even though they are not required in Spain yet. Our latest project is the ANIMO-ALBERO project. ANIMO-ALBERO is a revolutionary new program to help people with terminal illness, heart problems or suffering the effects of toxic drug treatment, incorporating the movement of the horse to achieve outstanding benefits to the patient. Some of the information is included in my blog below but we are keeping analysis records and charting progress as well as what we do and for how long. It is an ongoing investigation but has already helped me, where no medical system seemed to be able. I am writing a book covering our program, my illness plus an entertaining view into the Spanish health system, called Health Through Horses. I hope to have a little more information before going to press.
Here are some people who helped get ANIMO off the ground by sharing their knowledge and talent with us and showing Spain just what is available world-wide:

Miguel Ríos - Famous Rock Star gave a benefit concert with a group of children accompanying him in sign language.
Padre Angel - Mensajeros de La Paz, came to ANIMO to learn how to train dogs for the elderly.
International Conferences: Guest Speakers
Susan Duncan - The Delta Society: came to speak with her dog Joe
Sandra Stone
- CHATA; animals in hospital with children
Sister Chiara - RDA; International liaison
Joan Would - Hippotherapist, UK
Caroline Theinpont - HAICHIKO assistance dogs Belgium
Pedro Pablo Martín Lopesino - Director of the ONCE guide dogs, Spain
Miguel Gallardo - Sac Xiroi; Center for AAT and delinquents
Dr.René Garrigue - Handi-Cheval France
Francisco Limonche - Telefonica
The list goes on and I would like to thank every one of them for helping to make ANIMO a success.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Believe in Animal Assisted Therapy

It is a good thing I do, as well, since I have dedicated my life to it. I have been going on about the wonders of the horse and how it has been helping me cope with my illness, but it is not the only thing. All along, all of my animals have added so much to the quality of my life since I was a youngster. I always feel happy and fulfilled when in the company of animals. The responsibility you feel taking care of them, learning their psychology and how they think, their unselfish love that never ends, no matter how you feel; all in all they just bring a smile to your face and make you happy, besides all of the other benefits like companionship and stress relief. I was just telling my cousin, Lucia, how much I have been enjoying the full moon and wonderful warm nights because we have a new puppy and he needs to go out several times a night, so as not to have an accident in the house. He is a six week old Briard, and already wakes me to let me know when he wants to go out, he has figured out when the lights go out it is bed-time and only a few more minutes of play are acceptable. He is so expressive and seems to be able to communicate his every desire. Besides being my friend and companion, that makes me go outside to enjoy the world, I plan on teaching him to be a hearing dog for me. As soon as he has had all of his vaccines, I will start taking him everywhere, so that he can get socialized and learn to behave in public places. Even though hearing dogs don’t exist in Spain, I have trained them before and also have a license for him to be able to accompany me to restaurants and other public places during his training phase. Once he is trained, he should have all of the rights awarded to Seeing Eye dogs and other assistance dogs. I am very lucky because in the village where I live, the people are used to me bringing animals places, for training, so that they can make a difference in someone’s life. This puppy has already made a big difference in my life and I hope we will be able to have a long and bonding relationship with each other. His name is Raven and he is black with a little white tuft on his chest. Each dog has its own qualities and abilities. Once you figure out what they are then you can encourage these traits to help them become valuable assistance dogs. I wanted to train my Bearded Collie, Wilber, to be a hearing dog but he had no interest in sounds but in the end his strong point was working with people in wheelchairs and being able to pick things up, take things out of the fridge, he never did learn how to shut the refrigerator though. Also, he would know the names and be able to distinguish between groups of many objects - unless his ball was included in the group, when he’d go straight there. He could push the button to call the elevator and pick up the telephone receiver to give to you when it rang. He was at my side everywhere I went and had a tremendous vocabulary both spoken and in sign language, even though he never became a hearing dog.
Raven is only six weeks old, but already he shows a lot of promise and seems to be very bright. It is too early to start any type of formal training but they can learn so much if you talk to them and use the same words over. They learn through play at this stage because their attention span is short but it all goes into the making of a great dog later in life. It takes a lot of patience and time. You have to be able to dedicate your time to repeat and go over things they know while at the same time keep introducing new words and activities to their lives. By the time he is six months and ready for obedience training it should be relatively easy because he will already know and have practiced the basics. I will just have to wait and see where his strong points are as he grows up, it is no good trying to force them to learn something that they just aren’t good at or like. An assistance dog must be happy at his work and do it out of pleasure and love. Assistance dogs are very well adjusted and used to a change in environment while enjoying the constant companionship, that most family dogs miss out on because they usually have to stay at home, which is also a very important job. Every day now, Raven is surprising me with just how fast he catches on to things and finds his way around. He seems to remember from one day to the next, where things came from and where we go, he is also becoming a little more independent, being able to entertain himself for short periods because he knows where to find us. It rained last night and after his first quick trip out he decided to sleep through the night instead of going out again. I just love this little puppy.

These posters were made by Viv Snailham, a volunteer, supporter and great friend. Sadly, she has passed on and is, no doubt, leading programs for dogs and horses Elsewhere.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day at El Albero

On Saturday I went to El Albero with two friends, Ken and Sarah. Ken is a photographer so he got lots of photos of the wonderful things that go on there. We all had a great day with the animals and I did my therapy on Nora, with the help of Loli.
While we were there we got to watch two stallions play like something no one has ever seen before. Having been raised together as foals and then separated when they got older they have a huge unrequited love for each other, so when they sometimes get a chance to be turned out together, the antics never stop and it is spectacular to watch. One is a magnificent Friesian Stallion and the other a petite Moroccan donkey stallion, Ero and Pepe. See them play! Pepe is the proud father of little Bambi who is just too cute for words so I wanted to show you them with some of Ken’s pictures. Later we were entertained by Rad, the little Coatimundi, who duly managed to escape, allowing Ken to get some great shots of Loli on the roof with Rad. Later Ken entered Rad’s house to get some close ups of Loli and her little baby when it turned out that Rad had developed a crush on Ken and his camera. Ken has the battle scars to prove it. Besides the horses and donkeys – the main population – there are peacocks, pheasant, various strains of chickens and an ostrich. After visiting with the animals, and putting mercurochrome on Ken’s nose, we went down to a nearby beach-bar and had a tapa lunch. In all, we had a really great day and I feel so much better. I am forever grateful to Loli and her kindness and interest in getting me well, it is really helping.


Loli with Rad

El Albero Centro Ecuestre, Los Partidores, La Cañada, Almería. Ph 699762339 (Español)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

El Caballo de Mis Sueños

This is the horse of my dreams. He is a Friesian stallion called Ero.

ANIMO- Asociación Nacional de Investigación MOjácar

Since I am the president of the non-profit, animal assisted therapy and investigative association, I am going to put it to work, but this time to help me and millions of other people that could benefit from the program I am still developing. Every day I discover new ways to improve my quality of life and make living with a terminal disease bearable. If I can’t kill the disease at least I can make what time I have as happy and pain-free as possible. Since I have seen the effects and the benefits that I receive I know I can help other people to live a more fruitful life under difficult and frightening circumstances. I am going to try and get the provincial TV to come and make a documentary on Loli’s and my program. I don’t want all of this to go unknown. I know it is very revolutionary and people won’t believe it, but I have experienced it and benefited from it, giving myself a few extra years of good quality life, which I wouldn’t have had without it. First I would like to say something about organ donors. I have been one since I got my first drivers license in California. It has always been something that I have felt very strongly about. I know that it goes against the feelings and beliefs of many people, but for those that are willing to be a donor it is important that you have a living will. Indeed, in California, this useful document can be on the back of your license. That way in case of accident the hospitals will know that you are a donor, or with an official living will like I have, then if you go to the hospital a little red flag comes up on the computer stating that you are a donor and what you want done with your remains. A living will also makes clear your wishes of whether or not you would want to be kept alive on machinery or not, that way saving many family traumas in case of coma or a vegetative state. There are many different options to choose from and they all go to help other people that may be suffering and you can change their lives. I never thought that I would be on the receiving end but after being blind for a year, I received an eye transplant from a donor and now have sight again. Without the help of this Good Samaritan, who thought in advance to make their wishes known in case of their death, I would still be blind today. I am very grateful and more than ever want to raise awareness of the benefits of being a donor. Please consider it.

Benefits of the ANIMO-ALBERO therapeutic riding program:
We have already discovered many benefits which I will list but I know we will find many more before we are finished, it is an ongoing investigation.
1. Feeling of well being.
2. Improved circulation.
3. Oxygenated blood flow to the extremities.
4. Massage to all of the organs which helps correct problems like to much potassium, triglycerides, urea, all of which cause pain in the bones and muscles.
5. Improved functioning of the digestive tract.
6. Reduction in ‘purpuras’ or red blotches caused by vasculitis.
7. Elimination of toxins in the blood stream and their side effects.
8. Clearing of fluids from the lungs.
9. Strengthening of muscles and muscle tone.
10. Reduction in medication needed.
11. Increased appetite.
12. Increased energy level.
13. Aides in stopping arrhythmia.
14. Improved balance and posture.
15. Helps to heal wounds.
16. Increases lung capacity.
17. Puts you in shape for pre- and post operations, speeds up recovery time.
18. Reduces tiredness and weakness.
19. Helps the body absorb and use iron for those people with anaemia.
20. Cures insomnia or at least makes a huge difference.

These are just of the things we have found out so far that really work. The horse does the work and you get the benefit, thereby not putting any stress on the heart. There is no need for prior experience.


The therapeutic riding program, ANIMO-ALBERO has been designed, investigated, studied and practiced by Barbara Napier, the president of ANIMO and Loli Berenguel Gálvez owner of El Albero, together with the help of a few members of the medical community.
The ANIMO-ALBERO Project is an investigation still in progress. With over fifty years experience in Animal Assisted Therapy along with complete knowledge of the horse and the benefits it provides to people with disabilities, the ANIMO-ALBERO project is a revolutionary study into the medical benefits the horse can provide for people suffering from terminal illness, cardio-vascular problems, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, toxic medication and long term convalesce. Also in any lung or heart oriented problem that hinders the healing process or kidney and digestive tract problems. It helps to heal scars due to surgery and keeps implants and transplants healthy. In the ANIMO-ALBERO therapy program, the horse does the work and the patient receives the benefit without any stress to the heart. No prior experience in riding is needed. This program is ideal for pre and post operation preparation and recovery, as well as any problem that needs a good oxygenated blood flow to the organs, skin and extremities. The ANIMO-ALBERO therapy program is fun and easy to do. It has already provided so much information that can improve the quality of life of people suffering from any of the above mentioned problems. We have also found that this program has the ability to reduce the results of blood analysis, lowering levels of things such as potassium, triglycerides, creatine, and urea, while allowing the bloodstream to absorb and utilize iron, to lower cholesterol, reduce arrhythmia, while – unlike many medicines – maintaining other minerals so necessary to keep the body healthy. Other note-worthy benefits are: a feeling of well-being, more energy and relaxed muscles; at the same time reducing depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Even though the effects of the ANIMO-ALBERO therapeutic riding program are short-term, between six to thirty hours, it gives the body time to heal and recuperate, leading to a better quality of life with less pain and trauma to the person. After a lot of investigation and studying of results, we have determined that three times a week for between one half hour to an hour is ideal, keeping the body in shape throughout the whole week, hopefully leading to a termination of the existing problem. However, with practicing our program just once a week (for logistical reasons), the results are still very noticeable. Other benefits that have become apparent are improved muscle- and skin-tone, better balance, eye/hand coordination and mind clarity. All leading to a happier, healthier life style.

El proyecto de hípica terapeutita, ANIMO-ALBERO ha sido diseñado, investigado, estudiado y practicado por Bárbara Napier, Presidenta de ÁNIMO, y Loli Berenguel Gálvez, dueña de centro El Albero, junto con la ayuda de algunos miembros de la comunidad medica.
El proyecto ANIMO-ALBERO es un investigación todavía en progreso. Con mas de cincuenta años de experiencia en Terapia Asistida por Animales y un conocimiento profundo y completo del caballo y los beneficios que da a personas con discapacidades, el proyecto ANIMO-ALBERO es un estudio revolucionario de los beneficios médicos que el caballo puede facilitar a personas sufriendo un enfermedad terminal, problemas cardiovascular, tratamientos de quimioterapia y radiación, medicación toxico y recuperaciones largas. También en cualquier problema del corazón o pulmón que impide el proceso de curación, la arritmia, o problemas de los riñones y sistema digestiva. Ayuda curar cicatrices de cirugía y mantiene injertos y transplantes sanos. En el programa terapéutica ANIMO-ALBERO, el caballo hace el trabajo mientras que el paciente recibe los beneficios sin ningún estrés al corazón ni experiencia previa. Este programa es ideal para ante y post operatorio preparación y recuperación, también cualquier problema que necesita una buena circulación de sangre oxigenada a los órganos, piel y extremidades. La programa terapéutica ANIMO-ALBERO es divertido y fácil en hacer. Ya nos ha dado tanta información que puede mejorar la calidad de vida sufriendo cualquier de los síntomas arriba escritos. También hemos encontrado que este programa tiene la habilidad en reducir los resultados de los análisis sanguíneos como potasio, triglicéridos, creatina y urea mientras que deja el cuerpo absorber y utilizar hierro, baja el nivel de colesterol mientras que mantiene los otros minerales tan necesarios para mantener el cuerpo sano. Otros beneficios notables son; sensación de bienestar, mas energía, relajación del los músculos al mismo tiempo reduciendo depresión, ansiedad y insomnio.
Aunque los efectos del programa terapéutica ANIMO-ALBERO son de corto plazo, entre seis y treinta horas, deja tiempo para que el cuerpo puede curarse y recuperar dando una cualidad de vida mejor con menos dolor y trauma. Después de mucho estudio y investigación en nuestros resultados, hemos llegado al conclusión de lo ideal seria hacerlo tres veces a la semana, en sesiones entre media hora y una hora, dejando el cuerpo con tiempo a recuperarse y renovarse con el motivo de recuperar el funcionamiento de los órganos. Llegando a un terminación del problema existente. Haciendo nuestro programa solo una vez a la semana (por razones logísticas), todavía da resultados impresionantes. Otros beneficios que hemos encontrado son el mejoramiento del tono de piel y los músculos, mejor equilibrio, coordinación entre ojo y mano y claridad del mente, todo llegando a una cualidad de vida sana y feliz.

Fotos: Ken Hogg

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Therapeutic Riding

There are many categories that fall under the term ‘Therapeutic Riding’, such as Sport, Education and Medicine. Then there is Hippotherapy which is a direct medical treatment incorporating the body and movement of the horse to acquire a benefit. Hippotherapy is usually used for students with severe physical disabilities and needs a professional to make and organize the class plan. Many students with severe movement impairment need the use of a back rider who sits behind the student to help keep them in the correct position and to help with the exercises desired by the physiotherapist. The back rider must be a competent rider and understand the disabilities of each student. Hippotherapy is often performed bareback or with a sheepskin to protect against rubbing which can be a big problem for many disabilities and if not done properly, can aggravate the problem and could even lead to amputation. The benefits of any kind of therapeutic riding are many, from improved circulation, the massage of atrophied limbs to massage of internal organs, a sense of caring for another being when you are used to always being the cared for, the freedom of movement and, finally, the elegance of the gait which is impossible to achieve by traditional therapies on the ground. Almost all students achieve a feeling of well-being and a joy in looking down at their surroundings for once rather than their usual ‘up at everything’. They also get the chance to cover terrain that is normally off limits to them. Just the action of sitting on a horse at a walk without doing any specific exercise can provide many of these advantages.

In hippotherapy, unlike the other forms of therapeutic riding, the rider never learns to ride or indeed ever takes control of the horse. The horse emulates the walking movement of the human gait and sends this message to the appropriate part of the rider’s brain so it is clearly important to have a horse with a good stride and in balance. The horse must also be calm and prepared for unusual noises and movements that the disabled person is likely to make. The preparation and exercise of the horse is one of the most important parts of any therapeutic riding whether it be sport or hippotherapy. Everything that will be done during a class must be practiced by the volunteers first, and practiced many times, until the horse is used to the movements and the objects used for the class such as toys, balls, rings and cups.

Before any type of therapeutic riding begins it is important to have a Doctor’s certificate to make sure there are no contraindications. The staff must be well prepared and have regular training sessions which help to prepare the horse as well. The equipment must be clean and sterilized as most disabled people are much more prone to infection. The sessions are usually boring to the horse as it is led around in circles and figure-eights with a leader and side-walkers and will stop at a stand for long periods. Therefore a good ride in the countryside or a good work-out prior to the session is very important so that the horse is calm.

Exercises include things such as reaching for the ears, lying down either front wards or backwards in different positions depending on the desired effect, and face down hanging over the horse, which is used at the end of almost every lesson to help clear the lungs of the fluid which accumulates in people wheelchair bound.

Therapeutic riding has been practiced since the end if the First World War when it was used to help rehabilitate amputees. Many disabled people have gone on to competitions and even the Olympics. RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) is the most common type of therapeutic riding and is practiced all over the world and almost anyone can participate and achieve great benefits. If you are interested in RDA, the Diamond Centre in England is the main centre for training courses. For information on worldwide therapeutic riding centres the FRDI in Australia ( has a complete listing of all qualified centres and NARAH in the USA offers university and private course in all of the aspects of therapeutic riding including hippotherapy. Therapeutic riding is relatively new in Spain but is becoming increasingly popular, but please check with an official association, either national or international, before participating because there are a lot of cowboys out there who can do a lot of damage.

ANIMO ran in Southern Spain for fourteen years, as an official non profit organization, but started way before on an informal basis - all with no charge to students - and offered international conferences and courses. All staff including the doctor and physiotherapist plus forty some odd volunteers worked free of charge. We were financed by fund-raisers and by us personally. We worked on our land with our animals, nine horses, four donkeys and a whole array of farm and native wild animals. Most of the animals were abandoned or donated and hand raised by me, as a result they all got along well, could be handled by everyone and could be turned out into a large pen together, making it sort of like a petting zoo. Everything was accessable to all types of disabilities and was also used by the local school. Animo started way before its time and has had to stop practical operations due to lack of funding and official support, but still continues to give courses and information to groups trying to set up. ANIMO continues working in investigation and studies in AAT. Our children played a large role in every aspect of ANIMO from exercising the animals to interpreting conferences. Without our children and their friends, I don’t think it would have been possible for ANIMO to have so many students and animals, we would have had to work on a much smaller scale even with so many volunteers.

Barbara Napier
President of ANIMO