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.