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AMADO - Animal Assisted Therapy

Historical Overview and information on M’lani Basson

M'Lani Basson

In Spanish the word ‘Amado’ means beloved. The Centre carrying that name offers just that – time spent with and on horses that leaves a lasting impression and truly satisfying results for children with physical disabilities, low muscle tone, those suffering from traumatic experiences, depression, self-esteem issues, learning disabilities and autism.

At AMADO problems are addressed in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Protea Hoogte farm in Paarl is a haven for children where they can be just that, children, who are carefree and happy even if it is only for a few hours a day.

M'Lani had a BA-degree in Psychology and two years experience tutoring special- needs children with the aid of animal therapy in Scotland, when she established her own horse-riding centre in her hometown of Paarl in 2006. She stumbled upon equine-assisted therapy ten years ago while queuing to become an exchange student. Having majored in psychology and art in 2003, she wanted to specialise in art therapy, but did not have ₤25 000 for the course.

A German girl directly in front of her was chatting to a friend about equine assisted therapy, and intuitively M’Lani knew that this was what she wanted to do. She had grown up with horses on her parents’ smallholding and had started riding when she was three years old.

She left the queue, hopped onto a plane to Edinburgh in Scotland, surfed the internet and started working at an equine assisted therapy centre outside the city.

The work at the equine therapy centre was voluntary. Her income came from the farm next door, where she had to clean twenty stables a day and was responsible for checking a herd of cows every two hours during the night for signs of labour.

M’Lani remembers the night she pulled out a stuck calf and the calf (complete with sour-smelling after-birth) landed on top of her. She managed to free herself, and as she walked away, she stripped off all her clothes in sub-zero temperature. The Scots must have thought, just another mad South African.

But that apprenticeship schooled her for the future. Today she saves on veterinary bills by inoculating her horses herself, cleaning and trimming hooves and teeth.

Before the horses could come, however, it took a year for M’Lani working as a builder’s assistant to cut costs of building her stables, enclosures and a riding rink on the smallholding,

AMADO has been up and running since 2006.

Now married, M’Lani’s 20-months old baby boy is already as comfortable in the saddle as he is pushing around his friends in their wheelchairs.

”My days are filled with joy and a sense of achievement. These children respond to a hug and a word of praise as if you have just presented them with a piece of heaven,” she says.

“But it is late at night that I need the comfort of my understanding husband, when thoughts of the pain of a girl who is being molested by an uncle in her own home or a boy who is being shunned by his father for being slow and awkward, keep me awake.

But the next morning when I see the little faces light up when the children see the horses, I know that at least for now, the children can be kings and princesses, on top of the world, their hurt a galaxy away.

Read more about AMADO:

~ Amado main page
~ More about AMADO and the process of selecting children
~ Success story
~ AMADO website

Read here all about the AMADO project

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To provide for and help as many children and animals in need as we possibly can - for those who are being abused and left destitute. Through effective implementation of certain therapies, install a sense of worthiness in all beings cared for and inspiring hopes and dreams for a beautiful future. Helping to alleviate suffering to those who cannot help themselves.

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Our mission is to be an inspiration for others and contribute to a greater universal cause.

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