The association La Solana Ecuestre is 19.5 kilometres outside of Seville. It is a space dedicated to equestrian therapy where the light envelops all those who enter. It all started with four women, and today, seven women are working at the association. This is how, in her own words, three of the four founding members explain their mission.
“We do not do anything; we are the intermediary that brings you closer to the horse, which brings you closer to the earth, but in reality they do everything, the users of the center. On our part, we try to adapt to the the administration’s regulations and, since we can not depend on subsidies and we do not have many resources, we put in a lot of love; love is free, “ highlight the women of La Solana.
THE WOMEN OF LA SOLANA
Maria Luisa López Fernández, psycho-pedagogue and pedagogue: “La Solana is a non-profit association based on the idea of contributing something and helping people with disabilities. I’m in charge of management, organization and followup, as president.”
Felisa María Villablanca, equestrian therapy assistant: “Now, since I have a lot of free time, I find myself doing what I really wanted; I’m focusing my life on what I really like: horses and helping others. I took the Equestrian Therapy Assistant course, but I do a little bit of everything: I take care of the horses, I fix the stables, I participate in crop-raising… I’m available for whatever it takes, I mean, I’m a volunteer.”
Raquel Guerra, technical agricultural engineer: “I began to collaborate with the association to create a space with crops adapted to people with different needs. My work goes along with that of the physiotherapist, the psychologist and the therapist herself; my job is to bring space to people and those people to a suitable space that I have created specifically for their problem or situation.”
THE FIRST PATIENT
María Luisa: “The idea was basically mine, with the help of the Foundation for the Develop – ment of Equestrian Therapies, which guided us on how to set up a project of our own, when we completed the master’s degree in Neuropsychol – ogy we were studying.”
“Lola, one of the primary founders of the asso – ciation, and I decided to apply the research work to my nephew, who has a visual impairment and a psychomotor problem. Then, I contacted Car – men and Chari (the other two founders). From there, volunteers and people I know from the horse world started joining us. The evolution of my nephew, during a course that lasted about seven or eight months, was fantastic.” “We currently have few patients, only four: One boy with West syndrome, one boy with Angel – man syndrome, one with hyperactivity; and we also have a three-year-old boy who has not walked yet.”
SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS
Raquel: “The benefits are always long term, at least three months. We work from tranquility, patience, without any pressure, so that people will see the results through their approach to nature. It is an evolution that people experience both with animals (in equestrian therapy) and with vegetables (in hortotherapy).” “Although I have been teaching for many years now, I started as an agricultural technician. I used to see that the people I worked with had many social difficulties and I realized that if I did not intend to teach them something, and I would just go with them to the country and try to get us to work together, they enjoyed it. When a person has a basic social difficulty, such as a very serious lack of self-esteem or affection, I can not teach him to work to be well-paid or effective. For that, the first thing you need is to be at peace and have your basic needs covered. My work principles are based on that: I go in the space with people and we start to work, to believe in what we are doing, to love it.”
Felisa: “I think it’s a super interesting project. I re – ally like helping people and, when it comes to chil – dren with problems, even more so. The therapeutic relationship of horses with people is incredible.”
A child is very excited to be in contact with the animal. The affection that the animal gives the child, or anyone, is special. In my relationship with horses, I have realized that if you know how to ask for what you need, he gives it to you. It has been shown that the relationship between a troubled child and a horse greatly benefits the physical and psychomotor development of the child.”
BLANQUITA AND EL CHICO
Felisa: “Maria is a very special girl. Like all people who have a disability, she has developed a lot of emotional intelligence, which she practices effortlessly with animals, talking with them and expressing what she knows the animals are telling her. We really trust in her ability to communicate with horses. Her sensitivity and emotional intelligence help a lot.”
Raquel: “Blanquita is an older mare, with a lot of experience and her own personality, but very good. I have realized that if you explain what you need from her, she gives it to you. With María, she has a two-dimensional communication. The girl talks to her and the horse really listens.
María : “Blanquita and Chico (the other horse of La Solana) give me a lot of peace; they are good horses. I tell them about my day and they listen to me; they are aware of the story, although they can not answer me.”
Maria Luisa: “Equestrian therapy is very rewarding, because the person is not aware that he is doing therapy. They come to see the horses, to have fun with them and children come to play. There is already an advantage because they unconsciously achieve goals and benefits almost effortlessly.” “The horse is a fantastic animal: empathetic, communicative, sociable, and affectionate. All this is perceived by the disabled person; the horse does not judge and accepts everything that they offer them. The person with disability appreciates that more than anyone.”
María Luisa: “Hortotherapy was introduced as something complementary to the horses, since they have something in common: nature and the environment.”
Raquel: “With the crops, I think it’s the plants and the trees who do the therapeutic work, not the people. We use the medium as a tool, to which people adapt through a sequence of activities, surpassing themselves.” “The therapist is the intermediary in the interaction between the environment and the person. The only thing I want is for this encounter to happen, to try to make the children be children again, to rejoice in small things, to regain compassion for an animal that has been hurt, or to become curious again when they hear the song of a bird, or do things that children have to do, which is the basis of the emotional education of all people.” “The truth is that it is a very difficult task, a complicated task; not everyone understands it. I invite people to experience it.”
Maria Luisa: “The alternative of the horse as a value and the empowerment of positive skills is an exciting adventure that we want to transmit and share.” •