Amado is not your average child rehabilitation center. Found on a smallholding on the slopes of the renowned Paarl Rock mountain in the Cape Winelands, the AMADO Animal Assisted Therapy Riding Centre gives children with severe disabilities the opportunity to grow – physically, mentally and emotionally – through interaction with horses.

Founded by the vibrant M’Lani Basson, who wanted to combine her two passions into a meaningful project. She’d been horse-riding since the age of 3 years old and had a deep longing to do something for children in need in her home town. After a period working in a similar field in Germany to gain experience, she came home and founded the organisation, becoming a registered non-profit n 2008.

Horseback-riding offers a new visual perspective of the world. It encourages independence and the control of one’s own destiny. Therapeutic riding offers physical, emotional and cognitive rewards. Most of the beneficiaries in the AMADO program do not have the opportunity or are not able to participate in traditional recreational and sports activities. Riding and being around horses offers a chance to be successful at a unique activity that others in their community can only dream of. This ‘I can’ approach governs all aspects of their daily lives.

Individuals with mobility impairments benefit from the three-dimensional gait of riding, which closely simulates human walking movements. This strengthens the core, improves flexibility and increases the ability to move independently. Emotional and cognitive capacity is enhanced by an increase in self-control, patience and concentration as they learn to guide the therapy horse.
By succeeding at the task, the rider’s self-esteem rockets.

The center’s five equine therapists – Josef, Rain, Fire, Grace and Amado – are much loved and nurtured, with shiny coats and rippling muscles beneath. Of course, being able to cuddle up and care for them, is therapy for the heart too. AMADO’s home is in the heart of Paarl, near Cape Town. Our visit to AMADO sponsors a child for a year, making a difference in the life of that individual, and allowing M’Lani to keep following her dream of changing the lives of many others.