M’Lani Basson is a trauma counsellor who was first introduced to equine-assisted therapy in Scotland in 2003.
Her love of horses had started on her parents’ smallholding in Paarl many years earlier, as she sat in her kiddie saddle when she was but three-years old and later as she shared her adolescent ups and downs with her four-legged friends.
After obtaining a bachelors degree in psychology at Stellenbosch University, M’Lani spread her wings. The work with disabled children at a therapy centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh, was voluntary. Her income came from a neighbouring farm where she cleaned 20 stables a day and exercised the horses while assisting a herd of pregnant cows during night-time labour. The Scots must have thought, just another mad South African. But she was earning pounds that would enable her to open a therapy centre in her hometown. And that apprenticeship schooled her well. Today she saves on veterinary bills by inoculating her horses herself, dressing wounds and cleaning and trimming hooves and teeth.
Before the arrival of the therapy horses on the same small holding where she had grown up, M’Lani worked as builder's assistant to cut costs on building the stables, enclosures and riding rink. AMADO Animal-assisted Therapy Centre opened its gates in 2008.
Now 35 and married, M’Lani’s two boys - aged 5 and 2 - are already as comfortable in the saddle as they are pushing around the friends in their wheelchairs.
”My days are filled with joy and a sense of achievement. A hug and a word of praise bring stars to heavy hearts while the sensation of movement on a horse's back brings absolute wonderment to those who only know the restraint of a wheelchair,” she says.
“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 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 faces light up when they see the horses, I know that at least for now, the riders are kings and queens, princes and princesses, on top of the world, their hurt a galaxy away."
“And I know that every time they visit, they grow stronger and more able to face the often cruel world.”
Qualifications and Awards:
2014 Finalist for Clarins South Africa’s Most Dynamic Woman of the Year
2013 Registered as Trauma Counsellor
2012 One of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans
2011 BA Honours Degree in Psychology
2011 Mayoral award in appreciation of service rendered in the Social Services Field
2010 Diploma in Animal Assisted Activity through the Ethology Academy of South Africa
2008 National Jet Community Award in recognition of dedication and commitment
2008 Merit Award for Services rendered to humankind through Rotary
Rotary chairman Trevor Harris applauded M’Lani for her “selflessness exhibited to others and the care shown to people less fortunate” and said “I have seldom met someone who can both inspire and encourage me with hope and the positive feeling that there is a future for our children.”
AMADO’s GOAL is to help beneficiaries reign in their fears and to guide
them into believing in themselves, to take charge of their own lives, to
develop into empowered individuals who can stand on their own feet,
proud and tall, while they take their rightful place in our communities.
After each visit to AMADO’s yard, they take their smiles home and they
bring happiness to their families. As our riders gain independence, so do
their care givers - often a family member.
Without the need to provide full-time assistance, carers are able to
seek employment and earn much-needed wages.
When AMADO was established in 2008 we had seven children in
wheelchairs. A year later not one of them needed their
We have a free programme for those who will benefit from therapy,
but who cannot afford it.
The programme consists of weekly sessions, including both group and individual
therapy on and around horses. The beneficiaries interests, needs and abilities
are identified before the therapeutic riding experience, with ongoing assessment.
This suggests the best suitable stimulation of skills development and promotes
the most successful outcome for each individual.
The AIM of therapy with horses is to free participants from their shackles, be it a
wheelchair or emotional constraints. Interaction on or beside the horse improves
motor skills and mental development. It nurtures self-confidence and promotes independence that will open doors to a productive future.
The brave visitors to AMADO’s yard yearn for love and respect. Here they are showered with both love and respect, while they in turn learn that animals also deserve their kindness.
Cheque acc: AMADO - Bank: First National Bank, South Africa - Account nr: 62160574771 - Branch code: 200110 - Swift code: FIRNZAJJA
NPO Number:059-752NPO Tax Exemption Number: 930 027 547
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