Beyond the Obstacle

by Irene Schiff

GESE: 25 years open to the differently abled.

When life is an obstacle course, and life and the obstacle course are not a game of words.
So much willpower is necessary, so much concentration and a dose of healthy optimism to transform the concept of a reality "life is an obstacle course" in a combination of two symbolics: life and the obstacle course that leaves a lot more space to the possibility of challenging and overcoming the various difficulties.
As a matter of fact, it is in front of these barriers that the moment to roll up one's sleeves arrives and that is precisely what have done some families and their children who have had to deal with blindness or low vision.
What is there to do then? To break down, to lock yourself in, to accept passively this reality considering it equally to the word END? Or, accept this fact, but in an active manner, saying: "Ok, given that the reality is such, what can we do to go ahead, to live with it and not letting it overpower us?" And that is what such families have suggested to their children and these children have in turn stimulated their own parents to experience new things which could enrich them and through which they could demonstrate that they themselves knew how to do things. Among the various possibilities, one in particular has attracted their attention: the horse and hippotherapy.
The horse overcomes obstacles, with the horse it is possible to go beyond the obstacle. And Beyond the Obstacle was the name of the event in which four young people were the protagonists presenting their expectations, their difficulties, all in all their experiences and emotions to a large heterogeneous, curious, expert and non-expert public, but nevertheless always very interested to learn.
On December 4, 2004, in GESE sports centre's conference room, the horse riding area in San Lazzaro di Savena, the results of the activity that took place were presented as well as those of the one that is currently going on. The two amazons Camilla and Debora and the two cavaliers Giulio and Matteo talked about what they do and what they feel about knowing they can ride a horse, prepare it and guide it and when they leave it. The spontaneous, simple and touching words these friendly 11 year olds use made people understand their joy, their technical capacity in which they continue to progress, their autonomy in their gestures and movements, the increasingly better mental representation of the horse ring's sructures, therefore their independent orientation. In fact, the children, even always under the supervision of their instructors, move around alone improving their self esteem which is fundamental to everyone. To do all this, it is necessary to have the desire to socialize, learn, acquire knowledge with one's own mistakes, practice sports and, most of all, have fun. The children then presented their tactile model of the area of the horse ring that they use. Even with the help of the instructors, they were mainly the ones who figured out where was the harness room, the ring, the horse boxes, the educational game area and transformed these cognitive representations in a tactile model. And they are the ones who first gathered, then glued, the sand for the trails, the straws from the haystacks on which the kids sit to have a chat as true cowboys that they are. You don't believe it? Go see it for yourself!
But, let's get back to the conference, the first organized on the subject by the Institute for the Blind Francesco Cavazza whose own President, Pier Michele Borra, after presenting the Institute's growing variety of activities and thanking the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio of Bologna for its precious contribution, he expressed (is it a joke or is it true?) the desire to go horseback riding himself. GESE's President Alessandro Zanini (himself an expert in horseback riding) recalled that for now 25 years, the sports centre has been proactively open to sportspersons who are differently abled. Roberto Flamini, President of Aiasport, declared he wishes to continue this valuable collaboration. Even the Group of Families with Visual Impairment demonstrated its own satisfaction with the activity, and psychomotricist Claudio Bonazzi together with the undersigned, as psychologist and instructor, explained the technical, psychological and social aspects. Even Councillor Maria Cristina Baldacci participated and expressed her own sincere interest. The most touching moment was probably the projection of the film produced by journalist Nelson Bova. A long and sincere applause then made tangible the interest and emotions which inundated the room. A delicious buffet was served afterwards. We hope this will not be the last conference.

Differently abled on a horse

Differently abled and hippotherapy

Close shot of horses