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FEI Solidarity: Making a Difference in Uruguay

The FEI`s Solidarity programme has brought joy to disadvantaged kids in Uruguay
Children in the South American country have been developing new skills and discovering the wonders of horses through a fun and constructive project run by the FEI`s Solidarity programme...

There are few more enjoyable and effective ways to touch the hearts of young people than through animals. This fact was illustrated when the Solidarity branch of the FEI became involved in an amazing project aimed to help socially vulnerable and underprivileged kids in Uruguay in 2015.

Under the scope of an agreement signed between the Uruguayan Equestrian Sports Federation (FUDE), the Army Equestrian School and the Adolescent Penal Responsibility System (SIRPA), the aim of the project was to help the kids learn skills and life values by being around horses and learning the basics of riding and caring for the animals.

The bond that formed between the adolescents and horses was amazing

The FEI Solidarity programme was launched in 2011 to develop and fund equestrian sport worldwide in a sustainable and structured way. Inspired by Olympic Solidarity, it`s about the equestrian community pulling together to enable exciting new projects and programmes from grassroots to elite level.

10 kids and a lot of horses were involved in the project over 40 weeks - during which time they were guided through many of the skills involved in looking after these impressive animals.

For some of them, this was the first time they had been up close and personal with a horse. With some surprised by the actual size of the horses, it was essential that they learned respect for the animals before the teaching began.

The main aim was to develop a real sense of values and responsibility in the youngsters, as they were given the responsibility of cleaning and feeding the anim als.  The bond that formed between the adolescents and horses was amazing as they gained in responsibility, confidence, leadership and respect for others as well as the animals. 

Once they actually got on the horses, that was another whole different ball game! The act of riding a horse can be physically challenging for first timers (and for second, third, fourth and so on for many) so the second phase was a great introduction to sensibility, concentration and coordination.

This phase was also a good way to introduce them to some of the equestrian disciplines such as Dressage, Eventing and Jumping, and explaining the differences between the sports.

The third phase of the programme touched on equine therapy - namely, basic knowledge of `what can go wrong` with a horse and how to deal with it. A couple of `ologys` like morphology and ethology (the `language of horses`) were used, as well as grooming techniques and even some basic Vaulting skills were covered and went a long way to forging a new bond between the horses and the kids. Horses plus jumping guarantees fun for kids!

The learning experience was profound, and not just for the kids; for many of the instructors this was an experience they will never forget.

As FEI Solidarity said: `The course was conducted with an excellent attendance of participants, which at the same time demonstrated a good progress and revealed a great interest in all the matters proposed.

"The behaviour was correct in all moments and the learning was enriching, not only for the students but also for the instructors, because this was their first experience with persons coming from a vulnerable socio-cultural context."