On horseback – playful and healthy

Some time has passed since the end of the project, but we remember with gratitude all the beautiful moments. It all started basically unplanned. In our civic association VOLTILAND Košice, we focus on training vaulting – gymnastics on horseback, physical training for the little ones and teaching classic horseback riding. My husband and I are one of those for whom horses are a lifelong affair. 

When we learned about the ACF-Slovakia grant program, we thought about how we could contribute a little to something good. We decided to offer children from marginalized groups the opportunity to experience the beauty of equestrian sport. We know from our own experience that this sport has many other benefits in addition to the physical aspect, has a positive effect on the psyche and personality development and will bring experiences that children will have for a long time after the course. We believed that our plan made sense. In cooperation with social workers of the Archdiocesan Charity in Košická Nová Ves, we selected a group of 20 children who completed a 6-month vaulting course on horseback. Children from families who are clients of the crisis center are in a difficult life situation. Families often face a weak economic background, which is why it is difficult for parents to provide children with a variety of leisure activities. That is why we decided to give children the opportunity to improve their physical condition and teach them new skills that can be beneficial to them in the future. The children visited the ranch in Janovík twice a week, and in addition to the exercise itself, they also acquired basic skills and knowledge about caring for horses. They ended the course with a public performance. In the presence of parents and grandparents, the children competed among themselves. Their performances were judged by active representatives in vault and their performances were highly appreciated. 

For the project, we even won the competition of the Fair Play Club of the Slovak Olympic and Sports Committee “Sport is a chance”. We appreciate this recognition very much. After the award, we were at the Gala dinner of the Secondary School in Martin together with two participants of the course, which was another unique experience for the girls. 

My husband Martin Necela, a long-term riding coach, a successful represent of Slovakia at world and European championships, a multiple champion of the Slovak Republic, said about his experiences with children and the impressions he gained thanks to the project: 

“We went into the project full of enthusiasm, but also worries, as it was the first project of this type for us and we lacked experience in working with the Roma ethnic group. However, the project was an amazing experience for us and the children returned our efforts to us with their approach beyond expectations. From the youngest 6-year-olds to 15-year-old girls, they were all always hardworking and disciplined. Already after the first meetings, the tension subsided and the fun began. We enjoyed the meetings together and built nice relationships. These children really live in very difficult conditions, they lack opportunities that we consider completely normal and self-evident. We have confirmed from our own experience that it is very important to implement similar projects so that children who would not otherwise be allowed to do so can play sports. After all, if someone gives them their attention and time, they are incredibly hardworking and many of them have the physical prerequisites to be successful in sports. We would be surprised how many great athletes we would find among children in marginalized groups… Receiving the award itself was a strong experience for the girls, as they were for the first time in such a hotel, in the pool, at such a celebration and even stronger for us who take it as common thing and this way we had the opportunity to remember that there are children among us who live completely differently. We would very much like to continue working with children, but at the moment we are struggling to obtain funding. We are in contact with the children and they also express the desire to continue the work started. ” 

For us, the project was very enriching and we thank the ACF-Slovakia program and the people who gave us their trust and supported our idea for this opportunity. If we manage to raise funds, we will certainly be happy to continue similar activities. 

 The author of the article is Slavomíra Necelová