Finding freedom in solitude. This is the great thing who Claudio Villa and his association “Jump over the wall” have done by making second chances possible for everyone through the help of horses.
A horse is the mirror of the soul of the person staying in front it. It reads their emotions scrupolously and perceives their honesty. Claudio Villa knows it well so he created a fantastic project that became role model throughout the years. With his association “Salto Oltre il Muro” (Jump over the wall, he built a parallel world in the prison of Bollate, a small town in the outskirts of Milan, where freedom goes beyond and becomes part of a hopeless and shaken world. This happened thanks to horses, but not whatever horses – these animals were sequestred, ex trotters doomed to a dreadful life when they were too old to still race. The man who wanted to convict them, rescued them, and they saved the convicted man. They taught a life lesson that no one, but them, could have ever taught.
A second chance
Besides offering lessons of horse-grooming to detained, so that they are trained to do different jobs once their conviction is over, the association offers lessons that only horses can teach. Taking care of such an enormous animal, but so delicate, helps to raise awareness about ourseleves, makes us feel more responsible and respectful, increases our sensitivity and forces us to deal with reality, our past and our deepest emotions. There are so many horses that are daily taken care of and snuggled at the ASOM facility and becoming part of their pack is like becoming part of a small society that welcomes you and leaves the reins in your hands leading you to make decsions that involve other people. These are lectures that we will not find in other penitentiaries. Penitentiaries are facilites encharged to hold “socially dangerous” people and they do not reducate and create second chances, to let the detained understand their inner-self better.
Nina and the others
Horses save the inmates and the inmates save the horses, and it is quite noticeable if you visit that place. Walking into the prison, you enter another world filled with peace and serenity, that it is easy to forget where you actually are. The stable hosts a lot of horses that graze in the grass all together.
There is also a blind trotter, Nina, that gets closer to the bars seeking a treat or cuddles. She trusts humans, she perceives their emotions and helps them feel theirs. Horses are free to walk around the stable that the oldest one in the group freely strolls and browse between boxes and the stables of the other horses.
A former trotter, too old for racing was taken away because he was malnourished and now he seems like he is reviving and enjoying the paddock with his friends
A grey pony lets himself be cuddled by an inmate and he looks quite satisfied while he gets his back scratched and people just laugh.
The inmates clean the stable and build new stalls, they take care of all the horses. The stable in Bollate is an open construction site similar to the “Fabbrica del Duomo” ( the Factory of the Milan Cathedral) a growing construction site. They relentlessly build for the horses, they grow along with the facility and retrieve lost time. Both inmates and horse start a new life from scratch. It is the hub of freedom in a place of solitude, where peace and serenity are not missing, acutally, a lot is happening. What is amazing about this is that you do not really feel the oppression: there is no prejudice, there are no convictions, no fear and no barriers. Even the big wall marking the border of the prison looks like the facade of a metropolitan builiding.None of the inhabitants care about their past. They are there together looking after each-other. There are just men, animals, old and new connections.