Horses are being used as mental health aids for humans, with equine therapy taking psychology sessions out of the office and into the paddock.

Psychologist Sam Tassini is so enamoured with horses that she has incorporated them into her work and converted a functioning horse float into an office.

She practices equine therapy – a relatively new form of psychological treatment in which clients take sessions in a paddock in the presence of a horse.

“Horses are naturally present, they need to be aware of what’s going on in their surroundings so they need to know when to flee from danger,” she said. “If the client comes in with anxiety and stress, the horse will move away from that energy.

“If they become more calm and relaxed, the horse changes the way it behaves and responds to them.”

Equine therapy: at a glance

  • Equine therapy allows patients to approach healing outside of the psychologist’s office.
  • Helps patients who have suffered trauma recover without having to discuss and relive it.
  • Patients need to approach the animals in a calm and relaxed manner.
  • Research currently in its infancy but shows potential.

All the horses on the Wombarra property north of Wollongong in New South Wales are rescue horses that have a history of trauma.

Ms Tassini said that allowed the horses and clients to have a natural connection.

“The session becomes a metaphorical experience where people build things [and] work with the horses rather than have traditional talk therapy.

“The clients build a fear and name the horse that fear and move it to overcome the fear.

“Or they can just be mindful and present with the horse or move it through an obstacle course — it comes back to how the horse responds to the client.”

– Justin Huntsdale

Read more: Equine Therapy: How Horses are Helping Humans Heal

Image by Fernando from Unsplash