One year ago, 13-year-old Shamanii avoided other kids and suffered such severe anxiety she didn’t want to go to school.

Now, in the words of her mother Alma, Shamanii is “loving school, absolutely loving it”.

“She’s putting herself out there, auditioning for productions. She’s made a whole lot of new friends.”

All because of a horse named Humphrey.

The gentle giant Clydesdale-Andalusian cross is an equine therapy horse.

Shamanii had experienced trauma and was withdrawing from school and friends.

A social worker at welfare organisation Child and Family Services Ballarat (CAFS), “prescribed” Shamanii once-a-week sessions with Humphrey.

Over 16 weeks, while counsellors taught Shamanii how to approach and groom him and lead him through an obstacle course, she learnt more about relating to humans.

Such as the importance of reading non-verbal cues.

“You can relate the horse’s emotions to people,” Shamanii says. “Like, knowing when to leave them alone and when they need help.”

‘‘[Counsellors] Michelle and Sarah told me about their ears. So if they’re like, at the front, that means they’re happy and comfortable, and if they’re backwards or moving, it means they’re uncomfortable or anxious.’’

Equine therapy will be a key part of CAFS’ new Care Farm near Creswick, 120 kilometres west of Melbourne, when it opens to clients, mostly traumatised children and youths, in February.

The three-hectare farm, bought for $1.1 million, will integrate conventional counselling with gardening, cooking, art and equine therapy, and interaction with goats, chickens, rabbits and dogs.

– Carolyn Webb, The Age

Read more: Horses Who Heal: How Equine Therapy is Helping Traumatised Children

Image by Fernando from Unsplash