IT’S not quite Mr Ed the talking horse, but even without words, horses are providing a valuable psychological tool in the relatively new field of equine therapy.
Horses move away from negative energy such as anxiety and stress, and will change their behaviour and response, which encourages a client to become calmer and more relaxed.
For Laura Adams, who specialises in equine therapy for over 55s, it brings together two of life’s great interests. She has a background in nursing and psychology counselling and a love of horses, so can effectively take treatment out of the office and into the field.
Based at Landsborough and Eumundi, she says equine therapy is a way of improving day to day living and capacity building. She works beside an equine specialist and together they are making a difference to mental health and wellbeing.
Patients who have suffered trauma, for example, don’t have to discuss or relive their trauma but simply come to understand the value of being calm when approaching the horse.
“We watch the relationship unfold between horse and human, it’s such a powerful connection,” Laura says. “We provide an enriching experience in the field with our horses.”
Equine therapy is now recognised in some aged care packages and is proving beneficial for those who suffer mental health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, and PTSD as well as those with mobility problems, vision impairment and dementia – or simply loneliness.
Bernie LeSeur was a warrant officer who did two tours of Vietnam and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery and leadership under fire and the OAM. He always had a connection with horses and the 85-year-old now enjoys coming to the sessions, finding it provides a meaningful activity as well as social connection.
“He had little sense of purpose but with previous experience working with horses and a love of animals, the equine therapy has helped him to reconnect,” Laura says. “It helps immensely with getting them to leave the home space, gaining a sense of purpose, and being able to engage with family members and increase conversations.”
She has also found that non-communicative clients have started to use more words and get sentences together while they are in the equine space. Mobility improves and the vision impaired can still have connection too.
Laura says it doesn’t make any difference if someone has had experience with horses when they were younger or had never been near them.
“It’s about building trust and a relationship on the ground with the horses and the therapist, and this then translates into other areas of life, and the things that affect quality of life as we age,” she said.
Sessions are one hour usually once a week, or more depending on goals and capacity. Referrals are by word of mouth, the NDIS, aged care providers and support workers.
Call Laura 0402 990 508.