My wellbeing through horses

20 October 2013
Written by Vanessa Kenny
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Animals have an amazing ability to break down the barriers and get to our true essence,  as Vanessa MacDonald discovered when she took part in equine therapy


I have a belief that horses, like dolphins and many other animals, are healers. However, how does one explain the feelings, emotions and visions I gained after a personal session in equine-assisted therapy…umm tricky, but I’ll give it a go.

My love of horses has been long and enduring and as with many young girls, I spent much of my time drawing and dreaming about horses, wishing I had my own, riding down the beach through the waves... ahhhh. Even as a teenager my horse fantasies persisted, not quite sure where the waves went but there were plenty of handsome and very strong knights ready to swing me up onto the backs of their trusty steeds  …… if the truth be told that’s still a goodie... one lives in hope :o).

Through an organisation called Horse Sense, based in Otaki, I was given the opportunity to experience my very own Equine Assisted Therapy session and, although feeling slight trepidation, I jumped at the chance. 

Horses are finely tuned observers of even the subtlest behaviours. Instinctively, as prey animals their survival is dependent on their ability to sense any underlying emotional current in their environment. Thus, they are experts at mirroring what humans project through emotions and behaviours. It is the task of the Horse Sense facilitators to invite clients to explore their interactions with the horses, and the metaphors that inevitably emerge, to bring about insight and change. 

                                                 Taken from the website

So I found myself in the presence of two horses along with licensed therapist Petro Booysen and certified equine specialist Jenny Gibbons about to have an Equine Assisted Therapy session. Although I had read a little and had seen the BBC’s series with Martin Clune's experience of horse therapy, I was still uncertain of how things would proceed. 

Once in the field Petro asked me to interact with the horses and that we’d see what happened. Well that got my little panic button going and there it was - my first realisation! My need or want to get/do things right. Ahhh, here we go.

I achieved my dream of having my own horse at the ripe old age of 39 and ½ and since then I have had the privilege of caring for three horses, the last of which, Sunny, I own. I must admit, deep down I thought owning a horse might give me a slight advantage, that maybe I would be able to ‘do it right’ whatever that meant in Equine Therapy terms, however I soon found out there was no ‘doing it right’ - so much for my grand theories.

I made a beeline for one of the horses and then changed my mind halfway and went towards the other one. As I sidled up to gently pat its neck he pushed his head forward and stared intently ahead, way, way into the distance, ignoring my petting. I kept patting, he didn’t move an inch and with his neck stretched way out and his eyes staring intently far away I had not idea what I should do. So we stood…..and stood….. at last Pedro came over and asked ‘what does that mean to you when you see the horse doing that?’ For the horse novice, horses don’t usually stand rigid, in an outstretched position, not for as long as this one did anyway, so I did think it a little unusual.

With the horse as my mirror I realised that he was showing me how I had been looking outward for the answers to my life questions at the time, instead of gaining wisdom from within - sounds so simple but it was actually a revelation to me and a real ‘aha …of course’ moment. 

So with that fact established and the horse still standing stock still with its neck stretched to maximum length, Petro said she’d leave me and see how things progressed and so we continued on. Not sure how to proceed myself I decided to ask the horse silently (in my head) what I should do. That is when I had the notion to take a deep breath and relax my whole body and in that instant the horse totally relaxed also, it gently lifted its head over mine and turned to eat the grass to the side of me completely relaxed and in a different frame of mind altogether. Wow, that was cool.

As we continued I experienced more personal insights via the horse that I didn’t have the awareness to realise for myself at the time. I found the whole experience profound and quite surreal. Without going into the details of my human issues - blimey we might be here all day - I experienced many revelations about myself and even as I lay in the grass in the sun after my session I received a vision that I know I didn’t create, which surprised me further as it was so vivid and not at all what I had been previously thinking about.

I found the whole experience an awesome lead into some self-discovery and enhanced wellbeing. Horses have no judgment of us, no preconceived ideas, they live totally in the now and reflect their environment so no half truths here, simply a profound experience and healing with the power of horses and equine-assisted Therapy.

The equine therapy work done at Horse Sense deals with many human conditions and the team works with individuals and groups of all ages. Their approach is gentle and supporting and it is one therapy that can and does greatly enhance anyone’s growth in human development and wellbeing. I’m living proof of that…well once I applied my lessons to my life. Thanks to all horses and humans alike at Horse Sense.

For more information about Horse Sense and Equine Assisted Development and Counselling: 


  • For Reiki Healing, Therapeutic Massage and Flower Essence Consultations at clinic or via e-mail please contact Vanessa
    email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
    phone: 06-364 3992 
    or txt: 027-4930988
  • First Light Flower Essences of New Zealand® were co-created by Franchelle Ofsoske-Wyber and Tony Wyber. In 2008, Franchelle was awarded the New Zealand Health Industry Distinguished Services Award for Research and Development.  



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