New business bucks the trend with horse-based therapy

THERAPY: Elle Petersen and D-O welcome locals to check out the farm at their open day. PHOTO: Elisabeth Champion
THERAPY: Elle Petersen and D-O welcome locals to check out the farm at their open day. PHOTO: Elisabeth Champion

Elle Petersen is using the healing power and unconditional love of animals to help locals, with her new animal therapy business.

A qualified counsellor, she offers animal assisted counselling, which is traditional counselling but including connections with horses, or equine-facilitated learning, through her new Moyhall business Beyond Words.

"It's about working with horses to achieve goals - some of the goals might be increasing confidence, or building self esteem, and we do activities that help them aim for those goals," she said.

"For example, someone will need to work on their boundaries so I will give them some food and say 'don't let him have it."

She said there were big benefits of working with horses.

"Horses provide instant feedback, and won't be polite, but kids might think 'we have to let that person play with us' or 'we have to tolerate that' but horses will give you instant feedback, but also forgive very quickly.

"They are not that kid that freaked out last week, it starts again - in the classroom you can build up a history and people are expecting a certain reaction, but horses are judging you on what you are giving them now and if you adjust your behaviour they'll immediately adjust theirs.

"Sometimes we also do physical therapy, working on balance etcetera, so we'll get them to do an obstacle course. They feel like they are helping the horse through the obstacle course, so it takes away that therapy side of things.

"It's more like "I did it, I helped the horse' when they are actually doing their therapy."

Mrs Petersen and her horses also work with nursing homes, hospitals and schools and are currently doing a weekly pilot program with children at Kingston Community School.

Animal therapy has always been a goal for Mrs Petersen, who has a degree in psychology and a postgrad in counselling.

"I've always wanted to do animal assisted therapy, it's quite big with dogs," she said.

"I had a big beautiful Percheron X, and he is just amazing with people, so I started trying it.

"I did my training in Melbourne, in equine facilitated learning, and went from there."

She now has a team of six horses, including two small ponies, all specially chosen by Mrs Petersen to be therapy horses.

They will be holding an open day at the Moyhall property on September 26 from 10am to 2pm, for those that are interested in learning more.

If you wish to attend, phone 0475 464 162 to RSVP and to get the address.