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Case Studies

NOTE : Client identity has been specifically left vague. Names have been changed to protect privacy and confidentiality.


“Of all the animals that God created, horses have the unique ability to breath into our soul and heal our heart. They give us honest feedback and clear emotional reflection without judgement.   They live in the moment, model healthy attachments and are quick to forgive”
 Lea McDonald

Complex grief underpinning loss and rejection issues

Mandy - 54 year old, mother of adult children.  Separated from her husband due to emotional abuse and his controlling behaviour.   


During initial consultation we were able to identify some recurring themes in Mandy's life such as rejection, loss a low self-worth, loss of identity, family of origin issues, emotional instability and a feeling of vulnerability.  Being unwanted.  Being unloved.

Together Mandy and her therapist (Lea) set some goals to help heal her deep seated emotional pain; identifying abusive behaviours; addressing complex grief (through many losses in her life) as well as addressing complex rejection and self-esteem issues.​

Mandy, was invited to interact with the herd (as a whole), or individually .She chose 1-1 interaction with a particular Equine Partner. (EP)


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During the session, Mandy was able to self-identify underlying contributing factors including a lack of trust, love, protection, comfort and safety, which she felt "everyone should have in their life"

After the session, Mandy expressed a little of what she'd experienced. 

"It (the experience) was surreal in a way - and very powerful.  I felt in awe of this massive animal but despite her size, I felt very safe. I felt calm. I’ve learnt that I have choices". She went on to say  "There was a change that I can’t specifically name, but I felt freer and that a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I felt good". 

Mandy, explained how she felt the freedom to express her feelings and emotions openly, without fear of judgement or retribution.  She felt she had the freedom to speak and be heard; to explore and expand her "knowledge of self".  She  learnt she had the freedom to go after the things that matter to her and to feel safe, loved, needed and wanted.

What the horse offered:  The (EP) allowed the Mandy to feel safe (for the first time in a very, very long time) and modelled emotional regulation which helped Mandy feel calm and supported. ​ The relationship between Mandy and the EP, was completely "authentic".  Something Mandy had not experienced much in her own life.​  "Being with" the horse, evoked feelings and emotions that were able to be held, validated and supported by both the EP and the therapist (Lea).   The EP modelled behaviours, reactions and responses that mirrored those of a healthy relationship. Mandy was able to compared and evaluate these actions with her own personal circumstance, bringing her more understanding, clarity and empowerment.

Short term outcome : 

Mandy's life completely changed.  She was able to identify abusive behaviour in others and herself.  She knew what it was like to "feel safe" and resolved to look for that in all her relationships. 


She had experienced what it was like to have complete trust in another being.... She resolved to look for this same "feeling" in her future relationships.  She had experienced (perhaps for the first time), the feeling of unconditional love and acceptance.  This brought a huge sense of comfort, acceptance of herself and a positive increase in her self-esteem. 


Mandy was able to identify what it was like to be wanted and needed. 

Recent update 3 years after counselling session:

Mandy has since married a wonderfully supportive, loving, caring and secure man.  She looks forward to a life of  being loved and cherished as she always wanted and that "everyone deserves".

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Client profile - Significant Mental Health Diagnosis

Deborah - a 35 year old professional female.  Single.  Diagnosed Bi-Polar and experiencing psychotic episodes.  Deborah had been subjected to ritual abuse in the past and had had various admissions to manage her mental health.  Deborah was struggling with anxiety, depression and was finding it difficult to hold down a job.  A significant loss in her life, left her with complex grief and her previous exposure to the occult left her with complex trauma and PTSD.
Deborah had been attending clinical counselling with some improvement, however her counsellor felt there was something she was struggling to disclose which was hindering her healing.  She was offered an equine session.

Together with Lea, Deborah identified areas she wished to work on such as addressing the complex grief associated with significant losses in her life and finding better ways to manage her anxiety and depression.  

Interaction with the equines
Deborah was presented to, and invited to groom one of the horses.  Lea guided Deborah in some grooming techniques which highlighted certain behavioural traits within her.

During the session Deborah finally was able to self-disclose the cause of her complex trauma and PTSD.  There was a time of significant emotional 'let-down' and a time of deep inner healing as she released the pain of the past freely expressing her emotions and finding comfort in "being with" her Equine Partner.

What the horse offered Deborah

  • The opportunity to explore and express her deep-seated hurts in a safe and comforted way. 

  • Unconditional love and acceptance despite her personal history

  • Wholistic mutual care and regard

Short term outcome
With the help of her therapist  Deborah was able to pursue prosecution for the crimes committed against her.  She was successful in her prosecution with the assistance of the appropriate legal team.
Deborah's life completely changed.  She found and remained in stable employment.  She took on leadership roles and her psychotic episodes appear to have disappeared.  She is on minimal medication for her Bi-Polar and found love in a stable relationship. 

Recent update 5 years after counselling session
Client is happily married and still in stable employment.

Client profile - Domestic Violence

Group session


30 year old male.  Under direction to attend counselling to assist rehabilitation following conviction for domestic violence.  Client had had significant exposure to horses and horse riding throughout his life.  The client was a significantly well-built man.
Identified issues included
Significant anger issues resulting in intimidatory behaviour towards others.  Past substance abuse.
Identified goals included

  • Addressing deep seated anger.

  • Exploring Contact Styles

  • Exploring behaviour modification and the associated results.

Interaction with the equines
Client was presented to, and invited to groom one of the equine partners (EP) who was of average size.  As the client approached the EP, the horse refused to engage and showed some signs of uncharacteristic aggression towards the client.  The client was unable to interact with this particular EP and this was explored with the therapist. The client was then presented with another EP - a much larger animal and due to the previous 'interaction' the client's approach to this animal was quite different.  A successful interaction and grooming session followed allowing the client to somatically experience (feel) different emotions in a new way. 
Building awareness
As the client tried unsuccessfully to interact with the first EP - he began to question why this horse had interacted without issue with others in the group, but not with him.  In discussion, he became aware of how his presentation to others in his community might appear intimidatory.  This included interaction with his child. 
Key learning

  • What it feels like to be safe and experience non-judgemental, positive regard in a somatic (feeling) way. 

  • What it feels like to be intimidated by something much larger and stronger than yourself. 

  • Behaviour modification techniques were explored.

What the horse offered the client

  • The opportunity to explore his interactions with others. 

  • Outdoor experience without the pressures of a clinical setting.

  • Opportunity to experiment with behaviour modification and the resultant outcomes.

  • Wholistic mutual care and regard.  Safe touch.

Short term outcome
Client's attitude to those in his community and his interaction with family members changed.  He finally had an idea of what does and what doesn't work when we make contact with others. 
Recent update 5 years after counselling session

No long term update available

Wild Horses
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Welcome to Counselling with a difference!

Partnering with horses to heal our hurts, to deal with our anxieties, depression or other mental health issues and to learn to manage the pain in our lives. 

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