The healing power of horses

Christine Rabi with Phoenix.

Horses are majestic, powerful creatures, and we are instinctively drawn to their freedom and interconnection as we see them galloping and frolicking through open fields.

Humans have also for centuries worked, loved and survived in close relation to these animals.

It is no wonder that in the modern era, many healing therapies are based on this timeless connection between man and horse.

Renaissance Equestrian Centre and Stables have partnered with Eagala certified practitioners Marli Beukes, clinical psychologist, and Christine Rabie, equine specialist, to offer just such a therapeutic programme in the Helderberg area.

The owners, Stefan and Jacqueline Pretorius, share the vision of healing through experiential encounters with horses, and see Renaissance as “a place where horse and man dance to the melody of trust”.

Renaissance is based on the outskirts of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, with its majestic surroundings and natural mountain backdrop.

The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala) model of equine assisted psychotherapy and personal development is offered through a global organisation, with over 2 500 certified members in over 45 countries.

The model’s therapeutic approach is very powerful, hands on, in the now and utilises the horse as therapist.

Horses are perfect for this in many ways, one of the most profound being that they are prey animals, highly attuned to their environment and to non-verbal communication within the herd.

This awareness makes horses highly attuned to the body language and non-verbal messages they perceive in their human clients.

The interaction with the horses is all from the ground, no riding is involved.

An Eagala certified facilitation team consisting of a mental health specialist as well as an equine specialist, “hold space” for the client to provide emotional and physical safety during the experience, while the equine treatment team provides valuable feedback, creating awareness of current patterns and motivating the client to adopt new ones.

The horses and their interactions serve as a metaphor of what is happening in the client’s life.

It takes time to develop relationships with horses. In an era where immediate gratification and “the easy way” are the norm, the nature of horses requires people to be engaged in physical, emotional and mental work.

It requires being present, and that is where true transformation happens.

This often happens more quickly than traditional therapy would predict.

This equine therapy works well with creating attachment bonds, working through post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and a variety of psychological difficulties.

It is also highly effective with family therapy as well as other groups, whether that be building trust and relationships, or maximising team performance in the workplace.

In a world where we have often lost connection with our true selves, nature, passion, peace and purpose, this provides the ideal environment to reconnect and find the joy within.

For more information about the Eagala programme, contact Marli at 083 456 5843 or email

We’ll have more stories on equine therapy at other venues, in future editions of Bolander – Ed.