A new breed of therapists

History shows the mutual way humans and horses have prospered from partnership. Today, horses are contributing to human flourishing via the field of Equine Therapy where their role in health and wellbeing is taking on renewed significance.

The Yarra Valley is home to many horses and it is against the lush green backdrop of mountains, pastures and rivers that local Equine Therapists are building a reputation at the forefront of this growing field of personal and psychological development.

Worldwide, Equine Therapy is being used to successfully touch the lives of people with PTSD, depression and anxiety, youth at risk, and children with autism as just some examples.

Meredith Torpey, director of  Sanctuary Equus Inc in Wesburn, a not-for-profit education, trauma recovery and equine rehabilitation centre,  and Kim Wren of Wedgetail Rides in Launching Place, have both established Equine Therapy centres offering a range of programs and services that have their origins in the disciplines of counselling, art therapy and Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL). 

Both women have extensive experience in horse-orientated fields and have seen firsthand how horses teach humans to relate.  Ideally Equine Therapists need to be both excellent horse handlers and highly skilled counsellors/therapists.  

Meredith is an EA/NCAS (Equestrian Australia) Level 1G coach,  EFL and Coaching Level 2 facilitator, has a Diploma of Arts in Counselling (Arts Therapy) and is a Cert IV vocational educator. Kim is a qualified art therapist, EFL Level 2 facilitator and is accredited with Horse Safety Australia.

Sanctuary Equus Inc provides clinical counselling services in trauma recovery and focuses on individuals with more serious mental health issues such as Complex-PTSD. Psychologists work in conjunction with Meredith and the Sanctuary’s facilitators, which also has a volunteer program with almost 30 participants. 

The clients who come to equine therapy sessions are from varied backgrounds and may not have prior horse experience.

Sessions are based on groundwork meaning clients experience horses ‘on the ground’ in what appear to be simple exercises such as grooming, picking up the horse’s feet and leading them through agility or obstacle courses in an arena.  However, without first building trust such activities can provide enormous challenges. 

Horses are both herd animals and prey animals. They are highly attuned to their environment and mirror the emotions and behaviours they witness in humans. This provides a profound opportunity for people to learn self-regulation and for the horse to show them how they think and feel.  ‘Horses look for the health in people’, says Meredith, ‘so they reinforce our best traits and show us where we can improve.’

Non-verbal communication, caring and empathy, anger management, confidence, boundary setting and leadership are often newly acquired skills that clients discover. For many clients, equine therapy provides a breakthrough for issues other therapies have been unable to reach.  

The horses are the true miracle workers in sessions. Not every horse is suited to the dynamics of the therapy situation, so horses are carefully chosen for their safety, character and willingness to participate. 

Occasionally a rehabilitated rescue horse will show suitability as a therapy horse and Kim will often see a horse and client choose one another without knowing they have had similar trauma – a starved ex-racehorse has found a new way of life rehabilitated as a therapy horse that draws young people with eating disorders to his side.  Kim recalls how a young women recovering from a drug addiction had built a solid foundation with a therapy horse over several weeks when suddenly the horse wouldn’t respond to her. The young woman had relapsed the day prior. The horse knew.  

Meredith says, ‘The horse becomes the mediator – a bridge into the client’s world. This takes the focus away from the therapist and allows the client to relax and not feel they have to “perform”.  A horse’s natural state is to be calm, and the herd will maintain that sense of calm for its members – we can benefit from that.’

CARA Inc, a not-for-profit community service organisation that works with some of the most vulnerable young women in Victoria on Protective Custody Orders, has been bringing clients to participate in the ‘Feeling Herd’ program at Wedgetail Rides. Caseworker Sarah sees how the horses engage young people who have been resistant to other therapies, who are then able to learn new ways of caring for themselves and others. ‘I see women with very challenging life circumstances feel accepted – the horses don’t care what your story is, only that you are authentic and kind. This is a revelation for many traumatised clients.’

Sanctuary Equus offers the progressive ‘Horses for Life’ VCAL program – one of the first programs of its kind in Australia – where students learn life skills including numeracy and literacy through horse-related activities. Also offered is a Certificate III in Horsemanship providing further learning opportunities. For one young women, learning anger management skills through her interactions with horses helped her transition to high school and find stability in a permanent home after almost 20 foster homes. Meredith has seen a selective mute start speaking after participating in the Horses for Life Program and had caseworkers marvel when children with autism are able to be still when sitting on a pony.

Kim’s session work with children helps families find new resources. One child with autism was unable to start kinder until he could feed himself and was toilet trained.  ‘Through weekly sessions with Shetland pony Noddy, the child worked through his challenges. He ate his first apple sitting on Noddy, and took his first wee in the dam with Noddy,’ says Kim.  ‘This was life changing for the family.’

‘We know horses change the brain and influence body systems including respiration, heart rate and even biochemistry through the release of feel-good hormones. Horses also bring to the surface what is most important at the time,’ says Meredith.   

There is significant research to support Equine Therapy but for Meredith and Kim, and the clients who have experienced the horse as therapist, there is a magic that is difficult to explain but readily seen in the growth and recovery of people who discover who they are with a horse as their guide.

Horses and People article – On Horse Time

Wedgetail Rides feels very honoured to be featured in a special article ‘On Horse Time’ in the December/January issue of Horses and People!

The magazine is out now and is full of wonderful information. For more info see here.

To read the article click here:  horses-and-people-november-issue_wedgetail-rides.

Meet Kim at the Source Disability Expo 1&2 May 2021

Meet Kim and find out more about how the Wedgetail Rides Art, Equine and Eco therapy sessions can be of value to you and/or your child.

Kim, together with the Australian Equine Facilitated Learning team, will be exhibiting all weekend this Sunday 1 May and Sunday 2 May between 10 am and 4pm at the Source Kids Disability Expo at the Melbourne Convention Centre. Admission is FREE.

The Source Kids Disability Expo is focused on children, youths and young adults living with a disability up to the age of 25 years and brings together the latest products, services and technology, along with some incredible speakers under one roof for two days. 


As one of Australia’s biggest disability expo’s, there is something for everyone with activity, sensory, games and performance zones and an info pod filled with great informational sessions. Bring the family to find and test products and equipment, talk with providers and make it a fun day out for everyone.

Twenty reasons a little horse time has big rewards for your child

Horses teach children that:

  1. Not everything goes to plan.
  2. Sometimes it’s the little wins that matter – especially when they add to bigger things.
  3. The most important person you can trust is yourself (followed closely by your horse).
  4. Being outside in nature is good for your body, and even better for your heart.
  5. Being accepting and not judging is how you actually establish real bonds.
  6. It doesn’t matter how small you are, or how big the horse is, you can still find a way to be together.
  7. What your instinct tells you is always real.
  8. Consistency and persistence build trust and ability in ways that last forever.
  9. When you lose connection, you lose your mindfulness.
  10. You can be strong and soft at the same time.
  11. Being honest with yourself is step one.
  12. Every horse, just like every person, is valuable and has a gift to share.
  13. Loving horses is just the beginning. You need to love to care for them as well.
  14. The welfare of the horse comes first but always practice self-care as well.
  15. Fun and light-heartedness will get you there. Be the process, and the destination will reveal itself.
  16. A child is always capable of more than they think they are, and more than we think they are too.
  17. Horses see through a lie and you cannot pretend.
  18. You don’t need the matching outfit, the expensive gear or even clean clothes to be with horses and they will love you just the same.
  19. Sometimes letting go is the kindest thing.
  20. Children are ultimately wise. Follow their interests because it could be their life passions/calling.

And all this happens without saying a word.

Without even riding.

We offer Riders Group (one full day a month) individual riding lessons, and equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) sessions for children for all abilities.

© Lindy Schneider/Wedgetail Rides Equine Therapy

Yes, horses can talk!

The Age

Kim Wren was interviewed by The Age today about equine communication. Read all about it here.

Form the article:

“Equine experts say it’s just that most people don’t realise the horse is trying to talk to them in the first place.

Kim Wren, the owner of Wedgetail Rides in the Yarra Valley, said the people in this study have simply taken the time to listen to the horses involved.

“We’re often talking to horses, telling them what they can and can’t do,” she said.

“But a lot of horses communicate with humans and each other through body language. We need to listen by watching the body language. This is exactly what these people [the researchers] are doing – they’ve taught them cues.”

Ms Wren has a herd of 17 horses she uses for classes with at-risk youth or people living with disabilities. “

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