• OceanHills

Healing power of horses in addiction

Equine facilitated therapy is one of the activities offered at Ocean Hills Detox & Rehab in Hawkes Bay and not surprisingly, one of the most popular with our guests.


We are lucky enough to have Leanne Mackay, a registered psychologist of over 25 years and also an Equine Facilitated Learning instructor nearby our rehab. Her strong connection to horses began as a child with ponies and helping her father, who was a race horse trainer.


As an adult, she trained as a psychologist and in 2013, reignited her love affair with horses after finding a very special one, Borrie.


“I began experimenting with natural horsemanship approaches and later extended this knowledge to include a herd-based understanding of horses’ behaviour, roles and communication,” Leanne says.


This knowledge led to her becoming qualified as an Eponaquest Instructor in the area of Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning, combining her psychology training with her love of horses. She later completed a Power of The Herd and Master Herder qualification with Linda Kohanov, founder of Eponaquest Worldwide.



Leanne with Borrie


How horses can help us

“When working with the guests at Ocean Hills, I introduce them to how the horses perceive their world and communicate through the language of energy and non-verbal communication. Before interacting with the horses, I outline the science behind energy in non-verbal communication and the role played here by emotions (energy in motion). I also introduce an understanding of mind and body congruency to support authenticity (being your real self) to become more horse-like.


“Horses accurately detect and provide direct feedback to us about congruence and true emotions as they act as a live bio-feedback machine. Guests are supported to learn strategies to support authentic interaction with the horse. This is very affirming for guests as the horse co-operates in relationship when feeling safer and relaxed with the more horse-like person. This allows growth to happen as guests may then become aware of unhelpful conditioned thought patterns and behaviour.

Transformation through experiential learning with horses

“I also add a boundary-awareness exercise with the horses where guests learn how to recognise not only their own body’s need for space but also the boundary needs of others. Guests can also develop assertion skills important to setting healthy boundaries. These skills translate into improved leadership skills for self and others as well as a deeper self -connection. Horses provide a feeling of unconditional acceptance by being completely non-judgemental so the interaction between the horse and guest can unlock blocked emotions allowing them to be processed and healed. Experiential learning with horses can be truly transformative”.

With her happy therapy herd of four horses, Leanne’s therapeutic framework includes mindfulness-based cognitive behaviour therapy, client-centred and solution-focussed brief therapy.

For more information on the Eponaquest Approach go to www.eponaquest.com.


To find out more about Ocean Hills and to see if it’s right for you, call Elaine in confidence on 027 573 7744.


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