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Ignore the neighsayers: equine therapy is a revelation

Bono the horse looked into my soul and taught me a valuable lesson. Now I just need to work on my neediness …

came across a woman near Brisbane who specialised in equine therapy. I wasn’t quite sure what it involved, but I signed up for a session anyway. Phoning home, I told my daughter I was about to share my troubles with a large mammal. “I feel so sorry for that horse,” she said.

The woman was called Megan. Four horses grazed away in her paddock as she explained that as a species they are prey, not predators. So they have developed, of necessity, a keen awareness – a sixth sense, even – of what is around them. That much made sense to me. But she also said they could pick up on your feelings and the experiences that led to those feelings and react accordingly. This I was less sure about, but who knows? What I was sure about was that my biggest concern at this moment was whether the horses would like me. This compelling evidence of my own neediness was profound enough for the whole caper to have already proved its worth.

Megan and I stood quietly looking at them. Soon, a 19-year-old giant called Bono strolled (do horses stroll?) over to us. “He’s the leader of the group,” whispered Megan. “He rarely wants to get involved.” Bono came and stood right next to me, his right eye boring a hole into my soul. “This is really unusual,” said Megan. Yeah, whatever, I mainly thought. But then Bono pressed his head against my chest and rubbed it up and down, right to my knee.

Respecting horse-patient confidentiality, I won’t divulge what further physical and emotional communication passed between us. Suffice to say, I came away knowing more about myself than when I started. And the moment he nuzzled me was something that will stay with me for ever. Furthermore, I later met others who had been for therapy, and they all said Bono wasn’t interested in them. So please don’t for a minute think he does this for all the boys.

Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist

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