Why don’t clients learn to ride? What happens in a counselling session? Does it work if you are afraid of being bitten or kicked?
But, once you see Andie leaning on the fence of her sandy arena in Strathfieldsaye, contentedly watching a couple of sturdy ponies twitch their ears nearby, it makes sense.
“When I was young, the way I was taught to interact with horses was ‘power over’, because that was the way you did it,” Andie says.
“Now it’s working with the horse, understanding the individual horse.”
Andie has a degree in psychology and sociology and worked for many years as a counsellor with the Centre Against Sexual Assault.
She set up Shine when she became interested in equine assisted psychotherapy. It’s a way of taking counselling out of an office, and into an environment where the client can feel both less formal but also “out of their comfort zone”.
“In the first session you talk about safety, because of course, I want everyone to be safe, but that’s minimal,” Andie says.
“Then you talk about which horse a client would like to work with and it’s interesting because people are drawn to horses they have the same personality as.”
“I use the horses to engage the clients, and we find it’s so much easier to talk about issues when they do it through the horses.
“Horses are super-sensitive. If someone comes in who is aggressive, they will move away.
“We can use that to look at what’s happening, and why the horse has responded to you.
“In many ways, they mirror what humans are doing.”
She says the service is still very new in Australia.
“I know people can be sceptical with something like this that is outside the norm and innovative, something that could either be whacky or evidence-based,” she says.
“But early responses to the program suggest it will fill a gap, providing an alternative to traditional counselling.”
Andie says she always wanted to call a business “Shine”.
“It’s what I want people to feel after their experience,” she says.