Mike Delaney is one of the leading practitioners of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) in the UK, treating over 500 patients in recent years with this powerful healing and self-esteem boosting therapy.

Mike is also a director of LEAP, a dedicated provider of equine therapy with the best facilities in the UK, helping clients with drug or alcohol dependence or a number of psychological conditions overcome their problems through working with horses.

Photo credit: Eileen Long

Extract from “The Horse Knows” by Mike Delaney, (to be released, 2016);

Having never been around horses myself and feeling slightly anxious about the prospect of opening a brand new facility, I was indifferent to the idea of horses offering anything new or valid to the process of rehabilitation, indeed I described it once as “American garbage!” How wrong I was. The day arrived and a small group of staff, managers and invited guests stood excitedly in the viewing area by the small ménage at Wyncolls Farm. Dominic’s Mother Niki had spent many years providing services for adults with learning disabilities and had horseriding central to that programme so Wyncolls was a vibrant farm with many different breeds of horse, all with their own histories and, in many cases, trauma, as well as being home to “Popsters”, a working stud that produced some beautiful horses.

I stood watching, initially quite cold and nonchalant, hoping it would be over quickly as I “had to get back” to do some really important work at Stepps. David and Annie presented a range of activities which were fun and stimulating, I could see how they may benefit communication or teamwork but I didn’t get any other connections until after lunchtime. There were three horses loose in the ménage who had just finished an exercise and were given freedom to run around and have a roll. All three wandered to the far corner of the ménage and were looking out to the other horses in the fields. David and Annie very quietly said “We are going to slightly raise our voices, as if in conflict and would like you to observe the horses and see what happens” Now I became more interested!

They both slightly increased the volume of their voices and changed the tone to a slightly confrontational one, however to anyone not aware, it was barely noticeable. I was watching the horses and saw them all turn at once. I felt my heart race…..oh my God, what is going on here……David and Annie continued in their tone and all 3 horses walked towards them….I could feel myself becoming emotional…..what the hell is happening to me?…..the lead horse walked right between Annie and David and separated them, gently nudging Annie away to a “place of safety” whilst the other two stood guard over David…….. I felt the tears force their way out of my eyes and begin to fall down my cheeks……I couldn’t explain what I had just witnessed but most importantly, I couldn’t explain what I had just felt. Powerful emotional responses were being evoked in me and I was only part of a group who were observing, I wasn’t even part of it!

The seed was sown, I could no longer dismiss it as claptrap, but I had to try and understand it, I wanted to find out more and my curiosity was killing me. Ten years later and it is still killing me, I am passionate about the power of EFP and about continuing to develop how it can be used and how it can become more mainstream.