A Perthshire woman is using horse power as a therapeutic tool to help troubled people find relief from addiction and stress.
The psychological benefits of working with horses are being recognised by a growing numbers of therapists who work with autistic children, young people with behavioural problems, and adults with depression or addictions.
The technique has proved especially successful in America and the US-based Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala) has trained 1,500 therapists in Britain.
Among them is Whisperinghorses founder Anne MacGregor, who over the last five years has taken in rescue horses from around the UK.
Funding their upkeep herself as a horse whisperer, it was during workshops on equine healing that Anne realised the positive impact that horses can have on troubled humans.
Based at Pett Farm, Muthill, she seeks to assist with problems including substance abuse, depression, anger management and behavioural issues.
Anne said: “Horses have the innate ability to heal humans.
“My horses provide unique and sometimes profound experiences for those who come and interact with them.
“Equine assisted psychotherapy is well known in being helpful in assisting individuals work through emotional roadblocks and issues.
“It can be especially helpful with abused or neglected children, troubled youths, or adults who have suffered emotional traumas or struggle with mental health difficulties.
“We are in early talks with a charity to set up a pilot programme to assist ex- servicemen with post traumatic stress disorder and we sincerely hope we can help them with this form of therapy.”
A horse can pick up on the way people are feeling by mirroring their emotions and responding, said Anne.
As a herd animal attuned to stress and body language, a horse will move away from an angry person, follow someone it trusts and be unsettled when it senses fear.
Anne stated: “The horse, being a highly social and sensitive creature, gives immediate feedback to the individual about his or her behaviour or feelings.
“The horses mirror the clients’ behaviour, producing highly rewarding results.
“This feedback helps clients discover effective ways of managing and overcoming challenges in their lives.”
Equine therapy has proved successful in treating children with autism, most famously under the guise of the Horse Boy Foundation, which was set up by Rupert Isaacson, whose story of the positive impact horse therapy had on his autistic son was turned into a film.
The foundation currently runs equine therapy camps for autistic children and their families in Britain.
Whisperinghorses offers therapeutic programmes in which horses are used as tools for emotional growth and learning.
It has 19 rescued horses, a small team of qualified therapists, instructors and a horse behaviourist.
It also has psychotherapists who work together to help learning and interaction with horses as a form of therapy.
Anne said: “Working therapeutically with horses and people holds enormous potential for healing.
“We feel that horses can be like a magnifying glass to those parts of ourselves we need to acknowledge and accept the belief, the power, the fear and the joy.
“Horses can teach us so much about ourselves, so what a wonderful way of connecting psychotherapy with horses.”
The community interest company is looking to welcome anyone who would like to volunteer not just with the horses but on all aspects of running the company.