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Christa Boshoff - The healing power of horses

Dr. Christa Boshoff is a director and therapy specialist for The Eden Empathy Initiative in Knysna. The program helps emotionally unstable children overcome their inner turmoils and trauma through working with animals, such as dogs and horses. Christa is incredibly caring and uses her love of animals to progress in her career and help others progress in their lives.

“I’ve always loved horses. In my second year of uni, I was involved in a serious car accident. I had brain trauma and was in a coma for two weeks. After that, my horses were my entire world. I worked from home for a year. My horses were everything. 

“The more I sat with them, the more I worked with them, I realised how much healing they were giving me. I started giving lessons to kids and working with disabled people. Seeing how much emotional healing just the interaction with the horses brought them. 

“Then I was confronted with boys who displayed very devious behaviour, I saw how much dealing with the horses helped them. It helped address the root of the problem, where everyone just looked at their behaviour – their behaviour is just a symptom. It will never go away if you don’t address the root cause. I started reading up on it. 

christa boshoff garden route
christa boshoff garden route 2

"The more I sat with them, the more I worked with them, I realised how much healing they were giving me.”

“I did my PhD at a reform school in the Free State. The school was only for boys with severe problems. There was one who committed a murder. They all broke the law in some way – that’s why they got sent there. I did an equine-assisted therapy with them and I saw amazing results. The horses reached them on a level where people can’t, where therapists can’t. Therapy-wise, they all think,  ‘Get on with the process, I know what you’re going to do, I know what you want me to say.’ The horses come in at a subconscious level and it’s very authentic. 

“Because horses are prey animals, they have to be aware of predators. They can see you’re a predator because you’ve got eyes at the front of your head and you’ve got claws. If you eat meat, they can smell it. That’s why they can pick up on your emotions and motives quickly. They can hear your heartbeat. If you’re anxious, they can hear it. Then they also show anxiety. So we can use it in therapy by saying, “The horse is showing anxiety, are you feeling any anxiety?” They pick up on human emotions and either mirror it, or react to it. So we can pick up on people’s emotions based on the horse’s reaction. They are extremely good at reading body language. Like no human can. Their survival depends on it.

“Everything with horses is in the moment, as your emotions come up we work with it. So, I decided to do it in private practice as well.”

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