Sport

The healing power of horses

Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT) February 10, 2016
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Shelly May suffers with lupus, a debilitating autoimmune disease. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
In addition to joint pain, lupus can affect the skin and internal organs. May, who was once a professional dancer, also has bouts of depression and anxiety. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
The 32-year-old sets out props for an activity at the Ortega Center in San Juan Capistrano, a city 50 miles south of Los Angeles. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
"Some clients have deep attachment issues," says Carol Caddes, a therapist and counselor for Otra Mas who helps run the program. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
"They don't know how to fit with a group or how to really bond with another human being," Caddes says. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
When horses begin responding to a person, this can help a patient identify and confront their issues, Caddes explains. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
Most horses at the Ortega Center have been donated -- many are old show horses. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
"You see how horses interact with each other and it's similar to how people interact with each other," says May. "They're non-judgmental and don't take things personally." Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
Animals such as horses have long been used in therapy. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
May discusses a recent equine-assisted psychotherapy session with members of Otra Mas at the Ortega Center. Any observations noted during therapy can be brought up in later debriefs. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
More than 200 people have taken part in therapy at Otra Mas since it opened in 2013. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
It has treated people suffering from depression and anger-management issues, and ex-military personnel trying to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
"I think it helps me go through a lot of my physical pain by myself instead of being so dependent on others to take me out of the emotional pit," May says. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas
"It taught me to let a lot of things in my life go," May added. Eddie Perlas/Otra Mas