Integrating Nature and Horses into Community-Based Healing Modalities

28 January 2022

 Sharon Boyce loves nature and people. She began her journey in healing modalities by using animals for healing, creating interactive programmes to improve the quality of life of those around her. As a trained psychologist, she found it important to integrate horses into counselling and personal development. She started the Shumbashaba community trust to do community work on their site of 6 hectares and a wetland running across the site.  


“There is an ancient wisdom that shows that interactions with nature are essential for human beings. To experience wellbeing, we have an innate need to connect to nature and animals.” Sharon says that as we have increased urbanisation, moving from rural to urban, we have less contact with nature. With increased development, it seems like we are going against our innate needs to be in connection with nature. “We as Shumbashaba, are in a small space that is encroached upon by different kinds of developments, but we need space where people can be in connection with animals and nature. It does not have to be big parks or nature reserves.”   


Shumbashaba is a community organisation based in Diepsloot that uses horses and nature for the self-development of children in vulnerable areas. “Horses are predominantly associated with sports and associated with wealth and privilege.” Shumbashaba is uniquely positioned between Stein city and Diepsloot. “We talk about nature being good for wellbeing but there are few spaces to support nature-based interventions, especially those that are community-based. We can use natural wisdom and knowledge in communities for them to heal themselves. 


Giving time and service is one of the ways we manage to be sustainable. “The outdoor space is so important to everyone in Diepsloot. In Diepsloot it is noisy and there is no space to be me,” says one of her beneficiaries. Shumbashaba runs a youth development programme on Saturdays, with 400 children aged between 4-16 years.  


Expanding on the programme, Sharon says, “kids can walk up to 14 kilometres to reach the site. It’s an interactional modality between the horse and the person. We don’t teach riding and horsemanship. We focus on the relationship between the horse and the person. Just telling the story of trauma is not enough. You must use your body to release the trauma from your body. Horses have a bigger electromagnetic field, and they can help us regulate our breath. Since their field is bigger than that of humans, it influences us. Working with trauma requires you to create a choice-oriented space.”