If you watch Wellington resident Lisa Baugh ride and show horses on the weekends you can see she is a dedicated equestrian that has a strong connection to horses. During the week, however, Lisa puts away her saddle and helmet and takes on the role of therapist as her connection with horses helps her counsel families, executives, residents of treatment centers or others seeking to grow and learn more about themselves.
As a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, Lisa offers equine assisted therapy programs through her company Sagittarius Rising. “The idea behind equine assisted therapy is to use the horses in exercises that require the participants to develop skills such as non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem solving,” Lisa said, adding that the horses used in the program are handled but never ridden.
While many people are familiar with therapeutic riding programs that use horses to help physically challenged people, equine assisted therapy is still a growing concept. The program offers a psychological look into the participant’s life, whether it is for a family, an individual or the entire management of a company.
At a recent equine assisted workshop, Lisa put three loose horses in a riding ring and placed three halters on the ground. She then instructed the participants to link arms and without talking put a halter on one of the horses. “Someone participating in a workshop may realize that the way they react to the horses is the way they react to other people in their lives,” Lisa said.
While Lisa uses horses as a tool to delve into the participant’s minds, most participants are non-horse people. Putting a halter on a horse may be a simple task for someone who works with horses daily, but for someone who has never touched or ridden a horse the task is often more challenging and requires unique problem solving skills.
“Dealing with the horses might cause people to overcome fears or learn to change assumptions they had about themselves,” Lisa said, adding that horse people who take the workshops learn just as much about themselves as non-horse people do.
Growing up, Lisa was your typical little girl who loved horses. She remembers as a six-year-old she was afraid to canter, a lesson she now equates with learning how to let go, both on horseback, and in her life. In the early 90’s Lisa found herself and her horse High Profile leading the country in the Amateur Owner Hunter division. “I had found success on the A circuit, which was my goal, so it was time to turn my attention to helping others,” she said. “I always had an interest in psychology, and now I have found a way to combine my horse knowledge with my passion for psychology.”
Lisa offers equine assisted therapy workshops at several locations in the West Palm Beach area and offers public workshops four times a month. “Equine assisted therapy has been compared to ropes or adventure courses which are used in experiential learning programs around the world,” she said. “The majority of the activities in one of my workshops address social, emotional and behavioral issues with a focus on helping people discover aspects of themselves rather than teaching or lecturing.”
As horse-people are aware, all horses are not alike. Put several horses in a ring together and you will find stubborn horses, willing horses and horses that act just like the participants in the ring. “Horses require people to engage physically and mentally, a valuable skill in all aspects of life,” Lisa said. “Most importantly, horses have the ability to read and mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. They are very intuitive and can read human emotions, helping people become more aware of their internal states.”
Lisa is certified through EAGALA, the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, and said personal growth workshops can benefit everyone. “When you work with horses you are in a partnership, and you can learn many life lessons through them,” she said.
To schedule a workshop, or learn more about equine assisted therapy, call Lisa at 561-791-8939 or visit her website at www.sagrising.com