SAGITTARIUS
RISING, LLC

A Brief Interview with Lisa Baugh Conducted by Teresa Oster, LCSW,
Program Director of the Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida

 
CJS: What is your personal history with horses and how did you come to integrate equine experiences into your work as a psychotherapist?
 
LB: I began riding when I was 6 years old and loved it from the start. Like many "horse people" I found it healing just being around the stable. As a teenager and young adult I found taking care of my horse helped me unwind and diffuse the tensions of the day. As an adult, I had always been interested in psychology but it wasn't until I reached my forties that I began to fully understand the therapeutic potential of incorporating horses into psychotherapy. At that time I decided to go to graduate school to get my masters in counseling psychology so I could combine my two passions. 
 
CJS: People tend to think that equine facilitated therapy means they will be riding a horse.  Can you explain to our community how that is not the case and how you actually use horses in your work?
 
LB: The techniques I use do not involve riding or teaching horsemanship. All the activities take place on the ground and they focus on how the client relates to the horses... and visa versa!  Mounted activities tend to be more directive but my activities are non-directive and allow people to explore, problem solve, be creative, and have fun! It is not my goal to teach people about horses but rather to have them learn about themselves through interacting with the horses.
 
CJS: Is there any way in which horses are particularly suited to this kind of facilitated therapy as opposed to other animals like dogs for example? 
 
LB: Yes. Horses are domesticated but still retain some of their  instinctual nature or "wildness." They tend to be less concerned about "people pleasing" than dogs, and they are much larger and more powerful. Their size and beauty often evoke a sense of awe, but they can also be intimidating. Horses prefer to live in herds with defined roles. They have distinct personalities and moods. Observing equine social interactions can motivate people to examine their own human social behavior. Also, horses tend to respond spontaneously, without holding back or hiding affect. They are very sensitive and are excellent at observing human body language, often detecting latent or unacknowledged emotions. Because of this, the expression "horses don't lie" has become quite popular.
 
CJS:  Some people might think that your work is like pet therapy.  Can you explain how it is not?
 
LB: Often the goal in pet therapy is to calm the patient and get them to relax and feel good so they will open up and talk. That happens in equine therapy too, but more often than not, there are also sessions where the patient experiences conflicting or uncomfortable feelings. In pet therapy, the animal may be a passive assistant to the therapist, but in equine sessions, the horses take center stage. Patients are asked to engage with them in specific activities that may illicit difficult emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, sadness, despair, or helplessness, but these are likely the very issues that need to be addressed in the therapy.
 
CJS:  Recently John Beebe, the Jungian analyst, spoke to our group and he said that the horse had been a valuable personal totem for him and he wished he could stay longer in Florida and attend your workshop.  He said that horses often carry heavy burdens and that they can be sensitive and sometimes anxious.  He said finding this 'horse identity' had helped him carry his burdens in life.  Can you speak to this comment from Dr. Beebe?
 
LB: There are several points in Dr. Beebe's comment that are applicable to equine therapy, but what stands out most to me is his use of metaphor. He relates the physical burdens horses carry to his personal burdens in life, which are carried by his horse identity. Metaphor such as this is a key component of equine therapy that helps connect the conscious with the unconscious mind. Patients experience live horses in activities which are processed as metaphors that illuminate their specific issues, thus facilitating personal insight. 
 
CJS: What are some examples of common projections people have onto horses?:
 
LB: The classic example is "the horse is afraid,"  when really it's the person who is afraid! But when you think about it, just about any observation we make about a horse is potentially a projection! Acknowledging this is difficult for many people who believe they "know" what a horse is thinking or feeling. Working with assumptions and projections placed on horses is a huge part of equine therapy just as it is with any psychotherapy that acknowledges the power of the unconscious.

 

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