Two horses playing with an exercise ball

Through our Equine Assisted Experiential Health Therapy and Volunteer programs, participants embrace our rescued herd’s gift as a gateway to healing and personal development.

In late August, 2014, Pegasus Rising relocated from its original Rancho Santa Fe location to the Lake Wohlford Escondido area in North County, San Diego where we are able to offer our non-profit services to the greater San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles County communities.

Equine Assisted Experiential Health Therapy Programs

Our Equine Assisted Experiential Health Therapy (EAT) program is specifically designed to provide assistance to our U.S. military personnel, as well as their families, in readjusting back into their family and civilian lives. Many of our returning service members are being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and our program can definitely help heal these service members too.  By interacting with our herd as equals, without any form of domination, our program helps military personnel reconnect with their civilian lives in a natural and fun way. Click here to learn more about the organizations and individuals that provide inspiration and support for EAT.

U.S. Veteran standing next to white horse2009 VVSD Pilot EAT Program

In September of 2009, Pegasus launched our initial EAT pilot program. The Veterans Village of San Diego (“VVSD”) was the first organization to voluntarily refer returning veterans to our EAT pilot program which was conducted with the oversight of specialized mental health and equine professionals. Click here to hear directly from a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who participated in our EAT pilot program.

2010 Collaboration with USC’s School of Military Social Work & VVSD Veterans

In August of 2010, Pegasus collaborated with USC’s School of Military Social Work (Rancho Bernardo) when 20 + students, faculty and staff met and worked with the Pegasus Herd as part of USC’s Community Immersion Program for their incoming first year students. Click here to learn more about the event.

As a result of the success of this initial collaborative effort, commencing in November of 2010, Pegasus began formally collaborating with USC and the VVSD to educate and train the 30 plus clinical interns who work at the VVSD. The clinical interns are initially trained as a group of mental health professionals and then these interns visit Pegasus with their VVSD veterans and jointly participate in our EAT program as an adjunctive form of therapeutic exercise.

2011 Expansion with the VVSD & the Navy’s OASIS Program

Since January of 2011, up to six VVSD veterans and their assigned clinical interns participate weekly in our four week EAT program and, in June, Pegasus further expanded its relationship with the VVSD and began providing its services to the VVSD’s New Resolve residents. Located in Escondido, the VVSD’s New Resolve Program provides transitional housing and therapy in a structured community setting where residents provide their own governance through an elected Resident Council. New Resolve serves homeless veterans with at least 60 days sobriety who are motivated to find employment.

In July of 2011, Pegasus began providing its therapeutic services to the Navy’s first and only residential treatment program for active duty service members with combat related PTSD. Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support (OASIS) is the Navy’s first such program and it is located on the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) campus at Naval Base Point Loma. The OASIS program focuses on active duty service members whose PTSD symptoms have not improved with traditional outpatient treatment. OASIS residents participate in our EAT sessions for 4 weeks in groups of 6-8 as an adjunctive form of therapeutic exercise. We are both proud and honored to have this opportunity to work with OASIS and assist in the recovery of our returning active duty service members who are diagnosed with combat related PTSD.

Individual and Family Based EAT Sessions

Our EAT program offers individual sessions where the sole focus is on the military member’s adjustment and reintegration into their civilian life. Pegasus also offers specialized couples and/or family based sessions where the military member’s family can decide to join together, or visit separately, at our facility in sessions designed to identify and address any family based issues which may have arisen since their return from overseas duty. Click here to hear directly from an active duty servicemember who participated with his wife and 10 year old daughter in our EAT program designed for military families. Our EAT program is a natural, interactive experience which can also compliment and enhance an overall treatment plan for any of our service members who are battling PTSD, TBI and/or other emotional based issues which arise from being stationed overseas.

U.S. Veteran kneeling beside two horsesWithin our EAT program, our herd members serve as mentors beside our equine behaviorists in a specialized experiential program. Our herd is uniquely qualified to serve in this capacity as they themselves have been subjected to years of abuse through neglect. This history of abuse enables our herd to closely mirror, and be empathetic to, the energy and anxieties exhibited by all types of persons who have been exposed to violence–whether they be military members or civilians.

With our herd’s special ability to mirror human actions, feelings and emotions, each session is a unique experience as our equine behaviorists and herd work seemlessly together to naturally tailor the session to the participant’s needs and issues. Participants learn by interacting with the horses as equals from the ground up, rather than through riding or other forms of domination. By removing the element of domination from the human-horse interaction, participants learn how to approach challenges, leverage opportunities and relate more effectively with others, as well as find more peace and tranquility from within. When people experience this type of connection with our herd, it fosters accelerated understanding, growth and healing for their human to human interactions, and it enhances their overall sense of well-being.

Enrichment Programs: Volunteer Caregiver Program

Pegasus provides the unique opportunity for the community to work directly with these horses through the Volunteer Caregiver Program. In this capacity, active or retired military, business professionals, retirees, college students and other adults care for and work with the horses from the ground up as equals in a relationship-based equine approach.

Volunteer Caregiver feeding a horseThere are many tangible benefits for the Volunteer Caregivers in learning this relationship based approach. They include increased self-awareness, reduced stress, increased confidence, self-empowerment, as well as enhanced collaboration and leadership skills. The simple truth of the matter is that all of our Volunteer Caregivers are receiving therapeutic benefits from caring for, and working with, our herd at our beautifully scenic facility located in Lake Wohlford Escondido at the Escondido Equestrian Center for Natural Horsemanship where peace and tranquility surround them.

Click here if you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Caregiver.

Horse Interaction Program

After volunteering for at least 30 days and being in good standing with all of our volunteer rules and regulations, Volunteer Caregivers may also become eligible to apply to our advanced Horse Interaction Program (HIP). HIP provides our Volunteer Caregivers with more advanced training and interaction in horse husbandry, equine psychology, and Pegasus’ peer based approach to working with horses as equals without any of the more traditional forms of domination. Volunteer Caregivers who excel in our HIP may also have the future opportunity to work at Pegasus as qualified equine behaviorists during our EAT program sessions.