By Karen Billing
Pegasus Rising will hold its fourth annual Wine and Feed Fundraiser on Saturday, Feb. 1, from 4-7 p.m. at a private home in Fairbanks Ranch. Pegasus Rising is an equine therapy group that serves predominately military personnel, many of whom have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Pegasus Rising serves between 1,000 and 1,200 people a year.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Vietnam-era veteran or a veteran of a current war, the horses make a connection,” said Gary Adler, president and CEO of Pegasus Rising. “They just connect with people and we watch that happen time and time again without us doing a thing. Our motto is to partner horses and humans for healing and that’s really what happens, the horses really do all the heavy lifting as long as we provide a safe environment where they can explore each other.”
The Feb. 1 event is $75 a person and will feature a variety of wines, beer and appetizers, a silent auction with items donated by local merchants and live music by The Farmers. Several veterans who have participated in the programs will speak about the benefits of working with the horses.
Sponsored by PRP Wine International, Stone Brewing Company, Whole Foods Market La Jolla and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, the event is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“This is critical to our survival,” Adler said.
Pegasus Rising was founded in the Sacramento area and moved to the Valenti Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe in 2009. Irene Valenti generously donates the use of the ranch free of charge.
All 14 of the horses in the Pegasus Rising herd were rescued from a farm that could no longer care for them. The horses’ own traumatic history allows them to be empathetic and mirror the anxieties exhibited by people who have been exposed to violence — the horses went from a life of neglect to serving a noble purpose.
Pegasus Rising does not charge for its services and it runs entirely on donations.
“Every dollar we raise goes to the herd,” Adler said. “We are a grass roots, mom and pop organization and we survive solely on donations and support from the local community.”
Pegasus Rising has expanded on its weekly offerings of equine-assisted experiential health therapy programs. Pegasus Rising holds group sessions with the Navy’s OASIS group (Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support) for
returning and active duty service members diagnosed with combat related PTSD; Veterans Village of San Diego; San Marcos Veterans Center; and the Interfaith Community Services’ Veterans Assistance of San Diego.
In addition to its group programs, Pegasus Rising also provides couples and family-based sessions for individuals who are readjusting to civilian life.
Adler says the partnerships work because horses are hyper-sensitive animals, very sensitive to smells, sounds and movement and, in many ways, combat veterans are similar as they have been in prey-predator mode in their deployments and are also hyper-sensitive.
The dominant veterans tend to be drawn to the more dominant horses, the reclusive veterans to a quieter horse — there’s an emphatic connection between the two that’s like a mirroring, according to Adler.
“The horses connect with combat veterans naturally, it’s just a beautiful thing,” Adler said.
Through walking the horses, haltering them and exercises such as taking them through obstacle courses, Adler said the veterans are able to connect and bond, gaining the self-confidence to
interact with others.
Tickets for the event must be purchased in advance. To register online, pay at
and fill out the form at
Registrations can also be mailed with a check made payable to Pegasus Rising Project to P.O. Box 8562, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067.
For more information, contact Gary Adler at firstname.lastname@example.org.