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Myakka City psychologist uses horses to help humans


Brandon Forgeur, 13, and Kasey Reed, 8, were having trouble.

They had been assigned to work together to saddle a horse at the Lazy J Ranch, but the horse ran away from them.

Eventually, they got the saddle blanket on — backward.

They finally got the saddle on, but it fell off.

Later, when reviewing instructions from psychologist Janet Bruggemann, they decided if they had cooperated more closely, they would have accomplished their mission.

“More teamwork,” was Brandon’s terse prescription for a better outcome.

The boys were not really Bruggemann’s clients, but they were at her ranch recently at 44617 S.R. 64 E. to help with a demonstration of a new program designed to use horses in the course of psychological treatment.

While studying for her degree, Bruggemann became interested in the nonprofit Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

She discovered its Web site,, and attended a demonstration in Kissimmee. The organization aims to persuade professionals in clinical and human development to accept its methods as valid and effective, according to its Web site.

“This benefits those in the equine fields by opening up greater possibilities for doing what they love, namely working with horses,” it explained.

It provides clinical and human development specialists with a fun, therapeutic and educational alternative, and benefits clients because it works, the Web site said.

“We get trained to work with horses as part of the treatment team,” said Bruggemann, who in addition to her equine specialty provides private counseling through East County Counseling Services, LLC.

“We give them activities and see what skills they have to get it done.”

Those who will be in the equine program will not be riding the five horses Bruggemann and her husband, William, keep on their property.

Rather, working with the animals is a way to evaluate group dynamics and teach problem solving, Bruggemann said. She uses a team approach with equine specialist Dale Ryan for the best results, she said.

If she is treating children, her purview extends to the whole family.

“I watch the parents’ behavior,” she said. “Counseling doesn’t help if you just work with the kids.”

Very controlling parents will do whatever task she has assigned the group, as they don’t trust their children to do anything well, Bruggemann said.

Some parents just dictate to the kids what to do, instead of giving them a chance to decide how to do it themselves.

“They can’t see outside the box,” she explained of such parents, who inadvertently undermine the creativity and self-confidence of their children.

For more information, call (941) 224-7967 or e-mail

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908 or you can e-mail her at