Category Archives for "BHW Blog"

A great new addition to our team, is a 17 year girl named Genevieve. She is an intern as part of her senior year at Mounument Mountain High School in Great Barrington Mass and will be posting twice a week about current events around the world and her relationship with horses. We encourage to follow her work as she is an honest, open, strong, individual who has a lot to share. Here is Genevieve’s first blog:

While volunteering at Berkshire HorseWorks, I learn a lot about myself as I strengthen my connection with the horses. They teach me patience, compassion and empathy, as I ask them to work with me while lunging or even ridding. Horses also help me through some tougher times, so it feels really good to be able to give back time and attention. When I need someone to listen to me without judgment, I talk to the horses and it seems like they understand and give me their full attention. Even while grooming, filling water buckets or feeding them, I let them work their magic, making me calmer and more centered. Every time I come to the barn, I face a new challenge; sometimes it’s motivating the horses to exercise or learning a new way to care for an ailment. I leave feeling happy because of the new skills I learn and the older ones that I work toward mastering.

Volunteering here, is opening my eyes to a slightly different version of the career path I want to follow. I thought that I was going to run a barn and give riding lessons, but now I realize that I want to do more than that, I want to give back to the community through similar programs, as well as give the opportunity to the community to experience the same kind of love from these beautiful animals.
#volunteering #eagala #horselove #girlsrule #teens #givingback #intheberkshires

Childhood Anxiety

We would like to introduce our newest member of the team! Alecto, a 12 year old girl who has enrolled in our mentorship program is now our first official blogger! She will be writing bi-weekly blogs, sharing her insight on topics relevant to her and to our community! Please let us know if there is a topic of which you would like to read about. Below is Alecto’s first blog:

Anxiety. The word may purport an ominous presence to some, a feeling of familiar pain to others. This, of course, has its roots in truth. Anxiety is a serious problem, especially in our youth. It is often misdiagnosed or left undiscovered for many years, creating a domino effect of trouble for many. As an outsider, I know how those who don’t notice the anxiety could see it — the teenage years, especially, are full of drama and angst, but anxiety is much deeper that that. Many children and teens have been misdiagnosed, even by trained professionals. Yes, this is a serious problem, but there are solutions. Therapy and medications are readily available to those afflicted with anxiety. There is hope for children and adolescents dealing with this mental health challenge. This disorder has become much more prevalent in recent years, especially considering the tales of woe and hatred prevalent in the media. One key piece of advice from me to the parents reading this is; watch your children. Find out what is normal for your child, what triggers them, and why. Don’t let this go undiagnosed- provide a safe and happy future for your children. I say this again, there is hope. There are methods of helping family or friends with this disorder, and trust me, it will be beneficial. According to the American Psychological Association’s article:…

Five Reasons You Wish You Could Bring a Horse into the Boardroom

Companies that invest in their workforce do so for various reasons – retention , staff development, productivity or just good mojo.  For those  who are looking for clear statistical data before making a decision, here are five reasons to invest in team building initiatives:


70 % of U.S. workers are not engaged at work

Companies with engaged employees earn 2.5 times the revenue than competitors with low engagement levels.

Problems with direct supervisors account for 49% of disengaged employees.

40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their position within the first year

$11 billion is lost annually to employee turnover


Still not convinced despite these compelling numbers?

Check out the newest trend in team building in which YOUR competitors are engaging!!



Policing: Is it just black and white?

I believe we all can agree that on one level or another we have seen a huge disparity in the  interactions between  those of different races —   both within the ranks of law enforcement and amongst neighbors.  The tragic police shootings at times are used as a preventative tool – a reaction to a perceived threat or merely to underlying bias that gets triggered.  Leadership and organizers are  trying to get to the root of racial bias and how to understand and expunge it.   Precincts are holding workshops …But in the world of biases, there are both implicit and explicit types.  As outlined in the APA’s article, “Policing in Black and White,” explicit is easily detected as it is a bias one openly expresses in conversation, implicit biases can become deadly if undetected.  Implicit biases are ones we all have but of which we are unaware until we are asked to make a quick decision in a situation where stereotypes come into play. If we don’t make an effort to understand and deal with both levels we are merely putting a bandaid on the problem.  Officers are now more than ever becoming aware of these biases and are eager to work on them.  David M. Corey, PhD, a police psychologist and founding president of the American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology says, “The police officers I’ve worked with are looking for effective ways to reduce implicit or unintended bias, and they welcome advice based on psychological evidence, not politics…We feel like we have to do something, but sometimes the action we take proves to be merely window dressing,” he says. “My worry is that could cause a police agency to think they’re doing enough, or that the monies being spent will prohibit spending for other areas, including research.” This has not stopped many of the 15,000 law enforcement agencies across the country from implementing bias trainings.  Psychologists, while still left with many unanswered questions, are developing bias detecting and reshaping programs including screening tactics to ensure  new hires are best equipped to handle implicit biases.


While  bias screening, detecting, and reshaping is helpful, the American Psychological Association offers up a more auspicious solution; one at which  our very own Pittsfield Police Department is excelling — rebuilding a community.  While human contact and ‘walking your beat’ has decreased among patrol duties, so has the relationship between officer and citizen. “In the past, an officer used to walk a beat. They’d get out of their car, get to know people,” says John Dovidio, PhD, a social psychologist at Yale University . “Effective policing requires the cooperation of the community. If the community doesn’t trust you, they won’t give you info to help you do your job,” says Dovidio. “If you can create a sense of being on the same team, having the same goals, it makes policing more effective.” Local Officer Darren Derby Is making great head way.  Please check out his social media postings, #HoopsNotCrime, #GetOutOfYourCruiser, Operation Copsicle, Cop on Top, Cops N Kids..  Keep up the good work, officers!

The Year of Girls

It is the GIRLS DECADE!!  Whether California’s Lulu Cerone, Founder of LemonAID Warriors, whose nonprofit is activating the next generation of leaders one “ philanthroparty” at a time, or Kakenya Ntaiya who transformed her experience with female mutilation into becoming the first female in her Kenyan village to receive higher education in the United States and later founded the Kakenya Center for Excellence– a primary school for girls in her native village, or Malia Obama bringing such grace to the White House … OR our own wonderful young women from the Berkshires – Girls Inc. and the Boys and Girls Club’s  “Smart Girls” — who have been empowering themselves to become the best women  possible through the Berkshire HorseWorks’  Girls Rule! and Sister Sense! Equine Assisted Learning programs. Girls and women worldwide are planting their stakes in the ground with their own achievements and also laying  the foundation for others to follow.  The ability to make empowered choices, be confident , problem solve, embrace creativity and  be part of the solution is fostered though our EAGALA personal development programs.   Horses and Girls — a  connection that runs so deep is now helping groom our next leaders.  We can’t wait to help these strong and inspired women influence the course of the future.  Go girls!    And Happy New Year to everyone!!

Post Traumatic Growth versus Resiliency


Many of us are familiar with the acronym PTSD  — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  — whether through the media, involvement with veterans and active military, or firsthand in our own families. We also have a rough understanding of the word “resiliency” and how these two mental health terms may be related. A term not widely  recognized or frankly even used in this arena is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG).  On the surface many may assume that resiliency and PTG are interchangeable. This assumption is incorrect. According to an article in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor, resiliency is the ability to bounce back from traumatic experiences. PTG is when an individual struggles to bounce back from a traumatic experience which  questions his/her core beliefs, and then experiences a sense of personal growth which affects one’s world view,  and core values. What is interesting to note is that the individuals who experience this growth are the ones who struggle most as their foundation is shaken, not the ones who aren’t as affected by the trauma. There are evaluations to measure PTG. These inventories look for positive responses in the following areas: appreciation of life, relationships with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength, and spiritual change. Although there has been evidence found to suggest a possible genetic predisposition for PTG, the link has yet to be solidified. Moreover, there are ways in which practitioners can assist in the healing of individuals with PTSD and encourage PTG. Some top line techniques noted in the article, Growth After Trauma in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor,  are integral to the EAGALA Model of equine assisted psychotherapy utilized at Berkshire HorseWorks:

  1. Highlight strengths of the individual – instead of focusing on their faults and struggles with this experience, focus on how they are making it through and what it is that is allowing them to do so.
  2. Go beyond getting by – Instead of providing clients tools to simply cope and ‘get by’, allow them space to discover how meaningful and fulfilling life can be. Provide  an environment where they can discover options  to lead a more fulfilling life. i.e. volunteer, spend more time with loved ones, start a hobby or career path

In closing, a psychologist at Boulder Crest’s Warrior Program in Bluemont, VA said that he hoped his clients will, “develop new principles for living that involve altruistic behavior, having a mission in life and purpose that goes beyond oneself, so that the trauma is transformed into something that’s useful not only for oneself but for others.”  We provide an environment for those with PTSD to discover their own solutions, while working with horses, in a safe, non judgmental space.


Check out the rest of the article:

Corporate Personalities

Are your management styles in conflict or at odds with the overall culture of your company? This might not necessarily be a bad thing! According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, companies with relationship-based cultures, focused on teamwork and communication, did best with task-oriented or result focused CEOs and vice versa. This study used companies’ return on assets as a measure of success. This is interesting since intuitively we would think we would want CEOs to have the same mindset and focus as the corporate culture itself. It turns out that the opposite is true. Identifying discrepancies like this are one of many facets of EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Team building. What management style do you or your team have and how does it relate to the culture of your business? How does it relate to your clients?  These are just some examples of questions explored during Equine Assisted Team building sessions which are held year round, rain or shine.

Mindfulness and Seeking Balance

Burnout is a real phenomenon. It affects us all. Ironically, those in the mental heath field, teaching self-care to clients, don’t always abide by their own advice. Enter the concept of mindfulness. In an article from the American Psychological Association, “Seeking More Balance,” maintaining a work-life balance is a life-long task and is much easier said than done. Some professionals focus solely on time-management in order to create balance, as  with Jim Davies, PhD, a faculty member at Carleton University in Ottawa, “We’re too busy because we’re overcommitted, not because our jobs are too onerous.” He uses a strict technique of planning out every 30 minute block of his day, “Crucially, I also schedule in my breaks…including lunch, coffee breaks and even daily naps… For me, prioritizing life means putting it in the schedule like all the other important things.”  On the other hand, many others don’t seem to focus solely on time management, but rather energy. Sandra Lewis, PsyD, a clinical psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey and founder of the Living Source, said, “People focus a lot on time management, but I think in terms of personal energy management. If you have enough energy, you make better use of your time. In the same way we charge our cellphones, we need to charge ourselves.” Instead of adding on all of these self-care activities to your day that then simply seem like another item on your To Do list, “Find self-care strategies that you can integrate in rather than add on. Honor the small things,” says Lewis. Instead of picking up a new exercise class at the local gym, walk around the block on your lunch break or instead of taking a half hour nap, spend 5 minutes between meeting meditating or breathing or stretching.

The APA included several research-based strategies in order to create and maintain balance in your life. One being to practice mindfulness. “Cultivating a habit of self-awareness is vital…One of the best things we can do is to develop a reflective habit of checking in with ourselves at least a couple times a day, taking note of the emotional ‘weather’ without judgment,” states John Christensen, PhD, past co-chair of the APA Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance. In a study of working parents, Tammy D. Allen, PhD, found that individuals with better mindfulness experienced better work-family balance and sleep quality as well as greater vitality. Another technique for better balance is to go outside. Roger Walk, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, has found that spending time in the great outdoors is linked to improved cognition, attention, mood and also subjective well-being. Lastly, a third technique is to make your life meaningful.  As Sandra Lewis states, “We do our best work and live our best lives when we have a sense of meaning – a feeling that we what we do extends beyond us and brings good to others.”

All of these mindfulness techniques can be utilized in many environments. We have found integrating mindfulness into our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy work with at-risk youth, veterans, families and even with our inmates.  Cultivating mindfulness while being surrounded by 1,200 beings, as they connect with you and match your breath is magical.

Check out the full article here:

Berkshire HorseWorks Secures First Grants

HorseWorks_Article_Part_1The most recent issue of “Berkshire’s Best” Bridal Guide includes an article about Berkshire HorseWorks’ first grants that were recently secured. The article (replicated in the accompanying graphics), share the entire article. To see the original article in its online form, please follow this link and find us on page 25.













Social Worker Caseloads Put Them at Risk

Overwhelming caseloads and a lack of safety training puts social workers at an exceptionally high risk. These professionals report to put their own safety on the back burner while handling a large number at cases. While the federal guidelines recommend no more than 12 cases per caseworker, caseworkers in St. Albans, VT average a caseload of 24.8. If these social workers limited themselves to the federal recommendation, the entire office would be able to handle only 60.4% of their current cases. This reveals another dilemma: a dearth of qualified professionals in this area or just budget cuts?

Either way, security has shamefully faded to the background. Does it take a death of a local social worker, for Vermont’s DCF offices to establish mandatory safety training programs and protocols such as the buddy system when making home visits?  Please chime in.

Read more here.