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Adventures in Teambuilding

Posted on: December 22nd, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

Berkshire HorseWorks was covered in a November 1, 2015 article on the website, MeetingMagazines.com. The article covered types of teambuilding techniques and Berkshire Horseworks was the lead feature in the article. See their coverage below
or click here to see the original article on the MeetingMagazine.com website.


Berkshire HorseWorks specializes in equine-assisted personal development programs designed to help employees learn how to work together toward a common goal and/or to adapt to a new management style. Credit: Berkshire HorseWorks


To an outsider, corporate teambuilding activities may simply look like fun and games, but in reality, they can play a significant role in helping an organization reach important goals such as improving communications, fostering a better sense of cooperation or learning to overcome challenges. And the choice of teambuilding activities now available is as diverse as the organizations that engage in them.

Equine Insights

When Antoine Alston, owner of Berkshire Functional Fitness in Richmond, Massachusetts, was getting ready to launch an innovative new fitness concept, he wanted to find a teambuilding activity that would take his employees out of their comfort zone. Alston chose Berkshire HorseWorks, a nonprofit organization located in Richmond, Massachusetts, to guide his group of 14. Berkshire HorseWorks specializes in equine-assisted personal development programs designed to help employees learn how to work together toward a common goal and/or to adapt to a new management style.

Contrary to what some people may assume, the Berkshire HorseWorks program does not involve horseback riding. The goal of the program is to have participants learn about themselves and others by connecting with the horses and then observing and discussing the experience. All sessions are led by professionals trained and certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).

Berkshire HorseWorks “gave me a really good assessment of who was willing to get out of their own comfort zones, take charge and be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
— Antoine Alston

“Horses are innately intuitive,” explains Hayley Sumner, founder and executive director of the program. “They give feedback in the moment. Because they are fight or flight prey animals, they’ll make a decision in a split second as to what they’re going to do in reaction to those around them.” She says that horses can sense whether someone is being true to themselves. “If there is an incongruity between what you’re saying and how you’re acting, they will call you out in a moment. You have to adjust your thinking and think out of the box. When the horse feels that there is a connection, and that the person has come to a place of acceptance and openness, the horse is more apt to work with them.”

One exercise that the facilitators at Berkshire HorseWorks conducted was to have each participant choose the horse that is most like them. “The alphas of the group picked what they thought the alpha horse was, which was completely incorrect,” Sumner explains. She says that the lesson taught here is that people should not make assumptions about others on their team, because those assumptions may turn out to be false.

In another exercise, the participants were asked to self-identify themselves as to whether they’re natural leaders or less inclined to speak up. Next, an obstacle course was created to represent the challenges the participants typically had to navigate during the course of a work day. Then the tables were turned. The self-described leaders were blindfolded and had to follow the verbal directions of a non-leader in order to lead their horse through the obstacle course successfully. This exercise helped the non-leaders step up and feel what it was like to be a leader, and taught the leaders what it felt like to be vulnerable and have to rely on their teammates.

After each exercise, the group discusses what they learned from the experience. Sumner said that the leaders talked about how uncomfortable it was to feel vulnerable and that they had to be able to trust that they were safe with this person leading them. This led to a discussion about what the options are when a person feels vulnerable and whether there’s a way for them to spread out responsibility.

“It was a very unique approach to many things, from communications to teambuilding to cooperation to problem solving,” Alston explains. “It was something different, and it still spoke to the things that I need in my company and the interpersonal relationships that we had to work on. I basically wanted people to forget some of the old-school thought processes and get them out of their (regular) environment.

“(The Berkshire HorseWorks program) was a nice way to do some icebreakers and work together on a situation that none of us really was familiar with, which is kind of what I’ve been asking them (to do in my business) anyway. Second, you have these big, beautiful horses, and these obstacles,” he adds, explaining that the members of his group did not have previous experience with horses. “I thought, OK we’re going to be uncomfortable together and walk this through together. What a great environment to do it in and to have it be facilitated by professionals, at that.”

Since Alston was looking to his team to take his company into uncharted territory, the Berkshire HorseWorks program gave him a unique opportunity. “It gave me a really good assessment of who was willing to get out of their own comfort zones, take charge and be comfortable being uncomfortable. When you’re doing something that kind of goes against many other standards in the industry, you’ve got to be ready for it and be strong in what you’re doing.”

Alston said that the full-day program definitely helped him achieve his goals. “I learned a lot about my team, and my team learned a lot about me. We also had fun, which was actually very important because no one was in their comfortable place. It definitely disclosed some things I wasn’t prepared for, but it also disclosed many things I was extremely happy for.”

See the entire, original article on the MeetingMagazines.com website.

Corporate Team Building Activities Using Horses

Posted on: September 12th, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

Meeting planners are consistently challenged to find corporate team building activities that are new, interesting, and effective. And that’s exactly where horses come in! Equine-assisted team building activities can foster critical thinking, help people re-engage with their co-workers, and define or reinforce their place in the larger corporate culture.

A recent article in Meetings Net, featured as the Event of the Month, showcased equine-assisted team building activities by Berkshire HorseWorks. The nonprofit organization’s approach to team building has been used to:

  • Define how employees can work as a team toward a common goal such as increased productivity or landing a new client
  • Work with staff to adapt to a company’s new management style and initiatives
  • Navigate cultural differences and cultivate empathy
  • Learn crisis mitigation
  • Prepare for an IRS audit
  • Build camaraderie

Berkshire HorseWorks offers corporate team building activities in sessions of 90 minutes, half-day or full-day workshops, and customized multi-day retreats. For more information contact Hayley Sumner at (310)488-9777.

See image of the original article below. Click link for a printable PDF document of the actual article that appeared in Meetings Net.


Lenox Living Features BHW and Volunteer Heidi Brandt

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

The May 2015 issue of Lenox Living magazine includes a feature article on Berkshire HorseWorks and volunteer, Heidi Brandt. Volunteering at Berkshire HorseWorks for two years, Heidi shares why she loves volunteering for BHK and responds to other interview questions asked by author, Heather Herman. Read the entire article here.

Berkshire HorseWorks Volunteer Heidi Brandt

Berkshire Eagle Article About Natural Horsemanship Clinic

Posted on: May 12th, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

The Berkshire Eagle wrote a fabulous article on May 8 about Tim Hayes and the upcoming Natural Horsemanship Clinic to be held at Berkshire HorseWorks on Saturday, May 16.  Berkshire HorseWorks will be featuring the Hayes Clinic as a fundraising event.

Find all details about the clinic here.
View the entire Berkshire Eagle article here.


Berkshire HorseWorks in Massachusetts Horse Magazine

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

Cover of April/May Massachusetts Horse MagazineThe April/May issue of Massachusetts Horse Magazine features an article about Berkshire HorseWorks achieving 501(c)3 status. The article discusses how Berkshire HorseWorks has been treating at-risk youth, veterans, families, individuals, and couples with a broad range of challenges including anxiety, PTSD, bullying, eating disorders, and more.

The article also discusses how Berkshire HorseWorks partners with organizations to strengthen their workforces through equine team building activities and personal wellness initiatives.

By transitioning to nonprofit status the company can accept donations which enables Berkshire HorseWorks to offer its services to those who may otherwise have an inability to pay for Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP).

Berkshire HorseWorks services are based on the EAGALA Model. See more about EAGALA, EAP, and EAL by clicking the respective links.

See a copy of the article below.

MA Horse Article



BHW Hayley Sumner Interviewed on WNYT TV

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

Berkshire HorseWorks founder and Executive Director, Hayley Sumner was interviewed on March 21 by Phil Bayly on Forum 13 on WNYT TV in Albany, New York. In the ten minute interview Sumner discusses how Berkshire HorseWorks uses the EAGALA model of equine-assisted learning and equine-assisted therapy to work with individuals, families, and organizations. (Click to view video.)

WNYT.com_TV_Interview_with_HayleyIn the interview, Sumner explains that the EAGALA model is based on four principled tenets:

  • ground-based
  • solution focused
  • code of ethics driven
  • facilitated by a team including a licensed mental health professional along with an equine specialist

Sumner also provides examples of who uses equine-assisted learning and therapy in different types of situations and how the process benefits individuals and groups.

Also shared during the interview is the upcoming Berkshire HorseWorks fundraising event on Saturday, May 16 that features author and horseman, Tim Hayes. Hayes’ recently published book, Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal, will be showcased in a Meet the Author event that follows an all-day natural horsemanship clinic. (Please note that the date stated during interview as April 18 was not the correct date.) Those interested in the event can download an event flyer and registration form.

Click here to watch the video in its entirety.

The Eagle Shares Berkshire HorseWorks 501(c)3 Status

Posted on: March 9th, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

The Bershire Eagle recently published an article sharing news of the newly designated 501(c)3 status of Berkshire HorseWorks.


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To access the article online in its original form, please click this link and scroll down the page to the section called, ‘Helped by Horses’.

Berkshire HorseWorks Helps More Individuals as a Nonprofit

Posted on: March 4th, 2015 by Hayley , No Comments

We are so excited that Berkshire HorseWorks has attained 501(C)3 status and that the Berkshire Record has shared the news!

Gaining wide recognition for our effective horse-based therapy, our nonprofit status allows us to offer our services to many more individuals in need, regardless of ability to pay. Berkshire HorseWorks works with at-risk youth, veterans, families, individuals, and couples with a broad range of challenges including anxiety, PTSD, bullying, and eating disorders.

See the entire article in the Berkshire Record by clicking here.


Horsin’ Around

Posted on: July 8th, 2014 by Hayley , No Comments

Equine therapy helps change behaviors

We wanted to share this great article with our friends and supporters! In June, the Richmond Record published an excellent article about equine therapy and Berkshire HorseWorks. The article does a great job of explaining how Berkshire HorseWorks, using EAGALA certified facilitators, can use human / horse interaction to assist individuals and organizations. From helping teens with socialization, anger management, trust, respect and boundary issues; to veterans coping with PTSD, stress and anxiety; to corporate groups looking to improve communication and develop stronger teams, horse therapy has proven to be highly effective.  See the entire article below.


Horse Sense

Posted on: June 13th, 2014 by Hayley , No Comments

Firm offers equine assisted approach to team-building

The snippet below contains just the introduction to a two-page feature article in the June 2014 edition of the Berkshire Trade & Commerce. Click here to see the entire article — scroll to page 10.