Imagine experiencing the freedom of being yourself for the first time. There you are, suddenly accepted as a new being, basking in the lack of suffocating expectations and singing with the potential of a whole new world to explore. But then, the bars clamp down and your newfound freedom evaporates as you’re told to go back to your “old self”. For many LGBTQ youth, this is exactly what has happened. According to a report on NPR on July 20th, 2020 (here), queer college students and young adults have struggled with the question of moving back in with their anti-LGBTQ parents during Covid-19, a move which has had serious implications on mental health.

According to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that supports LGBTQ mental health for those under the age of 25, a whopping forty percent of LGBTQ individuals considered suicide in the last year; that number was substantially lower for those with supportive families and communities. However, the coronavirus quarantine has in many cases substantially reduced access to these supportive communities. For many, this means going back in the closet. All evidence points to the fact that a lack of emotional resources will have a negative effect on mental health and suicidality.

But there is hope. Now that Massachusetts is opening up, there are more and more ways for people to travel outside their homes safely. Even in the absence of structured environments for students such as schools and camps, finding acceptance outside one’s immediate surroundings is now more possible than it was before. Berkshire HorseWorks’ program “This is Me” is available for LGBTQ youth struggling to express themselves and find their voice. The ranch has recently reopened with a COVID-clean facility, enforcing social distancing and hosting their therapeutic workshops outside, where the risk of Covid-19 is lessened. If you or a loved one is struggling with expression or mental health issues, you don’t have to struggle alone. Through Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) our horses can help individuals and families navigate difficult circumstances, and come to understand one another better. LGBTQ, straight or other, let us be there to support you.

Hugs during Covid-19

Lets face it, there are times when we all need a hug. And who knew they were so good for you: a hug provides stress relief, boosts your immune system, increases oxytocin in your brain (the “feel good” hormone), and communicates everything from happiness to fear to sympathy (according to Healthline).

The Family Therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” (Healthline) This may be true, but for most Americans, it may seem a bit excessive. Believe it or not, Americans are not known for being particularly touchy-feely as compared with other countries. In Italy, a trio of kisses is the appropriate way to greet someone; in America, we’re lucky if we get a firm handshake. Some sources say westerners, especially Americans, are regularly touch-deprived. This is obviously especially true during the time of Covid-19 when hugs have become controversial – but still crucial for our wellbeing. (shorten paragraph)

One saving grace is animals. Animals typically don’t get Covid-19, they (usually) love to be pet and played with and the physical contact is good for everyone. Here at Berkshire HorseWorks, we feel especially lucky to have our two miniature Sicilian Donkeys to cuddle with whenever we get the urge. And they’re not shy in sharing: if you find yourself alone and in need of a hug, Bolt and Rodeo are here for you, too.

During this difficult time, if you’re looking for a place to steal a hug, give us a call at 413-698-3700 or shoot us an email at to set up an appointment to safely hug a Donkey!

Until next time,


Isolation Well Being Checklist

Isolation Well Being Checklist

Cynthia L Cardeli, Director of Programs & Services at the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, sent around an email last week entitled “Checking in and Resources”. We found it so helpful we thought we’d share one of our favorite tools with you.
This is a checklist of things to do everyday while in quarantine to keep your mind and body healthy (See below):

Lets be real here, it starts off strong: Take a shower. Every day. If any of you are like me, you’ve found yourself living in your PJ’s long past 1pm. A shower every day has reminded me I’m not just a couch vegetable (potato or otherwise).

Keeping things clean is also a winner. I’m a natural clean freak on a good day, but things still manage to pile up (hey, motivation is hard sometimes). If the days feel like they’re droning by, keeping your space neat and tidy provides a pleasurable sense of productivity, and keeps your daily maneuvering space maneuverable.

This next one is my all time personal favorite. Introvert or extrovert, we need people at least a little sometimes. So many of us are struggling with the isolation – especially the elderly or those who live alone. It’s good karma to reach out and connect and, hey, it’s good for your mental health too. In response to this checklist item I’ve started calling someone outside my house every day, and found my relationships have gotten significantly stronger as a result.

Get in at least one good laugh. This one seems to be the hardest for me. Whether its YouTube comedy or laughing at your cat getting stuck in a box (there’s definitely a reason cat videos are so popular), a belly laugh is good for your body and spirit. Even in isolation, there’s always something to laugh about.

If we could add one checkpoint, it would be to hug an animal (not people – that’s not social distancing) every day. Here at the ranch, our donkeys Bolt and Rodeo are always here for coronavirus-safe cuddles. So call us if you want to come hug a donk!

Thank you to Cynthia Cardeli for these helpful resources! We hope everyone who reads this enjoys them too!


Sarah at Berkshire HorseWorks

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Hey guys, its Sarah here again. I found something interesting to share with you regarding horses and their ability to heal during a crisis:

Our mental health is being challenged daily through the mandate to socially and physically isolate and the concomitant fears and feelings of anxiety, depression and disconnectedness. For children who will grow up remembering the year they didn’t finish school because of a lockdown, it is even more frightening as they may not fully understand their own emotions or those their parents may be exhibiting at home. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy can help navigate those feelings through ground -based interaction with horses. Because of their intuitive nature and the ability to read and serve as a mirror of emotions in the moment, horses facilitate change in a safe nonjudgmental way. Equine Assisted PsychotherapyEquine Assisted Psychotherapy.

Taking action – of any form – during times of uncertainty is beneficial to one’s mental health. That is true for any age.

Lauren Levin, Vice President of the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise, sent out a call to arms to push congress to support youth mental health by including the STANDUP act of 2019STANDUP act of 2019 within the next government stimulus package. “We’re already hearing reports that depression, anxiety and suicide are on the rise – and we know that past pandemics have created an overwhelming need for more mental health support,” she wrote.

When the first shock waves of Sandy Hook reverberated across the United States, Eagala certified practitioners and their horses were there, working with the families, children and first responders to mitigate the effects of trauma. Horses are a wonderful resource during times of crisis and anxiety.

As with Sandy Hook, it is critical we shine a spotlight on the importance of youth’s mental health both by passing legislation the STANDUP ACT of 2019 and by providing the services that work. Eagala Model Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy has been employed for over two decades to decrease anxiety, alleviate stress, and build resiliency. If you have children or family members who are feeling overwhelmed, sad or anxious, please know our horses at Berkshire HorseWorks are here to help. As adults responsible for their safety and health, we must make sure that those suffering silently do not slip through the cracks.

Thanks for reading!

Sarah Humphrey


Nap Time

There is nothing more luxurious than a well-timed nap. In a sunny spot on a nice day, or curled up on a couch with the rain pattering against the windows, naps feel good – but they’re also good for you.

According to the article in Psychology Today magazine online entitled “There’s a Nap for That” (found HERE), there are many different types of naps serving a variety of functions. There are naps for inspiration, procrastination, taking a chill pill and (who knew) boosting your work-out. I’m an avid napper, and my personal favorite is the coffee nap, experienced after a cup of Joe before the caffeine kicks in.

Many of us are now stuck at home working remotely, so the question is: does that mean we have more time for naps? I took a quick poll of my coworkers at Berkshire HorseWorks and a few of my friends around town to get the low down on Covid-19 nappage.

  • My good friend Rachel, an artist and teacher in Stockbridge: “Even though I’m working remotely right now, I’m constantly too wired to nap. Free time is a blessing, but I keep using it to do other projects instead of taking a breather.”
  • My coworker Christina, some of the womanpower behind caring for the horses at Berkshire HorseWorks: “I try to take naps every day and it doesn’t always happen. I have a little girl at home, which means I’m on her schedule.”
  • Hayley, Berkshire HorseWorks’ fearless executive director, said: “It’s hard to take naps because my mind doesn’t shut off. It’s always creating scenarios and new business ideas – so when I lay down on the pillows my brain surges double-time and often I get anxious. The only way I’ll ever nap is with my cat sitting on my chest, covered in at least 5 fluffy pillows.”
  • My boyfriend Jake who works the nightshift at a school in Northampton: “I don’t really sleep because of my job, I only ever nap. So yes and no?”
  • My religious friend Julie: “I nap on Shabbas. At home, even during the Coronavirus, I’m just too busy.”

So there you have it. Though napping may be luxurious, it’s also something of a luxury, even in the time of Covid-19.

Thanks for reading!


A Framework for Staying Sane in a Year of Uncertainty

Thoughts on staying sane during Covid-19

In this uncertain time of Coronavirus, where most of us are either huddling up to our smart-phones for contact or forced to head out into the hazardous unknown for work, there’s a lot of talk about health. Like that of the guy who touched the can of tuna fish just before you did (did I just hear him cough?!). But what isn’t being talked about as much is our mental health. I’m Sarah, one of the team members at Berkshire HorseWorks, and I wanted to share with what’s been helping me during this disruptive time.

There’s a great article called, “A Framework for Staying Sane in a Year of Uncertainty” (Here) that’s provided a lot of encouragement for me as a nearly 30-year-old stuck inside with no dog (dangit). In it, Dr. Gil Noam talks about the Clover Model, created by Harvard doctors to describe human development. These are the areas, which, if addressed effectively every day, can help us “stay sane” and keep us moving and grooving even when we’re isolated and in our apartments. Here’s are my ideas for practicing the 4 principles every day:

  1. Active Engagement: Find something to do that gets your brain moving. A crossword puzzle, an art project, going to work – get involved in something that stimulates you.
  2. Assertiveness/voice: Write in your journal, blog or talk to others about how you’re feeling. If you have opinions about how things are going in any area of your life, find ways to speak up about them.
  3. Belonging: Call your Nana, your best friend, your best friend’s Nana or someone in your life that loves you. Find ways to stay connected; it’s the best way to counteract the social isolation of socially isolating.
  4. Reflection: Being stuck at home is the perfect time to draw inwards and ask yourself the hard questions like “Where does a rainbow start?” and “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?”. Take advantage of the downtime to get to know You better.

Like many, I’m not impervious to the stress of the virus, but when I tackle each of these 4 tenats every day I feel happier. It IS possible to stay sane in this unprecedented and frightening time – and I think we can do it together. Though I also think it’s generally much better when there’s a Donkey involved.

Thanks for reading!