Category Archives for "EAL"

EAL Session at Berkshire HorseWorks

15th Annual EAGALA Conference Held in March

EAGALA Convenes in Mesquite for Annual Conference ~

Every year, people from across the world who practice the EAGALA method of treatment, gather to learn more about the program and discuss new ways to apply the EAGALA Model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning to help others in need. Professionals come here to learn more ways to treat their patients. We were there to represent Berkshire HorseWorks. Read more about this year’s conference in this article from The Mesquite News. The photo below is from a session at Berkshire HorseWorks and is not related to the Mesquite conference.

EAL Session at Berkshire HorseWorks

Unique mental health conference held in Mesquite

Mesquite News

Kenny Green • The Mesquite News • March 19, 2014 – Since the Mesquite Arena opened, it has been the host to numerous events that utilize horses. A recent event involved horses in a different way. Instead of using them to race around barrels at breakneck speeds or guide wayward bulls back into their pens, these horses where being used to provide therapy to individuals with mental illnesses as part of EAGALA’s annual conference.

“EAGALA uses a specific model for horses to help people with various mental illnesses,” said Lynn Thomas, EAGALA co-founder and executive director. “The way we incorporate the horses, it allows people to connect with them. Because horses are prey animals, they have the ability to read nonverbal communication. We are always sending these nonverbal messages, and the horses respond to that. As a result, through their reactions, we can learn a lot about ourselves.”

One way horses are used is for people that have faced addictions. Thomas said the person with the addiction will be asked to set up a path for the horse to follow. The path will contain various roadblocks and key points during their recovery process.

Kenny Green’s entire article is available at Mesquite News.

Equine Assisted Therapy works well for children

Children Benefit from Equine Assisted Learning

Equine Therapy Helps Charlestown, Indiana 9 Year Old ~

The EAGALA model of Equine Assisted Learning has helped thousands of children and adults around the world deal with emotional issues, anger management, coping skills and social interaction. Ethan Vaughn’s story in the Courier-Journal last week was just another reminder to all of us at Berkshire HorseWorks what seeming miracles can come from the horse/human collaboration. Families who had all but lost hope find solace and reassurance when they discover EAL and EAP. The photo below is from a session at Berkshire HorseWorks and is not related to Ethan Vaughn.

Equine Assisted Therapy works well for children

Horse therapy helps children cope with behavior issues

Jenna Esarey • The Courier-Journal • April 9, 2014 – Last year, Ethan Vaughn’s angry outbursts and struggles with ADHD were getting out of hand. The Charlestown third-grader was having trouble focusing and controlling his behavior in school.

“He’s always had hyperactivity, but things had gotten a lot worse. He was having trouble with anger,” said his mother, Kerri Vaughn.

That was until the family found out about Jeffersonville’s nonprofit horse therapy group, Opening Gates Inc., that offers equine-assisted counseling and learning programs using its 19 horses.

“I had heard about therapy horses, but I had no idea we had any in the area,” Vaughn said.

Ethan, 9, was paired with Bear, an abused animal rescued by therapist Shara Wiesenauer, the founder of Opening Gates. “He’s 27. That would be 81 if he was a person,” she said.

Imported from Ireland, Bear was a competitor at the grand prix level in dressage and was a jumper. “We found him six years ago at an animal rescue,” Wiesenauer said. “He was not in good shape. He had been abandoned at a slaughter auction. This animal that was once deemed of no use now serves a wonderful purpose.”

Ethan worked to control his outbursts to avoid upsetting Bear. After working with Bear once a week for 12 weeks, Ethan made great strides. “He’s just learned so much more from this than I could have asked,” Vaughn said. “It has been a godsend.”

Jenna Esarey’s entire article is available at The Courier-Journal.

Team Building Exercises at Berkshire HorseWorks

Press Release – Team Building Demonstration at BHW

FROM: Berkshire HorseWorks LLC, EAGALA Certified Program
CONTACT: Hayley Sumner,, (413) 698-3700




Richmond, MA, APRIL 14, 2014— In an effort to further support community at risk youth and their families by providing EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), Berkshire HorseWorks is reaching out to local organizations to invest in their own staff’s development by signing up for a half or full day team building workshop by June 1st. In turn, BHW will donate sessions to identified at risk youth and/or their families free of charge. The initiative will formally be announced at an interactive demonstration on Tuesday, April 22nd, from 4:30 – 7pm at the Berkshire Equestrian Center in Richmond (40 Perry’s Peak Road, off route 41). The demo will focus on personal development and team dynamics in the workplace and how EAP can be a highly effective tool for corporate team building. Egremont resident, cancer survivor and EAGALA Certified Practitioner Hayley Sumner introduced this experiential modality of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Learning (EAL) to the Berkshires last June when she and her team opened shop.

The Model has a diverse application from helping in the healing process of the children, families and first responders affected by the Newtown tragedy, to assisting military personnel and vets with PTSD reintegrate into society, to cultivating empathy in Fortune 500 companies, to motivating a corporation’s sales force to teaching anti-bullying techniques in schools.

“My hope when starting this business was to be able to help organizations and our community concurrently. If we can offer a new way for businesses to invest in their workforce by using horses to honestly examine team dynamics, facilitate effective communication, increase problem solving skills and encourage creative thinking then that will lead to more productive and healthier relationships outside of the workplace,” said Sumner, Founder and Executive Director of Berkshire HorseWorks.

Clients have ranged from Fox Sports, Berkshire Functional Fitness and the Seekonk Tree Company to Hillcrest Educational Center, John Dewey Academy and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department. Because Equine Assisted Learning is so effective, it is considered a rapid approach to building life skills.

“I attended a recent team building session and had no idea what to expect. After just an hour and a half I came away with valuable information usable in everyday life. First and foremost, I don’t listen very well!! I hear fine but don’t focus on what is being said. Where I didn’t comprehend the initial instructions others did. So as a team, being able to combine all of our individual strengths and solve the task was powerful and more efficient. I highly recommend taking a session,” said Peter Sweet, Jr., Owner Seekonk Tree Farm.

“The HorseWorks experience awoke me to the realization that I am so intimidated by instructions issued by an “authority figure” that I will blindly follow those instructions to the letter, as if I were still the “good little girl” who never challenged the expected response. To have reacted this way at this time flew directly in the face of who I am today … an individual who explores every possible means to an end, extended to very out-of-the-box solutions. As a result, I am determined to diminish my tendency to demur without significant, informed thought and, instead, act on my proven ability to intelligently question and act beyond the expected, even at the risk of being “wrong”, shared Carol Robins, Former Director of Volunteer Resources, Lighthouse International.

Horses are innately sensitive and open. Interaction with them serves as a mirror of emotions and behavior, thus helping individuals, couples, and groups discover positive solutions to real-life challenges. Participants are empowered by the lessons learned in the arena and translate that energy, attitude, and behavior when they return to the workplace, the family or school. Recent group workshops have included:

  • Defining how employees can work as a team toward a common goal such as increased productivity or landing a new client.
  • Working with staff to enhance communication and adapt to a company’s new management initiatives.
  • Helping struggling students deal with bullying at school or issues at home.
  • Navigating cultural differences in a government agency.

Having run a public relations company for more than 20 years, Sumner recognized the importance of investing in and supporting her associates in their personal development. “We would go on rafting trips to Costa Rica to help us all develop a sense of trust and teamwork. They became great leaders and listeners. Had I known about horses at that time I might have traded in the rafts for hooves. We can work on just about anything in the arena that one would do in boardroom trainings. Bringing it to life allows for hands on metaphorical learning that is very powerful for staff development employee retention and overall wellness,” states Sumner.

Unlike therapeutic riding where a client is mounted on a horse, EAGALA Model EAP and EAL sessions take place on the ground, are facilitated by both a Licensed Mental Health Professional and a qualified Equine Specialist, are solution-oriented. Horse therapy or EAP can be used as both an adjunct or alternative to talk therapy. Horses often break through the barriers that in more traditional modes can stall people. EAGALA Certified professionals work with a broad spectrum of behavioral/mental health issues and learning goals including ADHD, autism, depression, addiction, eating disorders, couples therapy, stress management, recidivism, teamwork, sexual abuse, leadership skills and trauma-related disorders. Donated sessions to the families and youth will focus on these treatment goals as needed.

“The Berkshires are a very healing community. I am hoping the EAGALA programs at Berkshire HorseWorks will augment in a new way, the wellness and vitality of our population both individually and in the workplace – arming all with the tools to cope, heal, compete, communicate and thrive in today’s stressful world. BHW will offer not only EAP and EAL sessions for individuals, couples, veterans, and groups, but also tailored workshops and retreats for corporations, agencies, and school districts. The goal is to collaborate with existing initiatives so as to maximize impact and reach,” explained Sumner.

EAGALA is a nonprofit organization developed in 1999 to address the need for resources, education and professionalism in the fields of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning. The association has set the standard for professional excellence in how horses and humans work together to improve the quality of life and mental health of individuals, families and groups worldwide. In partnership with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), EAGALA provides an opportunity for a second career for horses retired from racing. EAGALA has more than 4000 members in 49 countries and continues to grow. For more information on EAGALA go to

Visit for more information OR call 310 488 9777 TO RSVP

EAL session with Juvenile Resource Center kids

Juvenile Resource Center

A Great Day With Juvenile Resource Center Kids ~

EAL session with Juvenile Resource Center kids

So moved and motivated by today’s Equine Assisted Learning session with Juvenile Resource Center kids. Resourceful, creative and all around good people … horses appreciate you and so do we.

P.S. Thanks for sharing your mom and family with us!

Team Building at Berkshire HorseWorks

Team Building Time

Team Building Time ~

Hi all. It’s team building time! Just about to kick off a community business partnership. Check out our hot-off-the-press brochure and the benefits of Equine Assisted Learning.

Berkshire HorseWorks Team Building Brochure

Leadership skills with John Dewey Academy

Leadership Skills with John Dewey Academy

Leadership Skills with John Dewey Academy ~

Fantastic group from John Dewey Academy came to Berkshire HorseWorks to hone leadership skills thru EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Learning activities. What a great day. We can’t wait to work with you again!

Thanks to all of you for joining us!

Leadership skills with John Dewey Academy

Berkshire HomeStyle Magazine

Berkshire HomeStyle Profiles Berkshire HorseWorks

Berkshire HorseWorks Featured in
Berkshire HomeStyle Magazine ~

In the August 2013 edition of Berkshire HomeStyle Magazine, a wonderful article was published profiling Berkshire HorseWorks and the EAGALA Model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) we practice here. Please take a moment to click through to their online magazine and read the article.

Berkshire HomeStyle August 2013

Berkshire HorseWorks Opens For Business

Berkshire HorseWorks at Berkshire Equestrian Center

The article below was published in the Berkshire Eagle and is reprinted here with their permission. Thanks go out to writer Adam Poulisse and the Berkshire Eagle Editorial Staff.

Lorraine Brill pets horses at  Berkshire HorseWorks

Lorraine Brill pets horses on Thursday at a demonstration of equine-assisted therapy that has been implemented by Berkshire HorseWorks at the Berkshire Equestrian Center in Richmond. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Stafr)

Berkshire HorseWorks: Equines and human therapy

Adam Poulisse • Berkshire Eagle • June 24, 2013 – RICHMOND: Buddy, Herman and 007 know how to help people work through their issues, from addiction to coping with tragedy.

They are keenly aware of others’ feelings, and will never utter a judgment. Their presence alone can put a grin on your face – especially when they start nudging you or try to munch on your notebook.

By the way, Buddy, Herman and 007 are full- grown horses at Berkshire Equestrian Center on Perry’s Peak Road.

On Thursday, about 50 mental health specialists and horse experts gathered inside a shaded arena at the center to watch as the three horses led volunteers through a demonstration and open house of what can be expected in the upcoming Berkshire HorseWorks.

Hayley Sumner of Berkshire HorseWorks

Created just six weeks ago, Berkshire HorseWorks will implement the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) model to treat mental and behavioral challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, eating disorders and anxiety.

The EAGALA model uses equine-assisted psychotherapy and equine- assisted learning to help many different patients, from veterans returning from service, to children bullying others in schools. Hulahoops, pool noodles, traffic cones and buckets are just some of the props that can be used along with the horses. It was established in the Southwest in 1989.

Thursday’s demonstration was, held, in part, to catch the attention of mental health professionals in the Berkshires and to certify them in the EAGALA model to do work for Berkshire HorseWorks.

“The model is very solutionfocused,” said Hayley Sumner, the founder of Berkshire HorseWorks and who is certified in the EAGALA model. “If someone is doing an activity to work on an issue, then they are basically delving into their own being to find their solutions.”

Berkshire HorseWorks will operate out of Berkshire Equestrian Center.

“I see this kind of program as a way of really forwarding individuals and forwarding groups and providing insight,” said Carl Dunham, the owner of Berkshire Equestrian Center.

Unlike other horse therapy, the clients never saddle up and ride the horses. Instead, their two feet – and the horse’s four hooves – stay firmly planted on the ground.

“Horses are so intuitive they reflect your behavior,” Sumner said. “When you meet the horses on the ground, the horses can be themselves. When you put someone on their back, they’re going into a different world that is not their natural behavior.”

Animal therapy, mostly using dogs, has made recent headlines to help those affected by tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. “[Horses] are flight animals, and in order to protect themselves they’re able to read people very well,” said Jimmy Downes, the owner of Relatively Stable, LLC out of Newtown, Conn. ” Clinically, the social worker gets to find out about their clients 10 times faster than in an office model. Anything they can do can become significant to the client’s session.”

Horses at Downes’ stable helped families and friends of some of the victims cope with their grief and emotions using the EAGALA model. Downes and Ellen Donaghey of Brewster, N.Y. are two of the four EAGALA models trained at Relatively Stable.

“We got to see the people have an opportunity to do something that was able to brighten their day,” Donaghey said. “They had an ability to be themselves and, for the first time, actually felt some release and happiness. It became a routine that they could be comfortable with.”

Downes and Donaghey led groups of volunteers in three demonstrations of the several Berkshire HorseWorks activities specialized to help a patient work through their trauma.

Dominick Sacco, a therapist at Monument Valley Middle School in Richmond, participated in one of the demonstrations: He was one of four linked together that had to act as one human body to get a horse over a small hurdle.

Sacco uses dog therapy with his students, but after Thursday, he hopes to use the EAGALA model in the future.

“I feel the horse is an incredible medium for treatment,” Sacco said. “We can’t bring a horse to a middle school, but we can bring a middle school to a horse.”

Adam Poulisse’s article is also available at