Category Archives for "Uncategorized"

Aisha O’Boyle on Anxiety and the effect

Hello! I’m Aisha O’Boyle, a new volunteer at Berkshire HorseWorks. Over the summer, I plan on writing blogs concerning the positive impacts horses can have on people…such as healing from mental health or behavioral disabilities and/or developing a better connection with those around you. I would like to become a resource to others, helping with their personal challenges similar to the ones with which I have dealt.

Anxiety has become an epidemic in students. A recent article published by Psychology Today states “Anxiety disorders affect 25% of teenagers, a percentage that has steadily risen over the past 30 years and is showing no sign of slowing down”(2). I have personally struggled with anxiety for the past couple of years, however, recently it has improved. I have also observed my peers dealing with similar issues. Growing up in the digital age, I understand the pressure of keeping up a positive image of yourself on social media. According to the same article mentioned above(Psychology Today), millennials on average spend “four hours a day on social media…subconsciously comparing themselves to the people they follow”(3). This large amount of time spent comparing ourselves to others then negatively impacts our self-esteem. Social media can surely have a negative impact on your life if used too often. Reducing the time you spend on social media, has not only been proven to better your mental health but also allows more free time to reconnect with your friends and family in real life.

How can horses help this anxiety epidemic? EAGALA, a program offered at Berkshire HorseWorks including both EAP(Equine Assisted Psychotherapy) and EAL(Equine Assisted Learning) is a type of therapy used as a treatment for several mental health and behavioral challenges such as autism, PTSD, addiction, ADHD, depression, anger management, and anxiety. Horse therapy, according to a growing number of mental health professionals, can be significantly more productive than talk therapy. An article published by U.S News includes statements from Leslie Roberts, a licensed professional counselor who has worked at Project Horse for almost a decade states “There are so many similarities between horses and people…horses help people identify what they’re feeling”(11). Horses can sense danger and respond with a heightened awareness of their surroundings. Therefore those suffering from an anxiety disorder may be able to feel these changes and better communicate their feelings. A similar article published by Everyday Health states “horses are more highly attuned to environmental activity and sensitive to people’s emotional states than…other animals used in assisted therapies”(5). Since humans can create such a strong bond with horses, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a very effective way of allowing people to heal from mental disorders such as anxiety in a safe and welcoming environment.

Snowed in? Alecto offers 10 fun things to do

With all of the recent snow, many schools have been closed for snow days. Many people use snow days as an excuse to stay inside and sleep all day… which is okay if you feel sleep deprived normally, but for those who are seeking some productive alternatives here are my suggestions.This entry is 10 Things to do During a Snow Day. The attached article includes 40 more ideas for those uninspired by the included ideas.

  1. Build a snow fort/igloo.
  2. Watch a movie, and stay warm inside. (disagreements may follow.)
  3. Go sledding, skiing, or snowboarding.
  4. Bake cookies, cakes, or other desserts.
  5. Make crafts or drawings, an easy way to occupy any ages.
  6. Practice instruments (if applicable.)
  7. Have a snowball fight.
  8. Make a fort with pillows, sheets, and blankets.
  9. Sing some karaoke- there are numerous free apps and websites that offer free karaoke.
  10. Write poems or books, it can be a fun and creative way to pass time.

Berkshire HorseWorks Helps More Individuals as a Nonprofit

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.


Berkshire HorseWorks Secures 501(C)3 Nonprofit Status

FROM: Berkshire HorseWorks, Inc., EAGALA Certified Program

CONTACT: Hayley Sumner,, (413) 698-3700



Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)  Highly Effective in Treatment of Those with Mental and Behavioral Challenges Ranging From ADHD, Autism, Addiction, Depression, and Trauma to Resiliency, Effective Communication, and Reintegration

Richmond, MA , 2014 –In an effort to provide EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) to a greater number of those in need in Berkshire County and neighboring cities, Berkshire HorseWorks™ (BHW) secured its nonprofit 501(C)3 designation. Hayley Sumner, Founder and Executive Director, first launched the organization in 2013 as a for profit entity. Since its inception, BHW has been treating at-risk youth, veterans, families, individuals, and couples with a broad range of challenges including anxiety, PTSD, bullying, and eating disorders. BHW, in sessions with clients, uses rescue horses that are either retired from racing, injured, traumatized, or otherwise handicapped. In addition, BHW partners with local and national organizations to strengthen their workforces through team building and personal wellness initiatives. Clients have included Hillcrest Educational Center, Pittsfield Juvenile Resource Center, The John Dewey Academy, Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, Darrow School, Berkshire Functional Fitness, ARK Media, and Fox Sports Network, among others.

The statistics are compelling;

  • 15% of high school seniors nationwide have reported non-medical use of prescription drugs in the past year. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • In Berkshire County 60% of high school seniors have reported the abuse of alcohol, while a reported 35% have abused marijuana in the past year, (Berkshire United Way).
  • Post Traumatic Stress afflicts one-quarter of the troops returning from the Middle East, or about 300,000 men and women, (The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).
  • At least 22 veterans commit suicide each day, (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).
  • One in three businesses fail within their first year. The team building exercise creates cohesiveness, (Twomey and Kleiner, 1996).

“I am a cancer survivor and horse lover.  I have witnessed the pervasiveness and potentially life threatening impact of drug use, depression, and PTSD in this community.  This is what drove me to start this venture. While financially challenging, I felt I had no choice. We work with disconnected families, traumatized adolescents, and brave soldiers as they reintegrate into family life, the workplace and the community when they return from deployment. Their ability to pay for these services is irrelevant,” reports Sumner.

Army Sgt. Robert Shove, a veteran of Iraq/Afghanistan stated, “This program has made me whole, like there is hope. I have been through many types of therapy, as I suffer from TBI and PTSD. This was the first time out of any other therapy that it seemed to work. I recommend it for any veteran or military person who has gone through combat or who is suffering from trauma. The connection that I got with the other vets and the horses in the program saved me.”

Sessions take place on the ground (no riding), are facilitated by both a Licensed Mental Health Professional and a qualified Equine Specialist, are solution-focused and follow a stringent code of ethics.  BHW has been practicing this model in the Berkshires for over a year, and with its newly designated nonprofit status, has gained the ability to reach a broader demographic through fundraising and grant initiatives, including tax-deductible donations.

According to Robert Goodman, a father whose family of five engaged in a team building session, “The kids have not stopped talking about it; BHW made us feel very close to each other. My wife, a psychologist, is convinced that EAGALA is such a helpful tool.”

The utilization of rescue horses, some of which are “cribbers” who get high from chewing wood, is highly effective in metaphorical learning with clients who have eating disorders, addiction, PTSD, and more.

BHW is located in a bucolic 27 acre compound in Richmond, MA comprising the Berkshire Equestrian Center, hiking trails, outdoor paddocks, historic barns, state of the art jumping facilities, the Inn at Richmond, and a wellness center. The facility has the flexibility to provide corporate retreats for businesses that invest in their employees through programs focused on teamwork, problem-solving, cultural diversity, empathy, and productivity. Berkshire HorseWorks™ team building sessions take participants out of their offices and into the arena with equines. By incorporating horses into team building workshops, employees are afforded the opportunity to engage in innovative thinking and gain insight into the dynamics of their group.

Dom Sacco, EAGALA certified Mental Health Professional and lead adjustment counselor at Monument Mountain Middle School states, “The facility offers a high degree of flexibility, making it conducive for clients to explore their management styles while at the same time, creating an intimate setting for individual work.”

Despite the high costs of the team approach mandated by The Model, lease fees (for the facility), and general costs of horse ownership, BHW has always offered services on a sliding scale to those most in need. With the newly designated nonprofit status, funds raised by the 501(C)3 could soften that impact.


Ways to get Involved: Click Here

Your generous donations will go toward covering any of the following.

  • Sponsor a family in need for a 90 minute session…………….………..$425
    • or an eight week program…………………….…………..…….$3,400
  • Sponsor an at-risk child for a series of eight Equine Assisted Learning or Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions………………..………………………$1,800
    • or a single 60 minute session……………………………………$225
  • Sponsor a Horse Powered Veteran for eight Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions…………………………………………………………………….$1,200
  • Sponsor a horse and his…mix and match with what you can give…anything is appreciated.
  Monthly Annually
Hay & Grain $150 $1,800
Foot care with Shoes $90 (every six weeks) $780
Foot care without shoes $40 (every 6 weeks) $350
Boarding $850 $10,200
Vaccinations N/A $200
Dental N/A $200
Total: $13,530 per horse

Visit our Support Us page to learn about other opportunities including volunteering, internships and more.

Berkshire HorseWorks™, a 501(C)3 nonprofit corporation, is part of the international EAGALA network of 4,500 certified professionals in 50 countries providing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to at-risk youth, veterans, active duty, their families  and corporations.  Experiential, highly effective, and rooted in evidence-based practices, EAP treats a broad array of mental and behavioral challenges. EAL incorporates Equine Assisted Team building by partnering with school districts, local businesses, and international corporations to enhance personal development and reinforce group dynamics in the workplace.  Services are offered seven days a week during individual sessions, workshops and wellness retreats. Through the power of horses, Berkshire HorseWorks™ provides the tools to cope, challenge, communicate, heal, lead, empathize and thrive in today’s competitive world.

For more information, please visit or call Hayley Sumner at (413) 698-3700.