Berkshire HorseWorks to host clinic with natural horse clinician, author


RICHMOND >> Call it serendipity, or spirituality, or just plain dumb luck. But the first time Tim Hayes got on a horse, he was a 48-year-old with a successful career in television and film living in New York City. What followed that first encounter between man and horse would lead Hayes, now 70, on a life-changing journey.

"Call it serendipity or whatever you want, but none of this was my idea," said Hayes, now an internationally recognized natural horse clinician. "Prior to getting involved with horses, I lived a different life."

He would go on to leave his career and become a cowboy in Idaho, then went on to teach natural horsemanship, often referred to as "horse whispering."

His travels and experiences led him to pen his first book, "Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal," (St. Martin's Press), which was released in March. His first stop to promote the book, in conjunction with highlighting the work he does and the work of equine programs, will be hosting a natural horsemanship clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Berkshire HorseWorks in Richmond.

"This is a really special attraction and event," said Hayley Sumner, founder and executive director of Berkshire HorseWorks, a 501(C)3 Nonprofit Corporation that provides equine assisted pyschotheraphy and learning.

The event, which is a fundraiser for the Berkshire organization, will feature three levels of involvement, according to Sumner. Patrons can choose to participate in the actual clinic held by Hayes for $150 (though, space is limited for this clinic), or they can audit the clinic and watch from the stands then join in the cocktail reception and book signing afterward for $50. Or, they can come just to the reception and book signing for $35.

Connecting with Hayes in conjunction with the launch of his book seemed like a natural marriage of common passions and work for the team at Berkshire HorseWorks, who do the kind of work that Hayes features in his book. At its Richmond barns and arenas, the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning (EAGALA) program uses horses in a ground-based method to help people from all walks of life gain the tools to cope, heal, compete, challenge, communicate, lead, empathize and thrive.

"Horses call you out in the moment," Sumners said. "If you're not saying what you're thinking, or doing what you're thinking, that horse is not going anywhere."

Berkshire HorseWorks offers programs ranging from working with children and adults with autism, to addiction problems, trauma victims or families working on building better communication.

"When talk therapy doesn't work, sometimes you need another methodology," Sumner said. "It's solution focused — your client has the answer within them, if you give them the space to find it."

And the horses, more often than not, help them find the solution.

It's this kind of therapeutic work that Hayes follows across the country in his book, documenting all the ways horses are helping humans in all conditions, walks of life. In the first chapter of his book, he writes about his experience watching federal inmates in a Colorado facility (dubbed the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," according to Hayes) participate in the Wild Horse Inmate Program. The program teaches prison inmates to train wild horses using methods of kindness, communication and understanding.

"It's absolutely fascinating to see it with your own eye, what happens between a person and a horse," Hayes replied, when asked what it was like to be there in person, watching inmates encounter the wild horses for the first time and then the transformation between the man and the animal in mere days. "An emotional breakthrough, normally in talk therapy, can take six months. With a horse it can be as fast as 45 seconds."

In the book — for which actor Robert Redford, who starred in the 1998 film "The Horse Whisperer," wrote the foreward — Hayes writes about all the ways he's seen first hand horses heal humans. From a program for at-risk youth, where traditional methods of therapy were deemed ineffective, to equine therapy for war veterans dealing with PTSD, Hayes spent decades compiling true stories of the power of horses.

"The goal and the reason I wrote book is because I want people to discover how effective and helpful [equine therapy] can be," he said. "But so few people have ever heard of it. I wanted to spread the word."

Sumners said whether you are a horse lover or not, there is something for everyone in Hayes' work and book.

"This event and book is for educators, physiologists or anyone who has been touched by autism, or couples issues, whatever may be," she said. "His book is really a resource for any of those people. It touches all those areas in their lives."

If the work seems a bit lofty, or difficult to understand, Sumner and Hayes both recommend auditing the clinic on Saturday to see the work first-hand.

"It's easier to show people than to tell people how this works," Hayes said. "It's a very magical experience. Just come for a couple hours. It's very fascinating."

If you go

What: Natural horsemanship clinic with Tim Hayes, with cocktail book reception, book signing to follow. Fundraiser for Berkshire HorseWorks

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 16

Where: The Berkshire Equestrian Center, 40 Perry Peak Road, Richmond

Cost: Clinic participation with reception and book signing, $150; Audit clinic with reception and book signing, $50; Reception and book signing, $35. Books will be available for purchase at event.

For more information: Please register by Wednesday, May 13. To register or for questions and details, visit or contact Hayley Sumner at 310-488-9777


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