2016 Must Read: ‘Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal’
By Horse Nation, November 10, 2016
With endorsements from Robert Redford, Temple Grandin, Mark Rashid, and Horse Nation’s book review staff, we’re calling this the must-read book of the year.
Tim Hayes, an internationally recognized natural horsemanship clinician, shares in this book not only a lifetime of what he has learned about horses, but how horses have the ability to emotionally transform the lives of men, women and children.
Hayes takes his reader into prison, therapeutic riding centers, and farms that specialize in helping veterans heal from war trauma. At these locations real people are interviewed and their emotionally-charged stores are told. With candor and compassion, Hayes digs deep and uncovers both the spirit and pain of those whose lives were healed by a horse. In so doing, even the most experienced rider or professional trainer come away with a fresh insight into the mind of the horse.
This is a “can’t put down” book that is so well written that it will leave the reader with a renewed love and respect for our equine friends as well as a greater awareness of the thousands of people with physical or emotional afflictions who have been helped by them.
This book should be in every household (horsey or not!) and read by every family member!
The Power of Horses to Heal
By John Killacky, Horse Collaborative
Tim Hayes’ compelling new book, Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal, (St. Martin’s Press) profiles several equine therapeutic practices where-in troubled teenagers, war veterans with PTSD, those struggling with addiction and eating disorders, survivors of sexual trauma, and people on the autism spectrum make dramatic progress through establishing relationships to horses.
Hayes’s psychoanalytic framework provides insight into the fragile psyches of the patients portrayed in the book, as they learn self-acceptance, disrupt destructive behavior, and accept “love, trust, respect, and compassion” inherent in herd dynamics. Understanding the world through a horse’s perspective often led to profound emotional healing and substantial progress in cohering themselves.
Drawing upon the wisdom of horse whisperers, as well as the author’s own natural horsemanship practices, we are reminded that horses, “care about each other, look out for each other,” as well as, “manifest unparalleled compassion.” No anthropomorphizing here, only astute experiential writing.
Much resonated for me in this affirming and poignant book. I related to the transformative journeys portrayed, and got a deeper understanding of my own equine’s worldview. A highly recommended read for horse lovers everywhere.
Healing Horses: review of RIDING HOME by Tim Hayes
Books for Animal Lovers
Tim Hayes came late to horsemanship, relatively speaking. Most riders have their first experiences with horses as children, and are able to learn to trust the huge animal they are sitting upon with unquestioning confidence, but without really understanding the nature of the relationship. Hayes was in his late forties when he began working with horses. It seems remarkable that he was able to find that childlike wonder so late in life. But then again, that’s part of what Riding Home is all about: rediscovering that wonder, or, in the case of a dysfunctional childhood, creating a new sense of wonder, health and contentment, all through working with horses.
A child with severe autism, a veteran with PTSD, a troubled teen, a prisoner with a violent past—Hayes relays several actual cases of recovery and psychic resurrection thanks to the powerful horse/human bond, and he explains the mechanisms at work behind this unusual alliance.
The fact that a horse can assess a person’s state of mind and mirror it is not magical or supernatural. It is based on the horse’s own place in nature as a prey animal, always hyper-vigilant in maintaining his own safety and comfort, and adhering to the laws of the herd. And yet, when a child with autism sits upon this sensitive creature and feels safe enough to speak out loud for the first time, the result does seem magical indeed. Horses (and other animals, too) offer unconditional acceptance. They do not judge past actions. They are not concerned with your appearance, but only with your demeanor in relation to them.
Hayes tells the story of one Iraqi War veteran, Cody, who turned to Hearts and Horses for help when traditional therapies were not successful in treating his PTSD. He was paired with a horse named Dusty. Cody asked his equine counselor why Dusty periodically pinned his ears and seemed distrustful of him when he approached. The counselor asked if he was anxious and he admitted he was, in fact “all of the time.” She suggested then that he was making the horse anxious, and that Cody stand next to Dusty, stroke him, and just breath. Gradually, both Dusty and Cody relaxed, and soon their relationship became a bond built on trust. It took time, but as Cody tells it, the result was amazing:
I’ve been riding and hanging out with Dusty for about a year. I feel a sense of accomplishment—my health is definitely not in the clear, but it’s in my rearview. What’s really incredible is my trust. When I came home, I couldn’t trust anybody or anything. Dusty got some of it back for me. It’s like he brought me home.
Hayes writes well about natural horsemanship, explaining elements of training for the novice as well as the seasoned rider. Experienced horse people will find much to gnaw on here; there are many ways to explain developing “feel” when riding, but it can still be a vague and arbitrary term. Hayes’s explanations are plausible and straightforward, and will have equestrians nodding in agreement, and wannabe riders Googling horse farms!
The book includes an appendix, listing various equine therapy organizations, an index, and extensive bibliography. This is a fine addition to any horse person's library, and to the literature of animal healing.
By Karen Springen
"Hayes, a former cowboy turned 'horse whisperer,' makes a convincing case that his beloved equine companions are man’s best friends. As he explains, for thousands of years, horses have given people transportation, physical labor, and help in war. They also help people with autism, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy, along with veterans, who find that the animals can lessen post-traumatic stress disorder. Horses can even turn around the lives of convicts, who are less likely to commit crimes after prison if they 'gentled' wild mustangs while incarcerated. Equine therapy can also transform high-school dropouts, who gain a sense of self-worth from their work with horses. And just being around these hooved wonders can help kids who get too much exposure to technology and not enough to nature. Hayes comes across as a sweet man, who thanks libraries and coffee shops for giving him places to write. Hayes will turn even non–horse lovers into equine-therapy believers, and readers will feel motivated to call the listed equine resources, such as Horses for Heroes (for wounded vets) and the Wild Horse Inmate Program.
"Drawing on his lifetime of experiences with horses, including his friendship of more than 17 years with a gelding quarter horse named Austin, Hayes examines the intricate connections between these four-legged creatures and humans. He explains the three basic factors that motivate horses—'survival, comfort and leadership'—and places them in the context of a horse’s interaction with humans, who are considered 'predators.' Despite their initial fear, horses overcome their hesitancy and develop long-standing connections with both children and adults.
The author explains how this allows humans to accept their own fears and often leads to healing and greater life fulfillment. Through personal interviews and stories, Hayes covers the various aspects of using equine therapy for children with autism, war vets suffering from PTSD, inmates in prison for violent crimes, and those exposed to domestic violence and abuse. The author also discusses the benefits of horse riding for those with physical ailments and disabilities such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.
Hayes’ obvious love for all things equine is evident throughout, especially when he relates his own moments of fear, such as when faced with a 20-mile ride through unknown countryside with only his horse to lead him in the right direction. 'This remarkable creature can not only continue to serve humanity but can help heal our wounded, remind us of our connectedness to others, and ground us with love for ourselves and for all living things,' writes the author, who provides a long list of equine resources with ample information for those interested in exploring equine therapy for a variety of ailments. An educational analysis of the bonds between horses and humans and how they can 'bring feelings of self-awareness, joy, wonder, humility, and peace of mind.'"
San Luis Obispo Horse News - Book Review
By Sharon Jantzen
Most of us with non-horsey friends and family understand the all too common inability of people to understand or even appreciate our need to be with our horses. We have a hard time describing the connection and the impact our horses have on our lives to people who do not know this connection themselves. Yet, much has been learned about the power of horses to heal and impact human lives, especially those in need of being rescued; those who may have never interacted with a horse before. Riding Home speaks of this uncanny and powerful connection.
Hayes articulates his points through first-hand accounts of people changed by horses through a variety of therapeutic applications. He witnesses the abrupt change a wild horse made on a wild man – a man who had been living his whole life in fear. He follows the progress of a woman with PTSD at Horses for Heroes who actually experiences trust and acceptance from a horse similar in personality to herself. Hayes interviews a mom who is raising an autistic child, a disorder that is actually a collection of anti-social behaviors, and gives us the “ah-ha” moments for that child through equine therapy. Thus showing how interactions with horses make a profound impact on autistic children and become the “medicine” needed to improve. In addition, Tim describes his own journey with horses and unfolds the unique discoveries that have shaped him into the person he is today.
This book is written for both the non-horse person as well as the experienced horseman or woman alike. Sometimes, for the experienced equestrian, it may seem as though Hayes belabors some points, or goes into unnecessary detail. However, this is what makes the information palatable to both camps. And as an experienced horsewoman, there are many thoughts and quotes that keep ringing in my mind; I find they now influence my own perspectives. Here are two of my favorite quotes:
No perfect partners human or equine –
“The moment one accepts the nonexistence of perfection, acceptance, tolerance, patience, forgiveness, understanding, and compassion become possible for oneself, for others, for all humans, for all horses. Is not the acceptance of imperfection a cornerstone of realistic healthy love?”
Horse training success –
“Even though they had different styles, all of these trainers had the same message: using respect, trust, understanding, compassion and positive communication, not force, was the only way to create a truly positive working relationship, whether with a horse or a human.”
Hayes shows us that we all have something to learn from horses; something that we can incorporate into our own lives to influence the way that we see the world. He illustrates how even if we don’t know it, many of us could use a little “rescuing”. This is a powerful epiphany, and it allows us to perceive the world in a completely different light. Sometimes all that it takes is a natural interaction with a completely non-judgmental creature to change a life forever.
Reviews from Amazon Readers
5 stars - A Must Read for Anyone Involved with Horses
By Teresa Melnickon
This should be required reading for every horse program, and it is a "must read" for anyone who has anything to do with horses. Hayes' understanding of the nature of the horse is powerful and enlightening. If every horse person read this, it would end the misunderstanding humans often have about horses that all too often leads to abusive training practices. It is every horse person's obligation to try to understand things from the horse's perspective. The stories of humans who have been healed by connecting to a horse are moving and inspiring. Buy this book.
AWESOME!! A MUST READ!!!!!
This book is outstanding. Tim Hayes beautifully and flawlessly describes the amazing (and very hard to describe) feeling that interacting with horses can provide, and the unlimited opportunities that one can benefit from having horses in their life. I have read many many books and this is a must read for everyone. It is clearly evident he has extensive knowledge of horses and respects them as they deserve to be respected. He is a blessing to the horseworld and to those that love them. Thank you Tim for producing such an outstanding book.
The Power is Real
By Mary Russell
Tim Hayes uses multiple ways to show and convince us why and how the time spent with a horse can heal. This book is foundational in that he does our research for us, from ancient times until now, showing us that the horse has always been there, hoping for relationship instead of a violent and dominated usage. The possibilities are mind blowing, for we have just begun to see the benefits of the partnership the horse offers. Real healing happens in the presence of horses. Read this book and explore for yourself or others how it takes place.
Loved This Book
I loved this book and would love to do a clinic with the author. His observations about his and others' experiences interacting with horses mirror my own. I have recommended his book to a number of friends who work with people and horses together as I believe it will resonate with them, too.
Marvelous, Excellent, So Interesting!
By Julie O'Grady
Fantastic-excellent read, especially for those interested in Natural Horsemanship and Equine Assisted Therapies. Would fully recommend this book.
Best Book on Equine Assisted Therapy
By Dawn Brown
"A TERRIFIC BOOK AND FASINATING READ! I read lots of horse books and many are just blah, blah, blah. I found this one at an airport bookstore and thought I'd read a few pages to fall asleep. OMG! This book was so enthralling that I finished it in 5 hours on my plane ride home. It finally explains WHY horse therapy works where other therapies fail. Anyone who works with horses or who is in the therapeutic riding profession can tell you that this is so, but most are hard pressed to say why. Hopefully traditional medicine will now start embracing these therapies and integrating them into their treatments. It would be wonderful if we as a society could learn that popping more pills is not always the best or healthiest option. Please read this book. Not to sound trite, but it will change your perspective and impact your life."
Review of Riding Home
By Amy C
"I absolutely loved the book, Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal. I only picked it up because of my daughter's love of horses. I honestly did not expect much of the book. To my surprise, I was hooked from the beginning. I learned so much about horses, that I contacted the local horse rescue to start volunteering there with my daughter. Highly recommended."
Powerful stories and proof that horses do heal
"As a practitioner in the field of Equine-based learning and development, I was anxious to read Tim Hayes first book. I was not disappointed. I’ve read many books about horses related to the emerging field of equines healing people, each of them different and leading to the same premise - horses do have a special and undeniable ability to positively alter human lives. Riding Home was unique in the way it wove in the how and why horses do what they do throughout the book, intermingled with real accounts of people that will capture your heart and yearn for you to hear more transformative stories. Despite the fact that I’m already working in this field, I found the book captured my attention. And yet, I think it’s also an ideal book for someone with little or no experience with horses. They will learn more about their nature, their needs, and special ability to change a variety of human lives, from the war veteran to the at-risk teen, the autistic, as well as those who simply want to experience personal growth."
Horse Can Heal Humans
By Nancy Famolari
"If you love horses, you know how delightful it is to be around these gentle animals. I own several horses, but before I read this book, I didn't realize how many ways they are used to heal humans. Hayes reports on horses being used for healing in a variety of programs.
This book is a tribute to the amazing relationship between humans and horses. Too many people today miss out on the wonders of dealing with nature because of their city lives and reliance on electronic devices. I recommend that everyone read this book to become familiar with the joy of horses and learning to live with nature."
Reviews from iTunes Readers
Extraordinary stories of the power of horses to teach and heal and inspire coupled with fascinating research about the history of horses and their behavioral characteristics of survival and need for community and how horses and humans are more alike in many ways than any other animal. What a gift Tim Hayes has given all of us especially to those with challenges of living ranging from autism to PTSD.