Foreword by Robert Redford

Horses have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My first time on a real horse was when I was five or six. Granted, it was only in the pony ride ring, but it was instant love. This big-hearted animal, moving me along, like it was the most natural thing in the world. 

But that’s the thing about horses. They connect in ways that often, words can’t capture but hearts can. It’s powerfully emotional for both human and horse. In Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal, Tim Hayes brings this forth with the force of a great storyteller blessed with passion for his subjects, horse and human.

Up through my early teens, my relationship to horses was always on horseback, and along with my friends during those days it all had a decidedly show-off, wild quality to it. It wasn’t until I found myself in Estes Park, Colorado at 15, spending days grooming and caring for horses to earn my keep, that I developed a true connection that went far beyond riding horseback. 

This simple emotional connection is at the heart of Tim Hayes’ stories, which is ironic, as most people he features are considered to have very complicated challenges. I’ve always been drawn to the truth and simplicity inherent in nature. And that’s why I believe Tim Hayes is really on to something here.

Therapy. Equine therapy. The power of nature—horses—and its connection to the human spirit are front and center, at every turn of the page in this important book. And it is personified in the experiences of everyone from autistic children and brave veterans coming home with everything from PTSD to paralysis and loss of limbs—to prisoner inmates and troubled teens who’ve endured way too much in their young lives.  

In most cases, nothing else had cracked the code of their suffering, or their myriad of challenges. And somehow, the majestic horse entered the picture, sometimes by chance, sometimes as a last resort, and suddenly there was hope for the first time in as long as anyone could remember. I think this is what drew me to my 1998 film, The Horse Whisperer, along with a portrayal of ranch life out West that was fast disappearing. At the heart of the story is a man and a horse, and healing for not only himself, but for those around him.

There’s something meditative about communicating with horses, something instinctive where you eventually have to merge into one in order to move forward together. I think maybe that simple notion is why we are seeing such widespread success in the horse’s ability to break through where nothing else has worked, and we’re just left with a form of healing. Tim Hayes has made this his life work and the world is a better place for it.  

Tim says that in his Natural Horsemanship classes he brings students along by looking at the horse/human relationship from the horse’s point of view. And in so doing makes the focus understanding and compassion rather than force and intimidation. As a society we can learn much from the clear simplicity of this notion. 

The lessons you’ll take away from this beautiful volume of healing and love between man and nature will stay with you for a long time. And who knows, maybe it will open a door to healing for you or someone you love.