Compiled by Jodi La Marco
Cori Nichols, founder of Hudson Valley HorsePlay, knows a thing or two about communication. Through her equine workshops, Nichols teaches individuals and groups the importance of empathy and teamwork, and about the rewards such skills can bring.
What’s your background?
I’ve been a professional horse woman my entire life. That was in the form of training horses, teaching riders, and teaching riders how to ride and train horses. I realized that the missing link for a lot of people was that they needed to pay really close attention to the feedback that the horses were giving them. If I set up a positive environment with my personality and my agenda and other conditions, the horse is going to respond positively because I’m authentic, committed, and I don’t pose a threat. You can’t partner with a horse if you’re not meeting that horse’s needs.
Why did you start Hudson Valley HorsePlay?
I started Hudson Valley HorsePlay to teach people, not just riders, about being aware of themselves when they interact with a horse so that they can develop empathy. The beautiful thing about horses is that they are honest with their feelings. When you learn to read their language, they immediately tell you what you’re doing that’s either working or not working.
For one, it’s about becoming highly observant about body language. How does the horse respond to you when you approach it? They’re highly sensitive to nonverbal communication in many ways, and not just through physical body language. Scientific research tells us that a horse can detect an elevated heart rate from 25 feet away.
You have a variety of clients, including both individuals and groups. Can you tell us about that?
I provide social skills and relationship skills to children, adults, families, and teams. In some capacities, I’m working with trauma victims. I’m working side-by-side with a mental health practitioner in those cases. That’s called equine-assisted psychotherapy.
I work with business owners to help them understand how their management practices are playing out. If a manager or group leader is not aware of their own selves and how they approach their employees, once they become more aware of how they do those things, they will have a better idea of the impact it is having on other people.
I also create workshops for groups. The teambuilding and the character skill development work, that’s called equine-assisted learning. Team building is a way to improve culture within an organization. It’s a really out-of-the-box approach to discovering your strengths and maximizing team performance.
How does your business fit into the larger movement to revitalize the Hudson Valley?
I would consider this work to be a part of the movement that’s happening up here. I think we are in the right place to incorporate nature and components of the natural world into growing ourselves as healthy individuals. This is really about learning how to live fully and wholly. There are so many people up here who respond to that. We have holistic health communities and experiential immersion programs in nature. I would like to think that this is a wonderful supplement to a community that is already doing this kind of thing.
What measures do you and your business take to support the local economy and community?
I have given services to local social service agencies such as Family of Woodstock, Family of New Paltz, and Astor services. I provide team-building activities to the Rondout Valley School District teacher teams. I’m seeking grant money so that I can develop workshops for teachers. It’s been proven that the better the teacher team functions, the better the student outcomes will be.
I’m also providing workshops for medical providers in the area to help improve patient outcomes. If you have a patient in a medical care center who is nonverbal, or vulnerable and anxious, their outcome is really dependent on the experience they have from the minute they contact that office or walk in the door. Everybody involved needs to build trust with that person so that person doesn’t fear you.
Why did you decide to become a Hudson Valley Current member?
Because I would like to support my neighbor businesses, and I would encourage others to do the same. It just makes perfect sense to me that we will try to do business with each other.
Where do you like to spend your Currents?
I treat myself to the luxuries of bodywork and things along those lines. I’d say that’s probably where I use my Currents the most.