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What is Equine-Assisted Learning?


There's a new beat underfoot in the valley  .... what's making the earth move?  It's the sound of horses: 1, 2, maybe 3 or more  -- in a field or arena --  with a client and a 2-person team of providers: a Mental Health Professional (MHP) and an Equine Specialist (ES.) They're engaged in HorsePlay. Why? And why aren’t they riding?


The therapeutic benefits of on-the-ground equine interactions are many: to present an opportunity and/or challenge for an individual, family or group to exercise their relational styles and habits; to help war veterans and victims of domestic violence process post traumatic stress; to provide couples with a playful activity in order to explore their dynamic in a new and novel way; to enable groups of any and all orientation experiment “working together” insightfully, in a safe place; to assist war veterans and trauma victims process stress and PTSD by association with a cohesive, forgiving herd  -- all in the company of horses.


This is the growing field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, or EAP.  

HorsePlay, based at Nichols Field Riding Club in Kerhonkson, is the area's new,

and only, program to offer equine-assisted learning, growth and psychotherapy. 





EAP incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning, psychotherapeutic benefit and the support of develomental assets. Participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and patterns. Relationships are developed and nurtured: client to self, client to others and client to the world at large. As facilitators, our primary roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting clients, ensuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the learning process. EAP can serve as an adjunct therapy to a client's ongoing treatment plan or, for some, the best alternate approach to talk therapy. 



"EAP is a powerful and exciting way to access genuine feelings, conditioned patterns and get to the source of both discomfort and wellness. The lessons learned penetrate deeply - facilitating shifts in behavior and perspective in a way that bypasses the defenses of the mind."

                                                                                                -- TB, HorsePlay MHP

Click here to read more  about EAP & Troubled Teens

Click here to read more about EAP and Crime Victims

Click here to read an article from Psychology Today

Click here to read about EAP & PTSD

Cick here to link to more EAP studies


Horses provide opportunities to develop work ethic, responsibility, assertiveness, communication, and healthy relationships. They are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Accomplishing tasks with horses, in spite of those fears, raises self-esteem and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life. Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals with defined roles within their herds. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. An approach that works with one horse does not necessarily work with another. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. Because the horse is sensitive to non-verbal communication, they respond to what messages the client gives them at the moment. The horse's responses begin to feel very familiar to clients, similar perhaps to those of their spouses, children, and co-workers --  or this might also mirror how their addictions, fears, dreams, etc. play out in their lives. The horses become very real symbols of these relationships and allow clients the opportunity to work through change in these aspects of their lives in an experiential, in-the-moment and emotionally safe way.




EAP offers opportunity for individuals, families, and couples dealing with challenges including depression, grief, trust issues, anxiety, separation, abuse, addictions & recovery, PTSD, and additional mental health challenges.   If situations and budgets allow, HorsePlay will bring its unique equine therapy to your door for groups, such as school, treatment centers, etc.


HorsePlay was created by Cori Nichols, a lifelong horsewoman, riding instructor, and owner of Nichols Field Riding Club in Kerhonkson, NY, HorsePlay's home-base. Nichols is a Certified Equine Specialist with EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and for many years has been incorporating EA Learning into her riding instruction. "EAP is a natural extension", she says. "The dynamics between horses and humans are palpable. I'm witness to journeys, leaps, and bounds made here everyday." Nichols now works side-by-side with MH practitioners, providing EAP and EAL sessions throughout the year. Just minutes from the Hudson Valley Resort, the farm is set on a completely private 72 acre parcel, offering clients a completely confidential experience. The property boasts a 12,000 sq foot covered arena, newly constructed center-aisle barn, 60 ft round pen, horse-course of obstacles, and a herd of beloved equines. Nichols Field is open for visits and tours by appointment.




WHAT IS EAGALA?  (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association)

Founded in 1999, EAGALA is the leading international non-profit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs. Eagala Website  EAGALA has over 4,500 members in 50 countries. The model is a structure, facilitation style and standard for conducting Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning. All EAP sessions are conducted by a 2-person team: an MH practitioner and an Equine Specialist.


WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN MORE?    Please contact Cori Nichols  or Rosie Rouhana, LMHC, NCC

We'd be happy to arrange a farm tour and provide an opportunity to meet any of our in-house mental health care providers. See our Providers page for more information.





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