Unique medicine and horsemanship workshop

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By Jennifer Garland

“Whenever doctors are interacting with a patient, doing uncomfortable invasive things or having to impart bad news, we really need to have the patient’s trust. This is exactly the point of the work with horses, because the handlers need to use gentle, non-verbal cues to persuade the horse what to do. The horse gains the trust and becomes a willing partner. This is exactly what we need patients to do — to join us in the healing effort rather than being afraid of what we are doing to them. With patients, like with horses, it is up to the doctor to figure out what works best with each.” Dr. Allan Hamilton, Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Arizona

Working with horses in equine experiential learning programs are becoming increasingly effective for individuals who’ve experienced trauma, compassion fatigue or who are seeking greater mental health and wellness. But can a horse help those of us in health care become better healers?

A unique program called Medicine and Horsemanship offered by The Mane Intent is based on the premise that horses can help health care professionals improve their communication skills and ultimately, their relationships with patients and their families and other healthcare professionals. Reconnecting health care professionals with their empathy for others is the overarching goal of this program, helping people to adopt a whole-minded approach to medical care.

Horses are fantastic teachers and natural coaches. When we work in partnership with them, they simply reflect back to us any self-limiting perceptions, while helping us close the gap between how we actually present ourselves to others and how we think we are being. This is a unique experiential learning opportunity and offers up a profound way to change the delivery of health care and to help change the world for patients and their families.  By working with a variety of horses, both hands on and at a distance, participants learn about boundaries, leadership and teamwork; they tune into emotions, intuition and body language. They also learn to make decisions with greater clarity and compassion. The Mane Intent offers a variety of health and wellness workshops, individual and team effectiveness coaching and leadership development working in partnership with horses as natural coaches at a farm 90 minutes north east of Toronto.

horse-workshop-2Open to medical students, resident physicians, physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals including paramedics, the Medicine and Horsemanship Workshop is a unique opportunity for health care students and practitioners to develop greater awareness of the subtleties of self-presentation and communication necessary for the provider-patient relationships and other professional interactions. All exercises with the horses are completed on the ground and are guided by a professionally certified coach and experienced facilitators. No previous horse experience is required.

The Medicine and Horsemanship Program is built on the founding principles of The Manual of Medicine and Horsemanship by Dr. Beverley Kane of Stanford School of Medicine. This concept of bringing together Medicine and Horsemanship began at the University of Arizona in 2001. It was conceived and taught by Professor of Neurosurgery, owner of Rancho Bosque, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship practitioner, Allan Hamilton, M.D. Workshop participants work with the horses at The Mane Intent, with a shared focus on:

  • Becoming aware of the subtleties of verbal and non-verbal communication Improving attention, mindfulness and focusing abilities
  • Becoming aware of congruency of intention versus behaviour Identify and respect boundaries in ourselves and others Recognize the nature of projection and transference
  • Developing confidence in decision-making and ultimately,
  • Enhance the doctor-patient relationship

“As a physician who has spent many years with them, I know that working with horses in a structured learning environment opens doors to self-awareness, and can teach us much about life. The Medicine and Horsemanship Program teaches an approach that will improve interpersonal skills, communication, leadership and teamwork – skills that aren’t always part of the formal curriculum for new doctors and other health care providers. This program helps the health care provider improve the doctor-patient relationship by emphasizing compassion and respect, to the benefit of the provider, the patient and their families,” says Dr Bob Henderson, Trent Hills Family Health Team; former physician representative, Trent Hills Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee; and Larkin Health Professional Educational Award Recipient (2011). The Mane Intent has previously partnered with the Trent Hills Physician Recruitment Committee and Campbellford Memorial Hospital to offer the Medicine and Horsemanship Workshop to physicians and health service providers in Northumberland County.

“This workshop taught me an incredible amount both professionally and personally. This program will change how I look at each patient and challenge at work,” says Sarah, Paramedic, Medicine and Horsemanship Workshop Participant.

This workshop is intended to help healthcare providers hone their awareness of the subtleties of communication necessary for successful patient-provider relationships. Because health sciences often focus on intellectual proficiency over other forms of intelligence, some healthcare providers have not finely developed the emotional intelligence and/or empathic sensitivity required for successful patient-provider interactions. Horsemanship requires an appreciation of the non-verbal messages that we give to others. It requires patience, gentleness, self-confidence and sensitivity. Horses are large prey animals whose very survival has depended on becoming attuned to their surroundings. Horses reflect back to us the signals and intentions of which we aren’t even aware at times.

For more information on the Medicine and Horsemanship Workshop, please contact: Jennifer Garland at jgarland@themaneintent.ca or visit the web site at www.themaneintent.ca  For participating physicians, Medicine & Horsemanship Course qualifies for CME credits under: http://www.cfpc.ca/Mainpro_M2/

For more Medicine and Horsemanship Workshop Participant testimonials, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AGJkHHul8E

Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Wellness Workshops and Effectiveness Coaching.  She provides consulting support to healthcare sector clients as President, The Cactus Group.