Medicine and Horsemanship

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Medicine and Horsemanship 2017-03-01T22:00:45+00:00

Medicine and Horsemanship in Warwick NY and Vernon NJ

The five “patients” are scattered throughout the barn. A group of 18 student government leaders from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine-Middletown (TouroCOM-Middletown) enters the corral, deciding which one to approach. Will it be the chestnut Warm Blood, the majestic Clydesdale or the miniature horse?

As participants in the Medicine and Horsemanship program offered at Raven Hill Farms, students engage with horses as a way to increase their awareness of nonverbal communication and its importance in the physician-patient relationship.

“Horses are honest teachers and are very sensitive to everything they see and feel,” explains Deirdre Hamling, owner of Raven Hill Farms. “Our program provides medical students with an understanding of how nonverbal communications can impact relationships with patients.”

Researchers have even found that horses and humans display similar facial emotions when expressing fear, surprise and sadness. Learning to pick up on these nonverbal cues can help students better understand how to establish trust and respect with patients, Hamling explains.

Raven Hill Farms
154 Glenmere Ave., Florida, NY 10920 • Ask for Deidre: 845-987-6965

Eighteen first-and second-year medical students from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middletown, along with their professor and staff, recently spent an unusual afternoon at Raven Hill Farms, a local horse farm in the Town of Warwick. The students participated in an innovative training program designed to transform the doctor-patient relationship.

Raven Hill Farms, situated on 36 acres, is home to Equi-Power Solutions, an equine experiential learning program for personal and professional development. On Friday, March 11, 2016, the students took part in the Medicine and Horsemanship program, created to enhance the health care professional’s awareness of non-verbal communication skills to more effectively connect with patients.

Program originates at Stanford
The program was originally developed by Dr. Beverly Kane, MD and Dr. Allan Hamilton and initiated at Stanford University in 2005. The program has expanded around the globe and is incorporated into the curriculum at Mass General University, UCSF, and University of Arizona to name just a few.
The session at Raven Hill Farms began in a newly constructed conference room with an overview of the program, a review of horse dynamics and an emphasis on learning in a non-judgmental, open-ended manner. Facilitators included Director of Development Deirdre Hamling, owner and operator of Raven Hill Farms, equine specialist Susan Stegmeyer and licensed clinical social worker Bonnie Malajian.

Raven Hill Farms, cont’d

Five horses, all different
Following the introduction, the group moved to the large indoor arena where five horses of different shapes, sizes, and temperaments were the focus of the students to use their observation skills to interpret the horse’s behavior. Breaking into smaller groups the students chose the horse they preferred to work with.

As they groomed the horses they became aware of how their approaches needed to differ from horse to horse and were surprised by how much their intention effected the reactions of the horses.
In the second exercise, the group was asked to construct a pathway out of various poles, rubber cones and assorted balls that would represent their journey through medical school. And his or her task was to get each horse to travel the pathway without the help of any halter or lead ropes.

Each and every moment was filled with learning opportunities that were later discussed when the students returned to the conference room, where there were numerous comparisons of how the horses’ behaviors mirrored the intention of the students, often in remarkable ways.

These moments were designed to enable the students to discover how their actions, whether conscious or unconscious, played a pivotal role in their relationships with their patients as well as with the other students.