Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

An interesting and odd series of stories appearing from July 4th to the 6th, 2003 in a number of papers reported that medical students are starting to work with horses in an attempt to improve their human bedside manner. The story from Arizona AFP News starts by saying, “A group of US medical students have traded stethoscopes for horse halters and sterile hospital hallways for dusty equine exercise pens in a bid to improve their bedside manner with human patients.

The University of Arizona Medical School has introduced a course, “Medicine and Horsemanship: An Introduction to Human Nonverbal Interaction at the Bedside”. Dr. Allan Hamilton, a renowned neurosurgeon and head of the college’s surgery department says, “This course is not about horses; it’s about body language. Horses are very, very good at detecting those unspoken messages, and it’s a wonderful way to teach medical students to become aware of their own body language.”

The theory behind the course is that by learning to put the horses at ease, the medical students also find out how to respond sympathetically to emotionally charged situations, such as comforting worried patients or bereaved relatives. “Horses are gigantic amplifiers for body language, and are extremely sensitive to it,” said Hamilton. “What we’re actually doing is transmitting a true feeling in a non-verbal way. It’s a wonderful, wonderful tool for teaching about bedside manner.”

The only question remaining about this is, “If the horses could talk, would this affect the results of this new course?