Healing with Horses

Methodist Emergency Department

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Proctor First Care - East Peoria

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Healing with Horses

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Beautiful horse standing at barn entrance; healing with horses through equine-assisted learning.
Nicole Artz, MD with UnityPoint Health - Des Moines, has a passion for creating improved well-being in medical students, residents, and healthcare providers with treatments that happen outside the walls of a hospital. Treatments that involve horses. 

This past March, Artz completed a certification in equine-assisted learning. 

“I had the opportunity to attend an equine-assisted learning workshop in Arizona and found it incredibly powerful in changing my perspective and behavior. I returned for another workshop and couldn’t stop thinking about how what I was learning was applicable to my work as a physician—both with patient interactions and those with team members and colleagues.”

Equine-assisted learning is a type of experiential learning that can be used to improve a variety of important life skills, including nonverbal communication, self-awareness, mindfulness and leadership and relationship skills.

Artz says while she’s learned a lot about the technique, the horses taught her so much, too. Like the ability to respond authentically in the moment.   

“It’s helped me in so many ways. Their feedback is honest and can help us become more aware of how our behavior is influencing others. The guided work with the horses allowed me to see the value in being completely present, rather than spinning around in my head thinking about my goals, agenda, worries for the encounter, or the day.”

They are lessons she’s taken back with her to work. 

“One of the most amazing things to come from this experience is my sense of renewal and re-invigoration in my work as a physician. It has changed my perspective on dynamics at work and helped me relate to others in a more effective and meaningful way. The opportunity to offer this experience to medical students, physicians, and health care providers is so inspiring to me and incredibly exciting!” she says.