Initial Animal Handling Skills

Practical handling is an integral part of Veterinary Physiotherapy, safe and correct handling procedures are essential to the welfare of both animal and human to safeguard their welfare. Reflecting upon performance is concerned with consciously looking at and thinking about our experiences, actions, feelings and responses and then interpreting or analysing them in order to learn from them (Boud et al., 1994; Atkins and Murphy, 1994). Reflecting in and on practice (Schön, 1991) develops skills whilst in action and continues to improve them through the reflective process of reflecting on action.  After all it is what is done with the reflections that are important for learning to take place and self development to continue.

The well structured animal handling sessions demonstrated were both informative and descriptive.  Despite coming from an equine based background I still felt nervous when going through the demonstration however Cassady (2004), suggests that considering the consequences of failure increases test stress. This suggests perhaps a more positive mental attitude towards skill tests would be to my advantage. I am a critical reflector of own performance and the fear of failure certainly does add to the pressure of achieving; even activities carried out on a daily basis can soon become magnified because of the drive to achieve the correct protocols. Clouder (2000) promotes the theory that the reflective process in practice involves, analysing critically everyday  your working practices so that improvements can be made to competence and therefore promoting professional development. I made a simple mistake by over thinking the simple task we were asked to complete and picked up the left foreleg instead of the right. This was an error made through stress and over thinking, this is not a mistake I will be making during the OPSE as Laufenberg (2010) suggests, learning occurs most naturally after mistakes are made.

 Schon (1991), describes reflection in action and on action as a critical evaluation of performance during activity and learning. On action reflection, carried out after my performance during the animal handling day were positive and did lead me to areas of development needed for this programme of study. It gave me the starting point to begin my personal development plan. Elements of practice such as canine restraint to recumbency and fitting of some handling equipment are my starting point. I intend to spend time in the small animal section of the veterinary hospital, borrow a Halti and harness and practice fitting the equipment until I become more adept.

Using Kolb’s Experimental Learning Cycle (1984), I used the practical demonstration day as the concrete experience, reviewed and reflected upon my learning throughout that activity. From this I have planned areas for development in order to move forward in my professional handling skill development necessary to become a Veterinary Physiotherapist.  As Mezirow (1990) suggests we all learn differently when we are learning to perform than when we are learning to understand what is being communicated to us.

Reference List

Atkins, S. and Murphy, K. (1994) Reflective practice. Nursing Standard. Vol. 8, No. 39.

Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D. (1994) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. London: Kogan.

Cassady, J. (2004) The influence of cognitive test anxiety across the learning–testing cycle. Learning and Instruction. Vol 14 issue 6.

Clouder, L. (2000) Reflective Practice in Physiotherapy Education: A critical conversation, in Studies in Higher Education, Vol 25, No. 2.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Laufenberg D. (2010) How to Learn? From mistakes. available at

Mezirow, J. (1990). How Critical Reflection triggers Transformative Learning. Fostering Critical Reflection in Adult Learning.  A Guide to Transformative and Emancipatory Learning.

Schön, D. (1991) The Reflective Practitioner. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd


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