Occupational Therapy OT

A Clinical Match: A Gift Horse

Saint Augustine MOT student discusses the power of hippotherapy at an internship site and how it reaffirmed her love of Occupational therapyThe Christmas card, with its picture of a smiling little girl, is a special souvenir from the life-changing internship that Arianna O’Donnell, a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) student, completed at McKenna Farms Therapy Services in Dallas, Georgia.

The little girl has spina bifida, and visited McKenna Farms for hippotherapy, a treatment that uses horseback riding to provide motor and sensory input to increase riders’ attention, strength, and muscle control. O’Donnell helped guide her through hippotherapy to combat gravitational insecurity. Though she was at first afraid to even look at a horse, after a few sessions the little girl grew more confident, which made her more interested in participating in activities on the swings and slides.

Here, O’Donnell shares how the internship reaffirmed her love of occupational therapy.

What drew you to OT?
My mother is an OT. She’d make adaptive silverware or other equipment for patients at home. We’d be in the grocery store and someone would thank her. An OT can get to the nitty-gritty with clients, figure out what they’re struggling with, and find a way to make it better.

What intrigued you about McKenna Farms?
They use horses as a therapeutic medium to elicit movements and provide input for clients. Many of the kids have functional limitations that stem from musculature weakness. The horses provide challenging movements that surpass anything we could provide in the gym. 

How did your education prepare you for this internship?
My courses gave me a really good foundation. I’m not going to know everything, but now I know how to research and figure things out. In my second internship at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute, the therapist and clinical instructor noted that I am more advanced than students they’ve taken from other schools. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support I’ve received at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.

How have your internships positively impacted your education or your career? Share the details by emailing [email protected].

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