My Journey to Hippotherapy By Anna Jordan

As a child, I never had a confident answer to the classic question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I thought I’d like to work with children or animals and make a meaningful difference in their lives, but I wasn’t sure how. When I was about twelve years old I read a fiction novel about a young girl who rescued a horse from a trailer crash and learned to partner with him to help those with disabilities ride for therapeutic benefits. I immediately knew this was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t see how this could be a career. When I was seventeen, I began volunteering at a non-profit organization near Binghamton that provides equine-assisted activities and therapies. The executive director at this facility became a generous mentor to me, affording me experiential learning opportunities and helping me find the path to my future: occupational therapy with the goal of using hippotherapy as an intervention tool. Now I find myself completing both an internship at Healing H’Arts and a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Even before I arrived here, Kirsta’s welcoming energy made me feel excited, accepted, and even loved. This experience has been simultaneously affirming and transformational. For as long as I can remember, I have experienced anxiety that can limit me from participating in everyday activities. Despite this, I’ve been told that I have a calming effect on others. It wasn’t until my time at Healing H’Arts that I truly understood and accepted this contradiction as I watched horses, who are prey animals, bring immediate soothing to those with autism and PTSD. I began to realize why I’ve felt so drawn to this form of intervention. Like the therapy horses, I’m both intimidating and easily startled. Like them, I’m quiet and gentle. Like them, I have the skills to meet clients where they are and help them meet their goals in a fun and safe environment. Kirsta helped me make these connections and locate pride rather than insecurity in these traits. My experience at Healing H’Arts has been a time of connection, personal and professional growth, inspiration, and quite honestly a lifelong dream come true. I will be forever grateful for the clients, horses, board members, volunteers, teens, and community members who make this place so special.

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