Two Brown Mackie College occupational therapy assistant students spent four days in late April involved with the therapeutic-riding program at Rosewood Ranch. While the ranch has welcomed dozens of visitors to observe its award-winning program over the years, OTA students Kelley Hulteen and Barbara Berg are the first to make it part of their college curriculum by visiting April 23-26.
“Kelley and I are both horse people,” explained Berg. “This is a special experience for us.”
Hulteen, from Salina, has always owned horses. Berg used to own horses before a move to Woodbine from California forced her to sell them.
In January, Brown Mackie’s fieldwork site coordinator contacted Rosewood about the possibility of the ranch hosting OTA students for class credit. Once paperwork was approved, Berg and Hulteen quickly volunteered to put their new-learned theories of hippotherapy into practice.
“What they are doing on the horses translates to improving the quality of the clients’ lives in the rest of the activities they do,” Hulteen said. “They are practicing emotional control. They are direction following. They are cognitive as they learn the patterns and know when to provide instructions to the horses. It stretches their muscles and strengthens their torso. They communicate either verbally or by signing.”
Ranch manager Eric Hammond said it was an advantage having students present who were so familiar with horses. He even learned a few techniques from them.
“This has been a special event for us, too, having these students with us this week,” Hammond said. “Rather than just be observers, they were able to get hands-on involvement and handle the horses. We are particular about how our horses handle and how we handle them, so their experience helped. We were interested in learning how their teaching intertwined with our teaching. It was a very educational experience for us and for them.”
The students participated in leading the horses, side-walking, and even grooming. They also observed therapeutic riding techniques in the morning and chores in the afternoon for the clients. “We’ve really been impressed with the way Rosewood interacts with the clients and treats them so respectfully and kind,” said Hulteen.
Hammond said he welcomes more fieldwork students in the future at the ranch.
More students are likely to follow.
“It’s a very rich life the clients have at Rosewood with all the places they can work and the different environments they can experience,” said Hulteen. “It’s a model that I haven’t seen anyone in the state do. We feel really lucky that we got the chance to come here and participate in this unique setting.”