Summertime Standouts: Jenna Harp

OT student hones skills in equine therapy

Jenna Harp’s fieldwork with My Heroes LLC., a hippotherapy center in Fort Collins, builds on her experiences as an educator. Harp is a student in Colorado State University’s Department of Occupational Therapy.

Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational, or speech therapy that utilizes horses as a treatment tool to achieve an individual client’s goals and needs.

My Heroes LLC. opened in Fort Collins in 2011 and has since been providing equine-assisted therapy in an equine environment.

Doing good for others

Jenna Harp on top of a white horse inside of the hippotherapy center
Jenna Harp at My Heroes during her OT Fieldwork

Jenna Harp attended Penn State for her undergraduate degree, initially pursuing kinesiology as a means to follow her passion for occupational therapy.

During her time at Penn State it became clear that, for the time being, teaching was a better fit, and she received her Bachelor of Science in kindergarten and elementary education in 2008.

Harp began work as an educator in public schools in the Denver area and since then has taught 5th grade, 2nd grade, kindergarten, and English as a Second Language in public schools and worked in higher education at Northern Arizona University.

During her time in Denver, she worked with students who were immigrants to the United States and of refugee status from around the world.

“We had 14 languages at my school,” she said, “Some of these children were working through issues that, as a teacher, I was not prepared or licensed to address, and their families needed more support than I was able to provide as an educator. These experiences sparked my interest in occupational therapy again, and I decided to move that route after several years of teaching.”

Attracted to CSU

Harp was attracted to CSU’s Occupational Therapy program because of its reputation, impressive faculty, and great location.

“Colorado State University’s Occupational Therapy department does a fantastic job of preparing us for internships by challenging our professional decision-making process, by developing strong critical thinking skills, and by supporting and guiding us with becoming occupation-based, reflective, and evidence-based practitioners,” said Harp. “I feel like I could enter into any setting as an entry-level practitioner and be able to justify my thinking and decisions.”

So far, the required fieldwork is her favorite part of the program, as she loves hands-on work.

“The really unique part about being in the equine environment with My Heroes is that there are not only healthcare professionals like PTs, OTs, and SLPs, but also there are equine professionals and therapeutic riding instructors that have a wealth of knowledge about horses and the equine environment in general,” she said.

She has loved learning how unique and special the equine environment is for conducting therapy sessions. She notes the motivation and effort that clients put into the therapy in order to ride and spend time with their horse.

 Supporting older adults

In the future, Harp hopes to use her degree in occupational therapy to support under-served adult populations with avoiding unnecessary institutionalization, so that they can be in their homes for as long as possible, or as long as they want.

“I try to soak up all the knowledge and experiences I can from the fantastic OTs, PTs, therapeutic riding instructors, and equine professionals in this setting as well as draw from the inspiration I have gained from the CSU faculty and my fellow cohort members,” Harp said in regard to her fieldwork experience.

“All of these factors together really make my experience a passionate, meaningful, and complete one that inspires me to achieve my short and long term goals in my career as an occupational therapist.”

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.