McKenna Farms Therapy Services has been a long-time friend of Our Town and we hold an infinite admiration for what they do and who they serve. McKenna Farms assists children with a variety of diagnoses and delays in development through physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as, therapeutic riding.
Gracen Burt is a senior at Hillgrove High School and had the pleasure of working with McKenna Farms on her senior capstone project, a career based project to help students explore an occupation that they might be interested in once they graduate. She chose editorial photography because of her combined love of writing and photography. When Gracen contacted us to see if we would be interested in sharing her project with our readers, we whole-heartedly jumped on board. Gracen conveys through photos and her own words a therapy session at the farm.
A Ride with Nikky at Mckenna Farms
Mckenna Farms Therapy Services was founded by Jessica Moore in 2001 and was named after her horse Mckenna. The farm started off relatively small with five volunteers, ten children, one physical therapist, and two horses. Since then, they have grown tremendously and now serve over 600 children weekly from the metro Atlanta area. Mckenna Farms is a nonprofit therapy organization that provides services to all genders and ages, newborn to age 21. The farm sits on 17 beautiful acres in Dallas, Georgia located off of Highway 92. McKenna provides an array of services like physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in a clinical setting, in a pool setting, and with horses for hippotherapy.
For my project, I focused solely on hippotherapy and the relationship between a horse and a client.
On my visit to the farm I was fortunate enough to meet one of the horses named Diamond and their client, Nikky. Nikky suffers from brain damage due to a tumor that was found in her brain as a baby. Nikky’s left side is paralyzed along with her tongue. Aside from that, she has a very sassy personality, she’s a fashionista and she even showed me her pretty princess bow. I was amazed at how strong and independent Nikky was while riding. She could climb up and swing her leg over Diamond- I don’t think I could do that! As they trotted around the area, the team would talk to Nikky and ask her questions. Nikky’s tongue is paralyzed, she isn’t able to talk very much. By asking her questions, they were working on strengthening her communication skills. Every time the group would pass me, she’d wave excitedly at me and my camera and shoot me that sweet smile of hers.
Once the session in the arena was over, Nikky communicated that she wanted to venture to the sensory trails. The sensory trails are paths in a figure eight that have many activity stations for clients to choose from like swings, basketball hoops, and balance boards. She chose to go to the texture board first, the team situated Nikky so she was facing the board while on horseback. They asked her questions about where things were placed on the board and then she would point and show them where everything was. After the sensory board, I found myself at the next activity which were the windchimes. And I would like to say, Nikky is quite the musician! The staff gave her a yard stick and asked her to play the chimes, and that she did! They stretched her left side by asking her to play the farthest chime that she could. After the windchimes, there was time for one more activity- the drawing board was next in line. Diamond was getting tired so instead they took Nikky to a bridge which they guided the horse over a couple times, walked around a bit more, and back to the arena we went. When saying goodbye to my new friend, she said thank you in sign language, and then went off for snack time. Nikky, Diamond and her team were so impressive, and I felt extremely lucky to have taken part in such an amazing session.
It was such a great pleasure working with Mckenna Farms on this project. They offer volunteer opportunities that include assisting with therapeutic riding and hippotherapy fundraising, horse care, farm work, grant work and more. Please visit their website at www.mckennafarms.org for more information on these awesome ways to give back.
As for me, I would like to thank Mckenna Farms for welcoming me into their farm family for my senior capstone project. They helped me beyond measure, made time for me, and stayed in touch with me through this whole process. Thank you, Mckenna Farms and staff!