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Miracles in Motion

July 1, 2013

Iowa – Monday, June 24

It was another soggy morning when I got up, but I loaded up the van during a lull in the rain, and headed over to the little town of Swisher, where I was going to visit the Miracles in Motion stable and watch some classes. I had talked with Cheryl, their community outreach person, late last week, and she told me the times of the classes this morning. I wasn’t sure if the classes would be happening in the rainy weather, but they weren’t too far away so I drove out there anyway. And everything was going on as usual. Cheryl met me, and I watched the class in progress. The morning classes were hippotherapy classes, which meant that either an occupational therapist or a physical therapist was conducting therapy while the kids were on horseback. One of the therapists, who has been working with people for 30 years, said hippotherapy is one of the strongest forms of therapy, because in addition to doing therapy exercises, the kids are also unwittingly using back and abdominal muscles while sitting on the horse, and the physical act of sitting on a horse is beneficial to working hip joints and other areas. So it was interesting to watch the kids and their therapists doing their exercises with rings or balls or other teaching aids, all while sitting on a walking horse that was being led around by one person, with a sidewalker on each side. Plus the regular riding instructor was there. So each rider had the horse walker, 2 sidewalkers, a therapist, and the riding instructor overseeing things. They only have 2 horse/riders out at a time while conducting hippotherapy sessions. And I saw part of 3 sessions. Sometimes the tack had to be changed, and sometimes there’s a change of horse – all depending on the need of the rider. The kids I saw were mostly using a bareback pad to sit on, and they did their exercises while riding facing forward, then facing backward, and even sitting sideways – all of that uses different muscles and different kinds of balance. The kids I saw were pretty young, and could just be lifted up and down off the horse, but they do have a lift to help with adult-size riders. Cheryl also showed me around the barn so I saw the stalls and the very-organized tack room, and met their little miniature horses, who often act as ambassadors for the barn. They have 18 horses there, and they need to be “bomb-proof” – so calm that nothing fazes them. And they were certainly calm! The riders would play catch with their therapist, and the balls didn’t bother them, and a thunderstorm passed through while I was there, and that didn’t seem to bother anyone either. The parents I talked to said their kids love their horse sessions, and some had seen a difference after just one session. One boy dreamed about his horse before his class. They have a wait list of people who would like to participate in their different activities. In addition to the hippotherapy sessions, they also have “Leg Up” classes for disadvantaged kids to have a chance to experience horse care and other opportunities, and regular therapeutic riding classes also. Those would all be happening later today. And they also have a therapeutic cart and driving program as well, which made me think of my old pony and cart! There’s a nice outdoor arena too (we were in the indoor arena of course because of the rain) and they would love to be able to get the place heated eventually so they could conduct classes all year round. They can’t do anything in the winters because it’s simply too cold. There’s also a sensory trail outside, with different objects the kids can reach out to feel – including hanging pool “noodles” to walk through. Miracles in Motion has been around for 25 years, and they started with borrowed horses in a borrowed space, and through sheer hard work, the program has grown into what it is today. They currently have about 180 dedicated volunteers and work with about 170 students a year. I was happy to find them to make my donation-of-the-day. Everyone I met was really nice đŸ™‚

I had spent a couple hours at Miracles in Motion, and it was time to get some walking done. I headed back into Cedar Rapids to the Czech Village part of town, and was only to get about a mile and a quarter of walking in before it started to rain again. So I decided to get in the car and start driving to the Amana Colony villages. But I had to stop along the way at one point because it was raining so hard I couldn’t see a thing. Other motorists pulled over too, and we all waited for the deluge to let up a bit. The farm fields were already so wet that they ended up with pond-sized puddles on them. I got to Amana and did some walking with an umbrella – by then the strong weather had moved off, but it was still wet. In fact, I heard that there were tornado warnings in some neighboring vicinities, but all of that was moving off. I went inside a couple shops in the biggest of the Amana villages, and especially enjoyed the woolen mill, where they weave a lot of blankets and stuff right on the property. The Amana people lived in large homes – several families in each home, but the houses didn’t have kitchens or dining rooms, because food preparation and eating took place in communal buildings. Back in 1932 they voted to move away from the communal sort of lifestyle. I also visited a couple of the other smaller Amana villages, and found a pretty walkway by a lake where I could get Tula out too, so I was able to do almost 4 miles of walking in those different areas despite the weather.

As it continued to clear, I drove on to the town of Grinnell, where my sister-in-law Mickey and her family had lived many years ago. Grinnell was a really pretty town for walking, and it had turned into a pleasant evening, and Tula and I not only finished our 8 miles for the day, but I did an extra mile and a half too. With all the rain and storms, I didn’t think I’d get all my walking done today, but I ended up with extra! It was pretty late at this point, so I just stayed in Grinnell for the night.

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