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Miracles in Motions introduces new Equine Services for Heroes program to serve veterans

Making miracles possible for American heroes

SWISHER– When Miracles in Motion began in 1988, it operated with just a few borrowed horses. Today, the non-profit organization has its own 76-acre facility with indoor and outdoor arenas and twelve horses, the majority of which have been donated by generous horse owners.
Miracles in Motion provides equine therapy services to students with special physical, mental and emotional needs, and they are proud to be introducing a new program, Equine Services for Heroes, which caters to the needs of veterans.
“We’re very excited to be serving veterans and helping them in any way we can,” said Cheryl Valenta, executive director. “When the veterans come out, they’re going to be empowered to choose their own goals for themselves and what they want to achieve out of the class.”
The veterans will be given a pre-assessment and will then be the guiding force in a set of sessions capping at 10 hours. At the end of the program, veterans will be welcomed to serve as volunteers if they want to maintain contact with the horses and the organization.
“We would be thrilled if they would be interested in participating as a volunteer after the program, to come out and work with other students that are either in the veterans program or one of our other programs,” explained Valenta.
Valenta and property and horse caretaker and program specialist Katrina Borntreger are the only two full-time employees. The organization relies heavily on the participation of volunteers.
“Our volunteers are absolutely essential,” said Valenta. “We’re only limited by the number of instructors that we have and the number of volunteers we can get. We don’t want to have those limits. We want to be serving as many people as we can.”
Along with the new veterans program, Miracles in Motion offers three other programs.
“The first class that we offer is our basic therapeutic riding class,” said Valenta. “That is learning how to ride horses. You gain core strength, arm and leg strength, agility, and balance. Our students really get a lot of physical benefit out of that class in particular. I would say about 60 percent take that type of class.”
Miracles in Motion also provides hippotherapy, a medical treatment while astride the horse, explained Valenta. “We collaborate with four different therapy centers: Children’s Center for Therapy, Mercy Hospital’s Children’s Therapy program, St. Luke’s Witwer Children’s Therapy, and University of Iowa’s Center for Disabilities and Development.”
The students are referred by their physicians, and, because hippotherapy is a medical treatment, charges can be billed to the students’ insurance companies.
“Instead of being in a clinical setting where they’re treating kids, sometimes that’s hard if they’re in physical pain to manipulate them to the point where they get a little more flexible and loosened up,” added Valenta. “Whereas on a horse, their attention is diverted a little bit from the therapy, and they’re more focused on the horse and the experience.”
Ellie Avenson has been involved in hippotherapy through the St. Luke’s Witwer Children’s Therapy program since the end of March.
“She’s getting therapy, but yet it doesn’t seem like she’s getting therapy,” explained Ellie’s mother, Judy Avenson. “She views it that she gets to go out and be on a horse and see her friends there. She’s just happy about it.”
Avenson said that she was initially nervous about how Ellie would respond to the horses, as she’d never been around large animals prior to visiting Miracles in Motion.
“There’s no concern about safety. Once I saw it the first day, I thought, ‘wow, this is great.’ I thought she was in excellent hands,” added Avenson.
If there is enough room in upcoming sessions, Avenson said she would like to have Ellie continue with hippotherapy.
“It’s just a fun place to be with the animals and everything going on,” said Avenson. It’s a different environment compared to most therapy. This kind of therapy gets her more involved in what she’s doing.”
The last program at Miracles in Motion is called Leg Up. It is a horsemanship class geared toward at-risk youth.
The goal, said Valenta, “(is to) build a sense of trust. With that group, we collaborate with Four Oaks. They are the ones that choose the students that will come and participate.”
Miracles in Motion has been accredited through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) which lays out safety guidelines as well as ensures that requirements have been met by the instructors.
“We feel very fortunate here that we have done the different steps that are needed to attain that higher level of achievement,” said Valenta. “That’s why we’re set up well to be serving veterans.”
To learn more about Miracles in Motion, visit www.miraclesinmotion.net. To sign up for volunteering or classes, or to request an informational tour, call 319-857-4141 or email miracles@miraclesinmotion.net.