Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2007 | People

Where Miracles Happen: Sue Bock

By Kelly Stavnes
Sue Block Sue block (right), who first volunteered at Miracles in Motion to reward herself for earning her UI degree, has since helped the organization expand considerably.

Horses dot a picturesque pasture, and a group of barns perches atop a green hill. It's an everyday Iowa scene, but this is no ordinary farm. Here, miracles happen every day—thanks to one can-do woman, a handful of dedicated staff, a few hundred volunteers, and 18 horses and ponies.

The woman in charge of the miracles is Sue Bock, 93BA, program director of the nonprofit Miracles in Motion therapeutic horse riding center near Swisher. Each year, the center's instructors and volunteers bring hope and joy to some 170 disabled and at-risk people.

Twelve years ago, when Bock volunteered to indulge her love of horses, Miracles in Motion was little more than a muddy stretch of ground and a few borrowed steeds. As she worked her way up through the organization with the help of her mentors there, Bock used her grant-writing and fund-raising skills to help turn it into the largest therapeutic horse facility in the state, complete with its own horses, an indoor riding arena, outdoor pavilion, trail, and 76 acres of open farmland.

Students with disabilities enjoy free sessions of horseback riding or cart driving that strengthen their muscles—and their confidence. Much like walking, horseback riding engages the pelvic muscles and helps improve the gait of students with limited mobility. The good posture required of riders also helps wheelchair users build muscles in their trunks, necks, and legs. Hours spent interacting with instructors, fellow students, and horses provide important social benefits. Above all, students discover the simple joy of riding a horse.

"Teenagers with disabilities don't have the choice of many activities, because that's the level at which sports become very competitive," Bock says. "But, not everyone gets to ride horses, and that gives these students something special to talk about."

Recently, Bock developed the Leg Up program for at-risk high schoolers, who absorb lessons about responsibility, sportsmanship, and personal interactions as they learn stable management and riding skills. Bock admits she came to Miracles in Motion to be with her beloved horses. She never anticipated the rewards that would come from helping so many people.

"I've made so many unexpected friends here," she says. "When you volunteer, your whole world broadens."