written by JENNIFER COLOSIMO | photo by KELLE MAC PHOTOGRAPHY
One of the first stories Amy Wallace told me when I pulled up a folding chair to the dusty table outside her north Cumming barn was about a young boy who couldn’t communicate. It wasn’t that he couldn’t hear or talk, but he couldn’t grasp the art of voicing his own thoughts. In fact, he’d simply repeat whatever was said to him. His cognitive disability, one of the many scenarios among children who seek treatment with Wallace at North Georgia Equine in Motion, was something no doctor could cure with medicine and office visits alone. Being on a horse, however, was a little dose of something miraculous.
After months of shouting, “Walk on!” — the command to keep your horse moving — the volunteers, Wallace and the child’s parents were hanging out by the fence, casually chatting. The child, on the other hand, was growing impatient and suddenly barked, “WALK ON!” No one moved, not even the horse. What did ensue was an onslaught of cheers, tears and lots of hugging.
Wallace has plenty of these stories. While she will tell you she’s never sure any of them are a direct result of hippotherapy, or simply God’s will, that moment she gets to witness something click for a child is what makes it all worth it.
“It’s pretty awesome when you love what you do,” Wallace said.
Hippotherapy uses the motion of horses to help aid in the rehab of physical, occupational or speech therapies. As Wallace explained, a horse’s gait is much like a human’s, so for many patients, it serves as an extension of their hips. They can feel their body weight shifting from side to side, like they would if they could walk. They can use the horse’s warmth to relax and loosen tight muscles while the calming sense of a trained horse dials down the energy level, drives focus and encourages happiness.
Wallace also owns the North Atlanta Hand Therapy practice in Cumming, but spends almost all of her time at the farm working with children. “Being out here in the dust, working with animals — that’s not for everyone.” For Wallace, a trail rider the majority of her life and the wife of a farrier, being outdoors in blue jeans seems to be her own click.
“Each kid’s life that I can help change … even just a little bit … that’s why I do this.”
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