Someone You Should Know: Occupational Therapist Uses Horses To Help Kids

Someone You Should Know

There’s a special sort of bond that exists between human and horse. 19-year-old Carly Amundson knows this very well. And so does Brittany Schock.

“I always said if I could combine my passion of working with kids, and my passion of being with my animals, I’d have the dream job,” says Brittany Schock, the founder of H.I.P.P. Kids Therapy.

Schock is an occupational therapist, meaning her goal is to help kids live more independently. “Whether it’s with somebody’s balance, which is allowing them to go down the stairs better, or working on fine motor skills, and we can now pick up a spoon and we can feed ourselves for breakfast instead of having mom and dad help us,” she explains.

And that’s where horses like Sugar come in, for what’s known as hippotherapy. Schock says the gentle clip-clop of the horse helps activate kids’ minds. “It’s that dynamic movement,” Schock says. “It’s rhythmic. And our bodies learn faster than our brains.”

“This has been top-two things I’ve ever experienced in my life,” says Brenda Wray, one of several H.I.P.P. Kids volunteers.

She’s seen kids like Carly make a lot of progress on horseback. “It renders me speechless sometimes.”

Carly Amundson, 19 of Bismarck, smiles at her horse following a session of hippotherapy.

“That first time, it took her about 20 minutes to get the confidence to get on the horse,” recalls Brenda Amundson, Carly’s mother.

“To take her hands off those handles and stretch her arms out is saying ‘I trust you. I trust you, Brittany. I trust you, Brenda,'” Wray says.

That, according to Carly’s mom, is one of the true joys of hippotherapy: seeing her daughter grow in not just strength, but confidence.

“Her posture has improved, her speech has improved, and her confidence has improved,” Amundson says. “If she comes into a situation where she’s uncomfortable, we tell her to take a deep breath like Sugar, her favorite horse.”

New skills for life — thanks to that human-horse connection, and thanks to the team at H.I.P.P. Kids. “We’re with families through some of those tough times, but then we’re there to celebrate those really big victories,” Schock says.

Brittany hopes to someday have an indoor facility, so H.I.P.P. Kids could run all year long, uninterrupted by snow.

For now, click here to visit the organization’s Facebook page to learn more. You can also call Brittany Schock at 701-220-9310.

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