In February of 2004, Camille Hayes was hospitalized. She was at the beginning of her 23rd week of pregnancy. According to the doctor, it was unlikely that Camille’s baby would live.
The next day the Hayes Family met Dr. Sandra Brothers. “Dr. Brothers came into our hospital room and told my husband and I that she could save our baby. We were hesitant to believe her,” said Camille.
On February 14, 2004, Sandra was born 16-weeks premature. She weighed just one pound and seven ounces. “We were advised that she may not be able to walk, talk, see, or hear, and that her immune system would be low. Sandra was born later that day, breathing on her own, and crying! My husband and I quickly named her after the doctor who took care of us.”
Despite Texas-induced allergies, Sandra is healthy. “She talks A LOT, loves to sing, walks, runs, and has the best eyesight in our family!” boasts Camille.
In Kindergarten, Sandra was diagnosed with ADHD. Sandra was not responsive to stimulant medications and began showing signs of anxiety. In first grade, Sandra was suffering from full blown panic attacks related to going to school.
Sandra’s physician suggested equine therapy to address Sandra’s anxiety. Sandra began lessons at Equest in the fall of 2016 after spending a year in private riding lessons at another barn. “She got off to a rocky start. The anxiety came back. She was less sure of herself and regressed,” said Camille.
Jen, Sandra’s instructor, encouraged Sandra to enter an upcoming horse show, failing to mention that the horse show, the Special Olympics Area Games, was a competition. Sandra qualified for the Special Olympics State Championship where she placed first in Equitation and fourth in Trail.
“Sandra was suddenly without anxiety. She was self-assured and confident. She began to talk to Jen about her riding goals and work toward them,” said Camille. “Overall, I have witnessed this child blossom into her own over the last three years since she began riding. I’ve had to pause, and ask myself, ‘is this the same child?’ Her confidence, her voice, her self-empowerment, her physical strength, her drive to work toward a goal, her push, was all unveiled because of horses.”