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Pauline Garcia began her career as an obstetric and pediatric nurse, work she continues today. She also is a lactation consultant with WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Through that work, she interacts with many families, helping babies nurse and get through other obstacles.
Following her late husband’s diagnosis with and death from cancer, Garcia began blending her experience as a nurse with her love of horses. Dream Walkers Equine Therapy Center near Uvalde, was born. Somewhere in the midst of all her other work, she finds time for weekly therapy sessions with area children.
“On a horse, everyone is even. They can do this,” Garcia says. “A lot of kids have been told they can’t. ... We put them on a 1,200-pound animal and tell them they can.”
And they do.
In the past 5 years, Dream Walkers has provided more than 1,000 therapy sessions to children in the area through the dedication of Garcia and a band of volunteers.
One of those children is Kamille Sanchez, who Garcia originally met when Sanchez was just a month old. Ten years later, Sanchez arrived at Dream Walkers for therapy. During therapy, her parents, Cheryl and Damacio Sanchez, saw her balance and nonverbal communication—she claps to let her sidewalkers, leader and the horse know she is ready to go—improve tremendously. In 2015, Sanchez received a donation from Medina EC’s ORU program for a year’s worth of therapy at the center.
Around that same time, another family’s life was also changing, and their path would soon lead them to Dream Walkers. Bailey Massey, just 4 at the time, underwent brain surgery and was left paralyzed on his left side. After visiting with doctors and going to physical and occupational therapy in San Antonio, it was determined that equine therapy would be a good additional therapy for Massey. He began lessons that year and continues them to this day. Massey also received $1,000 donations from ORU in 2017 and 2018 to help him with riding lessons.
His mother, Jo Francis Massey, has noticed a difference. “When he first started he couldn’t sit up at all; he had no abdominal strength. Because of this he can now sit up,” she says. “He couldn’t get into a pickup before—we had to carry him. Now, he can get into a pickup.” Holding the reigns has also helped Massey gain movement of his left hand.
Most of the families that attend Dream Walkers for therapy also spend a lot of time on the road, seeing specialists in San Antonio multiple times per week for therapy sessions and schools. This travel and the medical costs place a burden on these families that most people with children their age do not have to deal with.
To have a local option for equine therapy helps defray the family’s travel costs, helps their children gain mobility and—most importantly, as Garcia tells it—helps the rider “laugh and learn to become an active part of society as leaders and team members.”
Watch a video from our July 2015 visit to Dream Walkers Equine Therapy Center during Kamille’s riding session at YouTube.com/MedinaEC.
Learn more about Dream Walkers Therapy Center and how you can help at dwetc.org.