Sam started riding horses as therapy at the age of 4. Sam was diagnosed with a nervous system disorder at a young age, and has responded well to equine therapy. “His body lit up around horses” says Sam’s mom. “The horses help Sam communicate.”
As a baby, Sam struggled to meet developmental milestones, and eventually his doctor administered some diagnostic tests. The results showed that Sam was missing the tissue that normally surrounds and protects the nerves. His doctors tested him for multiple types of dystrophies but Sam never matched. After 7 years of searching, Sam was finally diagnosed. His disease is incurable and there are limited treatment options, but he completes physical and orthopedic therapy as well as speech and language therapy to combat his symptoms.
When Sam’s family saw the impact that equine therapy had on Sam and how much he changed around horses, they became a dedicated horse-loving family.
“We started watching anything on TV about horses,” says Sam’s mom. Sam loves to watch all the pre-race and post-race shows and even guesses who the first and second place horse will be.
When Sam learned he qualified to receive a wish, he decided to dream big. He asked for the perfect wish of a horse lover: a trip to watch the Kentucky Derby.
Finally the day of the Kentucky Derby came, and it happened to be one of the rainiest days in Kentucky Derby history. Sam and his family flew down to Kentucky and went straight to the famous track, Churchill Downs, for the tour of the track. In between races, they spent time at a special clubhouse on the track where they could rest and get some food.
Sam was very excited to meet each of the horses, their owners, and the jockeys, but there was one horse who stole the show. Sam got to meet the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh! During each race, Sam stayed right up next to the railing enjoying every second!
“Everybody was so nice, and we got to meet a lot of great people, racers, owners and trainers,” Sam’s mom recalled.
Sam was very excited when he found out that there was another triple crown winner this year, Justify, and that he had actually seen him race in person!
“He told us in his own way that this is the wish that he wanted, and even though Sam can’t verbally express himself, he really understood that this was his wish and that not everybody will get the chance to do what he did,” Sam’s mom said.