On January 1, 2010, I got up early to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. RFD-TV had sponsored a float with the national Future Farmers of America. As the Utah state FFA president, I was invited to walk behind the float. I was also chosen from all 50 states to ride on the float rather than walk, so for the 5-mile parade, I had my own little place to sit and be part of the world-renowned parade.
At that point in my life, I had a plan. After graduating from high school, I was taking a year off before college to serve in my FFA role and buy my Women’s Pro Rodeo permit.
What I didn’t know at the time was that nine days later my life would completely change.
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On January 10 of that year, while on my way from Utah to Denver, Colorado, for the National Western Stock Show, I was involved in a rollover truck accident. Thrown from my window, I hit a fence post and was paralyzed from the waist down. All my plans? They were changed in an instant.
The first day of therapy, my nurse asked me to set goals. I replied, “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” That was all I cared about. Those three words would come to carry so much purpose as my life continued.
Two months later, I wheeled onto a stage in Cedar City, Utah, to give a retiring speech to FFA members. I’d written my speech—on overcoming obstacles—in December of 2009, right before my accident. But those words had now gained much deeper meaning, as I’d been living that speech for two months and would continue to live it the rest of my life.
Eighteen months after my accident, I returned to competing in rodeo on my horse Power. It wasn’t the same as it had been before, but still: I could do what I’d always loved. My public speaking career had begun as well, with small schools and groups. For a few years I continued striving to improve myself in both riding and speaking, working my way to 2015.
March 1 of that year was also life altering. That day, I was able to run with Power in RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo barrel-racing event in AT&T Stadium, my entry granted by fan voting. This experience was one I could only have dreamed of. I’d worked so hard to be back in that arena and was able to prove to myself that we could earn our spot to be there. This moment would become the ending to a movie that was in my future.
Speaking and rodeo continued to develop as I earned my Women’s Pro Rodeo card and began traveling around the nation as well as sharing my story internationally. In 2017, my new horse Legacy and I had a fall, which resulted in a broken femur and down time for the summer. I decided to write a kids’ book, titled Walk Ride Rodeo, to share my story with children.
In the summer of 2018, Netflix made a movie about my life. Power and I were our own stunt doubles in the film; my little sister and Power were our pre-accident doubles. Released in March of 2019, the movie was titled “Walk. Ride. Rodeo”.
Then RFD-TV invited me to run in Rodeo New York in June 2020…in Madison Square Garden! And with this agreement came the idea for another float in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
So on January 1 of this year, the “Walk Ride Rodeo” float debuted to the world. The figure of Power led the way at the front, with my “flowery” self riding him. So once more I was able to sit in my own spot on a Rose Parade float, this time alongside a few of the world champions who’ll be competing in Rodeo New York this summer.
Wow. 10 years. When someone asks you the question, “Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?” don’t sell yourself short. I couldn’t have foreseen how these past 10 years would go when I was in that hospital bed, being asked for my physical-therapy goals.
Each of you reading this article: Take a moment to realize how far you’ve come in the past 10 years. Recall your challenges, embrace the strength you found, celebrate your accomplishments. God has and always will have a plan for you. I can’t guarantee it’ll always make sense or be easy. I can guarantee you’ll handle it. You’re stronger than you think.
I challenge you to keep moving forward. We have 10 more years ahead of us, and I can’t wait to see what we do next.