Dacean Thomas won the distinctive honor this year of representing her community as queen of the Cowley rodeo. The 15-year-old is already an expert horsewoman, competent on horseback since the age of 5. She has qualified for the world championships in mounted shooting, one of the more challenging horse-related sports, for the past three years and her horsemanship skills are as fine-tuned as many adults. She also trains horses with her father Jason, who competes in mounted shooting, as well.
As is the tradition for queens, she will appear in the Cowley parade Saturday but in a pickup truck instead of on a horse. In fact, she won’t be back in the saddle for quite some time, following a horse accident that resulted in serious head injuries that took place near her family home in Deaver on Sunday, June 26, according to her mother Darby Thomas.
“We were getting ready to go to the lake swimming and she walked down to the bottom of the pasture to get a horse,” said Darby. “She didn’t want to walk back, so she just climbed on bareback with a rope around the horse’s neck. We’re pretty sure the horse tripped and went down with her.”
Though no one actually saw the accident, the scrape marks on the front of the 23-year-old mare’s legs were an indication that the horse most likely tripped and fell. According to Darby, she is a very reliable horse that would be very unlikely to buck anyone off her back.
“She’s an older mare, but she’s her best horse,” explained Darby. “She’s always been a reliable horse. We could see from the cuts on the horse that she literally went down. She had scrapes on her front legs.”
Dacean’s sister Gabby and friend Mykah Holdsworth were nearby but didn’t notice that something was wrong until they saw Dacean’s horse “Angel” pacing back and forth along the fence line. They very quickly noticed Dacean’s motionless body on the ground nearby and ran to the house to alert Dacean’s parents.
“It’s the kind of thing she’s done a million times and she’s never fallen off,” said Darby. “It wouldn’t have been something anyone would have expected.”
Dacean had been riding the mare most of her life and knew her well.
“She actually qualified for worlds on her two years in a row,” said Darby.
It’s unclear if the horse fell on her or stepped on her or if she just hit her head on the ground. What was clear, though, is that the horse stood guard over her until help arrived and was joined by Dacean’s favorite dog, a blue heeler also named “Angel,” who Darby said literally laid on top of Dacean as if to guard her, as well.
“At one point, we had to drag the dog off of her and put her away so we could approach her,” said Darby.
An ambulance was called immediately and Dacean was rushed to North Big Horn Hospital, where after being evaluated for her injuries she was prepared for a flight by medical helicopter to Billings. Once in Billings, a portion of her skull was surgically removed to allow space for swelling of her brain. The piece is being held in a “bone bank” and will be surgically put into place once her brain returns to its normal size.
After the surgery, she and her mother were flown by a specially equipped medical transport plane to Salt Lake City, where she remained in the neuro trauma center for 10 days at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Much to the amazement of her medical providers, her recovery is already proceeding much quicker than expected. According to Darby, her daughter is already regaining speech and movement. She is back home with her family and with some assistance is already taking trips outside where she can see her much loved animals from a distance.
“It’s going to be a long road to recovery,” said Darby. “It’s going to be a long time until she’s back up on a horse. That is going to be really hard on her. Horses are her life and she’s already talking about riding again.”
A number of fundraisers have been planned to help Dacean and her family with the mounting costs of her medical expenses.
A barrel race is planned and will be held on July 30 at the Cowley Rodeo Grounds. Entrants can register at 4 p.m. The race will begin at 6 p.m. A silent auction and barbecue will also be held.
A GoFundMe site has been set up for online donations by Bessie Holdsworth. The site is a convenient way to make donations and has already raised more than $2,500.
The Wyoming Desperadoes Mounted Shooting Club is hosting an event at the Park County Fairgrounds called the “Wild Wyoming Charity Jackpot.” The event will be held on Friday, Aug. 26, at 6 p.m. All of the proceeds from the exhibition event will be donated to the family.
Wyoming Desperadoes are also hosting a mechanical bull “buck off” in conjunction with a dinner to be held at Hansel and Gretels Restaurant in Powell on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. A silent auction will also run concurrently with other shooting events that are taking place over the same weekend.
A raffle of a sorrel filly born on May 28, 2016 is also being held as a fundraiser for the Thomas family. The “AQHA pending” filly is sired by Shootn Smart: Pretty Boy Boon and Way to Go Lena, by Lena My Way. The filly will be weaned in the fall and available for pickup by the lucky winner of the raffle at that time. For more information, contact Alyssa or Justin O’Neil at 271-2046.
By Patti Carpenter