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The Western State Ranch Rodeo Association’s Cowboy Crisis Fund Fund Recipients Clay Ashurst and Toby Vineyard
The Western State Ranch Rodeo Association’s Cowboy Crisis Fund gives back to members and their families.
by Savanna Simmons
When Clay Ashurst bridled his horse, pulled his cinch tight, and stepped into his stirrup before the ranch rodeo July 29, he didn’t imagine the day would play out as it did; that he would get hurt or the path for the next few days, weeks, months, and probably years would be so drastically changed.
Clay’s horse was knocked over sideways by a bronc while he was picking up at the Eastern Wyoming Ranch Rodeo. The impact seriously injured his brain stem, and he was rushed first to Niobrara County Hospital, then flown to Wyoming Medical Center in Casper that same evening.
Clay regularly competes in ranch rodeos and top hand competitions. His team qualified this year for Western State Ranch Rodeo Association National Finals and Working Ranch Cowboys Association’s World Championship Ranch Rodeo with Clay as the captain. They also qualified for the NILE ranch rodeo and Wyoming State Fair ranch rodeo.
He has worked for Four Three Land and Cattle for five years, and lives on the Zimmerman with his wife Lexie and two sons, Miles and Grant. Clay has been a cowboy his whole life, starting his career on ranches like Babbitt’s and the Diamond A in Arizona. Clay and Lexie are high school rodeo sweethearts and just celebrated 17 years of marriage.
While Clay has made great progress in the last six weeks, he still has a long road of recovery. His personality, intelligence, character, and work ethic remain intact, though Clay struggles with his short-term memory, eye sight, and balance and strength once he tires. He has been at Craig Hospital in Denver for rehabilitation since Aug. 10.
Lexie has posted on Facebook throughout the journey, keeping their friends and family spread from Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and many other states up to date on Clay’s progress. Her post from the first day at Craig stated: “We were at Craig Rehab only minutes before they got busy with getting us checked in, further evaluated and started on rehab. It’s a flurry of people but they are all very specialized and ready to make a difference. Within an hour they already were trying little tricks to address Clay’s blurry and double vision and getting us fitted for a wheel chair. He and I both will have to pass certain criteria before we are allowed more than to roam the halls, but even that little liberty felt good tonight. He’s able to speak up a little better today, was awake longer, and continues to do more. Most of it is still an enormous effort but yet somehow improved if even just a centimeter . . . It’s time to dig deep. I do believe the past 12 days is likely to have been the easiest part of this.”
Clay was expected to perform in-patient therapy at Craig for a minimum of two months. Instead, he concluded his in-patient therapy after 37 days. He was able to spend a week at home with his family and has since returned to Craig for out-patient therapy that could last for several months.
“As far as prognosis goes, it’s still too early to call. But one thing I can say is that the second month of his recovery looks much more promising that the first several weeks did,” Lexie said. “Clay has made amazing, miraculous strides in the past couple weeks. Recovery from these types of injuries is measured in years.”
Clay’s work ethic of a cowboy and God’s presence in the process and their lives has resulted in a recovery far ahead of schedule than anyone has expected. It took Clay six days after the accident to open his eyes, though there was some periods of wakefulness. The family went from not knowing if he would awake to slow, scattered interactions, to Clay wanting to get up and walk and finally be transferred to Craig.
“Clay has an amazing attitude and positive outlook. He and I both agree that he will continue to get better over the next year or two, but should he not, we know we will praise God for what we have been given back,” Lexie said.
“We are so thankful for our family, friends, and community who have gone above and beyond to take care of us,” Lexie said. “We consider ourselves so fortunate to be part of a culture that takes care of and rallies around their people. Cowboys are without a doubt the best people on earth.”
Toby produces a sanctioned WSRRA event in Sheridan, Wyoming called Powder River Days. Toby, his wife Amy and their two kids Bronc (9) and Brindle (7) own a ranch in Arvada, Wyoming where they run mother cows.
Toby’s health issues started September 2016 when he was diagnosed with what we thought was just pneumonia. Unfortunately after the treatment his infection kept coming back which led to many trips to the ER and various hospital stays in Billings, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming Hospitals.
In June 2017, Toby suffered from a pulmonary embolism and again was hospitalized in Billings. Due to the embolism he was put on blood thinners which made a lung biopsy impossible for three months. During this time the doctors put him on a long term steroid to keep his lungs clear. In early August he had a reaction to a medication we think and his neck swelled twice cutting off his oxygen and ended up in the hospital once again. At the end of August , Toby suffered from seizures and once again was hospitalized in Sheridan and started on seizure medication. The seizures put them back in the Sheridan hospital one more time and once in the Billings hospital before the right medications where given to stop them. At this point, he was tapering off his steroid that kept his lungs clear. Two days after he stopped taking the steroids, his lungs acted up again putting us back in the Sheridan hospital twice, Buffalo hospital once, and finally the Billings Clinic.
Toby had a lung biopsy finally on September 20th and we are waiting on answers from the biopsy. The stress of paying for hotels, traveling costs and keeping the ranch going has weighed heavily our family this year. We have been blessed with a great hired hand and many friends who have been willing to help out at any time. Toby and his wife, Amy, figure that they have been in the hospital around 60 days this year.
At the time of this story, Toby and his wife are at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Please join WSRRA in its effort to support these families. Donations for the silent
auction can be sent to:
Winnemucca Events Center
Attention: Brenda Keating/WSRRA
50 West Winnemucca Blvd.
Winnemucca, NV 89445
For more information, call 916-296-2326
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.