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Wyoming cowboy Ken McNabb back on his feet after horse rescue accident

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Posted at 10:52 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 00:52:12-04

BILLINGS — After severely fracturing his leg while trying to rescue a horse on August 27, Wyoming cowboy Ken McNabb is back on his feet after he received treatment and surgery from St. Vincent Healthcare and Ortho Montana in Billings.

"The morning the accident happened, I got up and left the barn early and went and found the horse and in the effort of getting him out, he fell off a ledge and rolled over me," McNabb said on Monday after a follow up appointment at Ortho Montana.

McNabb, 46, said he's spent his entire life on horseback. He teaches people how to ride horses, trains horses and is a rancher based out of Lovell, Wyoming.

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Ken McNabb speaks with MTN News after a follow up appointment on his ankle at Ortho Montana in Billings.

McNabb said the accident happened on Powderhorn Ranch, about 25 miles southwest of Douglas, Wyoming. McNabb and a friend rode out to bring back a horse that had become trapped in a steep, rocky depression in the land.

“He fell off a ledge and rolled over me. I was about 12 feet from him, but when he fell he was actually standing still and he just, he was out. He was up where he needed to be and he slipped and I just scared him and he threw himself. And it happened so fast I couldn’t get away from him. He hit me, knocked me down and rolled over my leg and broke it over a rock," McNabb said.

McNabb's friend offered to call emergency services for rescue, but instead McNabb rode back three-miles to his pickup truck before driving himself to a hospital in Douglas.

"So I crawled up to a rock. Got on a rock. (My friend) led my horse up and I got on my horse and rode three miles to a pickup. Probably doing enough other damage in that ride to make it a much longer process in healing and whatnot," McNabb said.

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Ken McNabb was injured while trying to rescue this landlocked horse at Powderhorn Ranch near Douglas, Wyoming.

Ranch hands were able to get feed and water to the trapped horse and were able to lead it to safety a few days later after doing some dirt work, McNabb said.

The severity of the injury McNabb received is similar to what could happen to someone in a car accident, according to Kyle Lybrand M.D., who was McNabb's Surgeon.

“I think the injury coupled with his story is pretty incredible. We don’t have many people who are able to have something like that happen to them way out in the middle of nowhere and be able to get themselves out of that situation," Lybrand said.

After hospital staff in Douglas searched for hours for an open bed at a facility that could treat McNabb, he had two options: travel to Denver or Billings.

“This was an hour longer drive, but it’s close to home and I’m ever so thankful that I made that decision. You can’t have an experience like this really be a cool experience, because it’s not. It’s miserable. The treatment from St. Vincent’s was amazing," McNabb said.

Lybrand said McNabb's ankle was dislocated and fractured in three different places. McNabb had two surgeries to place a plate and nine pins into into his leg.

"I think many people would have needed a helicopter ride or something to get themselves out of there. What he did is pretty amazing," Lybrand said.

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Kyle Lybrand M.D. has been an orthopedic Trauma Surgeon with Ortho Montana since September 2018.

At his check up appointment on Monday, Lybrand gave McNabb the okay to start putting weight on his injured leg. McNabb said he's bound determined to get back in the saddle within 36 hours. He said he's got a contracted event coming up on November 1 that he can't miss.

"I will be horseback if not tomorrow evening, then Wednesday morning. The doctor did not tell me that I could ride. She told me that I could do anything I felt up to. That riding probably wasn't the best idea," McNabb said, cracking a smile.

Lybrand said a healthy ankle will make for a healthy life for McNabb.

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Ken McNabb places weight on his injured foot for the first time in about eight weeks after severely fracturing his ankle.

"He needs his ankle to be able to continue to do his job and the lifestyle that he wants. I think he's been very, very compliant and good thus far. So I think he will continue to be patient and get back to that when me and him think he's ready," Lybrand said.

McNabb said his main concern about getting back on a horse was damaging any of Lybrand's work on his ankle.

"She said, 'No, you might be sore but you're not going to damage anything. Just don't go loping off into the sunset. So I told her I wont. I'll go at it easy," McNabb said.

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