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True Grit: Love for horses gives Wyoming teen strength to move forward

Posted at 4:35 AM, Mar 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-18 06:40:59-04

For as long as anyone can remember, Dacean Thomas has had a love for horses.

When she was 11-years-old, Dacean found the perfect horse, whom she named Angel.

Those who watched the two together noticed an instant and intense bond.  A young girl, and her best friend.

Together, Dacean and Angel participated in the sport of mounted shooting.  It’s fast, furious, and seems to be straight out of the Old West.  A horse and rider run a course, while the rider shoots at balloon targets.

But it only took a moment for everything to change.

“Pretty typical Sunday,” said Dacean’s dad, Jason Thomas. “Girls decided they wanted to take the horses to the reservoir and go swimming.”

That day, June 26, 2016, would change their lives forever.

“Next thing I know, her little sister comes screaming,” said Darby Thomas, Dacean’s mom. “It was like, alright, she fell’re overreacting. But she wasn’t.”

Thomas and her sister had been heading back from their swim when Angel tripped.  As a result, Dacean was thrown to the ground where she lay unconscious and barely breathing.

Her dad, an experienced paramedic, knew she was in trouble.  He had Darby call 9-1-1.

“I tried to get her rolled over and make sure she was breathing and try to figure out how bad her injuries were,” said Thomas.

When the ambulance arrived, Dacean was loaded in and rushed the 17 miles to Lovell, before she was taken by helicopter to Billings Clinic.

Doctors performed emergency surgery to remove a portion of her skull to relieve the swelling.

Due to the extent of her injuries, doctors decided to send Dacean to Salt Lake City.

“They told me when they put her in the plane to Salt Lake ‘if she makes this ride, we will be surprised’,” said Darby Thomas.

Daecan survived the flight to Salt Lake, and once there, doctors told her mom that her recovery would likely take months, and there were likely abilities she would never regain.

“They didn’t know if we’d have a young lady that was 5-years-old mentally or if she was going to have a full recovery,” said Jason.

But miraculously, Dacean began to improve almost immediately. Within days of the accident, she was in therapy.  She was released from the hospital after 10 days.

“I’m really lucky to be where I am and I thank God every day for it,” Dacean said.

Just two months after her accident, Daecean was back in school and taking college classes.

But while Dacean continued to improve every day, her horse was taking a turn for the worse.

“Throughout the accident, she knew that I wasn’t okay and so she was kind of upset and ended up a little sick herself,” said Dacean. “She kind of went downhill from here, kind of felt that it was because she took it into her own hands.”

A heartbroken Dacean made the decision that her best-friend should not have to suffer.

“I felt as the owner to go ahead and not let her suffer, so I made the decision on my own to put her down,” said Dacean through tears. “I felt it was the best way for her to overcome what we had been through.”

In a matter of months, Dacean’s world had been turned upside down, but as soon as she was cleared by doctors, she got back in the saddle.

Dacean found recovery in a horse she named Bug.

“No matter what life throws at you, you can get up and make the best of it,” said Dacean. “Keep pushing towards your dreams and learn from your past mistakes and you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.”

To learn more about cowboy mounted shooting, contact Brent Larson at or call 406-426-0700