BILLINGS – Since September MontanaSports.com has been updating the both the severity and progress of Cowley. Wyo., bareback rider J.R. Vezain, who now lives in Melstone.
Vezain was briefly paralyzed after being crushed under a horse that flipped on him at a September rodeo in Texas. Now, he and his wife are in Salt Lake City for rigorous physical therapy five days a week.
Had he been healthy, Vezain would have opened his sixth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Wednesday in Las Vegas. Instead, he’s rehabbing near Salt Lake City where our friends in Wyoming recently spent a session with him.
“There’s been a ton of people pulling together donating, and it’s been a really humbling experience from people I know to people I haven’t even met,” said Vezain. “They do great work here. It’s awesome. It’s hard to keep track of progress each day, but if you wait until the end of the week you can look back and see how far you’ve come.”
“Shoot, two months ago I couldn’t even sit on the end of the bed for 10 minutes. Now I’m getting myself out of bed and pretty much getting myself dressed. I’m getting a lot of core strength back and even starting to get leg movement back.”
While cranking a circular machine with his hands that resembled a small bicycle wheel, Vezain continued.
“This really warms up the back and shoulders,” he said. “Usually a five or ten minute warm up everyday. My wife, she’s a rock. She’s been with me every single day. I couldn’t hardly make it through a day without her.”
“It’s made our relationship 100 times stronger, this whole ordeal,” said Shelby Vezain, watching within a few feet. “We have amazing family and amazing friends who’ve helped us through it.”
“They say you have to stand to walk, and I force myself to stand so I can get walking soon,” said Vezain while working on his upright balance — something most of us take for granted.
“There ain’t no better feeling than standing up,” Vezain said as he was close to wrapping up the session. “You can sit and wonder why and question yourself, or the situation, and pout. Poor, pitiful me and try and make excuses. Or you can dig deep, find the joy in little things, know that there’s a reason for everything, a plan, and put your nose to the grindstone and get to work.”
Among the outpouring of support, PRCA CEO George Taylor has offered to shuttle Vezain and his wife to and from Las Vegas this week on his private plane to watch the NFR.
The National Finals Rodeo can be seen live on CBS Sports Network nightly starting at 8 p.m. (Cable channel 634, DirecTV 221, Dish Network 158) or its available here for online purchase.