When the 2013 Missouri State Fair Queen was announced in August, I screamed. For once, I personally knew the young lady that was about to represent our fair and agriculture across the state.
As I traversed the livestock barns on the Missouri State Fairgrounds, people would ask me where she was from. I replied with a little hometown pride “Warren County.” That question was always followed by, “What is her ag background?” My simple answer, “Horses.” Then I would proceed to get the rolling of the eyes that often comes from the more traditional agriculture community.
But it was with verve that I exclaimed, “Wait! You have to hear her story.”
I have had the pleasure of knowing Ashley Bauer ever since she was a young girl in 4-H. She is well versed at sexing rabbits, training dogs and exhibiting the occasional chicken. But her passion is horses. And it was this passion that scarred her for life.
Ashely grew up as a member of the Country Crossroads 4-H Club. She took on a horse project, which held practices at the local fairground’s arena. There she honed her skills in barrel racing. Like many other young cowgirls, Ashley came to the arena with just her horse and cowboy hat.
In May 2003, the day before Mother’s Day, she was breaking in a new horse named Barney. Ashley, then 10-years-old, recalls the horse doing well during the first couple of barrel runs.
But it took just one turn around a barrel and Ashley began to feel the saddle start to slide. She lost a stirrup and her little body quickly slid underneath the horse’s belly. The movement excited the young horse and he bolted out the end of the arena gate.
Ashley recalls something inside her telling her to let go, but it was too late. Dangling below the horse something struck her head. Ashley can’t remember if she let go or was kicked her off by the horse, either way, the young girl was left bleeding, lying in the dirt.
Ashley’s parents, Todd and Suzanne Bauer, rushed to their daughter’s side. It was her father that could tell her skull was damaged. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, in an emergency room, the doctors revealed the true extent of the injury.
She fractured her skull. The damage came within one-fourth of an inch of her brain. Surgeons inserted two metal plates just below the skin to seal up the skull and protect her brain. Today, just a small ripple in her skin right above her left eye is all that remains of the trauma she endured that day.
Since then, Ashley has been a spokesperson in our county and other horse competitions for always wearing a helmet while riding. It doesn’t matter if it is pleasure, practice or competition, horses can be spooked at any given time. And without a helmet, head trauma can happen.
Prevention is key
In the 10 years since the accident, Ashley never competes in speed events without a helmet. Last month, she began her sophomore year at William Woods University studying business administration and equine general studies with a concentration in therapeutic. One day she would like to open up a therapeutic horsemanship barn.
While Ashley may not come from a typical agriculture background, she is a queen with a message. If you have the opportunity to bring her to your county for a speaking engagement, take it. If not, seek her out. Because she has inspired youth in our area to strap on a helmet, and I believe she can do it in your area. Ashley truly shows that the glamor girl of the rodeo circuit may not only wear a crown, but also a helmet.