TURNER COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — There’s a tangible connection between Rodney Hammerstrom and the horse he rides.

“Riding is good therapy for me because when I do ride, when a horse moves, that moves your pelvis so it mimics your walking gait,” Rodney said.

The sight of this 38-year-old Turner County man riding offers little if any hint of what he’s been through. Nearly twenty years ago in October 2003, a horse riding accident near Lennox devastated Rodney’s world.

“The horse had flopped over with his legs this way,” Rodney’s father Daryl Hammerstrom said. “Rod was laying downhill that way underneath the horse and cold October night, but the heat off the colt’s what kept him alive or he would have went into shock immediately.”

Rodney says he has no recollection of anything at all until around Christmas. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for a little over a month.

“When I woke up from that coma, it was years after waking up from that that I was able to walk on my own for a distance,” Rodney said.

He had to relearn what had once happened instinctively.

“I also had to relearn how to open my eyelids, had to relearn how to move my tongue because all of that was lost when I was in the coma,” Rodney said.

“Now this is what his normal is is living with the tremors, which have gotten way better than what they used to be,” Daryl said.

His son, he says, is relentless.

“He’s a competitor and that’s what’s got him to the point of where he’s at ’cause he’s, he don’t quit,” Daryl said. “He don’t know that word. He just keeps digging in and finding ways to do stuff, so it’s kind of the cowboy way, and that’s the way we brought the boys up all their life.”

“I’m just thankful to live the life that I get to live,” Rodney said.

Rodney once had dreams of competing professionally in rodeo. His accident prevented him from doing that at the level to which he aspired, but he does compete in ranch sorting, which involves horseback riders organizing cattle. He even won in his class at the ranch sorting national championships in 2021.

“When he won the world, who would ever thought, to be able to come back from where he was,” Daryl said. “It took three people to even get him to stand up when he started all this.”

Rodney also gives speeches about his recovery.

“I feel that’s one way I can give back to God after He has done so much to encourage me to keep getting better,” Rodney said. “It’s every day.”

He’s come a long way since 2003.

“I tell about how I’ve recovered through my life through God and how He has encouraged me to keep going forward,” Rodney said.

So he gratefully presses on.

“Look at what all surrounds me; how can I not be thankful?” Rodney said. “I would be a fool to take this all for granted.”