Comeback Kid: Nelson Rides Broncs Again

It was nearly two and a half years since Taylen Nelson crawled onto a bucking horse. His first two horses back were at the Buck & Ball on New Years Eve, 2022. The first horse bucked him off, but he scored 81 on the second.

Most recently, the Wibaux, Montana cowboy won money in the futurity at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale and competed in the Xtreme Broncs, a prospect that seemed impossible not so long ago.

The reason for his hiatus from the sport he loves was near tragic. On Aug. 8, 2020, Nelson was helping his little brother, Gavin, move into college near Fort Worth, Texas. The pair went out that evening but were separated, and Taylen was brutally attacked in downtown Fort Worth. “A guy punched me and my head ricocheted off the curb,” he said. His next memory is waking up in the Intensive Care Unit two weeks later, as doctors kept him in a coma for that amount of time. Upon bringing him back into consciousness, they then had to battle his constant seizures. The sum of his injuries included a fractured skull, two brain bleeds, broken bones in his ear, and a collapsing jugular vein.

Regaining his speech was the biggest obstacle, so he was flown to Craig Hospital in Denver for rehabilitation. From Nelson’s perspective, he was aware of everything and could identify objects in his mind, but he could not form the words when asked. Once, he said, doctors wrote down the word C-O-W on a paper, asking him if he knew was it was. He nodded. They then asked him if he could say it, and he shook his head no.

Nelson’s accident occurred in the heart of his professional rodeo career, but it seems that he has picked up right where he left off. RodeoReady | Courtesy photo

The recovery process was slow, but family members and his girlfriend, Amanda Beard, were by his side constantly.  “I just wanted to go home because I was pissed off I wasn’t getting anything done [on the ranch],” he said. After several weeks of rehab, he was able to go home. He remained on his seizure medication for two years, abstained from drinking alcohol, and busied himself with the day-to-day running of his family’s ranching operation, Nelson Simmental Livestock Company, which he runs with his brother, dad, and grandpa. Though the doctors advised against riding broke horses and working around cattle, it was a sort of ongoing rehabilitation for him to focus on his work. Thus, he spent two years “just running the ranch and seeing how long I could go before I needed to go to town,” he said.

Nelson is back in action up the road from his hometown at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. Jackie Jensen | Courtesy photo

Three doctors gave him different expectations on whether or not he would ever get to ride bucking horses again: one was in the negative, another gave him some hope after a suitable recuperation period, and the third left the decision up to Nelson. However, Nelson set a daring, private goal for himself after his return from the hospital when he bought a new bronc saddle.  “I already knew I was going to do it,” he said.

During his two-year hiatus from riding broncs, Nelson busied himself with running his family’s registered cattle operation. Taylen Nelson | Courtesy photo

His mentor, Shaun Stroh, always told him to use the same routine at every rodeo, which might explain how he was able to pick up where he left off. “It’s all natural reaction,” says Nelson said. He received his injuries at 22 years old, having already earned his pro card and getting big wins under his belt, such as Red Lodge’s The Home of Champions Rodeo on Lunatic From Hell in 2019.

Nelson looks forward to continuing his professional career this summer alongside planning his wedding. “I sure missed it, and especially the people,” he said. “I’m just glad to be able to do something like this again in my life for fun before I become a crippled up old rancher and bronc rider.”

In other happy news, Nelson proposed to Beard in the days leading up to the MCBHS.

Nelson became engaged to Amanda Beard this spring. She was a stalwart supporter during his hospital stay and recovery thereafter. Taylen Nelson | Courtesy photo