‘God has a plan’ Ullerich family says after Reece hurt in accident
A South Dakota man has been injured in a horse accident.
Reece Ullerich, Humboldt, S.D., is in the ICU at a hospital in Sioux Falls.
The 20-year-old cowboy, who turns 21 on February 1, was exercising horses with a friend in Brookings, South Dakota, in an indoor arena when his horse tripped and fell. It’s not completely clear what happened, but Reece stayed on and went down with the horse. He has sustained a serious head injury from the accident and has brain bleeds.
As of press time, he is still in a medically induced coma, intubated and on a ventilator. The swelling and pressure in his brain has stabilized, and doctors are slowly weaning him from the sedations to see how his body handles it.
Reece “has a long road ahead,” his aunt, Steph Nelson said. “But we know God has a plan, and only He knows it. We’re just praying for recovery and healing. But we know it’s in God’s time. We’re waiting on him.”
“It will be our family, friends and most of all our faith that will see us through this,” his mom, Melissa, said. “We know Reece is steadfast in his faith. We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support, prayers and kindness and we are just so grateful.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to cover costs as Mark and Melissa are away from work as they stay with Reece. Funds can be donated at https://www.gofundme.com/f/reece-ullerich-medical-fund?qid=293816c84908ae48dd6d08558ac19f7e .
Donations can also be sent to the family through an account set up at Great Western Bank (202 SD-38, Hartford, SD 57033). Account name for the fund is Mark or Melissa Ullerich, in care of Reece.
Reece, a high school rodeo standout, started riding horses at age two. By ten years of age, he was rodeoing.
A graduate of West Central High School, he played basketball, was on state track championship relay team, was a National Honor Society member and involved in his school’s FFA chapter as well as the 4-H horse program.
He is in his third year at South Dakota State University.
Reece tries to be a friend to everyone, said his mom, Melissa.
“He has a genuine interest in other people. He’s a good visitor, good at striking up a conversation, and truly cares about other people and what they’re about.”
He’s also competitive, she said.
He was the S.D. state champion breakaway roper and goat tyer as an eighth grader, but when he moved into high school, he was small: 5’6” and 85 lbs., plenty small to flank calves. That’s when he added cutting and reined cow horse to his rodeo repertoire, because “he was having a hard time (flanking) 200 pound Charolais calves,” Melissa said.
Telling him “no” often made him work even harder towards his goal, she said. In high school, he was discouraged from playing basketball because of his small stature. Reece used that as motivation to run track. He joined three talented boys who were on the 4×4 relay team. The boys were cross country runners who ran year-round, unlike Reece, who had other sports. “He had to work really hard,” Melissa said, “because they were really good. He worked hard to get his times to be competitive, so he could help them.” The team went on to win multiple state and Howard Wood 4×4 and medley relay titles.
In high school rodeo, he competed not only in the tie-down roping, cow horse and cutting, but the team roping as well. Younger brother Jace wasn’t able to ride or compete for several years, due to hip injuries. When Jace was able to ride again, Reece worked hard to heel for him, so the two could team rope together. “Reece was really motivated to heel for Jace and he worked hard at it so Jace and he could have some shared success, too.”
Melissa stressed that Reece understood his accomplishments were never of his own accord.
“Your success is never yours alone,” she said. “Any time you have success, it’s because so many others have helped you along the way. Somebody has pushed your calf, lent a horse, videoed your run. He’s had so many mentors and friends who have helped him along the way to become a better roper and horseman. The horse and rodeo communities are really incredible. It’s humbling.”
He is strong-willed, Steph said. “Some of us who love him might call him stubborn,” she laughed. “He’s a hard worker and a competitor. He loves to compete.”
Reece’s passion is horses. He has been riding, training and breeding horses and has worked at a veterinary clinic with equine reproduction the last two summers.
The family, including his parents Mark and Melissa and brother Jace, have been communicating about Reece’s condition, through a Caring Bridge page (https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/reeceullerich).
Reece’s confirmation verse is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
“None of us can comprehend or understand how Reece has landed in this situation,” Steph wrote, “but we trust the Lord and the plan he has for Reece.” The family has experienced an outpouring of love and support, and is grateful for it.
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