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Neurosurgical Team Gets Young Equestrian Back in the Saddle



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The 3-minute drive across the family’s 400-acre horse ranch was the longest in Nicole Ainger’s life. She heard fear and panic in the phone call telling her to come fast. When she pulled her truck up beside the training barn, she found her trainer Earl on the ground cradling her 10-year-old daughter Ashlyn’s blood-covered head.

Ashlyn had been bareback riding with a 12-year-old friend within shouting distance of Earl when the horse got spooked and reared up. Ashlyn slid off and under the horse. As her four-legged friend tried to avoid her, he kicked Ashlyn just above her right eyebrow.

“Earl was crying and telling her to stay with him. He was calling out to Jesus, ‘Please dear God. We need a miracle,’” describes Ainger.

Ainger feels like she got a series of miracles over the next few hours, from how fast the ambulance arrived to having a surgical team assembled and waiting for Ashlyn at the region’s only Level 1 trauma center.

During the 8 minutes they waited for the ambulance to arrive, Ashlyn’s grandmother and father came from other parts of the ranch to sit by Ashlyn’s side. “We didn’t know in those moments what was happening and if we might be saying goodbye,” Ainger says.

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Justine joined GV Wire in 2021 as the Digital Content Coordinator. She has experience in the graphic design industry where she has done freelance work for both non-profits and various local businesses. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art with a Graphic Design option from California State University, Fresno. During her time there, she was heavily involved with the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community by volunteering in the Hmong Student Association and also working as a student writer for the Asian Pacific Review. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her younger siblings, traveling with friends, and catching the games during football season. You can contact Justine at 559-244-9192 or Send an Email

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