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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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