In March of 2014, Jamie ‘Dodge’ Manning’s life changed forever.
The rancher and rodeo rider from Dubbo, Australia, was driving home to his farm when his sport utility vehicle veered off the road, hit a tree and caught on fire. Manning was trapped in the burning vehicle for 20 minutes before neighbors were able to finally pull him free. When Brock Lawrence and Katie Abbott did pull him from the wreck, they didn’t recognize their neighbor, he was so badly burned.
Manning lost an arm and a leg in the accident, and sustained burns to 40 percent of his body.
“People say he’s unlucky,” Manning’s wife Karen told Australia’s Ballarrat Courier. “But it was the luckiest day of his life. He was lucky to get out of the car.”
Manning spent five months recovering in the hospital, but just two weeks in rehab, opting to get back home to his farm, a five-hour drive away from his specialist doctors in Sydney. “It just wasn’t for me,” he writes Horse Network in an email. “It meant a lot of trips back to Sydney, but I was so happy to be back home (in Dubbo).”
One year later, on the anniversary of his accident, Manning climbed back aboard a horse. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, as I felt very unbalanced as I was trying to ride without my leg. It wasn’t great, but it was a start on the goal I had set myself.”
That goal was to ride 350 miles over 22 days, from Tilpa to Dubbo with his family in tow, to raise $20,000 for Limbs 4 Life, an Australian organization that provides support for amputees.
“It’s about leading by example, for our children and others as well. Everyone has things that go wrong in their life but it is about not sitting down and sulking, and instead finding something to work towards, something to look forward to, to help others,” says Manning.
Manning, Karen and their three children Jedd (15), Bray (12) and Lori (7) will set out on the ride on September 17 from Tilpa. Manning will ride his 10-year-old stock horse, Trigger, who was his main work horse before the accident when he worked as a contract musterer. “His mother was the first horse I ever owned and broke in. It will be great to be once again spending so much time with him,” he says.
Manning has worked hard to regain his fitness for the ride, but he does worry about the toll it will take on his body, noting that his normal daily routine takes a lot of effort with his prosthetic limbs. “A person with a prosthetic leg uses 15 percent more energy than an able person,” he says.
His other concern is how the skin grafts that cover 40 percent of his body will hold up to the hours in the saddle. “I have to be very mindful of any areas that may rub and develop sores,” he says, noting the grafts are quite fragile. “I’m not able to sweat in the areas with skin grafts and I have to be quite mindful of the heat.”
Despite the challenges ahead, Manning is ready to ride. “To be able to return to riding is a big thing, it is also a freedom for me now when my ability to walk around, especially on rough, uneven terrain is now challenging.”
Click here to donate to Manning’s ride for Limbs 4 Life.