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14-year-old Kentuckian battles back from injury to show reserve champion steer


This article was written by Chris Aldridge for Kentucky Ag News, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s twice-monthly e-newsletter.  It is republished here with permission.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In late February, Addison “Addy” Arnett was preparing for a cattle show. The 14-year-old 4-H member was helping her dad and brother load cattle panels, or metal sections of temporary fencing, into a trailer on the family farm in Montgomery County.

When Addy grabbed a 60-pound panel on top of a stack, six of them came tumbling down. Three hundred sixty pounds of steel narrowly missed her 9-year-old brother but landed on her ankle, breaking it in three places.

“Luckily, my little brother moved so he wouldn’t get squashed,” Addy said. “I fell down and twisted it [ankle] really bad. The hospital told us it looked like I had been in a high-speed car crash.”

The local hospital in Mount Sterling bandaged her ankle and transferred her to the University of Kentucky’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington, where the bone was popped back into place. One week and three surgeries later, Addy was sent home in a wheelchair.

“I was crying all the time because I couldn’t see my babies for a week,” she said of her four show steers.

Addy was upset that she was unable to show her prized steer, Spanky, in the Beef Expo in early March. So her best friend, Haley, showed it for her.

“I love my steers, and I love showing them, and it broke my heart that I couldn’t get in a show ring,” Addy said. “Right now in my foot, I have metal plates and screws. I didn’t think I’d be able to show this year.”

Addy was unable to put any weight on her ankle for eight weeks. She missed a month of school until she was fitted for crutches in April.

“Her doctor thought she should take a break from cattle,” said Addy’s mom, Rebecca. “He was afraid she might get hurt again, but she doesn’t listen very well.”

“I looked at that doctor and said, ‘There’s nothing on this earth that will stop me (from showing),’” Addy said. “I didn’t care what they said.”

In June, four months after the accident, Addy made her return to the show ring in a walking boot at a district competition in Morehead.

“She had only started walking [without crutches] that week, but she was dead set on being able to show,” Rebecca remembered.

Addy won the grand championship with Spanky, qualifying her to compete on the iconic green shavings in Broadbent Arena at the Kentucky State Fair.

“I praise Jesus every single day because not being able to go to State Fair would’ve hurt me so bad,” she said.

Addy qualified for the fifth annual Championship Drive on Aug. 25, where the best cattle from 4-H and FFA members are judged under the bright lights. As she guided Spanky around the show ring, her friend Julia gave her vocal pointers from the sideline to improve her chances.

Image by Kentucky Venues

Addy broke down crying on judge Ryan Rash’s shoulder when he chose her and Spanky as the Reserve Champion Market Steer. She had been through six months of rehab and was still doing physical therapy every day.

“I was honestly shocked,” Addy said. “I had worked so hard to get there, I started bawling. All those days over the summer, my work had paid off.” Addy wasn’t the only one with tears in her eyes.

“We were all emotional about it, everybody that knew what she had gone through,” Rebecca said. “The livestock community was very supportive when everybody found out what happened.”

“I’ve had so many people helping me along,” Addy added. “Julia and Haley are like older sisters to me, and my mom and dad — without all of them, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

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