Wednesday, October 21, 2015 | by Dominic Holden

Cowgirl Equestrian rider Justine Peters is at a lake in Western Nebraska with some friends.
"We were a few miles from my friend's house at the lake driving on the back roads. We hit some washboards and ended up going into a ditch.
There was a ravine. It was just one of those things where you couldn't see it until you were basically right over it. It rolled the pickup truck we were in three and a half times and I was ejected."
Peters, who was named and NCEA All-American two months prior, was not expecting what would come next.
"I was taken to a hospital because I had some lacerations on my head and ears and as a precaution, the doctors ran a CT scan on me and we found out that I broke my C2 vertebrae in my neck, so they put me in a cervical collar and flew me to another hospital because the severity of the injury could've left me paralyzed from the eyes down."
Through all of the numerous tests and scans, Peters waited to find out if she would need surgery, and if her body would be able to properly function ever again.
"I wouldn't have been able to talk or feed myself.
It basically should have killed me."
When the tests were completed, the Peters finally received some good news.
"The doctors came in and said it was a stable front break, so I got lucky," Peters said.
Although she would not be paralyzed, Peters understood that the road to recovery was going to be a tough one.
"For so long, the doctors told me to not walk very far and not to jump, basically don't do anything that would jolt my spine," Peters said.
After months of recovery, Peters decided to return to equestrian and continue competing in the sport she loves. Once again, though, the road back was difficult.
"Getting back on a horse was scary for me," Peters said. "I was just scared that it was going to hurt or that it wasn't going to feel right, but I knew I had to be tough.
I had to keep telling myself that I was fine and that the doctors wouldn't have cleared me if something were wrong, but my injury was always in the back of my mind."
The road to recovery was made a little easier, though, with the support of her coaches and teammates.
"Larry (Sanchez) was amazing," Peters recalled. "He picked me up from my apartment and took me to class and drove me home. That was awesome.
Everybody helped me out along the way, with therapy and making sure classes were all right. For everything I needed, they were there."
Peters made her way back to competing in the spring of 2015, but the effects of the injury still lingered.
"It took me a while for me to finally get my feet underneath myself," Peters said. "This summer I was able to go to the barn and ride. That helped me get my confidence back up.
Just being on a horse helped with everything."
With a full recovery and an entire summer of preparation, Peters' focus has shifted to the season at hand.
"It's my senior year," Peters said. "I'm really pumped because it's my last hoorah. I think we're going to do really well. We've got a lot of upcoming girls, returning starters and a really good freshman team coming in ready to contribute."
But she doesn't forget about what happened on June 28, 2014 and the months of recovery that followed.
"It's hard to believe it's already been over a year," Peters said. "Sometimes I look back and think how I am really blessed.
When I was in the hospital lying in the bed the doctor told me I was going to be there for a while. I didn't even know what to think then, but in the long run I was very fortunate to even walk out of that hospital and ride a horse again."

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