by Rex Kent
It was another beautiful June day for 14-year-old Mackenzie, “Kenzie” Dingman, spending the day with a friend and enjoying time with the horses. Little did she know that in a matter of seconds, her life would drastically change and everything she knew as normal would turn to frantic disaster and pain.
While holding onto the lead rope, the horse swiftly bolted and the rope looped and wrapped Kenzie’s hand. Kenzie was pulled down; the horse turned, kicked out both rear feet and everything went dark. As Kenzie lay on the ground, her mother knew at first glance the seriousness of the situation.
The horse had kicked Kenzie in the face, her jaw raw with teeth, flesh and blood. It lay slightly askew of its original position. Kenzie was rushed to the hospital where it was determined that the left side of her jaw was shattered and the right upper corner of her jaw was broken.
Kenzie never stopped communicating through pursed lips as the doctors and her parents discussed the next steps to repair her jaw. Her jaw would be wired for six weeks, which meant no solid food, blending everything she would eat and sucking it from a straw. But before the procedure began, Kenzie asked her parents to take a picture and when posting that picture on her Facebook site, Kenzie wrote, “Now that’s Cowgirl Tuff!”
We call Kenzie “The Z”. Upon hearing her story we arranged a surprise visit to one of our Western Wishes Barrel Jackpots. The “Z” arrived at the Washington County Fairgrounds with her family, clueless about what was going to happen. She wondered why they were stopping, but excited to see all the horses. The “Z” is a passionate rider, barrel racer and all-around cowgirl.
We met the Dingman family at the Cowgirl Tuff clothing tent and introductions were made. We told the “Z” about our program and told her to pick out all the Cowgirl Tuff clothes she would like as our gift to her. You could see the excitement and smile in her eyes, Mackenzie loves Cowgirl Tuff.
Pulling her parents Scott and Deanna aside, we had two more surprises in store for their daughter. One, we would like to grant Kenzie her very own Western Wish and two, a special presentation to honor Kenzie. We interrupted the barrel race, walked the family into the arena and while holding back tears, we told her story of courage and strength, then presented her with a commemorative Western Wishes Dash for Dreams buckle. All the while, the “Z” smiled, thanked us through her wired mouth and walked out under the applause of the barrel racing crowd, and our friendship began.
That day, I made a deal with the “Z”, that when the wires were removed, she had to call me so I could hear her talk. She held up her part of the deal when her wires removed in August. On her way home, she called me and said ”Guess who this is? It’s the “Z”! What a glorious day.
Kenzie is not completely healed as she still experiences numbness on the left side of her mouth, but that’s nothing compared to what she has already been through. She is back to barrel racing, loving her horses and her family and has started high school.
It’s funny how life works some days. I was contacted by Becki at Horse-n-Around magazine and asked if I had a wish family that might enjoy Cavalia. One phone call to Deanna and I learned about Kenzie’s love for theater and music, and horses, of course. What a perfect trifecta! So it was a date, Oct 1, Cavalia.
If you have never experienced the magic and spirit of Cavalia, it’s like a shadow dance with the purest, most majestic animal on earth, the horse. Then they burst you with adrenaline and breathtaking performances to the wonder of the novice eye. The mystique, flavor and music of the show completely overtake you and Mackenzie was on the edge of her seat, as we were. To see her smile, her eyes light up and to be there to share her passions, her joy and her excitement was what Western Wishes is all about, leaving a legacy of goodwill, the cowboy way. This month The “Z” also received a custom handmade Bob Marshall barrel racing saddle.
The “Z” is a true inspiration to everyone she has ever met; her strength, faith and never-give-up attitude have served her well. As Mackenzie continues her journey, we are confident that no matter what she does, she will always inspire and make a difference every step of the way.