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Game change: Rodeo cowboy searches for new identity after accident in ‘The Rider’

Brady Jandreau is the definition of a cowboy.

He rides horses – and trains them.

He lives off the land – almost 100 percent.

He wouldn’t trade his lifestyle for anything.

But in April 2016, Jandreau’s life was altered and he began seeing the world in a different way.

After he was thrown off a horse, the South Dakota rodeo rider found himself fighting for his life.

The horse he was riding trampled him, and one of the hoofs hit him in the head, fracturing it in three places.

Doctors fused a metal plate to his skull, and then came the bad news.

“You can no longer compete in rodeos because another head injury could be fatal,” he was told.

“It crushed me,” he says. “But that wasn’t going to stop me from living my life.”

Jandreau grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and often competed in New Mexico.

And his story is being told in Chloé Zhao’s latest film, “The Rider,” which opens today in Albuquerque.

I caught up with Jandreau at Isleta Resort and Casino to chat about his life and the film.

The film follows Jandreau, once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, who is warned that his competition days are over after a head injury.

Back home, he finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete.

In an attempt to regain control of his fate, he undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.

“After my head injury, I was an emotional wreck,” he says. “I had trouble harnessing my emotions. Over my career, I’ve broke close to 20 bones. It’s the love of the game that keeps you going. When you are sitting in bed laid up for a couple of months, you become hungry. It’s the hunger that fuels you, and you often forget about getting hurt. You can’t call yourself a rodeo cowboy until you have some battle scars.”

Being in front of the camera was nothing new for Jandreau, as he participated in many rodeos.

One aspect that was different was that Zhao gained his trust.

“Chloé came out to our ranch and wanted to learn about our lives,” he says. “She wanted to learn how to ride a horse, how to train one. She came out one summer and helped us work. She told us she was a director, and this was all foreign to us. She came into our world, and that made a big difference.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.