In April 2016, Brady Jandreau was thrown off a horse. It wasn’t an uncommon experience for Jandreau, a South Dakota rodeo rider, but this time was different.
The horse trampled Jandreau, and one of its hoofs hit him square in the head. Shockingly, he never lost consciousness.
“I even remember little details, like the horse bucking away from me,” Jandreau tells The Post. “I remember saying [to EMTs], ‘I ain’t going nowhere until you find my girlfriend.’”
His skull was fractured in three places, and he had to be placed in an induced coma for five days. He emerged to a new reality, in which he had a metal plate fused to his skull and could no longer compete in rodeos — another head injury could be fatal. But riding was all he knew; growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, he’d always worked with horses.
The struggle of what happens when your entire way of being is crushed, along with your skull, is the subject of the new docudrama “The Rider,” out Friday. Jandreau plays a lightly fictionalized version of himself, named Brady Blackburn.
Jandreau’s father and sister are also in the cast, as are many of his friends and family. Director Chloé Zhao is fairly close with the family; she lived on their reservation during the filming of her first film, 2015’s “Songs My Brothers Taught Me.”
“She came back numerous times to do research. She learned how to ride. She even helped us move cattle and gather them to be vaccinated. So everybody got to know her pretty well,” says 22-year-old Jandreau, who still lives on the reservation with his wife and their 9-month-old daughter. The couple now runs a business breeding and training quarter horses.
Shooting the film mere months after his accident, Jandreau found the temporary transition from cowboy to actor fairly easy, although there was dialogue he had to gently correct.
“Chloé had my dad saying, ‘You forgot how to lasso?’ Where we would say, ‘You can’t rope anymore?’ Or she would call it tobacco; we call it chew.”
Zhao’s movie, a gorgeously melancholy portrait of modern-day Lakota cowboy culture, doesn’t include one dramatic moment surrounding Jandreau’s accident.
“The day before the rodeo, I asked my girlfriend’s dad — who’s also in the movie — if I could ask her to marry me,” Jandreau says. “I was gonna do that after the rodeo. So the first thing I did when I woke up from the coma was, I got out of bed and got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.”
He still goes to rodeos, “but on the way home, I get really sad about it,” he says. “I wish I could ride again. I think about it every day. The hardest thing to deal with is that, physically, I could do it. I might be successful; I might be dead.”
But he also knows he has a future he wants to protect, and that getting bucked off a horse again might end it forever.
“Anybody that does rodeos knows — it’s not a matter of if,” he says, “but when.”