Since he was a little boy, all Hunter Embesi wanted to be was a cowboy. The Texas native grew up working horses with his uncle every chance he could, and the dream of working a ranch and making good horses was instilled in him. So when a life-changing experience could have taken that all away, Embesi worked to get back in the saddle doing what he loves most.
In April of 2004, Embesi was working on welding a roping dummy at the high school in his hometown of East Bernard, Texas, when the machine he was using shorted out and 220 volts of electricity were forced back upon him. The direct shock to his chest caused Embesi to go into cardiac arrest, requiring a Flight For Life trip and seven days in the ICU. After his stay, it was discovered that Embesi had an arrhythmia, which was treated with an internal defibrillator.
The defibrillator monitors Embesi’s heartbeat, and automatically shocks it into a normal rhythm when his heartbeat becomes too high or irregular. Implanted in his chest, it will stay with him for the rest of his life. Despite this, Embesi has been able to return to the life he’s always worked for, the life of a cowboy.
“I started riding when I was six, and I knew I was going to be a cowboy from that time on,” Embesi explains. He learned how to work cattle, start and train horses under his mentors, and now spends everyday working with horses. “I just stuck with it, even after everything happened.”
Embesi says it took him about a year to get back into his normal routine, but now he doesn’t let his condition hold him back. “I don't think of myself as being any different,” Embesi says. “I ride as hard or harder than somebody that has a healthy heart. I just need to be sure I'm taking care of myself and putting faith first.”
Now 22-years-old and living in Sealy, Texas, Embesi puts his horse knowledge and skills to work everyday. He starts and trains horses at his own place, as well as continuing to work with the men who helped teach him how to work horses. Embesi says he’s trained mounts for all disciplines, from getting horses ready for the show ring, to making good all-around ranch horses. His typical day starts with barn chores and checking cattle, and is filled with working young stock and problem horses the rest of the day. “It’s just like everybody else, taking care of what I’ve got here, and chasing dreams and dollars,” Embesi says of his routine.
For Embesi, it was never a question of whether he would get back in the saddle after the accident. “You don’t worry about the things you can’t do, you worry about what you can do,” he says. “I never put it in my head that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything.”
Cowboying can be hard work, but Embesi wouldn’t trade it for anything. He says this way of life keeps the Western heritage and lifestyle alive. “It’s definitely a dying breed, there’s not a lot of guys out there who go all day and never see another person except the horse and the dog, you just really got to love what you do,” he says. “There are lots of people who wake up in the morning and hate going to work, and I never have a day like that. I wake up every morning looking to see what it’s going to bring me.”