From the February 2018 Issue, Photos Courtesy of Amberley Snyder
Amberley Snyder was on her way to Denver for the National Western in 2010 when an accident changed her life.
“I was just driving through Sinclair, Wyoming when I looked down to check my map. As I looked up, I realized I had faded over a lane and was heading towards a metal beam on the side of the road,” she said.
“I grabbed my wheel and the tail end of my truck starting sliding out. I tried to correct my truck, but I slid off the road and my truck turned completely sideways.”
Her truck started rolling and landed in a snowbank on the side of the freeway.
“After all of the banging and crashing around me stopped, I opened my eyes,” she said. “I moved my fingers and looked down to move my toes.”
Amberley realized she had broken her back when she didn’t have any feeling in both of her legs.
“I underwent five hours of surgery, which left me with a whole lot of hardware in my back. The doctor’s prognosis was that I would not gain any feeling below my waist nor would I have any chance of regaining the use of my legs,” she said.
The surgery was to repair her T11-T12 vertebrae. The majority of damage was done to her T12, which took the blunt of the trauma. Yet despite the outcome, Amberley never gave up.
“I have been raised to have an attitude to persevere, work hard and continue to strive for my goals no matter what. Having been raised that way and having parents who are examples of that made it easier to keep going regardless of the wheelchair,” she said.
Amberley knew that she had to literally and figuratively get back on the horse.
“With everything in my life different, I wanted one thing to stay the same. I told myself if I got on my horse again everything would be fine. I built my hopes up to be beyond the possible with my horses. So that day I got on I will never forget, but the reason is different than what people expect. The reason I remember is because that was the moment it hit me, that my life was not going to be the same,” she said.
“I realized that every part of my life was different and I had to deal with that. I was surrounded by family and friends the first day I got on so I smiled on the outside, but I remember that day being one of the hardest days of my life.”
Amberley has had to make adjustments to her riding style and with her horses, but she has developed strong communication with her team.
“I have had to change my saddle with the adaptations. I have a seat belt, velcro for my legs and another strap across a hip. Since I cannot use my legs I have to depend on my hands and voice to communicate with my horses,” she said.
“They really did not struggle with the new style. I trained my barrel horse so we already had an understanding with each other on how we communicate. The biggest problem I still face is that my horses know I don’t kick and have learned to ignore the slight movements of my legs, is they don’t run as hard in a barrel pattern or after a calf as they should.”
Despite these adjustments, Amberley and her horses compete at the professional level.
“The doctors said to rodeo again would be impossible,” she said. “My family was just nervous on how it would go. I just waited until I could finally convince them to let me get back on. I have had ups and downs, still do, but they are worth riding and competing.”
A recent low was suffering a broken leg after a bad fall during a barrel race. However, Amberley was able to turn it around and create something positive out of the experience.
“I felt like i could be productive while I was healing up,” she said.
She wrote a kids book titled Walk, Ride, Rodeo. With vivid illustrations and a personal story, Amberley tells her story. Some of her upcoming goals include; rodeoing, coming out with a movie (hopefully), and writing her second book.