Riding a horse requires skill, especially if you’re on the pro rodeo circuit. Now imagine that task without the use of your legs. That’s the reality for Amberley Snyder.
In 2009, Snyder graduated high school and was elected state FFA president of Utah. After years of barrel racing, she was ready to begin competing on the pro rodeo circuit.
But in January 2010, her life changed forever. “I was on my way to Denver to the National Stock Show and was involved in a rollover car accident that left me with paralysis from the waist down,” she says.
That accident would be the end of Snyder riding horses, let alone competing as a barrel racer. At least that’s what some thought. “I never had a doubt that I was going to ride; it was just a matter of when and how I was going to do it,” she says.
However, she quickly realized accomplishing that goal would take a lot of work. “I was back on a horse just four months after my accident, but it was harder than I expected,” she recalls. “Honestly, that day was a
killer. I realized it was not going to be all that I wanted it to be, entirely.”
However, she accomplished her goal of racing barrels competitively 18 months after her accident, and she continues to compete today. Unless you look closely, you might not notice any difference between Snyder and others who are racing.
“I’m strapped in,” she says. “I have a seat belt on my saddle and Velcro strips hold my legs.” She communicates more with her horse using her hands and voice because she doesn’t have the use of her legs.
Her lack of leg power has led her to train differently than she did before the accident.
“Balance is one of the hardest things I deal with. My stomach muscles are fine, but my back muscles are weaker. I don’t have as much problem with falling backward as I do with falling forward,” she says.
In addition to racing at pro rodeo events, Snyder speaks at schools and conferences about overcoming challenges. She also shared her inspiring story as the keynote at the 2015 National FFA Convention.
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