It only took three seconds for Amberley Snyder to look down at her phone. She had chosen not to buckle her seat belt in her black truck on that cold morning. She drifted off the road trying to gain back control, while her steering wheel took control of her future. Sounds of metal crashing and bending, screams… and then black out! The truck rolled over and over creating dust in the air making it hard to see what had happened for the people driving on the highway. She was thrown from her truck up against a metal pole. As she landed on the dusty ground, against the pole “everything slowed down and I couldn’t feel my legs or my toes move.”1
As she was leaning on the metal pole in pain, she was able to reach her phone, panicking, to call her dad to tell him that she was in an awful car crash, and was laying on the side of the highway. Her dad, who had been sleeping, answered the phone, and then called her mom to deliver the bad news. When she arrived at the hospital, she found out that her daughter was paralyzed from her waist down. She also had bones in her back broken. The doctors told her, “If you’d had your seatbelt on, you would have your legs.”2 That one choice she made had cost her a consequence for a lifetime, leaving her in a waterfall of tears. Her mother then told her as she was sitting in the hospital bed, “We can not go back; your legs are still attached. We’re just going to work on it from here.”3 On January 10, 2010, Amberley’s dreams of becoming a famous rodeo barrel racer came to an end.At the age of seven, Amberley always aspired to be an award-winning horse rider. She “took her first horse riding lesson at the age of three and was immediately hooked.”4 Her passion grew when she received her first horse from her parents and named him “Power.” She knew from the very beginning that the connection between her and Power would never fade away. She had always “had a great sense of communication with her horses” that nobody could ever understand. With the connection between her and Power, she was able to qualify “for the National High School Finals in the pole bending and won the National Little Britches Rodeo Association All-Around Cowgirl World Championship.”5 This was only the start of her journey in rodeo.
After the car crash incident, Amberley had many different obstacles to face. Rehab was the first out of many tough obstacles. Every time she would attend rehab, she lost more and more faith. She was not even able to use her upper body strength to push her wheelchair up the rail. She would cry more and more every time she could not make it. As months passed, she was able to gain balance and push her wheelchair up the rail on her own. She told the “physical therapist that she was able to balance better on a saddle than anywhere else.” The physical therapist gave in to her and let her parents bring it in to help her in rehab.6
Amberley came home after rehab to her home, her family, her friends, and her best friend, Power. The moment they laid eyes on each other they both knew it was not the same. Power failed to recognize who Amberley was anymore, due to her restrictions in the wheelchair. She was devastated because she knew things would never be the same again between her and her horse. She even “refused to go anywhere near the stalls for almost a year,” at one point telling her mom to just sell them, since she couldn’t ride them anymore.7 Her parents were saddened to see her like this and thought it would be in her best interest to find a way for her to get the most out of what she had. Amberley’s face gleamed in amazement when she saw her parents design a contraption for her saddle for her to be able to ride safely. The contraption consisted of a seat belt from a junkyard, “velcro strips on her pants to secure her legs and a nylon strap across her left side to keep her centered on top of her horse.”8 This contraption was the start of her determination to get back to rodeo and compete. She knew that she had no other choice than to go back to barrel racing and prove bravery and fearfulness.
The time had come. All the preparation that Amberley did was about to pay off, at The American rodeo. “In March 2015 she won a fan exemption to compete against the top barrel racers in the world” at “The American” rodeo at Cowboys Stadium.9 The American was only made for the best of the best. Knowing that, at the age of seven, Amberley had always dreamed of this moment, and now it was finally time to come true.
Amberley was waiting in the tunnel nervously with her mom, ready to take on the arena full of fans. Her mom gave her a little pep talk, telling her there was no turning back now and how proud she was of her to see her where she is today, and to have seen all the obstacles Amberley had overcome. Amberley was ready to take the arena, as she kissed her mom for good luck. She waved nervously but excited as she entered the arena with the American Flag waving behind her. She was all saddled up in her contraption and felt better than ever. Her fans were screaming with excitement as Power pranced, hooves hitting the ground creating dust in the air, with Amberley on the saddle. Her friends and family were standing in the arena cheering her on, and the announcer introducing her, as the girl that has beaten incredible odds to get here, and a heart as big as Texas, Amberley Snyder. This only created more confidence in herself and in her horse. Power stomped around the arena one time, then approached the barrel, and it was their time to shine. Right before they took off, Amberley whispered to Power “this is the same thing we always do, you and me, today is our day.”10 Power then dashes off full force, leaving Amberley Snyder in the top of the board with some of the top riders in the world, with a time of 15.3 seconds.
“We are capable of overcoming whatever those challenges are,” confidently quoted by Amberley Snyder the first teenage girl to be paralyzed waist down and come back and place in rodeo.11 She is now an inspiration to the people in the rodeo world, that have undergone a medical disability. Amberley is now currently telling her inspirational story on all platforms of social media, and “works as a rodeo coach at Mount Pleasants Wasatch Academy.”12 She also still continues to compete in rodeos across the western United States. She never let her crash create a barrier for her and for her passion for rodeo. She never gave up on the dream that she had since she was seven. “Her strength has come from the things she thought she couldn’t do, and the fire inside of her now is brighter now than the fire around her,” said her friend Jolene Farnsworth.13 This only continues to show us that no matter what obstacles we are faced with, we always have support from friends and family.
With the platform she has reached by placing with some of the top barrel racers from across the world, she has been able to use it to share her inspirational story. She stresses how important it is to not use your phone while driving, and to always put on your seatbelt when you get in the car. She “answers every question and e-mail, tweets and has her own YouTube channel. She has posted a ‘Wheelchair Wednesday’ video on her Facebook page weekly for the past two years.”14 The video ranges from what she uses to keep her mounted to her horse and saddle to getting on her horse, teaching people that they do have a purpose in life, and that they are more than capable of doing anything a normal person can do. Although there are restraints to discourage people from going back to what they love, they have to find their true passion and never give that up. Amberley Snyder says, “I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason….no matter what, only you get to choose your attitude every single day, and I choose to have a good one.”15