Amberley Snyder: A Woman Riding her Way through Adversity and Triumph

By Kara Aiello
Amberley Snyder

 I have had the pleasure of interviewing some amazing women since becoming a writer for, but 24 year old Amberley Snyder is a story I won’t soon forget.  Falling in love with horses as a small child, she now does rodeo professionally and has lived with a spinal cord injury since 2010. 

Her life’s passion with horses began at the age of three when she took weekly riding lessons in her home state of CA. But due to frustrations with her legs being too short to pass the saddle pad so she could kick the horse to go faster, she decided to leave horse- back riding and join two of her siblings (she’s one of six kids) in their sports and hobbies which included gymnastics, dance and karate.  Once she grew a bit, she went back to riding, and although CA did not have competitions for rodeos, she would take her pony Gabby out and set up cones to do her own barrel pattern.  At the age of seven, the family decided to move to Utah and Amberley would only move if her dad, who was a professional base-ball player, got her a barrel horse when there.  He followed through and she got her first horse Lacey.  Rodeo became a huge passion from the first time she competed and has stuck with her ever since. But this passion was challenged when on January 10th 2010, Amberley was in a car accident.  

Heading to Denver for the Stock Show, Amberley was driving through Sinclair Wyoming when she looked down to check her map.  As she looked up, she realized she had faded over a lane and was heading towards a metal beam on the side of the road.  “I grabbed my wheel and the tail end of the truck started sliding out.” As she tried to correct the truck, she slid off the road and went completely sideways.  “I remember thinking that this was not going to end well as I felt the truck pick up off the ground and begin to roll.”  After the rolling ended, Amberley opened her eyes and found herself sitting in a snow bank on the side of the freeway.  She had hit a fence post across her stomach, which broke her back.  “I was able to move my fingers but then came to realize I did not have any feeling in my legs.”  She underwent five hours of surgery which left her with hardware in her back.  “From there, I learned from the doctor that I would not gain feeling back below my waist nor would regain mobility in my legs.” Amberley rehabbed at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo Utah and was there for five weeks.
Amberley & her barrel horse, Power
Post Amberley’s accident, she told herself that if she got back on her horse, everything would be fine.  When she got on her horse for the first time, she said the realization was not what people would expect.  “I came to realize that life was not going to be the same and that I would have to deal with this moving forward.”  Surrounded by family and friends on that day, Amberley said she was smiling on the outside but coming to terms with the fact that this was going to be one of the hardest days of her life.  So, she took a break from riding and went to college to try to fill the void of riding.  But one April (a little over a year after her injury) a newspaper wanted to take photos of her on her horse.  “At the time, no one knew I was not riding, but I thought at this point, my mind set was different and that I was more accustomed to the changes in my life.”  As she got on her horse Power, she experienced a feeling she will never forget, and that feeling was that she was not to give up riding.
Since riding has been a part of her since the age of three, she was not going to part with her passion ever again.  “I remember telling my mom that I don’t care if I need to be strapped to my saddle, I was going to ride again.” She convinced her therapists to let her bring a saddle into therapy so she could be in it and came to realize her balance was better in the saddle than anywhere else. She goes on to say that she would use a seat belt around her waist, Velcro for her legs and stirrups and a nylon strap to keep her from moving around during the barrel turns. After a few months, she was able to convince doctors and her parents to allow her on her horse again. 
Amberley closes her seatbelt clasp
Amberley says she strives for the best and it was no different with riding.  “I would make little goals along the way and knew that once I accomplished them, I would make the next one.” When she knew she could lope a circle fine, she set up a barrel pattern. When she could lope a barrel pattern, she added in the speed. Once she knew she could do the above, she entered a race.  She still has a life goal to enter National Finals Rodeo and will keep working towards this goal and hopefully will accomplish it one day. 
Amberley & Power in action!
Over the years, Amberley has achieved many rewards for her hard work. She has won over 60 buckles and 7 saddles competitions and in 2009 was in the Finals and World All-Around Cowgirl in the Little Britches Association.  In addition to qualifying for the National High School Finals, she is most proud of the World Title as she went into the Finals sitting 10th and was able to leave an All-Around World Champion as well as place 6th in three of four events she was in.
After her injury, she has placed in numerous events and competes as often as she can which is usually once during the week and then 2-3 times on the weekend whether it be a rodeo or a barrel race. She rides every day and practices the barrel pattern when needed.  Once a horse is finished, she doesn’t need to practice every day, but needs to keep them in shape to compete.  She loves competitions, adrenaline and speed. “To be able to make a smooth, clean and fast run after all the time and energy that went into it, feels amazing.”
In addition to competing in the pro rodeo circuit and qualify for NFR, she would also like to become a motivational speaker for all sorts of events nationwide.  She plans to graduate with her Bachelors in Agricultural Education and Masters in School Counseling.  She is working to be more competitive and wants to be able to get her WPRA permit and work towards her card. 
Need for speed!
When it comes to words of wisdom, Amberley has much to teach.  She would tell others that they have a purpose and to not give up on themselves or anyone around them.  Look for the little things in life that make you happy and never let them go.  When you get back to what you love, realize you have the opportunity to inspire others because of the situation you are in and others will look up to you.  She also shares that every person will face obstacles and to every person their obstacles will be the hardest thing they know.  
For Amberley Snyder, she has faced many of these challenges and come out on top.  As she goes on to say, “Your attitude can either be your biggest obstacle or your greatest strength. You just have to decide which one it will be.” 

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