“The very first day of therapy, when my nurse asked me what my goals are, I tell her, ‘Walk, ride, rodeo, that’s it.”
Amberley began riding horses when she was just three years old. What started as weekly riding lessons soon turned into a full-fledged passion. For many years, she competed in rodeos and her skills improved with each competition.
An unexpected trauma
Then in 2010, while driving to the Denver Stock Show, Amberley was in a car accident. Her vehicle flipped, and she broke her back, severely injuring her spinal cord. Amberley still longed to ride horses following her recovery. Part of her physical therapy included using her saddle, which was the best equipment to strengthen her balance.
But the first time she got back onto her horse – this time as a paraplegic – she shares a sobering moment: “I came to realize that life was not going to be the same and that I would have to deal with this moving forward.”
A turning point and a new beginning
After a short break from riding to focus on college, Amberley was asked to participate in a photoshoot about horseback riding for a newspaper. Amberley hadn’t been on a horse in quite some time, so she was a bit apprehensive. But she decided to go for it, and when she got onto her horse, aptly named Power, she knew she could no longer stay away from riding.
“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."
So, with some alterations made, such as the addition of a seatbelt on the saddle and Velcro straps for her legs, Amberley returned to the ring 18 months after her accident. Entering an exhibition barrel race was the first time Amberley felt genuine happiness after her accident. Since then, she continues to compete in rodeo, keeping her goals in sight. Riding has allowed Amberley to regain confidence and a sense of independence. She has a new horse, Legacy, which she calls Legs for short.
“I named him that way to be able to [hear the announcer] say, ‘Here comes Amberley Synder on her Legs!’ And that’s what he is for me.”
“Your attitude can either be your biggest obstacle or your greatest strength. You just have to decide which one it will be."
It’s easy to see which path she’s chosen. You can read more about Amberley’s story of getting back up on a saddle in this article by Today.
Do you know someone who wants to try horseback riding? Share Amberley’s story as a great example of perseverance.