“I am a cowgirl. I am a barrel racer. I hope to continue that career pro rodeoing and competing on the highest level I can,” says Amberley Snyder. In 2010, Amberley was involved in a vehicle accident where she sustained a spinal cord injury at the T11/T12 region. Amberley became a paraplegic, but she wasn’t willing to let go of her love of rodeo.
“It wasn’t if I would ride it was just when. The doctors said to rodeo again would be impossible. My family was just nervous about 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.”
Riding Style Post Injury
Post injury, Amberley has had to make a few adjustments to her riding style such as adaptations to her saddle. Amberley’s saddle now has a seatbelt and she uses velcro to secure her legs and another strap to secure her hips.
Amberley states, “Since I cannot use my legs I have to depend on my hands and voice to communicate with my horses. 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.”
“I believe that horses have a special ability to help people in all sorts of situations. They have an ability to calm you and comfort you where you cannot find that anywhere else. Horses have also taught me patience. You have to be patient to own horses and compete on them in any discipline."
Amberley still faces challenges with her horses. “Because my horses know I don’t kick and have learned to ignore the slight movements of my legs, are they don’t run as hard in a barrel pattern or after a calf as they should,” she says.
“For myself, I have the goal to make the horse industry more accessible to anyone, especially those with disabilities. I think that horse facilities should be a place where everyone is welcome and can enjoy,” says Amberley. She continues by stating that she hopes the horse industry finds a way to have more Special Olympic events on horseback.
Amberley recently graduated with a master’s degree in school counseling. And for her future in the rodeo arena, she says, “I will continue to do the amateur circuit and pro rodeo. I now have my WPRA card and want to make a run at circuit finals and eventually the NFR.”
Amberley has accomplished many great things in her rodeo career. “After my injury, I have won four buckles and a saddle. My horse Power has won Horse of the year for the Rocky Mountain Region for college rodeo. I won a series on Legacy and a rodeo as well. I have won rodeos both in barrel racing and breakaway roping. I ran in RFDTV’s The American in 2015 as the fan’s exemption,” she says. Amberley earned her pro rodeo card in 2016.
“I know I wouldn't be where I am without faith, family, and horses. Those three things have allowed me to look forward and keep living even if it is in a chair. I still have hard days, but I don't want to wait until I walk to live my life.”
Amberley gives the following advice for fellow people with spinal cord injuries - “Set small goals, make a plan on how to accomplish them, and celebrate when you do! Lean on your support because they want you to succeed as well!!”
Thanks to Amberley for sharing her story with AbleThrive.com! Be sure to check out the movie on Netflix “Walk Ride Rodeo” featuring her story.
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