While it would be easy to envision someone who rides horses competitively to become physically hurt due to the sport of barrel racing, that wasn't what caused the paralysis of one female rodeo star from Utah. Amberley Snyder overcorrected her truck on Jan. 10, 2010, was ejected, hit a fence post and ultimately was paralyzed from the waist down in the resulting accident. Since that time, her primary goal has been to determine a way to get back into the saddle of her beloved horses and sport. In the process, she's gotten back to God, too.
"My faith in God has grown. I needed to depend on Him for strength when times were the hardest or even when I still have days of challenges. I know that I wouldn't be where I am without my family, friends and God," Snyder told On the Rodeo Road.
Prior to going through this trauma, Snyder said her relationship with God was "on the back burner" in her life. "I had it but my faith was not as strong as I could have been. In my life, rodeo was the first thing I thought of when I woke up and the last thing when I went to bed. I couldn't imagine life without it and never thought I would ever have to."
This rodeo world champion's journey of defying odds to return to horse riding was featured on the Today Show this week. Snyder was 18 years old at the time of the accident, and she was very focused on being a serious rodeo competitor. She had been riding horses since she was three years old. "The happiest place for me on Earth is on my horse's back," she said. That presented a few challenges post-accident without her being able to balance and to give leg commands to her horses.
Her doctors predicted she would never walk again, let alone ride horses. But, she told the Today Show, that during her first day of her therapy, she told her nurse her goals were to "walk, ride, rodeo."
When she told her therapist her balance was better in the saddle than anywhere else, they brought her saddle into the clinic and it became a routine fixture of the treatment. She was back atop her horse four months after the accident.
Snyder said she then hit a stubborn, hard point in her life, during which she told her mother to sell her horses. Her mother said she reminded her daughter that her horses had been injured before, and that she, Amberley, had waited for them to heal. "This time, your horses will wait for you," she told her daughter, refusing to execute her daughter's request.
About 18 months post-accident, Snyder was back into competitive barrel racing on top her horses. She said she regained her competitive nature. Her mother said when Amberley is on a horse, she's like everyone else. "She gets to leave the wheelchair behind, and the horse is her legs."
Snyder saddles her horse, and uses a series of recycled seat belts, straps and rubber bands to hold herself in place on her horses. She said her horses adapted and learned to completely ignore her legs.
Snyder now does motivational speaking engagements in addition to barrel racing and being a breakaway roper.
On Feb. 25, Snyder posted on her Facebook page: "I am so excited I might have cried. This is the FIRST buckle I have won since my paralyzing car accident 6 years ago! To make it even more special I won the 1D and on my little horse Legacy which is the first horse I've trained without my legs! This just made me realize that even though I'm strapped to my saddle, even though I can't kick, even though I am in a wheelchair I can still train a barrel horse!"