Nothing keeps Amberley Snyder from getting back on the horse

Amberley Snyder riding her horse
Amberley Snyder riding her horse "Power." | Courtesy of Cowgirl | April 18 2016

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

Amberley Snyder’s horrible car crash as a result of texting, and not wearing a seatbelt. | Courtesy of People January 2010

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 Snyder’s horrible car crash as a result of using her phone, and not wearing a seatbelt. | Courtesy of People January 2010

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 Snyder at the American Rodeo. | Courtesy of New Mobility. July 1, 2018

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.

Amberley Snyder and her horse Power. | Courtesy of 2019

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

  1. Cathy Free, “Paralyzed Utah Barrel Racer Continues Career After Car Crash: ‘Anything Is Possible’,” People (online) March 22, 2017,
  2. Natalea Watkin, “Amberley Snyder: American Cowgirl,” New Mobility (website) July 1, 2015,
  3. Natalea Watkin, “Amberley Snyder: American Cowgirl,” New Mobility (website) July 1, 2015,
  4. Kimberley White, “Car Crash Paralyzes Championship Rider. 1-Yr-Later Tells Doctors To Put Her Back In Saddle,” InspireMore (blog), June 25, 2017,
  5. Amberley Snyder, “My Story,” Amberley Snyder (biography) 2019,
  6. Caroline Gottlieb and Scott Stump, “Rodeo champion Amberley Snyder back in the saddle after paralysis 6 years ago,” Today (blog) March 6, 2016,
  7. Kimberley White, “Car Crash Paralyzes Championship Rider. 1-Yr-Later Tells Doctors To Put Her Back In Saddle,” InspireMore (website), June 25, 2017,
  8. Cathy Free, “Paralyzed Utah Barrel Racer Continues Career After Car Crash: ‘Anything Is Possible’,” People (online) March 22, 2017,
  9. Natalea Watkin, “Amberley Snyder: American Cowgirl,” New Mobility (website) July 1, 2015,
  10. Netflix Official Site, “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” Netflix (film) March 08, 2019,
  11. Chris Spargo,”Paralyzed Rider Amberley Snyder Says She Was ‘humiliated,” Daily Mail (article) February 22, 2019,
  12. Cathy Free, “Paralyzed Utah Barrel Racer Continues Career After Car Crash: ‘Anything Is Possible’,” People (article) March 22, 2017,
  13. Cathy Free, “Paralyzed Utah Barrel Racer Continues Career After Car Crash: ‘Anything Is Possible’,” People (article) March 22, 2017,
  14. Natalea Watkin, “Amberley Snyder: American Cowgirl,” New Mobility (article) July 1, 2015,
  15. Natalea Watkin, “Amberley Snyder: American Cowgirl,” New Mobility (article) July 1, 2015,

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This Post Has 61 Comments

  1. Avatar

    This article was very reminiscent to the movie, Soul Surfer, where the main character who loves to surf loses her arm in a shark attack before becoming one of the most famous surfers in the world due to sheer dedication and determination. It is absolutely tragic that Amberly Snyder became so badly paralyzed after her car crash, but her ability to strengthen her mind and body in order to pursue her passion is very inspiring. I concur with her belief that everything happens for a reason. She probably looks at life much differently than the average person now, and she wouldn’t possess this mental strength without having overcome such a tremendous obstacle. I especially like the fact that she was able to compete in the race that she had wanted so badly to compete in as a child even after being paralyzed. That shows true spirit and passion for what she loves.

  2. Avatar

    The article starts out with confrontation that makes the reader want to read further on. The quotations and phrases used really hit the reader with emotion leaving them feeling the struggle themselves. The story tells a real-life problem that teens go through daily, texting and driving. This article allows for one person’s down fall to be an inspirational story to others.

  3. Avatar

    I like the introduction. This is a sad, yet inspiring story of a person who managed to overcome the disabilities she received from a car accident and accomplish her dreams. Just reading this story reminds me of the numerous times I am on the highway. Anything can happen, even if you are one of the best, most alert drivers out there. The story in a way, makes you appreciate life more.

  4. Avatar

    The introduction to this article sent chills down my spine! What a great story! It is so tragic to learn that a minor and small distraction from a phone while driving can have such a lasting impact on the life of an individual. This story like many others is about resilience and dedication despite any obstacles that may have to be overcome. I am glad that Amberley is able to continue doing what she enjoys.

  5. Avatar

    What an inspiring article! There is just something that moves me when it comes to come-back stories, and this is surely one of them. I think although it is great that she recovered for the sake of her life and getting to live her dreams, it is also great that she persisted on recovering to her fullest, so she could be a role-model for others to not text and drive. Not everyone is given a second chance, but she made the most out of her second chance.

  6. Avatar

    This is an inspiring story, though it begins with tragedy. While showcasing the dangers of texting and driving, as well as not wearing a seat belt, it shows the immense amount of will power and perseverance that Amberley has. It is crazy that she was able to place with some of the top riders of the world without control of her legs, it really shows how great she is.

  7. Avatar

    This is quite the motivational story. I can never imagine becoming paralyzed and having to give up soccer. I am inspired how she still pursued her dream after the accident and how she decided to learn from this experience and shared her story. Sometimes we take our healthy bodies for granted, considering how often unforeseen accidents occur. Nevertheless, life goes on and we either choose to move on or stay stuck in the past.

  8. Avatar

    Amberley quite literally got back up on the saddle. It is truly remarkable and admirable that in the face of defeat and struggle she decided to persevere and work twice as hard. It is hard to get yourself going again sometimes and the fact she did should be respected. I am amazed and truly inspired by her because riding horses is not easy! Congratulations on being nominated Amariz! Great article!

  9. Avatar

    This is such an amazing story to tell and I absolutely really liked reading this article. I had no idea who Amberley Synder was before reading this article but this is such an inspiring story to read honestly. However, this story does also have another message in my opinion and that is to always buckle up. Anything can happen to us at any time but we can also overcome any obstacle that comes our way.

  10. Avatar

    Congrats on your nomination for an award !I have never heard this story before actually, but your first paragraph had me hooked. It is crazy how the accident she encountered could have been something you and I can. It could happen to anyone. Di spite all that she had been through she did not give up. She, just like the title said got back on the horse. She is a definite role model to many other people who face physical, mental impairment. she is not just a role model to them but a role model to all.

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