ELK RIDGE, Utah -- Amberley Snyder competes professionally in barrel racing, but what sets this cowgirl apart from her competitors is she can’t feel her legs.
The 27-year-old Snyder was involved in a roll-over accident in 2010 on her way to a rodeo in Denver, Colorado.
“They told me the chances of walking were slim to none,” Snyder said. “And getting back up on a horse, that was impossible.”
Snyder has competed in rodeo since she was seven. She moved up through the ranks in Junior Rodeo, by the end of her senior year, Snyder was the world all-around champion for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association.
“I have loved horses my whole life,” Snyder said. “Competitive, horses, adrenaline and speed, you mix that all together and that’s something I want to be a part of.”
After the accident, Snyder said it took her four months to convince her mom and doctors to let her ride her horse again. But when she sat in the saddle, Snyder said everything was different.
“I couldn’t feel my legs on the side of my horse,” Snyder said. “I couldn’t feel their heartbeat through your legs and it just wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be, that was devastating, to realize every part of my life was different.”
It was one of the worst days of her life, Snyder explained, and she decided she would never ride. Snyder told her mom to sell her horses while she tried to find a new life.
But nine months later, Snyder was given a choice.
“After I learned to handle this chair, I can handle a horse,” Snyder said. “You know 'get back on the horse,' that’s something everybody says. For me, I literally did that.”
Back in the saddle, Snyder had a special seat belt made, velcro straps put over her legs, rubber bands around her feet to keep them in the stirrups and a nylon strap across her left hip.
Snyder now competes professionally -- riding her horse Legacy, or “Legs,” for short -- against other cowgirls, who can feel their legs.
“I want to win, I always want to win,” Snyder said. “I can’t think about the fact that I’m strapped in, can’t think about the fact that my legs don’t work -- that can’t cross my mind. When I get in that arena, my mind is on ‘I’m there to compete and do the best that I possibly can.’”
Along with competing, Snyder travels as an inspirational speaker, and is currently working as a stunt double in a Netflix movie about her life. The movie is expected to be completed and released by summer 2019.